Invented more than 100 years ago, vinyl was originally created to replace linoleum, the original resilient flooring. Vinyl became a popular choice for areas like kitchens and bathrooms where resilience, durability and water-resistance are extremely important. Although vinyl is not completely impervious, it is very resistant to water and it is easy to clean and maintain, making it a low cost, low hassle flooring option.
Vinyl Flooring Composition
The game changer for vinyl was the introduction of PVC (poly-vinyl chloride), which is a synthetic plastic containing carbon, hydrogen and chlorine. Traditional sheet vinyl or vinyl tiles is a composite product, which has a layer of PVC bonded to a fibrous core. This is then covered over with a printed design layer as well as a tough, clear wear layer. The difference between a high-quality and low-quality vinyl is the thickness of the product and toughness of the wear layer.
Whether it is sheet vinyl, vinyl tile or luxury vinyl, there are a number of advantages:
- Durability: Vinyl is a very tough material; however, it is still soft underfoot.
- Water Resistance: Vinyl is resistant to moisture, steam and humidity, making it a popular choice for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Although it is slightly vulnerable at the seams, water is unable to penetrate the surface and therefore do damage to the subfloor.
- Easy Maintenance: Vinyl is a breeze to clean. It resists dirt, stains, scratches and punctures. However, be aware that heavy furniture without proper padding can pierce the flooring. Also, although some high-quality vinyl has UV protection, some may yellow slightly if exposed to direct sunlight. As well avoid area rugs with a rubber backing as this may cause a chemical reaction and stain your vinyl.
Luxury vinyl can be referred to as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or luxury vinyl planks (LVP). The make up of luxury vinyl is a limestone-based material mixed with PVC composites. It is a solid material throughout as there is no felt or fiber layer. Luxury vinyl is more rigid compared to sheet vinyl or vinyl tile however it is still somewhat flexible. On top of the composite material is a digital graphic film layer, which is then covered by a very tough wear layer. Just about any look and texture can be created thanks to new printing technology. In fact, the graphic process is far superior to sheet vinyl or vinyl tile, luxury vinyl flooring can remarkably mimic wood, stone, ceramic or even metal.
Luxury vinyl can be found in a number of forms, such as square tiles or long planks that resemble laminate or wood flooring planks. It is also installed with a modified tongue and groove system so individual tiles or planks “click” together; a feature that helps make installation easier.
Although it is the most expensive type of vinyl, with its durability, easy maintenance, and superior appearance, it is the most cost-effective flooring choice over the long term. Luxury vinyl is also impervious to water, making it a better choice for the wet areas of the home, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Sheet vinyl is a continuous sheet of polymer materials and comes in widths of 6 to 16 feet. The pattern and colour of the sheet vinyl is manufactured with a digital graphic, which is a film layer of PVC. It is then bonded to a base layer of felt or fibrous material. To protect the PVC layer, there is a protective outerwear layer on top.
With sheet vinyl there are very few seams because it comes in large rolls, meaning it is much better at resisting water. In small rooms there may be no seam at all.
Sheet vinyl can be installed either with a full glue down application, this bonds it at the perimeter. You can also have it “floating” over the underlayment. It is not recommended to try and install sheet vinyl yourself as it can be an awkward process.
Vinyl tile is made up of natural pulverized limestone, filler materials, thermoplastic binders, and colour pigments. These materials are fused together to create a solid sheet, which is then cut into tiles. Vinyl tile was the first popular form of vinyl, however sheet vinyl and luxury vinyl are now more common. Although vinyl tile is available in a variety of colours and patterns, compared to other types of vinyl, it does not meet the same level of texture and design versatility.
Low end vinyl can cost as little as $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot. Keep in mind that it likely will not perform as well as higher end vinyl. Cheap vinyl will not be as durable, low maintenance, or resistant to stains and everyday wear. High end vinyl will cost between $2.50 to $10 per square foot, installed.