SmartCore is an in-house brand of Lowes, and as such, it has become a pretty popular product.
When a major supplier has an in-house brand, it’s tempting to think that it must be good; otherwise, why would the supplier stake its reputation on it? Well, we’ll see. In an effort to find out more about this, we’ll dig deep to see what SmartCore can offer. Some SmartCore flooring reviews look solely at quality, but we’ll aim for a rounder picture, covering the range as well as pricing and taking a look at reviews from those who’ve actually bought it.
Luxury vinyl is stirring up a lot of interest right now. Not surprising: it’s practical and looks good, so it is exactly what a lot of people want on their floors. Consequently, the market’s becoming quite crowded, which, on the one hand, means there’s bound to be a product out there that’s perfect for your needs. On the other hand, it can be a little overwhelming. But don’t worry; we’re here to help. Deep breath, and let’s begin.
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SmartCore is made by Shaws, a US flooring giant, which has been flooding the nation since 1967 and is behind such well-known brands as COREtec. SmartCore is positioned as an affordable quality product that is suitable for family use. It comes in four ranges.
This is the entry-level range. Construction is centered on a WPC (wood polymer core or wood plastic composite – which means the same thing), which combines waterproofing with a degree of cushioning. It’s not the same level of cushioning you’d get from some laminates, but it’s more forgiving than some of the very hard luxury vinyl that’s out there.
On top of the core is an image layer, which carries the design of the piece (so, in this case, wood grain or stone), then the wear layer, which, at 12 mils, is not as thick as one might hope. Add in the attached acoustic pad at the very bottom, and that’s the makeup of the piece.
Quite a good range of woods is available, including oak, maple, and hickory. Stone’s not so well represented, there being just two varieties of generic stone – light grey and dark grey – so the geologist in you will feel a little shortchanged.
Wood-look planks are 48” x 5”, and stone-look tiles are 24” x 12”. They’re both 6.5mm thick, which is above average.
This is the next step up, but it features pretty much the same construction. So, why is it ‘ultra’? It all boils down to a higher-definition image layer and a slightly thicker UltraSoft acoustic underlay.
Perhaps surprisingly, the range in Ultra is narrower than that in the basic line. The wood possibilities are very much restricted, limited pretty much to oak, maple, and pine in varying shades of brown. However, the stone range is much better, with options including slate, travertine, and sandstone.
Ultra wood-look planks are 48” x 6,” and Ultra stone-look tiles are 24” x 12”. The overall thickness is 7.5mm due to that thicker underlayment.
Based around an SPC (stone polymer core or stone plastic composite) approach, this one’s a little more hardcore than the preceding two because of its tougher core and thicker wear layer (20 mils).
The range offered is much better. The wood looks are very impressive and features such interesting examples as the pale Toasted Eucalyptus and the warm Mocha Walnut. The stone-look tiles are good too, with special mention given to the dramatic Riverside Granite.
The sizing for the stone-look tiles is the same as with the other collections, i.e., 24” x 12”, but the wood-look planks are wider, at 48” x 7”. Thickness is slightly lower than the others, at 6mm.
This range is very different in nature from the others, as, strictly speaking, it’s not pure luxury vinyl. Instead, it’s a hybrid between luxury vinyl and engineered wood. There’s a vinyl core that supplies strength and waterproofing, but this is surmounted by a layer of real wood.
You’ll find a range of 12 Naturals, so not an amazing level of choice. However, there are some very attractive ones in there, including the welcoming ochre of Hot Springs Hickory.
The length of each plank varies in order to complete the look of natural wood. The width is 5”, and the thickness is 6mm.
SmartCore Key Features:
- Available in Four Different Ranges
- Multi-Layer Structure
- 100% Waterproof
- Suitable for Commercial Use (SmartCore Pro)
- Highly Durable
- GreenGuard Gold low VOC Certified
- Flooring Name: SmartCore, SmartCore Ultra, SmartCore Pro, SmartCore Naturals
- Thickness: 6mm-7.5mm.
