This post shares affordable vinyl plank flooring reviews from a homeowner’s perspective. I have researched affordable vinyl plank flooring for months and want to share my findings with you!
9 of the Best Vinyl Plank Flooring Reviews From a Homeowner
I have spent considerable time researching affordable vinyl plank flooring over the years. I’ve read countless reviews and 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 asked flooring store employees 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! Buckle up and get ready to take some notes about the flooring options we considered for the our old townhome’s basement, as well as our new rancher home’s basement.
- Why choose vinyl plank flooring for the basement?
- Criteria for choosing the best vinyl plank flooring
- 1. SMARTCORE (Lowe’s)
- 2. STAINMASTER (Lowe’s)
- 3. Pergo DuraCraft +WetProtect (Lowe’s)
- 4. NuCore Waterproof Flooring (Floor & Decor)
- 5. LifeProof (Home Depot)
- 6. Home Decorators Collection (Home Depot)
- 7. TrafficMaster (Home Depot)
- 8. CoreLuxe (Lumber Liquidators)
- 9. Modin (Flooret)
- Flooring we chose for the townhouse basement
- Flooring we chose for the rancher house basement
Why choose vinyl plank flooring for the basement?
First I want to cover why you should go with vinyl plank floor for a basement. Some people still have the view that vinyl flooring is icky and ugly, but that simply isn’t the case. It will be a huge step up from the carpet we have.
- 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. Even on a concrete slab, vinyl plank flooring is great. And I personally think it’s warmer and comfier than tile.
Criteria for choosing the best vinyl plank flooring
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 as a DIYer.
- $4.50 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—for the basement in our old house, I was looking for the perfect gray-brown to tie in our existing coffee-colored flooring without looking like we were trying to match. For the basement in our new rancher home, I wanted something that was a very warm light brown.
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. I am not including those.
1. SMARTCORE (Lowe’s flagship brand)
- Cost: Ranges from $2.93 to $4.29 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: Options range from 6mm to 7.5mm
- Wear layer options: 12 mil acrylic; 20 mil acrylic (commercial grade)
- Health Factors: GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low emissions
SMARTCORE is exclusively sold at Lowe’s and is marketed as their best vinyl plank. Since originally publishing this post, Lowe’s has greatly expanded the thickness, color, wear later, and plank size options.
SMARTCORE flooring 100% waterproof, and the website says it will never swell when exposed to water like laminate can. It has an easy “click” DIY install method. It also comes with a pre-attached pad to help reduce sound and increase comfort.
The gentleman at Lowe’s said this is the best option to hide very minor imperfections in subflooring. It meets standards for low emissions and has a durable double coat of UV acrylic finish. 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. Back in 2019 when I first researched this floor, the store associate said I needed an additional underlayment.
No biggie, but adds to the cost calculations. However, it seems that the additional underlayment is now optional as of updating this article in late 2023. Check your specific color/finish to make sure that’s the case before proceeding.
2. STAINMASTER (Lowe’s)
- Cost: $2.99 to $4.00 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 6mm
- Wear layer: 12 mil
- Health Factors: When I first published this article in 2019, these floors were Floor Score certified for indoor air quality; however, as of late 2023, I cannot confirm that this is still the case. I can’t find anything about it on the Lowe’s website.
STAINMASTER is a recognizable brand with a limited lifetime residential warranty. These floors are exclusively sold at Lowe’s, are 100% waterproof, come in a variety of colors, and have great reviews.
But I thought the planks felt a bit flimsy in person. I had some concerns about our concrete subfloor and comfort/warmth. However, as a pro, the planks come with a pre-attached 1mm acoustic padding underlayment.
3. Pergo DuraCraft +WetProtect (Lowe’s)
- Cost: Ranges from $3.49 to $4.54 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 6mm
- Wear layer options: 20 mil
- Health Factors: I couldn’t find anything specific for health certifications
Pergo DuraCraft +WetProtect is another great option from a well-known brand: Pergo. It is available at Lowe’s, and although it is only 6mm thick, its wear later is an impressive 20 mil (commercial grade!).
According to Lowe’s, the Pergo DuraCraft planks have “WetProtect” technology that provides full-coverage waterproofing from surface to subfloor. The floors are guaranteed not to gap if exposed to moisture or temperature changes.
This flooring is also made in the USA with materials sourced from across the Americas and Europe and has a lifetime warranty. As another bonus, the product line has an optional quarter round product that clicks into place, further protecting your subfloor.
4. NuCore Waterproof Flooring (Floor & Decor)
- Cost: $2.59 to $4.49 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 5.5mm to 8mm
- Wear layer options: 20 mil to 30 mil
- Health Factors: GREENGUARD Gold Certified for low chemical emissions into air during indoor usage
Full disclosure, I have worked with Floor & 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 to research.
When I originally wrote this post years ago, the reviews for this floor were spotty and options were more limited. However, it seems that the line has come a long way. I was recently at a Floor & Decor, so I decided to check them out.
They NuCore planks are very substantial and 100% waterproof. They also have superior scratch and dent resistance with 22+mil wear layer options. A pre-attached cork pad creates a quieter, warmer floor. While additional underlayment isn’t required, Floor & Decor recommend using the Sentinel Protect Plus for “increased performance”—or a vapor barrier.
5. LifeProof (Home Depot)
- Cost: $3.39 to $3.99 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 7mm
- Wear layer options: 6 mil to 30 mil
- Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
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. Since I originally published this article, Home Depot has greatly expanded their LifeProof line with different plank colors, widths, and wear layers.
The floors are thick and very substantial with a pre-attached underlayment. It can be installed over most existing surfaces including tile, wood, concrete, and vinyl. Like other vinyl plank floors, LifeProof floors are 100% waterproof.
