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10 of the Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews From a Homeowner

This post shares affordable vinyl plank flooring reviews from a homeowner perspective. I have researched affordable vinyl plank flooring for months and want to share my findings with you, plus the line we decided to put on our concrete slab in the basement.

10 of the Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews From a Homeowner

I have been researching affordable vinyl plank flooring reviews for months. I’ve read countless websites—store, big brand, and blogger reviews—asked for input in Instagram, and asked for input on my personal Facebook page.

I asked friends at work and grilled flooring store employees (nicely) about the pros and cons of each option. Basically I am insane. But being insane can lead to well-informed decisions, which I am confident we’ve made!

If you’re looking for honest affordable vinyl plank flooring reviews from a homeowner, you’re in the right place! Much like my recent DIY or Hire Out: Lessons from the Staircase post, this one is going to be long. Buckle up and get ready to take some notes!

Why Choose Vinyl Plank Flooring For My Basement?

First I want to cover why we’re going with vinyl plank floor for our basement. Some people still have the view that vinyl flooring is icky and ugly, but that simple isn’t the case. It will be a huge step up from the gross carpet we have. 

Here are my reasons:

  • Cost. It’s half the price of the engineered hardwoods we thought about trying to match. It’s more than laminate, but…
  • Durability. It’s waterproof. We have a kid and pets, and this space leads to the backyard, where we spend a lot of time. It’s also tough and easy to clean.
  • Ease of Installation. Most use an easy click-lock floating method and only require a few tools. Handy homeowners can handle installing it.
  • Warmth. We’re putting ours on a concrete slab, so I’m not sure how much this will hold true, but I’m positive it will be warmer than tile.

Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews Criteria

To begin my search, I created a list of flooring brands and lines I was interested in researching. Here were my requirements:

  • Easy to install.
  • $3 or less per square foot.
  • Can be laid on a concrete slab.
  • Excellent reviews—how does it hold up?
  • Available for me to buy myself—I didn’t want to go through a distributor. I wanted to see large samples, bring them home, feel them, etc.
  • Color—the perfect gray-brown to tie in our existing coffee-colored flooring without looking like we were trying to match. Not too much color variation (not my cup of tea), and not too beach-y looking. 

I quickly nixed some options due to my requirements. There are some really great higher end vinyl plank flooring brands that can cost upwards of over $5/sq ft.

Mannington, Karndean, Congoleum, Cali Bamboo, and some of the brands I looked at have higher-end vinyl plank lines. I looked at all of them, but most were out of my price range.

1. SMARTCORE (Lowe’s)

  • Cost: $51.61 for a 20.01 sq ft carton ($2.58/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 5.5 mm thickness with a 12 mil acrylic wear layer
  • Health Factors: GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low emissions
  • Made in: Unsure, mixed reports of USA and China

SMARTCORE is exclusively sold at Lowe’s and is marketed as their best vinyl plank. It’s 100% waterproof, and the website says it will never swell when exposed to water like laminate can. (Note: I question this because its core layer is MDF. Is it truly waterproof?).

The gentleman at Lowe’s said this is the best option to hide very minor imperfections in subflooring. It meets standards for low emissions, has a durable double coat of UV acrylic finish, and has a 12 mil wear layer for high traffic. Limited lifetime-residential warranty.

The planks look amazing and felt substantial. One detractor, however, is that its backing didn’t seem as cushy as some of the others. The store associate also said I needed an additional underlayment—no biggie, but adds to the cost calculations.

I considered Cottage Oak and Huntington Oak, ultimately favoring Cottage Oak because it had a bit more gray in it. Your call for what you’re looking for, but both are great.

2. Mowhawk Luxury Vinyl Plank (Lowe’s)

  • Cost: $47 for an 18.22 sq ft carton ($2.58/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 4.5 mm thickness with a 20 mil urethane wear layer
  • Health Factors: No mention
  • Made in: USA

While the Mohawk Luxury Vinyl Plank was thinner than the SMARTCORE, it has a thicker wear layer, so I thought it was worth checking out. Especially since the colors online looked beautiful. I was disappointed that only one color was available in stores—thankfully one I was interested in—and there were no samples. 

The Mohawk planks have a low gloss surface finish, which I like. They have some really beautiful patterns that I thought looked more authentic online. Mohawk also markets a painted bevel edge for a more authentic look. Limited lifetime residential warranty, but no mention of reviews for health hazards. 

I considered Tybee Island and North Sound. Luckily Tybee Island was in the store and the package was already open, so I took them out to investigate. The color and pattern were stunning—exactly what I was looking for.

But they felt very flimsy and I worried about how comfy they’ve be on our concrete subfloor. The associate also said they wouldn’t be great for surfaces with any imperfections. Bummer. 


