Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring Becomes a Major League Player!

By Annette M. Callari, Allied ASID; CMG

Luxury vinyl tile is stirring up a lot of excitement in the world of floor coverings.  It’s no secret that this category has grown double digits in market share year after year—even through the depths of the recession.  No wonder so many manufacturers have jumped on board to  get a piece of the pie!  Performance is the catalyst that is drawing manufacturers, retailers, architects, designers, and ultimately, end users, to LVT.  Given that statement, WFCA recognized how significant this segment of floor coverings has become and asked me to dedicate an article in “Designer’s Corner” to this subject.

To start, it’s best to differentiate between sheet vinyl flooring, and luxury vinyl tiles/planks.  The manufacturing process for each is quite different, and the resulting products are also totally different. 

SHEET VINYL

Sheet vinyl is composed of four layers: a protective urethane top coat, a protective clear vinyl layer, a printed design layer, and a felt or fiberglass backing. Vinyl flooring is available in sheets, generally cut to 6 or 12-foot-wide rolls. Sheet vinyl can often be installed seamlessly, depending on the size of a room. It comes in a range of colors and designs, including styles that mimic tile and wood. Commercial sheet vinyl can be heterogeneous (multiple layers plied together as described above), or homogeneous (through-body vinyl with protective top coating).

 

LUXURY VINYL TILE & PLANK

Advanced rotogravure processes, combined with high resolution photography of natural materials, has produced a distinctive product segment in vinyl flooring—luxury vinyl tile and plank.  The needs of the commercial sector initiated the development of high-performance LVT.  The successful combination of aesthetics and performance has made LVT a high-demand cross-over product for either commercial or residential applications.  That’s quite an accomplishment and dual market applications continue to catapult LVT to double-digit growth year after year.  Domestic manufacturers hold to high-quality manufacturing processes using 100% vinyl. Some imports may include “fillers” which could contain contaminants or lesser quality materials. 

The photographic reproduction processes for LVT are extraordinary.  The ability to replicate real hardwoods and stones using advanced photographic technologies is the foundation of luxury vinyl flooring systems.  There are four distinct layers fused together to produce the final product:  a resilient vinyl backing, a vinyl color layer, a photographic film layer, and a urethane or aluminum oxide top layer.  The protective top layer (also called the mil layer) is very important to the durability of the product.  Quality products will have as high as a 40 mil layer.  Commercial applications can successfully utilize 20 mil or above.  Lower mil layers are available, but should be specified only for light traffic applications.

LVT products can replicate any natural material with exact detail:  travertine, slate, woods (every species), concrete, and even bamboo.  This is an abbreviated list, of course, so feel free to research on-line and see the extensive offerings for yourself.  

Since this article is education-oriented, I have included a  reference chart I created for WFCA a few years back.  This “at-a-glance” matrix gives you the key features and benefits unique to LVT.

LVT FEATURES LVT BENEFITS
Incredibly realistic photo replication
of natural materials (rotogravure process uses an engraved cylinder to produce surface tactile distressing.)
The look and feel of nature’s best materials at a lower cost are a reality of LVT manufacturing
Brands that offer 100% vinyl material Vinyl flooring satisfies Green building standards and earns LEED points in commercial applications.
Inherent safety features Meets requirements of commercial flammability codes, slip resistant requirements…and a menu of other safety codes
Ease of maintenance 
Simple damp mopping is the recommended cleaning procedure for LVT floors
Excellent selection of sizes, shapes The size options vary by manufacturer, but many styles are available in 12 x 12”, 18 x 18”, 12 x 24” sizes, and planks in standard (3 x 36” 4.5 x 36) and extra-large widths (7 or 9’ widths).
Naturally water resistant  LVT floors are inherently water resistant (and fairly impervious to wet spills from above). It’s important to install over flat, dry, approved substrates so that no water seepage occurs beneath the floor.
Scratch, stain, dent and scuff resistant Specialized wear layers (most common are 20 mil; Amtico International offers a 40 mil layer). Then the floors are coated with urethane to enhance durability
Cost effective Economics factor favorably into the specification of LVT for both commercial and residential applications, giving the look and feel of rich, natural materials at a lower cost
Exceptional durability Because LVT is constructed to withstand commercial wear and tear, it’s probably “over-qualified” for residential use and can handle high-traffic areas with ease. Warranties vary by manufacturer, but it’s not unusual to see 20-25 year warranties on brand name LVT
More resilient than other hard surface floors Because there are multi-layers of vinyl in LVT as well as a resilient backing as the foundation, LVT tiles and planks have more resilience underfoot. It’s easier to stand on for long periods of time AND as an added benefit, it tends to be warmer underfoot than ceramic.
Amazing aesthetics There has been a stunning transformation in the design aesthetics of LVT in the last five years. If you are linking it to “industrial” looking floors, this is where you need to throw away your misconceptions and do some research. This may be the one biggest factor that has caused interior designers to stand up and take note of the new brand of LVT. The realism of the total look, INCLUDING distressed wood finishes, stone and slate tactile surface textures, and even woven textiles imbedded in the wear layers, are grabbing attention.


 

LVT is already a hot commodity in the commercial sector, and now residential is embracing the authentic good looks and proven durability.  Expect a flurry of new introductions throughout this year from a number of manufacturers..  I will keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

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Overall Rating: 5.0 stars - 16 reviews

By:
Date: February 4, 2017
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Excellent information on a new product our contractor introduced to us.
By:
Date: November 21, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
finally making sense of LVT for me. thank you
By:
Date: October 7, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Interesting information
By:
Date: September 16, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Hello Annette-- Can you provide any inside track on color/style popularity or trends. And if so, what part of the country are they associated with? Thanks!!
By:
Date: September 11, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
very informative.
By:
Date: June 11, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Informative. Thank you
By:
Date: May 24, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
great
By:
Date: January 20, 2016
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
I was going to have porcelain and carpet installed but I like your product for my comdo
By:
Date: July 8, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
We l have just had our kitchen remodelled, picked our floor tiles and a beautiful accent tile of black gemstone glass. The tile installers came yesterday and because we live in a second floor condo and due to the condition of our floor we were told it would not be suitable for the tiles. Our best option is to go with vinyl. I was devastated! The carpet and old vinyl were ripped up and we are left with a damaged concrete floor and the prospect of vinyl Ugh! Then I came across your article, looked at some finished examples of the LVT and I am now feeling much better at the prospect of vinyl. Thank you for a very interesting and informative article. I will now spend time to look again at the new vinyl.
By:
Date: February 22, 2015
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Comments:
Gave me lots of info as I begin my search for easy clean durable flooring. Thanks

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