You’ve done your research. You’ve discovered that luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) provide a stunning array of natural wood tones and textures. You’ve found luxury vinyl planks in light colors, which will complement the darker hues in your interior palette. You love LVT’s resiliency, durability, and ease of upkeep. Your next step, according to the friendly salesperson in the flooring retailer, is choosing the right thickness of vinyl tile.
Well, yes and no.
It’s not the tile thickness that matters so much as the wear layer. Confused? Don’t be. We’ll walk you through the distinction. Then, with a few simple questions, you will be ready to make an informed choice. By knowing how you will use the space, the composition and condition of your subfloor, and how long you wish to keep your tile, you’ll be able to select a luxury vinyl tile perfect for your unique needs.
What’s the difference between tile thickness and wear layer thickness?
There are two types of luxury vinyl tiles (and planks): glue-down LVT and floating floor LVT.
Floating floor planks are thicker because they “click” together with a locking system. DuChâteau’s Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection, for example, has a Luxcor® Click tongue-and-groove design that allows the tiles to expand and contract. One popular light-colored line in the DuChâteau Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection is the Filmon, which is 8mm thick. Compare that thickness, which includes an attached HushWalk Underlayment, to the Arctic from the DuChâteau Vinyl Deluxe® Classic Collection. The Arctic is a glue-down dry-back luxury vinyl plank that is 3mm thick by comparison. Both options are outstanding choices, and both have 20-year residential warranties.
The more important thickness rating is the wear layer.
The wear layer is the top urethane-based protective coating. That wear layer seals the next layer down, the decorative layer that contains color, grain, and pattern. As a general rule, the thicker the wear layer, the more durable the floor. The wear layer is where you want to focus most of your attention.
Wear layers measurements are in thousandths-of-an-inch called mils.
Luxury vinyl tiles come in wear layer thicknesses as thin as 2 mil up to a thick commercial grade of 28 mil. The more wear layer you have between your life and your decorative layer, the longer the floor is going to last. Twenty to 28-mil ratings are typically for higher traffic and commercial areas. Wear layers that range between 20 to 22 mil tell you that the LVT will last. DuChâteau’s Arctic and Filmon, for example, have wear layers of 22 mil and 20 mils respectively. These luxury vinyl planks don’t sacrifice uptown style for street toughness.
Not all wear layers are alike.
Some LVT manufacturers use simple urethane for their wear layers. Others add enhancers like aluminum oxide to the urethane to prevent scratches. DuChâteau combines a prime urethane and ceramic bead for its wear layer. The innovative combination allows you to enjoy the unmarred natural beauty of the decorative layer for the lifespan of the floor.
How will you use the space?
How you plan to use the space informs your wear layer choice. This combines traffic, resiliency, and function.
The first part of the space equation is knowing how much traffic your floor will get.
If you plan to install your new LVT in a high-traffic part of your house like an entryway, hall, or kitchen, then you want a thicker wear layer. If you are looking to perk up a guestroom that gets little use, then a thinner wear layer might work fine.
The second part of this equation is resiliency.
When determining resiliency needs, you must figure out how your floor functions with the activities in the space. Visit a professional commercial kitchen, and you will likely find resilient floors and anti-fatigue mats at work stations. People who know their way around a kitchen prefer resilient floors. Resilient floors are better for your skeletal structure. Plus, they help buffer noise, and your dropped dishes won’t shatter into a million pieces. Floating floors are more resilient than glue-down floors, so keep that in mind. Both floating floors and glue-down LVT floors give you the advantage of easy cleanup and superb water resistance.
What is the composition and condition of your subflooring?
Your subflooring is your next consideration. If you plan to install luxury vinyl tile on a solid, level, smooth, and dry concrete pad, then go with a good LVT thickness and wear layer for your traffic and longevity needs. You will not need to choose the thickest wear layer if your concrete floor is even, clean, and dry.
If you are installing LVT on a substrate (wood, tile, or concrete) that is less than perfect, then we recommend thicker LVT and wear layers. But using thicker planks will not absolve the sins of an uneven or poorly prepared substrate. While a floating floor can mitigate some minor imperfections, you want to well-prepare the substrate.
Make sure you follow your chosen LVT’s installation guidelines. In general, it is usually better to tear out the old flooring and lay down a one-quarter inch underlayment-grade plywood. Your new LVT floor will only perform as well as what is underneath it. For more information on placing LVT over different flooring types, see our blog post: Over What Floors Can I Install Luxury Vinyl Tile?
What are your durability expectations?
How long you expect to have this flooring is the final consideration in your choice of LVT thickness, especially wear layer thickness. Luxury vinyl is an investment. You want to choose a luxury vinyl tile that will make you happy for a long time.
Make sure you choose a tile that is timeless in its elegance and style as well as durable. When you look at your floor, you should see an entire range of color variation and texturing that emulates natural wood, not vinyl tiles. You want luxury vinyl planks that look like wood 15 or 20 years from now.
If that is your longevity goal, then consider nothing less than a wear layer of 20 mil or more. A 20-mil wear layer will protect the one-of-a-kind reflection of nature’s artistry embedded in each plank. With 20-year residential warranties, the DuChâteau Vinyl DeLuxe® Classic Collection and the DuChâteau Vinyl DeLuxe® Grand Collection combines art with science to provide you a resilient, durable, easy-to-maintain floor. A floor that you’ll be proud to showcase for decades.