  • Cost: $47.19 for a 19.03 sq ft carton ($2.48/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 4 mm thickness with a 12 mil urethane wear layer
  • Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in: China

Less thickness and wear layer than the Mohawk floors, so why did I even consider it? The colors looked lovely online, and the reviews were great. The cost was excellent, too.

STAINMASTER is a recognizable brand. They market their planks as having a protective urethane coating to provide enhanced durability. Limited lifetime residential warranty. 

I considered Washed Oak DoveWashed Oak Umber, and Washed Oak Cottage. Washed Oak Dove was my favorite, but unfortunately Lowe’s didn’t have any samples. I also thought the planks felt very flimsy, much like the Mohawk planks. I had the same concerns about our concrete subfloor and comfort.

4. NuCore Waterproof Flooring (Floor and Decor)

  • Cost: $2.69–$2.99/sq ft
  • Thickness: 5.5-6.5 mm thickness with a 22 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low emissions
  • Made in: China

Full disclosure, I have worked with Floor and Decor in the past on our master bathroom. They provided me with the tile, and we had a great experience. So when a friend mentioned that they loved their NuCore vinyl plank flooring, I added it to the list.

However, the reviews online were spotty, and I didn’t have time to get down to a Floor and Decor to see the planks in person and talk to someone, so I nixed them. Sorry, Floor and Decor! I do have a friend who used their vinyl plank flooring recently, and he was very happy with them.

5. LifeProof (Home Depot)

  • Cost: $59.97 for a 20.06 sq ft carton ($2.99/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 6.5-8 mm thickness with a 6–12 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in: China

This was one of the highly reviewed options from some of my friends who have the floors and live on them every day, so I was excited to check them out. LifeProof planks have an “innovative highly engineered” closed-cell foamed PVC core (ISOCORE) that makes them very rigid.

Home Depot also markets the attached underlayment as able to minimize sounds and enhance warmth. They also say that the planks have a treatment that inhibits the growth of mold and mildew on the attached underlayment and top surface layer.

The planks are phthalate- and formaldehyde-free. The wear layer is a bit thinner than the others, but Home Depot says it’s “enhanced with ceramic bead” that “resists scratches and enhances durability.” Lifetime residential warranty. 

I considered Sterling OakOcala Oak, and Choice Oak. Ocala and Choice ended up being way too light and dark, respectively. So hard to tell online. Sterling oak seemed to be a great mix of gray and brown, though. All of the planks felt very substantial, much like the SMARTCORE planks at Lowe’s.

A downside of this line is that it doesn’t have as many color choices, and the wear layer seems a bit thin for the price point. (Updating this post to add this note: It’s now 2021 and they have TONS more colors. So this might not be a downside anymore!)

6. Shaw Kalahari (Home Depot)

  • Cost: $80.03 for a 27.58 sq ft carton ($2.90/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 3.2 mm thickness with an 6 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: No certifications specified
  • Made in: China (assuming)

A lot of the Shaw vinyl plank floors at Home Depot were over my price threshold of $3/sq ft, but this one wasn’t. Available in 6 colors. 15 year wear warranty. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see it in the store—even a sample—and I really couldn’t justify the high price for such a low mm thickness and mil wear layer.

7. Home Decorators Collection (Home Depot)

  • Cost: $1.99–$2.49/sq ft
  • Thickness: 4 mm thickness with an 8 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in: China

I view this as the budget option of LifeProof. The reviews are excellent, but the store associate said these floors are best over subfloors that have very little, if any, imperfections.

For what it’s worth, he said he’d put these in a rental property and put LifeProof in his own home. Planks are phthalate- and formaldehyde-free. Unlike a lot of the other vinyl planks, these require a 48-hour acclimation time, I assume before installation.

That could be problematic if you don’t have anywhere to store all the flooring. Lifetime residential warranty. I loved the colors Coastal Oak, Crystal Oak, and Quiet Oak online (view all colors here).

They were also all beautiful in the stores, and this line has a much wider selection of colors. But like some of the others, I thought they were too flimsy for my needs. 

8. TrafficMASTER (Home Depot)

  • Cost: $45.33 for a 24 sq ft carton ($1.89/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 3.8 mm thickness with a 4 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in: China

Great customer reviews on Home Depot’s website and great variety of colors. Installation uses grip strips but is still a floating floor. 25 year limited residential warranty. I considered Brushed Oak Taupe, which looks like a really lovely taupe-y gray.

Like some of the other brands, though, I couldn’t get samples or actually see the planks. Given how thin the planks and their wear layer are, though, I nixed them. (Though it’s worth noting that with comparable specs to Shaw’s Kalahari line but a much lower price, this one would be a better bet.)

