If the idea of installing vinyl floors makes you think of old diner booths, it's time you reconsider vinyl flooring. Vinyl flooring is an affordable, versatile, durable product that can replicate the look of natural materials at a fraction of the cost for new flooring, which is one reason it's a popular home improvement project. Vinyl flooring comes in a rainbow of colors, patterns and designs to suit any home style from rustic to contemporary. You can install vinyl flooring in your kitchen, bathrooms, hallways, playroom, office, or any other place you want attractive, easy-to-clean, low-maintenance floors.
Professional flooring contractors can install vinyl flooring in a home or business for a polished look that is durable and made to last. The cost to install vinyl flooring will depend on your square footage, the prep work required, the regional cost of labor and materials, your zip code and the type of vinyl flooring you choose. Vinyl floors are sold in a variety of forms. Based on the look and performance you desire, you can choose from sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile (primarily used in commercial and industrial settings), solid vinyl tiles, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and vinyl planks. Vinyl often replicates the look of natural stone tiles or hardwood planks at a lower price.
On solid vinyl, photographic printing replicates specific looks. With LVTs, 3-D imaging is used to overlay a desired texture onto vinyl tiles to create the look of other materials such as marble, acacia, oak or ceramic. LVT flooring is typically about ⅛-inch thick and can be coated with urethane for added durability. Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is the type of vinyl flooring most commonly used in commercial and industrial spaces such as hospitals and school cafeterias. VCT does not come in as many style options and does not typically have the same aesthetic appeal as vinyl flooring intended for residential consumers. VCT typically costs less than other types of vinyl, but does require regular stripping, waxing and refinishing, while sheet vinyl, vinyl planks and LVT do not. Because of their lower maintenance requirements as well as their expanded aesthetic appeal, vinyl tile, LVT and vinyl planks are often more popular than VCT.
Here are the factors that affect the average cost for vinyl flooring installation.
Vinyl planks are a popular form of vinyl flooring designed to look like real wood. They are fiercely water-resistant, do not tend to expand from heat and cold as wood does, and stand up well against kids and pets. Jake Olson of Nature's Touch Flooring in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says that vinyl planks are popular because they are 100 percent waterproof and a good alternative to laminate. Often vinyl planks have seams that lock into place, meaning you can install them over an existing floor without adhesion. You can choose to glue them into place, but installation costs will be lower if you opt to have your vinyl plank flooring "float" instead of being glued down. Prices for the vinyl planks themselves fluctuate based on brand and design. Entry-level vinyl planks that click together typically start at about $2 per square foot. These planks, however, may not have the staying power of higher-grade versions, says Olsen at Nature's Touch Flooring. Here are some examples of the average cost for vinyl planks and installation:
- Total project cost for approximately 200-square-foot installation project: $2,000 (about $10 per square foot)
- Materials: $4-$6 per square foot, depending on plank brand and quality (material price included in project cost)
Right Step Flooring in Hallandale, Florida
- Total project cost for 595-square-foot installation project: $1,410 (about $2.37 per square foot)
- The project included carpet removal and installation of acacia-look vinyl plank flooring in three rooms.
- Price does not include materials.
Luxury vinyl tiles
Luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) come in a seemingly endless range of colors and designs. LVTs are growing in popularity, but, according to Olson of Nature's Touch Flooring, they haven't quite become as trendy as vinyl planks yet. They're a good choice for people who are looking for tile but want something warmer than ceramic or porcelain. They are also more cost-effective and don't crack like ceramic, Olson says. LVTs can replicate the look of marble, travertine and other natural stones as well as wood. LVTs generally cost more per square foot than vinyl planks and vinyl sheeting, but less than natural stone tiles or wood planks. Specialty LVTs can be more expensive than natural materials, though, depending on the brand and manufacture. Many customers of Nature's Touch Flooring request LVT in smaller areas such as bathrooms or laundry rooms instead of throughout an entire house. Here are some cost examples for various LVT projects:
- Materials: $5-$7 per square foot, depending on brand and quality differences
- $3.50 base rate per square foot for installation, which includes all prep work, underlayment, leveling and grouting
- Labor rates can range up to $4-$7 per square foot, depending on how much work is needed. With labor and higher-end LVT, the cost for materials and installation could be up to $12 per square foot.
- Labor beyond just laying the vinyl includes transitions, retucking adjacent carpet, pulling appliances in and out, prepping floors, leveling, sanding and more.
- Total project cost for 1,700-square-foot installation project: $2,500
- Project included installation of LVT (@ $1.47 per square foot) on top of recently installed ceramic tiles the customer did not like.
- No leveling or prep work was needed, and the project took four days.
- Customer saved $5,000 by having the LVT installed on top of the unwanted tile rather than tearing it out.
