Vinyl plank comes in a variety of constructions, each with their own installation method. Although each has some value, we have found that click and glue-down are the two most reliable methods, and will result in the surest installation. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each method, along with a brief summary of a couple other constructions available on the market:
Click vinyl plank and tile have quickly become the most common construction in the industry. It is easy to install, provides a great lasting bond, and does not require additional messy adhesives. Click vinyl can be installed directly over most subfloors and existing flooring, without the need for an additional underlayment (an underlayment can be used if desired, however, for additional sound control). The only thing to note with click flooring is that the thickness of the plank should be a minimum of 5 mm, as anything thinner can result in a weak click mechanism, and is also considerably harder to install.
One concern with click that comes from floating laminate and wood floors is the “hollow” feeling they often have. Vinyl is unique in this regard, however, in that both the higher density and the flexibility of the material means there are very few air pockets, even on less-than-perfect subfloors. This does mean that imperfections in the subfloor will “telegraph” to the surface, but as a result, it also means the hollow-spot effect isn’t there.
Dryback vinyl is designed to be full-trowel glued. The planks are generally thinner (2-3 mm), but otherwise, have all the same specifications of their click counterparts. Because the product is thinner and does not have the click mechanism, it is often less expensive. That said, this savings is usually outweighed by the fact that you must purchase adhesive, and the cost of a more experienced installer who is familiar with full-trowel installs. Although the quality of high-quality click flooring has improved dramatically, glue-down is still considered the standard when the most solid installation is needed. Nothing keeps flooring in place quite like full-trowel glue.
Loose lay is the newest technology in vinyl construction. The concept is based on small suction cups that create a vacuum seal with the sub-floor. The argument is that it is even easier to install than click since you can just put the planks side-by-side, and don’t need to mess with getting the click mechanism to hold.
In practice, loose-lay requires the perimeter of the room to be glued, especially in larger spaces. And even then, unless the installation is flawless, gaps are likely to develop between planks and tiles as the floor gets walked on. Although nice in theory, in practice the advantages of loose-lay over click or dryback are hard to quantify. When you consider that the price of loose-lay is rarely lower than click, you are better off considering one of the alternatives.
On the low-end spectrum of vinyl flooring is peel-and-stick. Offered almost exclusively by big-box-stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Lumber Liquidators, these are usually 0.1 or 0.2 mm wear-layer products, designed with a sticker backing that you peel off before sticking the planks to the subfloor. The adhesive on these products is notoriously unreliable, especially if your subfloor is not perfectly clean and level. Even in ideal conditions, the corners of the product will come up over time, and as the tiles or planks get walked on and abused, the “sticker” will start to peel. Although in theory, these products are usable, the low quality generally makes it an option of last resort for extremely low-traffic, low visibility applications. If you do go this route, it is recommended to purchase 20-30% waste (over your actual square footage) to allow for plank replacement over time.