First – Size and Shape
Your vinyl flooring will come to you in either a big, single sheet, in tiles or in planks.
The most popular type for larger areas is sheet vinyl, coming in rolls either 6 or 12 feet wide by whatever length is needed. The larger sheets display a seamless look, and are the easiest to clean. After it is installed, the flooring shrinks, causing it to tighten over your floor. Unlike other types of flooring, sheet vinyl cannot be easily removed.
Vinyl Tile and Vinyl Plank
Individual tiles will come in 9, 12, or 18 inch squares in a multitude of colors and patterns. You can make checkerboard patterns, or use different colors to create borders around your floor. They also have a protective wear layer similar to the kinds of finish used on many hardwoods. Vinyl tiles are popular choices for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Often they come with a sticky backing, eliminating the need to apply liquid adhesives and seam sealers during installation. Those are considered to be easy to install. If there is no such glue backing, an adhesive will be needed. If you follow the instructions closely, a do-it-yourselfer can easily handle this task.
In addition to the solid vinyl tiles and planks, there is another type of construction for the individual vinyl pieces. Vinyl Composite Tile (or VCT) is made of vinyl chips along with other additives. Similar to production methods used to make laminate flooring, VCT is formed into solid sheets by heat and extreme pressure. VCT is one of the vinyl products that made a big splash at the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair exposition in Chicago in 1933, where vinyl flooring in general made its first big mark. VCT was later used to replace asbestos tiles after their danger was determined in the early 1980’s; and is a favorite in institutional and commercial locations, because of its high damage resistance, and ability to be refinished frequently. The tiles tend to be 12″ x 12″.
|Originally vinyl flooring was only available in two forms, large, room sized sheets, and little square tiles. Recently, vinyl has become available as 4 to 5 foot long by 5 inch wide vinyl plank flooring, allowing vinyl to more realistically replicate a laminate, wood or bamboo look. This functions like tiles, with all the installation and surface advantages, but it can be installed as floating floors, just like laminate, which means that replacing a click together vinyl plank is as easy as it is with laminate. So, why not just get a laminate floor then? One big reason.
Vinyl plank flooring can be a 100% waterproof flooring, something not (yet) possible with a laminate floor.
Second – The Wear Layer
There are three basic types of finish for the surface of a vinyl floor. Whichever you choose should be primarily based on the level and kind of traffic you expect your floor to see.
Not too much traffic
No wax wear surface, or “Vinyl No Wax”. The goal is shininess over durability, but it needs more maintenance compared to the other finishes. You will have to wash it regularly, and frequently polish it to keep the shine.
Normal to heavy traffic
Urethane – this layer is more resilient against scratching and scuff marks. It keeps its standard appearance longer than the no wax.
Very high traffic
Enhanced Urethane is considered to be the highest quality of any surface coating available for a vinyl floor. It is the strongest, most damage resistant wear layer.
Most wear layers tend to be the urethane type. There is disagreement about whether the thickness of the wear layer has a significant effect on durability, especially when compared with the differences in the three kinds above.
Finally – The Manufacturing Process
The construction of vinyl flooring determines both how it can look, and how well it will withstand household or commercial use. All vinyl flooring is made of layers. The main structural layer will either be vinyl or some kind of felt or foam. Felt provides more cushion while vinyl offers more dent resistance.
Vinyl flooring is manufactured in a couple of ways. Printed vinyl floors are made similarly to laminate floors: they have the decorative design attached or printed right onto a foam base. Vinyl inks are used, and a wear layer is applied over the top to coat the ink. The thicker backing creates a cushioned walk and great moisture protection. Many printed floors have an inner layer of tough vinyl between the picture and the foam to enhance the durability of a printed floor. This manufacturing process is called rotogravure, and it allows for unlimited design possibilities.
In general, the more durable floor would be an inlaid floor. Instead of directly applying a high resolution image, inlaid flooring gets its color and textured surface from embedded vinyl granules, either randomly or in a pattern, from the base layer through to the top layer. This type of vinyl has rich colors and a richer finish. Since the patterns permeate the flooring from top to bottom, scratches and nicks will not show up as much with this type of vinyl.
Limitations of Vinyl Usage
While Vinyl flooring is great in a household kitchen, and VCT is a commonly used floor in institutional and commercial areas, vinyl flooring is actually not recommended for commercial kitchens. Some vinyl floors are prone to tearing when sharp objects are dropped onto them.
Most vinyl flooring is not recommended for areas where automobiles will be worked on (though we do know of a garage with vinyl flooring, so it has been done). Oil spills and the rubber from tires are considered to be unfriendly to vinyl flooring.
Like almost all the flooring we sell, vinyl is not considered good for outdoor flooring. The uncontrolled environmental changes can cause structural issues, and direct sunlight may fade or discolor the vinyl.
Related blog post: Vinyl Tile vs. Vinyl Plank Flooring
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David is a Writer at Floors To Your Home (.com), as well as the PPC Manager, a Marketing Strategy Team member, a Researcher, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jitō. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on W. David Lichty’s Google+