Sheet vinyl v luxury vinyl flooring. What’s the difference?

Hard-wearing, water resistant, easy to clean and warm underfoot, vinyl flooring certainly makes an attractive proposition for kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms and basements, and any other rooms subject to heavy usage, moisture or dampness.

Providing an authentic-looking but much cheaper alternative to natural stone, ceramic tile or wooden flooring, vinyl flooring has for quite some time now provided you with two main options, sheet vinyl or luxury vinyl tile – but what exactly is the difference?

Sheet vinyl

As the name implies, sheet vinyl comes in large flexible sheets, on big rolls, typically measuring 2, 3 or 4 metres in width, and being 1to 4mm thick. It’s actually composed of half a dozen very thin bonded layers, from top to bottom:

  • A top layer of vinyl, protecting the wear layer and adding a sheen
  • Wear layer, protecting the design layer
  • Design layer, providing the colour and image
  • Cushion layer, adding softness and bounce
  • Fibreglass layer, keeping the sheet flat
  • Base layer, the foundation supporting all the above

Luxury vinyl tile

Compared to sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl is generally thicker (typically 5mm-12mm) and comes in the form of click-together tiles or planks, providing a wide range of stone, ceramic and wood effects.

The added thickness of the product’s core and wear layers in particular makes luxury vinyl tiles or planks semi-rigid in nature, although their multi-ply construction is very similar in fact to that of sheet vinyl described above.

Appearance of vinyl flooring

Whether its sheet vinyl or luxury vinyl flooring you’re interested in, it comes in a vast range of different styles and colours. Where they differ widely though is in their authenticity in mimicking ceramic or stone tiles or wood.

The thinness of sheet vinyl and the smoothness of its wear layer ultimately means it’s unable to closely simulate any real stone texture or the cracks between wooden planks for example.

The thicker luxury vinyl tiles or planks on the other hand can be embossed with texture, grain and cracks, and use a higher picture quality to achieve a far more realistic natural-looking floor.

Comfort of vinyl flooring

Since luxury vinyl is a generally thicker product than standard sheet vinyl, it stands to reason that it’s going to feel a little softer and warmer underfoot.  Importantly, it can also bring an increased sound-blocking capability for those noisy heels.

Durability of vinyl flooring

While sheet vinyl is a very durable type of flooring, its soft surface can still be susceptible to dents, cuts and scratches. And being a single, relatively thin sheet, any repairs can be very hard to make invisible.

Having a much thicker wear layer, luxury vinyl is far more durable, plus of course, when an individual tile or plank is damaged, it can be replaced by dissembling the flooring.

Water resistance of vinyl flooring

Sharing the same PVC resin material and similar multi-ply construction, both sheet and luxury vinyl are highly resistant to water. Sheet vinyl however can hold the edge in this regard since it’s generally a seamless installation. LVT or LVP on the other hand has seams between each and every tile or plank, meaning water might ingress.

Cleaning vinyl flooring

And with their smooth surface, both sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl are really low maintenance and easy to keep clean. Through regular sweeping or vacuuming, wiping up any spills or stains and an occasional damp mopping, your vinyl flooring will retain its good looks for many years to come.

Installation of vinyl flooring

For both kinds of vinyl flooring a nice flat subfloor is advised. Since, particularly with a very thin sheet vinyl, any imperfections in the subfloor risk showing through. And so investment in a good underlay or leveling compound can be recommended.

Also, sheet vinyl is usually glued down, while luxury vinyl planks or tiles lock together and ‘float’ over the subfloor, generally making them a lot less susceptible to subfloor imperfections and being easier to install.

Also to be borne in mind is that any mis-cut in a vinyl sheet can mean the whole piece is ruined. This is not the case using luxury vinyl planks or tiles, which can often be reused elsewhere if cut in error.

Cost of vinyl flooring

Finally, as you might expect, with all its many technical advantages luxury vinyl is always going to be more costly than sheet vinyl, being typically four times as much. Plus of course the installation processes are different. But then compared to the cost of real ceramic or stone tile and wooden floors, even luxury vinyl can be a highly cost effective flooring solution.

So if you want to talk vinyl flooring just pop in the shop. We’d be happy to answer any further questions you might have and to show you the different products we offer – in sheet or luxury vinyl.  The choice is yours…