It may look like wood or stone, but luxury vinyl fools the eye

BY ALLEN NORWOOD Published: January 26, 2013

— Luxury vinyl flooring? Really?

Yes — but these products definitely are not the shiny orange sheet that covered your mom's kitchen floor, or the old peel-and-stick school hall tiles your dad plopped down in the foyer. Modern luxury vinyl is a broad category that includes wood- and stone-look products with colors and textures good enough to fool the eye.

It's a category that's growing rapidly. Earlier this year, the industry website Floor Daily called it the most dynamic category. Sales of luxury vinyl hit $500 million last year — up 13 percent, Floor Daily reported.

For those who don't choose carpet, hardwood or hard tile, luxury vinyl — instead of laminate — is likely to be the favorite option.

Flooring pros say they've seen the trend in their showrooms.

“In the past year, it's like it's a hot item,” said Jennifer Fallon, owner of Floor Gallery of Lake Norman in Mooresville, N.C. She sells slightly more of the tile-look luxury vinyl, but wood styles are not far behind.

At Hughes Flooring in Charlotte, Rodney Hughes reports the same.

“It's taking off,” he said. “(Floor companies) are putting a lot of marketing money into it and we're starting to see that.”

If you visit your favorite home center or floors website, you'll find lots of options. Online you'll find discussions of the best products and techniques.

There's even a shorthand: LVT for luxury vinyl tile, and LVP for luxury vinyl plank.

These are products you can install yourself if you're reasonably handy. Some products click together for ease of installation.

If you have the top products installed by a pro, though, you can pay about as much for luxury vinyl as for some standard hardwood or ceramic tile. Say, $8 to $10 a square foot installed, Fallon estimated. Hughes said simply: “This is not a price-point product.”

So, if not for price, why choose luxury vinyl?

Again, the appearance is one reason. The tile-look products can be grouted, to make it look more like ceramic or stone. The wood-look planks feature rich colors and textures. Hughes said that the technology responsible for such looks is helping to drive the popularity.

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