- Warranty: Lifetime Residential, 5-10 Years Commercial
- Commercial or Residential Use: Both
- Installation Type: Floating, Glue-down, or Combination
- Underlayment Required: Supplied Already Attached
- Material: Luxury Vinyl
- Brand: SmartCore
Vinyl flooring by SmartCore is very competitively priced, at between $2 and $5 SFT, so much cheaper than a premium brand like CoreTEC but just a little pricier than LifeProof.
|SmartCore Variety||Cost per Square Foot||Overall Thickness||Wear Layer|
|Coweta Oak||$2.64 SFT||6.5mm||12mil|
|Hanover Hickory||$3.29 SFT||6.5mm||12mil|
|Pro Claremount Oak||$3.29 SFT||6mm||12mil|
|Ultra Brunswick Maple||$3.39 SFT||7.5mm||20mil|
|Ultra Richmond Oak||$3.89 SFT||7.5mm||20mil|
|Pro Burbank Oak||$4.09 SFT||6mm||12mil|
|Pro Springfield Mix||$4.19 SFT||6mm||12mil|
|Naturals Rivers Edge Oak||$4.19 SFT||6mm||N/A (engineered wood, so not comparable)|
|Naturals Hot Springs Hickory||$4.79 SFT||6mm||N/A (engineered wood, so not comparable)|
How Does SmartCore Pricing Compare With Other Brands?
|Product Name||Price per Square Foot||Overall Thickness||Wear Layer Thickness|
|Home Decorators Collection LVP||$1.79||4 – 4.2 mm||8 – 12 mil|
|DuraLux Performance||$1.49 – $3.49||4 – 5 mm||6 – 12 mil|
|SmartCore Ultra||$3.39 – $3.99||7.5 mm||20 mil|
|LifeProof Vinyl Plank||$3.41 – $4.59||6.5 – 8 mm||6 – 22 mil|
|NuCore RigidCore 8mm||$3.79||8 mm||22 mil|
|Mohawk SolidTech Plus||$4.35||6 mm||20 mil|
|Armstrong Luxe Plank||$4.39 – $4.79||7.8 mm||20 mil|
|Mannington Adura Max||$5.49 – $5.99||8 mm||20 mil|
|Coretec Plus Premium||$6.49 – $7.49||12 mm||20 mil|
|Cali Vinyl Legends||$6.49||12 mm||20 mil|
|Shaw Floorte Classic||$6.99||12 mm||30 mil|
|Coretec Grande||$9.99||15 mm||30 mil|
Luxury vinyl is well-known for its toughness, outperforming natural hardwood by far, for instance. Its waterproofing is beyond question. Even the Naturals range, with its real wood component, can withstand sustained contact with water. So, encouraging stuff here.
SmartCore certainly claims to give good scratch proofing, but it doesn’t acquit itself fantastically well in testing, such as in this YouTube video. In addition, SmartCore can be a little vulnerable in its resistance to dents. It’s fair to say that this is not unheard of with luxury vinyl – it’s often found to be susceptible to heavy pressure. However, SmartCore seems to be especially dentable.
Let’s turn to the warranty, as it’s often the best indicator of how confident a manufacturer is in the durability of its product. It’s reassuring to note that all the ranges deliver a lifetime residential warranty. However, there are a number of strict limitations applied to this. One of them is that if you install it yourself, you have to adhere faithfully to the instructions given in the installation manual.
As far as industrial use is concerned, it’s clear that the makers are less assured about its ability to cope, even with a light commercial setting such as an office or retail. SmartCore basic, Ultra, and Naturals come with a 5-year cover, which is very slight indeed. Pro gives a 10-year commercial warranty, which is a little more in line with competitors at this price point.
There are lots of SmartCore reviews online. For instance, there’s a good deal said about it on Houzz, the home improvement discussion group. One particular thread, for instance, centers on installation, and although it starts out well enough, it soon deteriorates in tone, with one contributor bemoaning a fault with the grooves in its locking mechanism and a problem stemming from some of the planks being made in the US and some in China, which are incompatible when it comes to laying it down.
One Houzz thread is very scathing about issues to do with installation:
I also have pieces that are not of the same size, so they do not install properly. …During installation… the ends of the plank have NO locking at all.
It’s beginning to make sense that the manufacturer strongly recommends professional installation, which is further illustrated by the delight this customer reports following a visit from the pros:
The product has a cushioned feel (not pronounced) and exceeds my expectations.
