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What Thickness to Choose When I Buy Vinyl Flooring?

by Bestlaminate
Published: Last Updated on 179 comments 10 minutes read

Vinyl plank flooring is available in a number of thicknesses ranging from 2mm to 8mm+ thick. When you buy vinyl flooring it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you.

Just like laminate flooring, the thicker the floor, the sturdier it is, but this is not the main factor in determining durability when it comes to vinyl. When choosing a vinyl flooring thickness, there are a few things to consider. Keep reading to find out what questions to ask and what factors to consider when buying a vinyl floor.

Vinyl Flooring Construction

Let’s start with the basics on the construction of a vinyl plank floor to understand the important layers. You will find 3 to 4 base layers with a vinyl plank floor that will be included in the overall thickness – the wear layer, decor layer, core, and underlayment (if it is attached).

  1. Wear Layer: this is the top layer that is responsible for the vinyl’s durability. This is a clear layer of vinyl that can contain UV protection and additional scratch resistance. Wear layers range from 4 mil to 40 mil. Mil is an Imperial measurement meaning thousandths of an inch. The wear layer will usually be recorded in mil, but it can also be shown in millimeters (mm), or both.
  2. Decor Layer: This is a thin layer that contains the digitally printed design, color and texture.
  3. Core: The core is responsible for most of a plank’s thickness. This will add dimensional stability and rigidness depending on the type of core and the thickness of the core.
  4. Underlayment: Underlayment is sometimes attached to vinyl flooring, and generally accounts for about 1mm of thickness. The underlayment helps with sound transfer and comfort underfoot.

Vinyl Flooring Thickness

The overall plank thicknesses can range from 2mm to 8mm+. Although the wear layer is the most important factor when it comes to vinyl durability, the thickness is still an important factor to consider when you buy vinyl flooring. There are several important questions you must ask yourself when deciding which thickness will be right for you:

  • Where am I installing the vinyl flooring?
  • Will there be a lot of foot traffic in this area?
  • What type of subfloor do I have?
  • What condition is my subfloor in?
  • What type of vinyl do I have?
  • Do I have underlayment attached?
  • What is my budget?

As a general rule, a thicker vinyl will provide more stability and comfort underfoot. So if you are looking for flooring to refresh your low traffic bedroom, a thinner vinyl plank flooring will work great for you. For areas that have more traffic and usage, such as entryways and hallways, you will want to choose thicker floor.

Another factor that may impact your decision is the flooring and door heights in adjoining rooms. You may need to choose a certain height for doors to close, or to minimize gaps between other types of flooring.

Types of Vinyl Plank Flooring

The type of vinyl plank flooring will also play a role in the thickness. With new advances in the vinyl industry, there are several types of vinyl floors that will impact your decision when it comes to thickness and durability. The main types of planks you will see are standard LVT’s, glue down planks, and engineered vinyl.

Glue down planks are generally less thick from 2mm to 4mms, and will not have underlayment attached. Glue down vinyl are usually the most inexpensive. Standard LVT’s are typically on the thinner side, under 5mm. They will have a higher flexibility and bend, but also a more affordable price point. Floors with an engineered rigid core construction will have a more dimensionally stable core and less bend, similar to a laminate or hardwood.

With the rigid core constructions, you can find floors from 4mm to 8mm+. Although a rigid core vinyl may be 4mm, it will have a solid construction, which differs from the bendable LVT. When it comes to a rigid core vinyl, thickness isn’t as much of a factor, since the core is constructed with durability in mind.

Vinyl Thicknesses for Each Type of Subfloor

Your subfloor is a very important part of choosing the thickness as well. The subfloor is what you will be installing your floors over, whether it’s an existing floor, wood or concrete. If you have an even concrete subfloor, you can get a thinner vinyl flooring. This is because your subfloor is sturdy enough that you don’t need the extra support. With a concrete subfloor, you may want a thicker vinyl solely for the comfort underfoot.

If you subfloor is a thin, creaking hardwood, you should opt for the thicker vinyl for added stability and support. This subfloor would also benefit from an attached underlayment.

The subfloor is an extremely important part of any vinyl flooring installation. Without a properly prepared subfloor, you could experience damage. Be sure to read our subfloor guide before you buy vinyl flooring and install!

Vinyl Flooring Wear Layer Thickness

The durability of vinyl plank flooring is determined by the wear layer. When shopping for vinyl plank flooring, pay also attention to the wear layer. Just like the thickness, the thicker the wear layer, the more durable the floor will be. Make sure to choose features of the flooring that’s right for you and your application, using the same questions posed above.

The wear layer is the protective coating on top of the decorative layer of the vinyl flooring. The most popular is a urethane-based layer that protects the floor against scratches, stains, and scuff marks. The wear layer keeps the original look of the floor longer, providing a maintenance-free finish.

