Vinyl Flooring – All You Need To Know Before Buying

Armstrong Vinyl FlooringVinyl Flooring vs. Laminate Flooring

Vinyl flooring has made alot of improvement in the last few decades and stands today as another top choice. It is stylish, durable and affordable. Previously we discussed laminate floors which have alot in common with vinyl floors. Let’s talk all about vinyl flooring starting with a comparison to laminate.

With advances in technology, both vinyl and laminate have come a long way. Today both are rival alternative choices to more expensive natural materials like hardwood, stone and tile. Vinyl and laminate are today made to very realistically resemble these materials. No longer are these types of flooring just a cheap looking imitation that last a few short years. Improvements in construction have greatly increased the durability and longevity for both types of flooring. These materials are today made with a wear layer that on quality products is highly resistent to scuffs and scratches.

Both come in planks and tiles which are relatively easy to install for most do it yourself homeowners. Luxury vinyl (high quality solid vinyl) like laminate, is constructed of several layers with a durable clear coat wear layer over a design layer. The wear layer on each stand up well to heavy traffic and sunlight. The photographic design layer on both materials can look just like real wood, stone or ceramic. Both are available in a huge variety of designs, options and quality grades. 

Vinyl & Laminate Flooring – Today’s Most Popular Flooring Choices 

Armstrong Vinyl SheetEach has available products which are FloorScore certified for air quality, as well as products which are antimicrobial for infection control. Both cost about the same being considerably less than wood, stone and tile. And both laminate and vinyl are relatively low maintenance.

What is the difference between laminate and vinyl ? Laminate is thicker and is rigid just like planks of wood . It is largely composed of wood fiber. Laminate’s construction allows for more depth in the design layer giving it a slightly even more realistic appearance. Walking on laminate can be just like walking on hardwood. Vinyl has a soft, cushioned, resilient surface which is quieter to walk on. It is made out of flexible pvc plastic. And that’s where it’s main advantage lies. It is impervious to water damage. Laminate on the other hand, cannot withstand under a puddle of water for very long without damage. Still laminate flooring will add slightly more value to a home for resale, where vinyl floors will do little to increase a home’s value. Hardwood, stone and tile add the most value to the sale price of a home.

Both laminate and vinyl flooring are considered to be durable, well made materials that stand up well to surface wear. Yet overall vinyl is the most durable due to it’s high moisture resistence. There is varying estimates on the lifespan of vinyl and laminate, though both average somewhere from 10-20 years in high traffic, but can last even longer depending on the conditions and quality of the flooring and installation. We’ve seen less expensive vinyl tile over 15 years old in some homes & the vinyl still looked like new. Luxury vinyl tile is the highest quality & durability & lasts much longer.

Laminate flooring typically has a 5-10 year manufacturer warranty while luxury vinyl usually comes with 10-15 years. Either laminate or vinyl of good quality can be quite suitable for any room in a house, yet vinyl is often chosen over laminate in places where moisture can be a factor.

The Main Advantage of Vinyl Flooring – Moisture Resistence

Floor SpillAs vinyl flooring is completely moisture resistent it is ideal in places like kitchens, bathrooms, basements, laundry rooms, entry ways and mud rooms. It stands up great to spills, leaks, snow, mud and dirt and does not require frequent cleaning. Dampness common in basements below grade is less of a problem for vinyl than any other type of flooring. Vinyl will always be the best choice in places where there can be moisture.

Though keep in mind that any type of flooring installation including vinyl can be affected by moisture. Water damage is not as common with vinyl installations, especially sheet vinyl, as with any other flooring type. It can happen however. The key factor is proper installation. Concrete floors are where moisture is more likely an issue for any type of flooring. It is recommended to test a concrete slab for moisture before any installation. The problem with moisture in a vinyl installation will be that it can eventually undo the adhesive and the floor could end up with open seams, bumps, mold, etc.

Any floor must be dry to begin with for proper installation. Proper installation will also be required to protect vinyl flooring against above surface moisture like leaks, puddles, etc. Vinyl sheet flooring can be installed with few to no seams, however vinyl tiles and vinyl plank flooring have many seams where water can get into. Proper installation is required to ensure a long lasting seal which will keep out water and keep the installation intact.