9. Tranquility (Lumber Liquidators)

  • Cost: $45.78 for a 19.99 sq ft carton ($2.29/sq ft)
  • Thickness: 5 mm thickness with a 20 mil wear layer
  • Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in: China

I was especially excited about this floor because of the lower price, the great reviews, and the personal testimonial from a few friends. I had a lovely experience at my local Lumber Liquidators, where I was able to see larger samples of the floors and chat with the store associate about the differences.  

The Lumber Liquidators website says the planks are also phthalate-safe. I’m wondering if that means phthalate-free or is a tricky way of saying they have some but not much? 🙂

One drawback of these floors is that they have no preattached padding, which you can buy separately if you want. You also have to buy a moisture barrier, which is required. I considered Riverwalk Oak, which was really lovely.

10. CoreLuxe (Lumber Liquidators)

A bit of a step up from the Tranquility line in terms of thickness, the CoreLuxe line has a solid polymer core and a high-density 1mm attached pad underneath. Although it has the same wear level of thickness as the Tranquility line, the website claims CoreLux has an enhanced wear layer that protects against damage.

It also has superior dent resistance. Same comment as the Tranquility line about being phthalate-safe. 50-year residential warranty. I considered Beach Cottage Oak and Driftwood Hickory, and I can tell you that these planks are great. Very thick and sturdy.

I was really impressed by how realistic the samples looked and how substantial the planks felt, especially with the attached pad. It felt like it would hold up very well and “felt” more like wood to me.

However, I had some trouble finding the perfect color. I also didn’t like that a separate moisture barrier was required, and the store was also selling an insulated underlayment; these things would push me up over my $3/sq ft budget.

My Top 3 best affordable vinyl plank flooring options

After researching these 10 options and spending more time in stores and staring at samples than I’d like to admit, here are my top three choices for overall bank for my basement buck:

But I’m going to leave you hanging on what I chose. As of writing this post, this is what my basement looks like comparing my top 3 flooring options. If you listen hard enough, you can hear Mike whispering “just make a damn decision already.” 😉

2021 Update: We love our floors!

Hi everyone! I get a decent number of messages about this post, so I wanted to pop back in and do an update. Which flooring did I choose? When I left this post in early 2019, I was just about to decided which flooring to put in our basement. I was down to the following:

I do believe that all three of these would have been great options. However, we ultimately chose to go the Home Depot route and get LifeProof Luxury Vinyl Planks in Sterling Oak. Here’s why we chose LifeProof flooring, as well as why we didn’t choose CoreLuxe or SMARTCORE.

CoreLuxe vs. Lifeproof vs. SMARTCORE

My CoreLuxe review in a nutshell—it was beautiful, and it honestly felt the most substantial out of all three options. It had what appeared to be the best wear layer at 20 mil. However, it also required a separate moisture barrier, and the salespeople were really pushing an insulated underlayment as well.

This would have just been more things to add to my list to do, and it also would have pushed the price up over what i wanted to spend. Also, on a color note, I did think the color was just a hair too brown for what I was looking for, and I wasn’t finding anything that I liked better there.

As for SMARTCORE, I loved the DIY approach of being able to really look at the planks and feel them. (Lumber Liquidators has everything in the back in more of a “showroom style” store.) This one had a 5.5 mm thickness with a 12 mil wear layer, so less than the CoreLuxe, but more or equal to the LifeProof floors.

However, a big detractor for SMARTCORE for me was that the store associate said I’d also need to buy an underlayment. Again, not a deal breaker, but something else I’d have to do and something else I’d have to factor in to my costs. So that left us with LifeProof.

The LifeProof luxury vinyl planks at Home Depot seemed very similar to the SMARTCORE planks (5.6-8 mm thickness with a 6-12 mil wear layer). So the wear layer was a bit thinner.

Ultimately, LifeProof won me over for three reasons:

  • Despite the thinner wear layer, everything I read suggested it was more than enough for residential use.
  • The planks felt great and looked awesome—Sterling Oak is pretty much exactly the color I wanted.
  • The color I wanted was in store in boxes on the shelf. I like the DIY approach. Showrooms stress me out.
  • And, finally—no underlayment or moisture barrier required! Just lay the planks right now—yay!

I’m really proud that I did this totally by myself, so if I can do it, I know you can do it. You can also check out more detailed posts on installing LifeProof luxury vinyl plank flooring and our review of LifeProof floors 1 year later.

Pin my Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews!

**Please know that your particular preferences, situation, room, and handiness may differ from mine. While I hope you found this post helpful and can use it to help guide your search, definitely ask store associates and read a variety of reviews to ensure you make the best decision for your home. Also, specs and prices change over time, so while I’ve made ever effort to ensure the information included here is accurate as of March 2019, it might change. Good luck on your search! 🙂

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