In addition to being floor score certified, the planks are phthalate- and formaldehyde-free. Home Depot markets these floors are very easy to install for DIYers—and I could buy them in stores in bit and pieces as I needed them. Definitely a bit bonus for someone with a small car.
6. Home Decorators Collection (Home Depot)
- Cost: $1.99 to $2.59 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 4mm to 5mm
- Wear layer options: 6 mil to 12 mil
- Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
I view Home Depot’s Home Decorators Collection 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 before installation.
That could be problematic if you don’t have anywhere to store all the flooring. And although the colors were beautiful, I thought the planks were a bit too flimsy for my liking. If you do decide on these floors, though, they have a limited lifetime residential warranty.
7. TrafficMaster (Home Depot)
- Cost: $1.49 to $2.29 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 4mm to 5mm
- Wear layer: 6 mil
- Health Factors: Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
TrafficMaster click-lock vinyl plank flooring is another great budget option available at Home Depot. It has decent customer reviews on Home Depot’s website and good variety of colors.
It is 100% waterproof and easy to install for DIYers. However, you might have noticed that it comes only in a 6 mil wear layer. That’s one of the lowest wear layers in this lineup—and it is reflected in the floor’s price. I would put this one in the same category as the Home Decorator’s Collection floors—probably a perfectly fine choice, but if you can afford something else, it might be a good idea.
8. CoreLuxe (Lumber Liquidators)
- Cost: $1.69 to $4.99 per square foot depending on specs
- Thickness: 4mm to 9mm
- Wear layer options: 6 mil to 28 mil
- Health Factors: GREENGUARD Gold Certified or Floor Score certified for indoor air quality
The CoreLuxe line at Lumber Liquidators is an excellent choice with a wide variety of options to choose from. And with those options can come vastly different price points, so keep that in mind when looking at the samples.
All CoreLuxe planks have superior dent resistance and are phthalate-safe with a lifetime residential warranty. 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 seemed 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 recommended, and the store was also selling an insulated underlayment. These things could push up the price depending on what sample you chose.
9. Modin (Flooret)
- Cost: $2.95 to $4.50 per square foot
- Thickness: 5mm to 7mm
- Wear layer options: 20 mil to 40 mil
- Health Factors: FloorScore certified
I will be working with the brand Flooret to install flooring from their Modin line in the basement of our new rancher home. As a full disclosure, while they are not paying me, they did gift me the flooring. I researched their product thoroughly before moving forward, and I am really excited to share what they offer for their price point!
Flooret’s Modin collection of luxury vinyl plank flooring offers three different options: extra-large Signature planks with an industry-leading wear layer (40 mil), Craftsman planks with the same wear layer at a more narrow size, and Base planks that have a lower (but still great) wear layer and a lower price point.
All three options models offer a low sheen level, making them look more like wood; a pre-attached underlayment; a rigid SPC core; and a 100% waterproof guarantee. They provide a lifetime residential warranty.
Flooring we chose for the townhouse basement
So which flooring did I choose? When I left this post in early 2019, my top choices for the townhouse basement were CoreLuxe, Lifeproof, and SMARTCORE. We ultimately chose to go the Home Depot route and get LifeProof in Sterling Oak. Here’s why we chose it, as well as why we didn’t choose CoreLuxe or SMARTCORE.
CoreLuxe 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.
Now for SMARTCORE. This one had a 5.5 mm thickness with a 12 mil wear layer, so less than the CoreLuxe, but more than or equal to LifeProof. However, a detractor for SMARTCORE for me was that the store associate said I’d also need to buy an underlayment. Not a deal breaker, but something else I’d have to do.
So that left us with LifeProof. Despite the thinner wear layer, the planks felt great and looked awesome—and Sterling Oak was 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.
So that’s what we went with! LifeProof in Sterling Oak. Five years after installing them, and the floors have held up GREAT! We love them. I’m a huge fan of vinyl plank flooring for high-traffic areas or real homes with pets and kids, and I have many friends and family members who have opted for these floors after seeing them in my house.
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.
Flooring we chose for the rancher house basement
When we moved into our new home—the little rancher—we knew we wanted to finish off part of the basement. I had a lot of new-found confidence having laid a floor in the basement of our previous home!
The basement in the new home also has a concrete subfloor. But unlike the townhome’s basement, the rancher home’s basement is completely below grade, has lower ceilings, and is overall much darker. So I wanted a lighter warm brown to help brighten things up.
I feel super lucky that the wonderful team at Flooret agreed to provide the flooring for this project because I was really impressed with what they had to offer. Truthfully, I probably would have just gone with LifeProof before I did some research and learned about Flooret.
The stats speak for themselves when comparing to Lifeproof. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different options with each line, so I am comparing the Flooret Modin Signature planks with the LifeProof 59×9 length.
Flooret’s option is $4.50/square foot, while the LifeProof option is $3.50/square foot. So what’s different? Well, while they are both 7mm thick, the Flooret option offers a 40 mil wear layer, while the LifeProof options offers 22 mil.
The best thing about the Flooret planks, though? They are MASSIVE at 9 inches wide by 72 inches long. They are very substantial, and honestly, they look very realistic and natural in person. And the Nakan color I chose? It’s perfect. I couldn’t find anything exactly like it elsewhere.
Another feature I really appreciated was the very realistic “see the floors in your room” option Flooret offers. I often don’t find these mockup tools to be very helpful or realistic, but this one was great. It totally sold me when I saw the pictures below. I will be updating this post in the future once we finish working on the basement and I can share photos of the floors in all of their glory.
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. Specs and prices change over time, so while I’ve made ever effort to ensure the information included here is as accurate as possible of November 2023, it might change. Good luck on your search! 🙂