Sheet vinyl is an attractive option for people who want a large, uninterrupted pattern or flooring without seams. Sheet vinyl is typically the most affordable vinyl flooring option other than commercial/industrial-grade vinyl composite tiles, and is installed by rolling out the sheet onto a prepared floor. It has a soft spring and is comfortable for standing and working, even in bare feet. Vinyl sheets can be laid directly over a flat subfloor, and because of its weight, vinyl sheet flooring can "float" or remain in position without adhesives; using adhesive for a more permanent installation will increase the cost. Nature's Touch Flooring charges $2 per square foot to install a floating vinyl floor if no prep work is required. The installation price can be as much as $8 per square foot if the company has to tear out existing ceramic tiles or wood floors and perform other prep work. One drawback to sheet vinyl flooring is that if there is a gouge or rip you can't pull out an offending tile and easily replace it; fixing the damage requires cutting seams and inserting a new piece of vinyl, or replacing the entire floor.
Minimum service fee
Some flooring contractors charge a minimum service fee to cover their time commitment, business overhead and other costs associated with installing vinyl flooring. Not all contractors have a minimum service fee, so be sure to ask. To be sure that they will meet their business operating costs each time they accept a job, Nature's Touch Flooring charges a $1,000 minimum service fee for vinyl installation jobs.
Written contracts should clearly define the scope of work, including what areas of a home or business property will be covered, what prep work will occur, and what brand and style of vinyl flooring will be used.
Benefits of vinyl flooring
If you're still on the fence about installing vinyl flooring, here are some of the key benefits:
- Vinyl is a great choice for people with dogs and kids, says Gabe Ghimbasan of Right Step Flooring. It is easy to clean and doesn't absorb stains.
- Vinyl floors are affordable.
- The material is softer underfoot than wood or ceramic tile, so feet are comfortable and kids don't get as banged up as they play.
- Vinyl doesn't expand and contract with temperature extremes, unlike wood, so the flooring isn't prone to buckling or gapping.
- The wide range of styles available make vinyl flooring a fit for any home design or decor.
- Vinyl can handle leaks and big water spills better than linoleum or wood.
- If vinyl planks or luxury vinyl tiles are selected, repairs can be as easy as replacing damaged planks or tiles, as opposed to ripping up large swaths of flooring.
How to hire a flooring contractor
If you are remodeling or having your floors redone, you will need to get estimates from flooring contractors. If you have hired a general contractor to handle a larger remodeling project, they will hire and oversee the flooring contractor, but if you are DIY, here are some helpful tips to make the hiring process a simple one. Research flooring companies that have good reviews and have a solid portfolio of work with projects that appeal to you. Contact two to three of these flooring contractors to ask for bids. "It's best to get an in-person estimate," says Olson of Nature's Touch Flooring. "Contractors can't know what condition your subflooring is in and the precise project details until they look. Multiple variables (type of flooring, labor required to prep the floor, installation details) go into creating a quote, so it's not fair to give a number over the phone."
Once you receive bids, research the companies to verify that they have up-to-date contractor's licenses and are in good standing. Discuss pricing, timeline and details with your selected flooring contractor. The key to a positive flooring installation experience is a clearly written contract that outlines each detail. Include the type and quantity of vinyl tiles or planks that will be installed; what the installation method will be; whether the contractor will demolish your old floor and dispose of the waste; what date and time the project will start; and what date you expect the job to be completed. Most flooring contractors require a deposit, but be wary of any company that wants payment in full upfront.
Caring for vinyl floors
Vinyl floors are resilient and can handle their share of spills and accidents, but they aren't indestructible. Follow these easy care and prevention strategies to keep your vinyl floors looking good for decades:
- Sweep regularly. This may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget when vinyl floors hide dirt so well and look so shiny all the time. Keeping the surface free of dirt means a longer, stronger life for your floors.
- Use gentle cleaners. Look for neutral and natural ingredients; harsh chemicals can break down the protective topcoat. Some experts recommend a diluted mix of apple cider vinegar and warm water.
- Prevent burns. Vinyl doesn't do well with flames or embers, so be cautious.
- Don't drag heavy furniture. When moving appliances, dining room tables, or cabinets, lift and set rather than dragging. You can gouge your vinyl, and there's no easy fix besides replacement.
- Prevent dents. Use felt pads under stationary appliances and furniture feet to prevent dents that develop over time.
Vinyl vs. linoleum
It's easy to confuse vinyl and linoleum, or even think they are the same product with different names. Although both are used for flooring, vinyl and linoleum are made of different materials and have distinct care needs. Vinyl is a man-made product made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and additives such as plasticizers and fillers. Linoleum is made primarily from linseed (or flaxseed) oil, a naturally occurring product, which means that the production of linoleum has a lower environmental impact than vinyl flooring.
Vinyl is far more water-resistant than linoleum. Vinyl stands up to spills and humidity, and can even survive flooding, while linoleum is more susceptible to water damage from spills and does not do well in humid climates. Vinyl retains a glossy surface over time, while linoleum can fade and dull. The drawback of vinyl is that once the wear layer is worn down, the vinyl must be replaced. Linoleum can be refinished for many decades; if you scratch or gouge it, you can resurface it. Vinyl has a shorter lifespan than linoleum, but does not require sealing maintenance (aside from commercially used vinyl composite tiles). Linoleum must be sealed regularly to protect and preserve the flooring.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right floor professional for your project. For more, check out these tips for smart hiring.