Why Consider Vinyl Flooring in Your Home?

Well, it may not be the most glamorous home flooring material, but vinyl is still a great choice in some rooms and has a lot of advantages over more expensive flooring materials such as stone or ceramic tile, wood or wood laminate flooring products.

Long regarded as a relatively inexpensive option, vinyl flooring has evolved over the decades to provide attractive design options, colors, patterns and improved finishes.

Despite retaining the stigma that it is simply a cheap and tasteless material used to cover floors in mobile homes, commercial buildings and low cost apartment buildings, vinyl flooring deserves a little closer consideration and is quite well suited to flooring at least some rooms in any home!

Vinyl Flooring Composition and Manufacturing

Highly resilient, vinyl flooring is recognized for its ability to return to its original shape after being compacted; a very good characteristic in flooring, also provided by other flooring materials such as rubber and cork, which are not as durable as vinyl however.

Vinyl flooring is made using polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Various compounds are typically added to the PVC in order to achieve desired characteristics such as sheen, color, hardness and flexibility. While there are plenty of finishes, colors and patterns from which to select, vinyl flooring comes in two basic types; sheet and tile.

Vinyl sheet flooring comes in rolls that are usually either 6 or 12 feet in width and manufactured using one of three basic manufacturing processes and compositions; homogeneous, inlaid and layered composite.

Vinyl flooring tiles are available in 6, 9 or 12 inch squares and manufactured using one of two basic manufacturing processes and compositions; solid vinyl and vinyl composition.

To produce homogenous vinyl sheet flooring, manufacturers start with a basic vinyl sheet, which is suspended in a liquid to produce a mixture that can be rolled into a thin layer. This plastic coating (plastisol) is then dried by applying hot air to fuse the material into durable sheets, which can then be cut into tiles. The name homogenous vinyl derives from the fact that the material and decorations are the same from the top to the bottom.

Vinyl Composition tiles (VCT) are a variation on solid vinyl tiles, produced by mixing together vinyl resins, plasticizer, fillers, pigment and other additives to achieve a finish that is an integral part of the material and does not wear off with use! This is not the case with less expensive printed vinyl flooring materials, which are produced by printing colored ink on the sheets; similar to the printing processes used on paper and other substrates.

These manufacturing and composition processes obviously affect the cost and durability of various vinyl flooring materials available. The higher quality vinyl flooring products will have an enhanced urethane finish to give it more sheen and protect your floor from scratches and scuff marks. The better quality vinyl flooring provides a thicker finish, less maintenance and a wider range of design patterns and styles.

Advantages of Vinyl Flooring Materials

Vinyl flooring is durable and stands up well to heavy foot traffic. It is comfortable under foot and reduces noise, which can be important for owners with kids or pets. It is also less expensive than many other flooring options and is easy to install and maintain. Vinyl flooring comes in a broad range of colors and patterns to match every décor, including a variety of lifelike wood grains.

Easy to install and maintain, vinyl flooring provides many benefits over other types of floors:

  • Still a preferred flooring option in high moisture areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms, where durability, resiliency and stain resistance are most important
  • Easier to keep clean than most other flooring materials; if you have kids around the house you can live without fear of liquid spills and stains
  • Wider range of design options, colors, patterns, styles and textures than any other flooring material
  • Higher resilience reduces noise and cushions feet and fallen objects … including children for better flooring safety at home
  • Still comparatively cheap as a flooring material, with a wide range of price points available

There are also a few disadvantages to consider:

  • Heavy loads and sharp objects can damage your vinyl floor
  • Colors may fade when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods, however the more expensive products with enhanced coatings do hold up better
  • Extreme cold and heat cause fading and brittle vinyl
  • Given these characteristics, vinyl is not a viable option for indoor/outdoor flooring
  • If you do not choose the right texture, vinyl can be slick when wet

Products like Strata Max, made by Armstrong, have evolved into high tech multi-layered vinyl sheet flooring products with a realistic, designer tile look.

Home Applications for Vinyl Flooring

  • Use vinyl flooring in a second bath, basement bathroom, laundry room, closets, mud rooms, utility rooms, etc. where design is less important than function; you’ll be quite glad you did when it comes time to clean up
  • Especially if you have kids and/or pets, consider using vinyl in the kitchen; when the kids leave the house you can always redo the floor, knowing you got the most of your investment in a vinyl floor
  • Use vinyl in a multi-purpose room used for exercise and fitness, game room and entertainment room for the kids, etc.
  • Use area rugs to soften your vinyl floor, keep the noise level down and enhance your room decor

Vinyl Flooring Installation Tips

  • Installing a vinyl floor is within the grasp of do-it-yourself homeowners with a moderate skill level; the process is not difficult skills-wise, but varies greatly depending upon the type of material being used
  • The real key to installing vinyl flooring is what’s below the floor; you want a perfectly smooth subfloor made of a material such as plywood and sanded nice and smooth so that no bumpiness or imperfections show through
  • Don’t try installing vinyl over the top of an existing vinyl floor; this is a sure recipe for vinyl disaster in which you may end up seeing the old pattern show through the new layer on top and may also void your warranty
  • Plan your layout and cuts wisely to avoid waste and poor placement of flooring seams; this is an art and science you should study closer which is outside the scope of this article if you plan to install vinyl flooring yourself
  • Most vinyl flooring requires the use of special adhesives; be sure to read your manufacturer’s directions
  • Some vinyl tile products come with self-adhesive tape; these can be convenient in closets and other small spaces where things get tight

Vinyl Floor Cleaning Tips

  • The wear layer of your vinyl floor is critical so keeping it clean greatly extends its useful life
  • Put rugs or mats in front of doorways and in heavily traffic areas to reduce dirt, noise and wear
  • Have people take off their shoes when entering your home; who knows where those dirty shoes have been?
  • Vacuum or dust vinyl floors well before you mop them
  • Use a damp towel to clean up liquid spills as soon as they occur
  • Unless your manufacturer recommends otherwise, the best solution to use when mopping vinyl floors is plain old warm water; detergents leave a sticky residue that is tough to remove; use a tiny amount of mild liquid dish soap if needed to clean stubborn dirt and grimy areas
  • To clean grooved vinyl flooring use a nylon bristle brush to get dirt out of the grooves
  • WD40 can be used to remove shoe sole and other scuff marks; spray a little on a towel and rub them away lightly, rinsing well with sudsy warm water to prevent anyone from slipping on an oil slick!
  • Most vinyl flooring products sold these days is “no wax”, meaning the coating applied by the manufacturer does not require floor waxing; always be sure you understand the manufacturer’s directions before applying wax to your vinyl floor

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