The popularity of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and plank (LVP) shows no signs of slowing down. Floors with wood-plastic composite (WPC) cores—often marketed as “waterproof cores”—are increasingly being offered by resilient flooring manufacturers, and are also becoming more popular. Floor Covering Installer takes a look at this next generation of LVT, LVP and WPC flooring, including methods of installation and what’s needed to ensure a project’s success.

Article Index:

Differences in Flooring Types

According to David Ford, Stauf USA’s vice president of sales and marketing, “Both LVT and LVP are usually still in a vinyl flexible form which has both advantages and disadvantages. The same can be said for WPC, which has a more rigid core.”

One of the advantages of WPC is the floor is not as susceptible to the conditions of the subfloor as vinyl tiles or planks, he said. “This rigid core can give a flat appearance even when the subfloor condition might not be suitable for flexible goods; sometimes the imperfections in the subfloor or concrete can show through to the surface of flexible products. WPCs are also mostly waterproof and are not subject to the moisture issues that face some of the adhesives in vinyl products.”

Larry Scott, DriTac’s vice president of technical field services, echoed these sentiments.“WPC assists in hiding these subfloor imperfections. Additionally, the rigid core associated with WPC allows for design and manufacturing of flooring in longer and wider formats, due to the improved dimensional stability afforded.”

Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management, USFloors, said there are many differences between LVT/LVP and WPC—the most notable being overall thickness and the addition of the rigid core.

“The WPC core is comprised from calcium carbonate, limestone, recycled wood, PVC, fillers and a foaming agent. The core then has a vinyl layer with a film décor laminated on top, along with a protective wear layer for durability. Lastly, an attached pad of cork, foam or rubber can be added, enhancing the sound abatement properties.”

Dennis Bergstrom, technical area manager, Tec, answered from more of an aesthetic perspective. He said the use of LVT and LVP is a growing trend in residential and commercial settings, such as hotels and universities. “The newest LVT and LVP products use 3D printing technology to add depth and realism to create tile-like (LVT) and wood-like (LVP) floors. This can provide the high-end aesthetic often desired at a more cost-effective price point. LVT can even be grouted, to make it look like ceramic or stone and it offers durability without permanency. It stands up to spills and foot traffic—making it increasingly popular for busy environments.”

Installation Methods

Gary Keeble, Metroflor Corp.’s director of marketing, stated that the installation of rigid core floors like Engage Genesis with Isocore is similar to solid click LVT in that it uses the same locking profiles—whether that be Uniclic, 5G or another installation profile. “Again, the rigid nature of the core makes them easier to handle, especially products that are larger formats.”

Tony Pastrana, installation training and system developer for Armstrong Flooring, added that most WPC product use a floating locking system that requires expansion.

“LVT is dry back and requires adhesive. With that said, Armstrong Flooring does offer LVT with a lock system. Our Luxe Plank with Rigid Core Technology is ideal for homeowners with uneven subfloors. Its thick, sturdy locking planks and acoustic cork underlayment perfectly hide minor subfloor irregularities. Rigid Core can be installed right away with no acclimation time.”

Stepp expressed that LVT/LVP is either floated via click-lock, loose laid and/or glued down. Meanwhile, WPC utilizes a floating click-lock installation method similar to laminate flooring, or can also be glued down when required in specific residential or commercial applications.

“However, unlike laminate, WPC is waterproof and is capable of being installed in all areas of the home—including all wet areas,” he added.

Since LVT imitates the look of tile, it is often installed in similar patterns as tile and stone, said Bergstrom. “Installers often leave room for grout joints, since the vinyl can be grouted. LVP is often installed using the staggered patterns of hardwood floors to provide the full effect of a wood floor.”

Other Considerations

Scott explained that cushion/underlayment can be utilized when installing WPC, but added that some industry professionals believe the extruded core design provides both cushioning and comfort underfoot, as well as acoustical abatement.

Pastrana agreed. “Most do not require underlayment; most WPC have underlayment attached. However, you can use underlayments under LVT products.”

Keeble expressed similar sentiments. “Rigid core products do not require underlayment, although all of our Engage Genesis floors have a pre-attached IXPE pad for improved sound attenuation. The pre-attached pad is particularly important in multi-family environments that have strict sound codes. In addition, the pre-attached IXPE pad on Engage Genesis is treated with Ultra-Fresh to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the underside of the product.”

Both LVT and LVP require a flat surface, and often need the application of a self-leveling underlayment before installation to ensure the substrate is smooth, added Bergstrom. “Make sure you apply a primer prior to application of the self-leveling underlayment to enable the bond of the self-leveler.”

In terms of the adhesives used during installation, Bergstrom recommends Tec Premium Transitional Vinyl Adhesive. “It’s ideal for installing LVT and plank, and has an aggressive initial tack and excellent resistance to moisture.”

Ford stated that Stauf LVP-777 Pro-Lux is his go-to adhesive for installing LVT/LVP. “This adhesive directly addresses the problems with higher-priced/performing LVT and LVP products. It also reduces shrinkage and stops curling at the end joints and sides. WPC adhesives are subject to the types of backing on different products, which can be anything from urethanes to water-based adhesives.”

Scott noted that both DriTac Eco-5900 MegaBond and DriTac Eco-5700 StrongBond have been tested and approved to successfully install WPC products. “Both products are premium-grade and environmentally friendly pressure-sensitive resilient flooring adhesives.”

Ford added that whatever the project calls for, always remember that the floors are only as good as what’s being used to install them. “It is important, despite popular belief, to use good quality adhesives under any job. It still drives me crazy that a company will spend two to four dollars a foot for a nice product and then put it down with 5 cents per foot glue and wonder why their product/installation failed.”

Side Bar: Don’t Forget to Moisture Test

Dennis Bergstrom, Tec technical area manager, stressed the importance of moisture testing before applying any adhesive.

“A moisture test must be performed in accordance with ASTM F1869 on all concrete substrates. All concrete subfloors must be tested for moisture, pH (alkalinity), and proper adhesive bond. Moisture vapor emissions should not exceed 5 pounds (ASTM F1869) or 85% RH (M700), 90% RH (M950) or 93% RH (MS160) with a pH range between 8 and 9. Based on the results, a moisture mitigation system may be needed.

He added, “The surface porosity also needs to be determined prior to application of adhesive, and a primer may need to be applied based on porosity results.”