Vinyl refers to a range of synthetically manufactured flooring materials which contain varying levels of polyvinyl chloride also known as PVC. The quality of this material can vary widely, and will be based on factors such as its physical composition, constituent materials, and the level of wear protection that it has on its surface.
There are three main types of vinyl tile which can be purchased. Each has its own particular characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks.
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Solid Vinyl Tiles
This material is manufactured by molding vinyl resins and fillers into the desired size and shape of the tile. Solid vinyl has a more natural look to it than other vinyl materials, with the surface of each tile featuring a random assortment of abstract patterns and colors.
The colors found in these tiles are homogenous, which means that they penetrate completely through the material. This helps to prevent and obscure damage that can be caused by scratching or gouging the floor.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
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Printed Vinyl Tiles
These pieces are manufactured in a layering system that includes a backing which is often padded, a print layer, and then one or two clear wear layers that lay over the printed surface, protecting it from damage.
These tiles can have almost any image imprinted on them, providing the widest range of colors and textures available. High-end tiles can also reproduce the look of natural flooring, such as weathered stone, marble or hardwoods. Designer tiles can also be made printed with images of river stones, grass, or mosaic images.
One big advantage of printed vinyl tile is that the wear layer makes it very easy to clean, and generally, this material will not require stripping and polishing. However, over time this wear layer will break down, which makes these tiles less durable over the long term than some of their counterparts. The quality of the wear layer will be based on what it is comprised of, as well as how thick it is.
There are two main types of wear layer. A poly-vinyl chloride is basically a layer or two of clear vinyl which rests over the print layer. This provides a low to moderate level of protection. A urethane wear layer creates a surface over the vinyl, providing a much stronger and more durable seal over the floor's surface.
There are three grades of wear layer thickness available in residential Vinyl floor tiles.
Grade 1: The thickest surface sealant layer, this can be used in light commercial or high traffic residential jobs.
Grade 2: A thinner layer, this is only recommended for medium traffic residential or very low traffic commercial installations.
Grade 3: The thinnest wear layer, these tiles should only be used in mid to low traffic residential areas.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
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Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT)
This has been a popular flooring material in Europe for over a century, and it is just now becoming popular in America. These tiles are created by combining vinyl resin with mineral dust filler. The result is an extremely hard, durable tile that is much more resilient long term than other options. The only drawback is that these tiles tend to be brittle, and if not installed on a completely smooth subfloor surface, even the tiniest specks of dirt or grit can cause them to crack under pressure over time.
VCT’s are available in a variety of solid colors and terrazzo style patterns. This material is homogenous, so scratches and gouges do not remove a printed surface layer. This is a popular material in both residential and commercial locations.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
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Finding Quality Vinyl Flooring
The quality of vinyl is very important. Unlike natural materials which tend to improve with weathering and age, when vinyl starts to degrade it will begin to look old and worn down. It is not possible to refinish vinyl tiles, so you have to be careful to choose high-quality materials when making a purchasing decision.
With printed materials the quality will be determined by the thickness and material used in the wear layer. In solid and VCT vinyl tiles the quality will be determined by the level of PVC found in the material makeup of the material. A good quality vinyl tile floor that is properly installed over a dry, level subfloor, and which is properly maintained, should be able to last upwards of 10 to 15 years.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Vinyl Floor Tile Options
Tile Sizes: Vinyl floor tiles come standard in 9”, 12”, and 18” squares, as well as a variety of rectangles. They can also be cut to form rectangles for specialty projects.
Surface Choices: In the past high gloss finishes were a favorite amongst homeowners. However today vinyl tile is available in a variety of finishes including flat matte, marbleized, multi-colored, solid colored, and textured to simulate a number of different natural materials.