What Is Vinyl Plank Flooring? Understanding This Unique Product

Vinyl Plank is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of flooring on the planet and serves a broad range of uses and budgets. With advancing technology brings many new choices to the market so it can be hard to keep track of all the options.

This article shows you exactly what it is and everything you need to know about this revolutionary flooring solution.

Where It All Began

Vinyl is another word for Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC for short and was originally discovered by accident in 1872 by a German chemist. Some years later two Russian chemists attempted to bring this product to the marketplace but there was one major problem, it was too rigid and brittle.

It wasn’t until an American inventor named Waldo Semon stumbled across a way to make PVC more flexible in 1926 that things took a turn for the better. With the help of BF Goodrich, Waldo developed a way to ‘plasticise’ PVC which was a huge leap forward.

Vinyl flooring made it’s first appearance in the 1933 ‘Century of Progress’ exhibition in Chicago and was developed by a French physician. It really started gaining massive popularity commercially in the 1940’s due to it’s low cost and high durability and is now one of the most widely used flooring materials in existence.

The base material in vinyl plank flooring, PVC, has become the third largest produced and most versatile plastic material in existence.

What Is Vinyl Plank?

It’s often referred to as ‘Luxury Vinyl Plank’ or LVT and purchased by a broad range of consumers. It suites a broad range of home owners, renovators and those looking for a commercial grade flooring solution.

It is one of the most cost effective flooring solutions available and is designed to mimic the look and feel of a natural timber floor. With modern technologies it’s becoming close to impossible to determine any difference between hardwood and vinyl plank, even for those with a keen eye for detail.

I’ve seen a lot of these floors and a lot of people are actually preferring the look and feel of these over timber given the ‘depth’ and softness.

Pretty much every known species of timber is replicated so you’re definitely not stuck on choice.

Better Than Real Timber?

There are many advantages over a traditional timber floor such as the ability to install in places timber shouldn’t be such as bathrooms and laundry areas. This is primarily due to its waterproof nature.

It also requires much less upkeep to maintain it’s optimal look and if there’s ever an accident, it’s way easier to repair than timber.

Other advantages include:

  • Less upkeep and easier to repair
  • More cost effective
  • Broader range of applications
  • Commercial grade durability
  • Easy installation

The Main Drawbacks

Probably the biggest drawback for people is the fact that it’s not real timber.

The other concern is environmental sustainability issues and some of the chemicals used in PVC such as volatile organic compounds (VOC). To avoid any possible health risks, many leading manufacturers are now producing flooring that is compliant with the RFCI ‘Floor Score’ certification. The amount of PVC used has also been steadily reducing in recent years by a large number of manufacturers and in conjunction with other methods, the safety of this product is well and truly in the clear.

Either way, it always pays to do your research on a particular company and their products before buying to make sure they’re above board.

How The Flooring Is Made

Each manufacturer is different but generally speaking the planks are made up of four main layers and an underlayment.

#4 Urethan Coating: This is the very top layer and first line of defence for the planks. In most cases this is a urethane coating and depending on the manufacturer, there are variations in this coating. It gives added protection to the main wear layer, determines the sheen of the floor and some provide anti-slip properties.

#3 Wear Layer: This is the main protective layer for the planks and protects the print layer, the part that makes it look nice! The quality of this layer is extremely important when it comes to durability and the overall quality of the planks and comes in a variety of thicknesses. This layer is made from either virgin or recycled PVC.

#2 Print Layer: This is where the magic happens and what makes this product look incredibly realistic. With the use of advanced print-film technology, just about any kind of wood grain can be replicated. Depending on the individual product, processes like embossing add an element of depth to the flooring.

#1 Core structure: This is the meat of the planks and is what gives them their strength. This is made of either pure PVC or composite PVC material and is sometimes re-enforced or made entirely by fibreglass.

Bottom underlayment: The very bottom of the planks will have an underlay material attached in order to minimises noise, improve with shock absorption and make the flooring warmer on the feet.

The overall quality and even inclusion of some of these really comes down to the manufacturer so it is always worth doing your due diligence before making any purchasing decisions.

The Cost

The typical cost is between $2-$7 per square foot which is much more affordable than many alternative flooring options. This coupled with the fact that DIY installation is relatively easy means it represents high value for money.

How Popular Is It?

According to Google trends data, the popularity of this product has increased dramatically in the last 10 years :

Vinyl Plank popularity Trend
Source: https://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=vinyl%20plank

Canada, the United States, Australia and the UK represent the largest group of buyers which isn’t surprising.

The popularity of this product is good for home renovators and investors because it’s an affordable way to increase a properties value while maintaining quality and giving buyers what they want. Vinyl has been around for a long time and looks set to stay that way for the foreseeable future thanks to technological innovation.


Vinyl plank flooring is a great option for any homeowner and is fast becoming a major player in the flooring space. It gives you the look of real timber and some really cool advantages like ease of installation, cost effectiveness, versatility and more.