February 3, 2013

Luxury vinyl mimics look of wood or stone

Today's flooring products are good enough to fool the eye.

By ALLEN NORWOOD McClatchy Newspapers

Luxury vinyl flooring? Really?

home decor
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Armstrong’s LuxePlank is a good choice for high-moisture areas and in kitchens, as shown here.

McClatchy Newspaper photos

home decor
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Vinyl is water-resistant and easy to clean, making it ideal flooring for bathrooms.

Additional Photos Below

Yes -- but these products definitely are not the shiny orange sheet that covered your mom's kitchen floor, or the old peel-and-stick school hall tiles your dad plopped down in the foyer. Modern luxury vinyl is a broad category that includes wood- and stone-look products with colors and textures good enough to fool the eye.

It's a category that's growing rapidly. Earlier this year, the industry website Floor Daily called it the most dynamic category. Sales of luxury vinyl hit $500 million last year -- up 13 percent, Floor Daily reported.

For those who don't choose carpet, hardwood or hard tile, luxury vinyl -- instead of laminate -- is likely to be the favorite option.

Flooring pros say they've seen the trend in their showrooms.

"In the past year, it's like it's a hot item," said Jennifer Fallon, owner of the Floor Gallery of Lake Norman in Mooresville, N.C. She sells slightly more of the tile-look luxury vinyl, but wood styles are not far behind.

At Hughes Flooring in Charlotte, N.C., Rodney Hughes reports the same. "It's taking off," he said. "(Floor companies) are putting a lot of marketing money into it, and we're starting to see that."

If you visit your favorite home center or floors website, you'll find lots of options. Online you'll find discussions of the best products and techniques.

There's even a shorthand: LVT for luxury vinyl tile, and LVP for luxury vinyl plank.

These are products you can install yourself if you're reasonably handy. Some products click together for ease of installation.

If you have the top products installed by a pro, though, you can pay about as much for luxury vinyl as for some standard hardwood or ceramic tile. Say, $8 to $10 a square foot installed, Fallon estimated. Hughes said simply: "This is not a price-point product."

So, if not for price, why choose luxury vinyl?

Again, the appearance is one reason. The tile-look products can be grouted, to make it look more like ceramic or stone. The wood-look planks feature rich colors and textures. Hughes said that the technology responsible for such looks is helping to drive the popularity.

It's softer under foot than tile, and stands up to spills and large pets better than hardwood, Fallon said. Hughes said one huge advantage for luxury vinyl is that it isn't damaged by moisture. "You can soak it in the bathtub and it won't swell or buckle," he said. "There's no wood inside."

Hughes still likes the high-end laminates, but manufacturers have never been able to fully eliminate that distinctive -- and sometimes objectionable -- clicking sound when it's walked on.

Luxury vinyl has a couple of advantages for remodeling projects.

These floors can be glued down, or they can be "floated." Individual tiles and planks can be clicked together and then installed without glue, to float on special underlayment. Floating floors can cover up minor imperfections in the subfloor during a renovation.

Luxury vinyl is thinner than hardwood, and thinner than stone or ceramic tile installed on the required underlayment. When remodeling, it's easier to match a thinner product to the level of the surrounding existing floors.

Which leads to the one complaint Fallon and Hughes share about luxury vinyl.

There are few good-looking options for the edge, or transition, where luxury vinyl abuts another type of flooring or a floor that's a slightly different level.

"They don't make a transition," Fallon said. "I sometimes have to use wood, and stain it to match. They make metal, like you'd use on an old vinyl floor. But it doesn't look good."

"They definitely need to make better trim pieces," Hughes agreed. "It's just less attractive with metal."


Want to see examples of modern luxury vinyl? Visit the websites of top manufacturers, or look for portfolios on social sites such as Pinterest or Facebook.

Armstrong calls its popular luxury vinyl line Alterna; tiles and planks are available in a variety of sizes: www.armstrong.com.

Mannington's Adura line includes variable-width planks, a popular improvement according to area flooring pros: www.mannington.com.

Congoleum's DuraCeramic tiles, like other luxury vinyl products, can be installed with or without the special grout: www.congoleum.com.


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Additional Photos

home decor
click image to enlarge

Modern luxury vinyl includes wood- and stone-look products with colors and textures good enough to fool the eye.

home decor
click image to enlarge

Mannington’s Adura line brings the look of wood, tile or stone in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, textures and installation options.

home decor
click image to enlarge

Brazilian Cherry wood was the inspiration for Mannington’s Jatoba vinyl flooring.

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