Let’s turn elsewhere, firstly, to Lowe’s website. There are literally thousands of reviews to be found there, most of which are very positive. OK, you might think, that makes sense. Why would a retailer put negative reviews up there? However, it’s notable how honest retailers often are, so it’s unwise to dismiss these positive reviews as just the ones that made the cut.
Appearance is rated highly:
…after a year of use in our Airbnb rental the floor has held up to pets and groups of guests extremely well.
My wife likes it so much, she wants me to install it in all the bedrooms and hall upstairs – oh boy…
One customer, however, highlights its inability to stand up to wear and tear:
They look great. However, we have a chair at a vanity in the bathroom. The chair has felt pads under the legs. It’s still scratched in several places.
Reviews From Other Sites
Interestingly, Reddit has a thread in which a customer praises SmartCore’s ability to repel scratches:
Havent had any issues with scratches, and I have a big dog (65 lbs. ) that loves to jump off the bed right onto it!
But then again, this dog owner reports an altogether different problem:
The problem with the floor is that it shows white marks every time our dog walks over it with clean dry paws and also leaves white marks if we walk over it barefoot.
So, it would seem that, as far as reviews are concerned, SmartCore runs the gamut from glowingly positive to deeply problematic. A more detailed study might be able to find correlations in evidence. For instance, it could be the case that most of the negatives are from people who installed the flooring themselves. On the subject of which…
So, as mentioned, the installation seems to be a bit of a bugbear with the reviewing public, with the inconsistency of the product and failure to lock being the predominant difficulties. While we would normally say that vinyl floor installation is well within the ability of most reasonably practical householders, we’ve concluded that, with this particular product, it’s worth getting the professionals in.
If you’re feeling game for the challenge though, you need to know that you can install using the floating technique, which is noted normally for its ease and relative speed. You can also glue it down if you’d rather.
Although SmartCore’s blurb says it can be laid over uneven flooring, this is a case of ‘relatively speaking’. The flatness has to vary no more than 3/16” over a distance of 10 feet. So not that uneven, really. It also needs a good solid subfloor, or the warranty may be jeopardized.
One big plus is that no acclimation period is necessitated: SmartCore can be laid straightaway.
Need Help With Installation?
Lots of our readers often complain that they can’t find flooring installers in their area. We suggest you try our free estimation tool to get at least three free quotes from qualified & approved installers in your area within 24 hours.
The tool is powered by Networx, who have been helping people find qualified flooring installers for over 20 years.
Care & Maintenance
Use both vacuum cleaning and mopping to maintain your floor to the best effect. Always begin with vacuuming in order to be sure that you’ve removed elements of debris. When vacuuming Adura Max, it’s important to be sure that your vacuum is suitable for vinyl floor use. If you can get a vacuum with a soft bristle brush attachment, this is ideal.
As for mopping, a damp mop is recommended, using water only or a vinegar solution, or, for tougher jobs, a very gentle household floor cleaner (such as Bona Hard Surface Cleaner). While steam mops are cited by the manufacturer as OK for use, be warned that, in our experience, they tend to result in a dull floor over time.
Protect Your Floor
Thankfully, there are lots of ideas you can use to keep your floor safe from damage. Here are some of the best.
- Use doormats. They make a huge difference in terms of keeping gravel, grit, and other damaging particles well away from your vinyl plank flooring. Floormats and rugs used in high-traffic areas will also be extremely helpful. Use rugs with solid backing to prevent any ingress of particles through the rug and onto the floor over time.
- Shoes off. This will prevent a lot of wear in general and in particular from sharp stones and other debris. Once you’ve got into the habit of taking your shoes off upon entry, you’ll wonder how on earth you were ever comfortable keeping them on.
- Put felt pads under the furniture legs. Be sure to keep them in place underneath should you ever decide to move those heavy pieces of furniture around.
- When you do move your furniture around, always lift – never drag.
- Where felt pads aren’t suitable, consider other methods, such as a protective chair mat.
- Keep the temperature inside between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This will prevent any moisture from building up and unduly affecting the floor.
