Click vs Loose Lay Vinyl Plank
There are two main categories of vinyl planking that are being used today.
One of them that you'll find more with the lumber yards, and a few of the cash and carry flooring stores, is the click or floating vinyl. They carry this because of a few different reasons, which we will get into a bit later in this post, while at quite a few specialty flooring stores that supply and install their own products (such as GR Flooring), you will find most of us push the 5mm loose lay planks and tiles. (Although most will carry both styles).
Here is how they are constructed. This is a cross section of a one of the clicks. Now some clicks have underlays already attached, some do not. This one happens to already have the underlay pre-attached. You see that there is the wear layer, the core (where the clicking or floating system is based on) and then the base or underlay.
This is a cross section of the loose lay. These do not come with any underlayment pre-attached, although if you need to reach a specific sound rating for a high-rise condo or a basement suite, there are options. But for day to day use, no underlay is required. Again, wear layer, then the core – which if you look closely you can see the emulsified layer of fiberglass, then the stabilizing base. This is the only non-click vinyl plank that we will sell. Anything not as thick (such as a 2mm or 3mm) will not have as much fiberglass (most don’t have any) in the core. And if they do – it will be a mesh, not an emulsified layer. The fiberglass is absolutely necessary for two reasons – it allows the product to sit flat and conform to the subfloor and gives a lot of extra stability to the vinyl. Without this fiberglass layer, the floor will warp and move when sunlight hits it! And of course, we don’t get any sunlight here in Southern Saskatchewan! But joking aside, vinyl – all vinyl flooring – will expand when it heats up and shrink when it gets colder. And sunlight beating down on the floor for hours will give a LOT of heat. So – 5mm loose lay is made so stable that it doesn’t need to be glued down, the weight, density and construction will allow it to work just fine (ergo – loose lay). That being said, we always use a pressure sensitive adhesive under this type of floor. Just that extra grab holds it in place so there is no shifting around. It’s cheap and easy, and that extra peace of mind goes a long way!
The pros for the click or floating vinyl plank are simple. Ease of Installation. Something that you and your friends can do over a weekend. Cut the planks and snap them together! Next benefit is cost – most of these are extremely cheap. These are the two main reasons that cash and carry lumberyards and do it yourself flooring stores carry so much of this product. Very minimal installation instruction is required, and very cheap (a lot of it – very very cheap and even more cheaply made).
Now the pros for the 5mm loose lay. Pro number one - flatness of the subfloor is not as important. Here is a plank of click, which is a rigid product, you see that it doesn’t move and bend with the subfloor, while the 5mm does. Therefore, we don’t have to worry as much as we would with the click system. Of course you really should be sanding any high spots and filling any low spots – but with a click system, if you don’t get to the approved flatness of subfloor you will have many voids under and in time the tongue and grove will break apart and the floor will come apart! 5mm Loose lay will not have that problem, it will conform to your subfloor.
The second thing is the loose lay systems quite stable compared to click systems. They're built so that they don't actually click or glue or anything like that to install them. Now again, we really suggest wit install with a pressure sensitive adhesive. But technically it doesn't need it just needs a little bit on the perimeter to keep the floor together. So overall, very stable. While window coverings are always suggested to keep the intense sun off the floor – they are not as important as with a click which doesn’t have the fiberglass and inherent stability that the 5mm has. Most click systems are guaranteed to 100F, while we have tested the 5mm up to 147F without any issues! Good luck with that on most of the clicks!
Now another benefit to the glue down, is that it's very easy to replace a plank in the middle of the floor. Now we all know that things will be dropped on the floor, and it will get damaged, there's no avoiding it! That’s life, that's reality. When stuff does get dropped on the floor, it's usually in the middle of the room, never the edges. So with a click system (both click vinyl plank as well as laminate flooring), the way to replace it is to remove the baseboards, unclick the floor from the wall to the damaged board, change that board, re click the floor back (hoping that you don't damage any of the boards in the process) and then finally reset the baseboard. Now I know there are some people out there that say you can cut the board out and tap the surrounding boards back all together… I say good luck. I know in theory it works just fine. I have even seen a rep show me a video of someone doing it! But they always seem to have nothing close to them, no kitchen island, lots of perimeter space, the perfect situation. But not the average home, so in my opinion – doesn’t work. In fact, I will do a video later today with that and show you! Or maybe I’m wrong. But even if you can cut out the board and play around with the hammer and tape and whatever that system says – still a lot more work than the 5mm!
With the loose lay, a little bit of heat 90-95F (use a heat gun or a hair dryer) reactivates the glue and you pull the board right up! The glue totally lets go and doesn’t even transfer to the plank – so you don’t add more glue. Just heat, pull out the damaged plank, and put a new one in. That simple. Really! Less than 5 min – and no saws, glue, hammers, tape, baseboards, or whatever magical tool that’s needed for the click.
Last but not least, vinyl plank on the stairs. I’ve done a whole post explaining plank on stairs – click HERE and it will take you to that post. For the sake of time – 5mm vinyl plank stairs are ridiculously better than click stairs.
In conclusion – click vinyl plank is easy to install, and very cheap. 5mm Loose Lay vinyl is more forgiving to install, more forgiving with sunlight and heat, easier to repair when they get damaged – and look and perform better on stairs. Most places will have both products, so take a look. Take some samples home and play with hem. Make sure to live with them for at least a few days to see how they look in morning and evening light. Make an informed decision!