With proper installation vinyl will endure for a relatively long time. It cannot dent or warp and can be highly resistent to scuffs, scratches and gouges. How well the surface wears will depend on the thickness of the wear layer. Higher quality vinyl will have a thicker wear layer. Homes with pets that have sharp nails would require this especially.

Construction of Luxury Vinyl Flooring Products

As mentioned high quality solid vinyl products (often labeled as Luxury Vinyl) are composed of several layers. Products vary but there is usually 6-8 layers. Generally the layers consist of 

  • clear top coat layer adding sheen and protection
  • clear wear layer to protect the design layer
  • design layer with high resolution printed image
  • cushion layer of foam or felt making the floor softer and more comfortable to walk on
  • fiberglass backing layer gives support to other layers and allows flooring to lie flat and even
  • solid pvc backing layer gives further foundational support, strength and ease of installation

vinyl flooring layersThe combined layers result in a durable, sound absorbing, cushioned floor surface. Some people prefer it as more comfortable to walk on than other harder flooring surfaces. It is also warmer to the touch than stone or ceramic tile which can become very cold.

Another nice feature of vinyl is that it can be installed directly over any subfloor – concrete, plywood or hardwood, as well as existing vinyl (though not advised on more than one pre existing layer). Vinyl is available in tiles, planks and sheets. Vinyl floor tiles and planks are the easiest for DIYers to install and come with peel and stick installation. Sheet vinyl however, should be installed by a professional.

Types of Vinyl Flooring

In today’s world of vinyl flooring there are many types and varieties. They all fall under the broad categories of either Solid Vinyl Tiles (SVT), or Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT). The main difference is Solid Vinyl Tile is made of at least 34% vinyl. Vinyl Composition Tile is made of less than 34% vinyl and is most common in commercial usage. Limestone and other composites are mixed with vinyl to produce Vinyl Composition Tile as well as many Solid Vinyl Tile products.

Solid Vinyl Tile Labeled as Simply Vinyl Tile

solid vinyl tileWhen shopping for vinyl you will find many products that are labeled simply as ‘vinyl tile’ or ‘sheet vinyl’. This is standard, traditional solid vinyl, the type of tile most common in homes a few decades ago. This type of tile is usually the least costly and is made of all or mostly all vinyl (pvc plastic). Today it is considerably improved in durability and design compared to the standard vinyl from decades past. The design layer can also closely replicate natural materials like wood and stone, though not quite as realistically as luxury vinyl.

Vinyl tiles come as 9” or 12” squares. Most traditional Solid Vinyl Tile comes with peel and stick adhesive backing for easy installation while some tiles and most sheets require separate adhesive application. Tiles are made stiffer than sheets, otherwise they are the same in construction and design. Each requires a smooth surface for proper installation. This will avoid any bumps on the surface and allow the adhesive to hold well.

Solid Vinyl Tile Labeled as Luxury Vinyl Tile

luxury vinyl tileHigh quality vinyl sheets, tiles or planks are often labeled as Luxury Vinyl Tile, a broad marketing term used to differentiate higher quality solid vinyl products. These are characterized by very realistic image layers, reinforced construction layers, and a highly durable urethane wear layer. Some come with an additional coating of aluminum oxide for even more wear resistence. Sound reduction is another feature of many Luxury Vinyl Tile products. A sound reduction layer can also be installed under loose laid floating vinyl floors. Luxury Vinyl is the ultimate in vinyl flooring products which have the most features and options.

The construction of Luxury Vinyl Tile makes the product resilient, or softer to walk on. Product thickness is approximately 1/8”. Tiles often include beveled edges and may come in various shapes and sizes. Very large size squares are available. Vinyl plank flooring usually come in sizes 7 inch by 4 feet long. 

The 3D image layer of Luxury Vinyl can look exactly like real wood, stone or ceramic while costing much less. Luxury Vinyl Flooring with wood patterns if often called vinyl wood flooring, though there’s actually no wood in it. It is generally more durable than wood surfaces. The wear layer enables it to be more resistant to scuffs and scratches than wood, which often needs refinishing every 5-10 years. It is generally easier to install as well.

Much of the Luxury Vinyl can be loose laid as a floating installation. Floating floors use no adhesive or only temporary adhesive. This makes it easier to install, less permanent and much easier to replace than wood, stone or tile. Less surface preparation is required for a floating installation. Traditional solid vinyl tiles require a much smoother surface for adhesive application.

