What Is SPC Flooring and Should You Get It?
SPC is a type of luxury vinyl flooring with a stone composite core. It's more stable and durable than a wood core, and it costs less.
The debut of vinyl flooring at the 1934 Chicago World Fair attracted a lot of interest from fairgoers. But it wasn’t until World War II ended and the military demand for petroleum subsided that vinyl flooring began appearing in American kitchens, basements and sometimes living rooms. Homeowners liked its durability and water resistance, but not its synthetic appearance.
The industry responded with luxury vinyl tiles, engineered in layers and closely resembling hardwood, stone and other natural materials. They became popular in Europe and Asia in the ’80s and subsequently in North America.
The original luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP) were vinyl all the way through. Around 2010, manufacturers began reinforcing the core with plastic composite to produce rigid core flooring. That core typically consists of wood plastic composite (WPC) or stone plastic composite (SPC). The latter is the type you increasingly find in modern LVT and LVP products.
WPC is a type of high-density fiberboard. Although sealed by layers of vinyl, it can be as vulnerable to moisture as wood. But an SPC core contains no wood.
What Is SPC Flooring?
SPC flooring is luxury vinyl plank or tile flooring with a stone-plastic composite core. Also known as rigid core or engineered vinyl flooring, it’s manufactured in four or five layers, depending on whether the backing is foam or cork. The backing is often added for comfort and insulation.
Manufacturers produce the SPC core, typically from 3.2- to 7 millimeters thick, by combining limestone powder, polyvinyl chloride and stabilizers. SPC is thinner than typical WPC because stone is denser than wood. Owing to the limestone core, SPC floors are durable, with typical warranty periods running 25 years or so.
Pros and Cons of SPC Flooring
In general, SPC flooring shares the benefits and drawbacks of rigid core flooring.
- Easy to install: SPC flooring boards snap together like laminate boards and float above the subfloor. No glue or nails required.
- Durable: A wear layer protects the design layer, resisting scratches and damage from ultraviolet light.
- Comfortable: Most SPC flooring planks and tiles feature an underlayment cushion for comfortable walking and some heat and sound insulation.
- Lots of design choices: Designs mimic various types of hardwood and stone flooring, as well as geometric patterns reminiscent of old-style linoleum and vinyl sheet flooring.
- Undeniably imitation: No matter how realistic the design layer, SPC flooring still looks like vinyl. That’s not a huge issue for geometric design patterns or even faux stone, but a wood pattern will never look like real wood.
- Colors fade: Despite the UV protective coating, SPC flooring fades over time in direct sunlight.
- Not scratch-proof: The wear layer is scratch-resistant, not scratch-proof. Heavy foot and pet traffic eventually makes it look worn.
- Can’t be restored: Once your SPC floor loses its luster, you can’t refinish it. The only option is replacement.
SPC flooring also has multiple pluses and one big minus compared to WPC. On the plus side:
- More stable: Because it doesn’t contain wood, SPC flooring won’t expand and contract with changing temperature and moisture conditions.
- More impact resistant: SPC flooring is denser and resists impact more than WPC.
- Less expensive: SPC is generally more affordable.
On the minus side, SPC features a thinner core layer than WPC. It feels less comfortable to walk on, and doesn’t provide as much thermal and sound insulation. These problems can be remedied by installing an underlayment first.
How Much Does SPC Flooring Cost?
It’s less expensive than real hardwood or stone tile, especially if you install it yourself. The national average for rigid core flooring, including SPC and WPC options, is around $4 per square foot (psf). Compare that to hardwood, which costs from $3 to $10 psf, and stone tile, which runs $5 to $10 psf — not including installation.
SPC could be considered a type of laminate, because the planks are constructed the same way with different materials, and installation is similar. Laminates tend to cost from $1.50 to $3.50 psf, so they can be cheaper than SPC. Laminate flooring is not as durable, long-lasting or comfortable, however. The cost for professional installation is similar to laminate, about $3 to $8 psf.
How To Install SPC Flooring
Luxury vinyl flooring with an SPC core comes in planks or tiles that snap together to form a floating floor. Unlike earlier versions, most require no glue. They’re easy to assemble, even easier than laminate planks, because you can cut them by scoring with a knife and snapping. You only need a saw for cutting curves and notches.
SPC flooring can be installed over many other types of flooring, including hardwood, vinyl and some types of tile. The subfloor must be flat, however, so some preparation might be required first. An underlayment is also recommended if the product you install doesn’t have one. Finally, you’ll need to install baseboards to hold the flooring down.