Understanding Luxury Vinyl Installation: Floating Vinyl vs. Glue Down

Rod Lorenz


When selecting a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or luxury vinyl plank (LVP) product for your next project, you should think as much about the installation and application process as you do about the final look and design aesthetics. Why? Because if you don’t consider the installation method carefully and end up choosing one that’s not recommended for the product or the environment, your flooring may not last as long as you were expecting.

Let’s take a closer look at LVT/LVP installation and application:

Floating Vinyl

Floating floors don’t refer to a special kind of flooring material; rather, “floating” refers to an installation method. Floating vinyl flooring doesn’t require any adhesive; instead, the tiles either sit above the sub-floor, which is typically either wood or concrete, or the vinyl flooring is installed directly over a protective cushion or vapor barrier system.

Using the floating method, individual tiles interlock to form a single surface that rests on the underlayment. The costs of floating vinyl flooring will depend on whether it’s new construction or remodeling. If it’s new construction, it’s less expensive. For remodeling, it may end up costing more than wood flooring, depending on where the floor will be installed and whether the existing floor needs to be removed to achieve the right floor height once the floating tiles are installed.

Pros of Floating Vinyl

Faster to install - because installation is relatively quick, you can return to normal activities in the room more quickly.

Resistant to denting – products have a hard backing

Waterproof – this is important because the sub-floor underneath the LVT flooring is not waterproof

Less prep work – you can use floating vinyl flooring over existing flooring, whether vinyl, tile, or hardwood, as long as the existing base is relatively stable.

Cons of Floating Vinyl

Replacement - Floors need to be replaced entirely when the floor wears out or if you want to change styles; replacing a single tile is challenging.

Style - Floating vinyl has limited design options since you cannot create designs such as borders.

Function - Floating vinyl doesn't suit every location. For instance it is not ideal for rooms where there is a fireplace or where the intention is to place very heavy furniture like a piano or pool table. These may cause abnormal movement of the vinyl due to the weight.

Transitions - Floating floors require transitions that will be installed over the edge of the floor.   These can be difficult for elderly or people that require using a wheelchair or walker.   

Glue Down Vinyl

Glue down flooring uses a water-based adhesive to adhere to the base. The method, which is also referred to as “dry back,” ensures the vinyl tiles are stable. Two types of adhesives are used for the glue down method: hard set and pressure sensitive. Like floating floors, glue down LVT/LVP floors is less expensive in cases of new construction. In remodeling, the costs will also depend on whether the existing floor needs to be replaced or sub-floors need to be installed to match heights, so it may cost more than wood flooring.

Pros of Glue Down

Flexibility - Individual tiles can be easily removed and replaced, which means the whole floor doesn’t need to be changed.

Fast - Glue down vinyl is relatively quick to install

Cons of Glue Down

Installation - Glue down is considered a more challenging install than floating vinyl

Surface prep - Generally you need a flat, even surface

Learn more about Ralph's LVT/LVP options

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