Vinyl is a popular flooring material for many commercial applications for many of the same reasons it is so popular for residential applications. It is water resistant and low maintenance, which helps to control upkeep costs, and it is relatively durable so you will not have to replace it very often. It is also available in a wide variety of colors, textures, and style options. It can even be printed to simulate the look of hardwood, stone, or ceramic.
When it comes to commercial vinyl flooring, you get what you pay for. The quality of the material that you purchase will have a direct impact on how well it will withstand the rigors of varying levels of foot traffic.
With printed vinyl tile you have to be concerned about the thickness of the wear layer--the invisible coating that extends over the surface of the material to protect it. Low-end printed vinyl will have a 10 mm wear layer, while higher-grade commercial materials will be closer to 30 mm.
With solid vinyl or vinyl composite, the colors are homogenous through the entire piece of material dimensionally, so you don't have to worry about them fading away through wear. However, it's still best to purchase a quality product to ensure that manufacturer defects do not cause the structure of the material to degrade over time.
Commercial Vinyl Warranties
In many cases, the residential and the commercial warranty on materials will vary. Make sure that the distributor knows the level of traffic that you are expecting so that they can accurately adjust the warranty to your specific situation.
Remember that the warranty only covers manufacturer defects. These are most often misprints of colors or sheets and tiles that do not line up properly. It does not cover installation mistakes, which are the most common cause of vinyl flooring problems later.
Long-Term Issues With Commercial Vinyl Floors
Dulling of the vinyl's surface finish is probably the most common long-term issue with commercial product installation. This is caused by small pieces of dirt, sand, and debris being tracked across the floor by shoes and the wind. As these tiny particles scrape across the floor, they act like the grits of a piece of sandpaper, scratching and marring the surface of the vinyl and wearing away any finish or surface layer that might be on it.
- Solutions: The easiest way to prevent dulling of your vinyl floors is to keep them free of those tiny particles that can harm them. Sweeping, vacuuming or mopping periodically can do a lot to help protect a vinyl floor in a high-traffic area. The use of floor mats at entrances and exterior doorways can also help to trap some of the debris before it is able to get inside where it can do harm.?
- Commercial floor sealers are also available which can help to create an invisible, stain-resistant layer over the surface of the floor. However, you have to be very careful to pick a sealing or finishing agent which is formulated to work with the specific type of vinyl that you have. In some cases, using the wrong seal or finish can create a permanent murky layer across the floor.
Discoloration of commercial vinyl floors can happen over time due to the buildup of dirt, oil and asphalt sealers which are tracked into the room from exterior locations. The rubber in some shoes can even cause slight discolorations in the floor. Prolonged exposure to heat or direct sunlight will also discolor the material, causing it to take on a yellowish color.
- Solutions: Regular cleaning will help to remove the oils and greases that can discolor vinyl over time. Floor mats set at entrances and exits will also help to cut down on mud and other staining agents that get tracked in. The use of curtains in places where windows and glass doors shine direct sunlight down on the floor can help prevent yellowing effects. However, vinyl should not be installed in areas of high heat output, such as near heating ducts and vents.
- You may also want to consider stripping the finish from a commercial vinyl floor once or twice a year. This will completely remove all surface build-up, including the sealant layer, and any oils or greases that have coated over it. Once stripped, the vinyl will be restored to its original state, and then can be refinished.
Surface Dents and Damage
Surface dents and damage to the floor can be caused by a variety of issues. Heavy furniture scraping across the floor can cause gouges and scratches. Sharp unprotected chair legs can also severely mar a commercial vinyl floor in a cafeteria or eating area. Even some unpadded high heels can cause damage to the floor's surface.
- Solutions: If the scratches and dents are small, then you can use liquid seam filler to repair them. Make sure that the vinyl is clean and dry, and then apply a small amount of the clear liquid to the blemish, being sure to smooth it out so it does not create bubbles or mounds. As it dries, it should cause smaller blemishes to vanish.
- If you have vinyl tiles installed, then individual pieces can be repaired if they become severely damaged. With sheet vinyl, you have the option of removing the affected area and replacing it with a matched patch.