Final Tips for Selecting which Vinyl is Best

If you are installing in a high traffic area, it is recommended you choose a thicker vinyl floor as it will provide more sturdiness and support. Thicker vinyl floors are also more forgiving to imperfect subfloors. If you are concerned about your subfloor, choose a thicker floor, however we always suggest installing new floors on a subfloor that is even, clean and dry.

Don’t forget that vinyl plank flooring may require a moisture barrier Visqueen Underlayment, especially if you are installing over a concrete subfloor. This underlayment will prevent any moisture from the subfloor from coming up into your floor. In the case of glue down vinyl flooring, no underlayment is required. Always check with the manufacturer instructions when you buy vinyl flooring to know what is required.

Before you install your vinyl plank flooring, be sure to check our Vinyl Flooring Dos and Don’ts checklist! Another helpful article is how to choose the right vinyl plank flooring for your project!

Still have questions? Leave them in the comments below and we will be happy to answer them!

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ana-maria March 3, 2022 - 9:06 am

Hello, we are trying to put Luxury Vinyl Plank throughout our house, roughly 1,500 sq ft, including kitchen and bathrooms. We are going with a 5mm 12-16 mill rigid core model, but we have some question. The house is in Florida, and the sub-floors are ceramic tiles in kitchen, bathroom, and living-room, and laminate/engineered wood at the entrance and formal dining. I’ve been told that we need to remove the laminate due to possibility to get wet form condensation and bubble and rot under the vinyl. So here are my questions:
1. What is the best way to prepare the sub-floors for the vinyl
2. Is there an underlayment to place under the vinyl that would prevent laminate/engineered wood form rotting and therefore lifting the vinyl?

Thank you for your help.

Vanessa March 8, 2022 - 9:16 am

Hello Ana-Maria. Yes, you would be required to remove the laminate, or any floating floors before installing another floating floor. Check out this blog about how to prepare a subfloor: Preparing a Subfloor . If you are interested in an underlayment for vinyl, first assess if the flooring you have chosen already has an attached pad or backing. If it does, we do not recommend using an additional underlayment because there would be too much cushion for a vinyl floor. If the plank does not have any attached underlayment, you would be able to use underlayment such as these: Vinyl Underlayments It is important to make sure that the underlayment you use is compatible with your vinyl.

Colin September 25, 2021 - 9:48 pm

Can I install a 7mm LVP on top of a subfloor that is just 5/8″ OSB? What do you suggest for underlayment?

Vanessa September 28, 2021 - 8:21 am

Yes, you would be able to install a 7mm vinyl on top of a subfloor that is OSB. As long as your LVP doesnt already have a pad attached to it, you would be able to use an underlayment like Bestlaminate IXPE Underlayment

Chirag Thakkar June 8, 2021 - 11:09 pm

Hi, I have a carpet installed in basement bedroom, and thinking of putting Vinyl directly on top of it. Is it fine to do same, or I must remove the carpet?
Also, is it true that keeping Carpet can result into more sound while walking on the floor?

Vanessa June 25, 2021 - 3:46 pm

Hi Chirag, Unless your carpet is very low pile commercial carpet, you are not able to install vinyl on top of it. If you do install on top of carpet, the floor will have too much cushion underneath and will cause the locking systems to break and buckle.

Nixon Chan May 31, 2020 - 9:51 pm

Alana and colleagues, yourselves are great help. please let me know if a LVP, WPC / even SPC require an underlay? l am being told conflicting things, some say it is built in already, others say you need it for moisture protection for durability. l am going to get a vinyl that looks like wood, fitted in my top floor flat. carpet will be removed. please advise asap

Alana Kane June 1, 2020 - 3:44 am

Hi Nixon, thanks for the question. Usually, vinyl can be installed directly on the subfloor without an underlayment needed. Most customers will add an underlayment purely for comfort under foot. Hope this helps! The manufacturer directions should specify their recommendations to satisfy warranty requirements.

John May 3, 2020 - 1:49 am

Hi. Great post! What are your thoughts on Lifeproof flooring? I’m looking at one that’s 7mm thick and I believe it has a rigid core. However, it’s only 6 mil. Would this be sufficient versus something that is 12 mil?

Alana Kane May 6, 2020 - 4:54 am

Hi John, thanks for the question. We do not sell the Lifeproof brand, but it should be a great option. A 6mil wear layer is a light residential wear layer. If you’re installing it throughout your home, I may recommend going with the 12mil. This is the minimum wear layer we sell in vinyl flooring.

Cathy Warnet May 18, 2020 - 1:31 am

My vinyl plank flooring has been installed. I can tell the flooring is not level in some areas. Also, as I walk over the flooring I can feel “air pockets “ in various spots throughout room … it freaks as you step on them. Is this normal?

Alana Kane May 19, 2020 - 7:16 am

Hi Cathy, thanks for the question. When installed properly, your planks should not experience this. I think this is stemming from your subfloor sinking into low places. Was it a concrete subfloor?

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