If you are renovating your home or buying a new one, vinyl flooring will probably be your preferred option. Your positive bias toward this material is understandable, looking to its popularity. Besides, you get the looks and finish of real wood, marble and other expensive flooring materials at a far lesser cost.
However, vinyl flowing is a capital investment that has to stand the test of time, and not all brands are as tough and durable as they are beautiful. This guide will help you determine the technical aspects of vinyl flooring before you make your choice.
What Is Vinyl and Why Is It Good for Floor Covering?
Vinyl is a plastic made of polyvinyl chloride resin. It is the world's second-largest selling plastic and also the most versatile one. Apart from floor covering, it is used for wall coverings, electrical cable insulation, window frames, and many other domestic applications.
Vinyl flooring is popular because of its following features:
- Very strong
- Abrasion-resistant (scratch-resistant)
- Rust and corrosion-proof
- Sound and shock-absorbant
- Cost-effective - Wood-like looks at a much lesser cost
- Very versatile - Can be produced in a vast range of colors and designs
- Most trusted - In use since five decades
A combination of the above features makes vinyl flooring an ideal choice for floor covering.
Which Are the Main Types of Vinyl Flooring?
There are three main types - vinyl planks, sheets, and tiles.
They are chosen by millions of homeowners because of their beauty and compatibility with a wide range of interiors. They have a vast range of finishes, colors, and textures. From khaki oak and Java Hickory to beaufort birch and chiffon cedar, the versatility makes planked vinyl flooring an integral part of tastefully done modern homes.
Looking to the prevailing home flooring trends, vinyl planks will suit spaces that harp on contrast-colored floors and walls that break the monotony of harmonious ambiance. Since vinyl planks are available in mostly hardwood textures, natural wood, ochre, burnt brown, and grey colors will fit most interiors, as they are universal hues.
Since vinyl plank flooring is water-resistant and skid-proof, and some premium varieties also absorb sound and shock, it is great to install in bathrooms, basements, kitchens, and study.
These sheets are available in rolled form, usually of six to 12 feet width. They have a wider range of designs than planks. Apart from different hardwood textures, they are also available in geometric, floral, and decorative patterns, borders, natural textures such as rocks and pavers, and other ranges.
The wide selection of colors and tones in each category compound the number of choices. If you come across vinyl flooring of any other design than natural hardwood, there is a fair chance it will be sheet flooring.
The glass fiber layers in the structure of vinyl sheets prevent them from cracking or deforming during pre and post-installation stages and make them climatically stable. This factor, combined with the variety of designs makes vinyl sheet flooring ideal for porches and living areas, bathrooms, kitchens, and other floors where the floor design will match the other room elements.
Typical colors and tones to look for are black-grey and black-and-white combinations, grey, white, and wood finishes.
These are also called vinyl peel-and-stick tiles. As the name suggests, they are the fun, money-saving DIY type of vinyl flooring. These tiles have adhesive back with a protective film. To install, you simply have to arrange the tiles, then peel off the film and press-stick the tiles to the floor.
As a DIY project, vinyl tiles are good for small rooms and spaces such as study, children's bedrooms, attics, bathrooms, libraries, and the like. An important point to keep in mind is the evenness of the floor, since you are managing the installation yourself.
Vinyl tiles are also available as planks. Popular designs and finishes include natural hardwood, marble, granite, rocks and stone, and other natural martial finishes, geometric and floral patterns, borders, and other varieties of vinyl sheets.
Vinyl tiles are usually square-shaped; hence they offer good floor symmetry. They can be installed almost anywhere in the home except very narrow and very small spaces, where it will be difficult to achieve the symmetry of square tiles.
Which Are the Technical Aspects of Vinyl Flooring That You Should Know?
Vinyl flooring is a utility-cum-décor product. This means it has to undergo several manufacturing processes that make it strong and long-lasting while retaining its physical appeal.
Although on the surface, all vinyl floorings look equally attractive, not all manufacturers offer the desired quality and technical features. Hence, don't judge a vinyl plank by its face value. Look for the below-mentioned attributes in its three main technical aspects - vinyl plank structure, top coating, and thickness.
What do I need to know about vinyl flooring plank structure?
Vinyl flooring has a multi-layered structure for enhanced strength, resilience, and durability. Beginning from the bottom, they are:
Base layer. It is the tough and slightly rigid layer that forms the base. It resists passive surface pressure, helps the plank to withstand the rigors of underlying uneven surface, and helps in proper gluing and installation.
First glass fiber layer. It is silica-based and offers vinyl flooring its flexibility and strength, and also hardness.
The mid-layer. Its basic function is to support the overlying and underlying layers and enhance their respective properties. Individually, it enhances flexibility and strength of vinyl flooring and offers it slight elasticity.
Second glass fiber layer. This one does the job of amplifying and improving the properties of the first glass fiber layer.
Printed layer. This is the layer that adds beauty to the strength and durability of vinyl flooring. Advanced options offer high-tech digital printing of a vast range of prints that can complement any kind of décor. You can even have custom-printed vinyl flooring.
Wear layer. It is actually an external top coating that acts like a shield of protection for the flooring. It adds to the wear-resistant property of vinyl flooring and protects it against scratches, abrasion, and other surface damage.
What types of top coating are there?
There are two major type of top coating:
Vinyl or urethane coating
It is free form wax, and is made of the same material -- vinyl, it blends naturally with the flooring. It is trusted and favored because it is:
- Resistant to scuffing
- Retains its finish without buffing or maintenance
- Economical choice
These coatings are available in different thicknesses. If you choose this coating, expect to re-coat your vinyl flooring every two to 3 years.
For a more premium and durable option, there are blended urethane mediums. They are a combination of urethane and tough materials such as aluminum oxide. They are:
- Scuff and scratch-resistant
- Easy to clean and maintain - no need for polishing or buffing
- Most durable
We recommend this coating if you have a 10%-20% extra budget, if your family has toddlers and high-energy kids who make the floor, they veritable playground, and pets who love to nail the flooring surface. This coating will withstand it all for years, which will offset their initial extra cost.
How thick should vinyl flooring be?
Different vinyl flooring thicknesses are available for different types of use. Follow this general guide to determine which thickness you need.
It is good for your study or porch where the floor area is small, and wear-and-tear is less. While this thickness is relatively inexpensive, beware that it will give away the floor's uneven finish in the form of "blisters." This will also create air gaps during installation. Hence the flooring can come off sooner than later.
Select this thin vinyl flooring only if you have budget constraints. Else, go for a thicker option even for such small-sized areas.
It is suitable for most of your home's floor divisions, living room, bedroom, and kitchen included. This thickness offers cost-effectiveness and durability. Bonus point - It offers soft cushioning that makes you feel comfortable walking all-around your home.
Go for this thickness for value for money and comfort, it is the universal thickness for domestic use.
This is high-density, high-endurance vinyl flooring - good for heavy usage, extra-long life and extra-soft walking convenience. Additionally, it will completely hide the floor imperfections, so you won't have to re-do the floor before installing the vinyl flooring. This will probably offset the higher cost of this thick vinyl flooring option.
Apart from the longer-life benefit, choose this thickness if you want a uniform soft walk and don't want your vinyl flooring to wither or fade away in a hurry.
The above technical details will help you "scratch the surface" of vinyl flooring and select the best option that lasts long and fits your budget.
Whichever way you look at it, vinyl flooring justifies its long-standing popularity. Choose your type, choose your design, and make your home stand out! Be mindful of the technical aspects discussed in this article to get the most out of your vinyl flooring.