- Keep dogs’ claws trimmed nice and neat. This will give your floor the best chance of remaining beautifully scratch-free for years to come. Should your dog not be amenable to this kind of care, there are other options available, such as dog socks. No, really.
Repair and Maintenance Techniques
- Chips and dings can be repaired with finishing putty, often included in a floor repair kit.
- Tough stains can be removed with acetone nail polish remover.
- Chewing gum should be removed with a blunt blade once it has hardened.
Pros & Cons
Like most brands, SmartCore flooring has its clear pros and cons. See some of the outstanding below, starting with the pros.
Pros Of SmartCore Flooring
- Good Range of Looks – Over the four lines, there’s a wide variety of possibilities.
- Real Wood’s a Bonus – Good to have the Naturals option in there.
- Good Wear Layer on Pro – 20 mil’s a decent coverage.
- Multi-Use – Suitable for any room, with water presenting no difficulty.
- Easy to Clean – A damp mop takes care of most stains, and the floor is generally easy to care for.
- Damaged Planks Can Be Replaced – It’s possible to substitute new planks or tiles should there be damage to the existing ones.
- Waterproof – Luxury vinyl has no problem with water, and SmartCore’s no different.
- Good Residential Warranty – Lifetime residential, albeit with conditions. All flooring warranties have limitations, though.
- Good price – SmartCore’s certainly not expensive as far as luxury vinyl goes.
- No Acclimation Needed – It’s ready for action.
Cons of SmartCore Flooring
- Installation Causes Headaches – The negative experiences of a great many DIYers can’t be ignored.
- Cannot Be Refinished – Once you damage a section, it can’t be tackled by refinishing it.
- Very Little Eco-Info – Apart from telling us that it’s GreenGuard Gold certified and free of phthalates, there’s nothing on the Lowes site to tell us anything about the green credentials associated with the production of this flooring.
- Doesn’t Have the Look or Feel of Natural – Most SmartCore is visibly not made of natural materials. There’s always Naturals though, if this is an issue.
Style – 8 out of 10
Maybe not the sheer number of possibilities that some brands can boast, but there are some very nice looking wood effects, and one or two stylish stone looks too. Plus, of course, for real wood enthusiasts, there’s the real thing available in the Naturals range.
Durability – 7 out of 10
Although a lifetime residential warranty leads us to believe that this floor will stand up to most knocks, there does seem to be the odd question about its resistance to scratches and dents. In addition, a 5-year commercial warranty is hardly worth having at all.
Affordability – 8 out of 10
SmartCore is very keenly priced. It’s not bottom-end, but at prices starting at under $3 SFT, it’s affordable for most. To have an engineered wood product available for just over $4 SFT is quite something.
Online Reviews – 5.5 out of 10
Mixed is the word for the reviews. Although Lowes.com does feature a wealth of praise from ecstatic customers, some of the discussion forums have some very negative verdicts, especially when it comes to installation and the upset it causes.
Overall Score – 7 out of 10
We gave SmartCore 7 out of 10. It looks good, and it’s not overpriced. Where it falters a little is its durability. Although it has a limited lifetime residential warranty, there are doubts about its ability to cope happily with scratches and dents. Reviews also pick out problems with installation, which impacted heavily on its overall score.
The overall lesson here is to go check it yourself; then, if you like it and you’re happy with the resistance to damage it offers, go for it. It certainly won’t break the bank. And with the money you save, you can afford to get a professional in to install it.
We hope we’ve helped you to decide whether SmartCore is right for you. There’s a whole universe of other vinyl options available, so it’s well worth researching as much of it as you can so that you can be sure you end up with the right product for you. We hope it’s not long before you find it.
What do you think of SmartCore flooring? Have you had any experiences with the brand? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
Is SmartCore waterproof?
SmartCore is luxury vinyl, so it is totally waterproof and can be installed in bathrooms.
Is SmartCore expensive?
In terms of how much luxury vinyl usually tends to cost, SmartCore is not expensive, starting at around $3 per square foot.
Does SmartCore have a smooth surface?
With most of the SmartCore range, ridging is built in, including hand scraping and ‘saw mark’ effects.
Is SmartCore easy to install?
Smartcore reviews point to issues with DIY installation, so probably worth getting a professional to do it.