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Wear Layers in Luxury Vinyl Flooring

Posted on the 27/03/2019 by Karndean Designflooring

When specifying flooring for commercial environments, regardless of the setting, durability is sure to be a top priority. In LVT, the product’s wear layer, which lies directly underneath the surface protection layer, is one of the first lines of defense against scratches and everyday wear and tear. Wear layers can range in thickness anywhere between 6 mil and 40 mil, so how do you know which thickness you need for a project and what should you look for in a wear layer? Here are some factors to consider when evaluating the wear layer of a luxury vinyl product.

The Composition of the Wear Layer

Wear layers of many luxury vinyl floors are composed, at least in part, of PVC. Some manufacturers incorporate additives into the wear layer, including aluminum oxide, nylon or ceramic beads, and claim to provide extra protection against scratches. However, when coatings like this are scratched, they often leave a white mark which makes the scratches even more noticeable.

The wear layer of all Karndean Designflooring products is a clear PVC and does not have any additives. In addition, our products are finished with K-Guard+ surface protection, which provides a hygienic and durable finish, and will not turn white when scratched or leave stress marks when handled, as aluminum oxide coatings do.

Diagram of the layers in Karndean's gluedown LVT

The diagram shown is the composition of Karndean Designflooring gluedown LVT

The Thickness of the Wear Layer

Wear layers are measured in mils (one-thousandth of an inch) and in general, the thickness of the wear layer denotes the level of protection. Here is what we would advise specifying in commercial settings, based on our product offering:

12 mil wear layer | Light commercial duty: Areas like multifamily units or office restrooms.

20 mil wear layer | Commercial duty: Consider this the standard for most commercial applications, including retail stores, education settings, corporate settings, and restaurants and hotels.

30 mil wear layer | Heavy commercial duty: Settings where rolling loads, heavy equipment and high levels of foot traffic are the norm.


(left to right) 30 mil Art Select, 20 mil Opus, and 12 mil Knight Tile

You can find products with wear layers as thick as 40 mil, which sounds impressive. However, it's important to weigh the cost of these products against their warranted performance to decide if the extra 0.01" is really worth it. Here's what some 40 mil competitors offer compared with our 30 mil commercial warranty.

  Wear Layer Commercial Warranty
 Karndean Designflooring  30 mil 20 years
 Competitor 1 40 mil 15 years
 Competitor 2 20 years
 Competitor 3 16 years
 Competitor 4 20 years


The Bottom Line

Ultimately, you’ll be looking for the product that provides the level of protection you need at a cost that is within budget, and in a look that suits the environment. Karndean Designflooring products provide original visuals and premium performance, backed by industry-leading commercial warranties. Begin the search for flooring for your upcoming projects and simply filter by the wear layer you require.