Maintenance of Solid Vinyl Tile

vinyl floor maintenanceSolid Vinyl Tile, whether it be the traditional type or luxury, is very easy to maintain. Occasional sweeping or mopping is mostly all that is required. Vacuuming can be done but should be done without the beater brush to avoid scuffing. Avoid using abrasives, ammonia or bleach. Use furniture pads when moving furniture or heavy objects. You can use an approved vinyl cleaner product when damp mopping. There is no need for waxing as solid vinyl products are made with a no wax finish giving it a permanent sheen.

Though quite durable, It is possible for a vinyl surface to be cut if a sharp object is pushed into it with enough pressure. Luxury Vinyl will damage less easily than traditional vinyl. Yet another big advantage to solid vinyl tile is that tiles which are installed with non permanent adhesive such as the peel and stick type can be easily replaced when damaged.

Vinyl Sheet Flooring

vinyl tile sheetTraditional vinyl and Luxury Vinyl are both available in sheets. The advantage of sheet vinyl is that it has less seams, which is best for moisture protection. Traditional vinyl sheets require adhesive application. Installation should be done by a pro. It is similar to installation of wall to wall carpet and requires more expertise to cut and fit it properly.

Sheets typically come as 6 or 12 feet rolls. Installation is done with or without seams depending on the size of the room and whether more than one sheet is required. Most bathrooms and kitchens can be done seamlessly. When seams are necessary it is important to consider where the seam will lay so that it will be least noticeable. Some designs are more ideal for hiding seams such as grouted tile patterns. Some Luxury Vinyl sheet flooring which resembles stone and ceramic tile comes complete with textured grout lines to resemble real stone and ceramic installations.

Luxury Vinyl sheet, which is thicker and resilient has a few options for installation. As mentioned it is constructed with layers of foam or felt and fiberglass for durability, comfort and stability. The weight and thickness enables it to be loose laid. A full coverage glue adhesive can be used if a more permanent installation is desired. For loose laid floating floor installations glue adhesive or double sided tape is used just around the edges.

(VCT) Vinyl Composition Tile 

vinyl composition tileThis type of tile is made of only 8-12% vinyl. Vinyl is a type of plastic also known as PVC – Poly Vinyl Chloride, a plastic made with salt – sodium chloride. PVC is combined with ground limestone and clay to produce vinyl composition tile. Limestone makes up about 65%. It’s a highly durable product very commonly found today in high traffic commercial places like schools and retail stores. Vinyl Composition Tile is not constructed of layers as are Luxury Vinyl Tile products. There is no image layer or wear layer.

They do come in varieties of colors though the designs are less elaborate. Often they have solid colors or speckled designs that can sometimes look similar to marble. Vinyl composition tile requires more maintenance than Luxury Vinyl Tile. Though very durable, it has a porous construction and needs to be regularly stripped, waxed and polished. It is less costly than Luxury Vinyl Tile initially, though in the long run maintenance costs will make the overall cost higher. Still overall, Vinyl Composition Tile is considered to be less costly and easier to maintain than other types of flooring materials, thus making it a top choice in public places.

Shopping For Vinyl Flooring

When shopping for vinyl there are many things to consider:

  • Price
  • Square footage
  • Size
  • Shape: squares, planks
  • Color
  • Design: wood, stone, tile, other
  • Installation Type: tile or sheet, peel and stick, glue down or loose lay, DIY or hire a pro
  • Durability features: wear layer
  • Warranty: 15 years or more ?
  • Air quality certifications ?

floorscore certified flooringAir quality certification is another important feature to consider when shopping for vinyl. Vinyl products have come a long way since they first came about. One area of major improvement is in air quality. When the first vinyl product was created by Waldo Semon in the 1920’s, it was a Vinyl Composition Tile which contained asbestos as a filler. Today asbestos is no longer used and harmful VOC’s is far less of a concern with vinyl flooring products. Though you still want to look for quality VOC free products.

Look for products and adhesives that are certified by FloorScore to be safe for indoor air quality. Vinyl flooring is made using plastic and binders which can emit VOC’s. However, products which are FloorScore certified are guaranteed by third party testing to be safe for indoor air quality.

Contact Gemini Floor Services today for a free estimate if you are considering vinyl flooring or any other type of flooring installation. 718-690-3435


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