Luxury Vinyl Plank
LVP/LVT, or Luxury Vinyl Tile or Plank, is a durable, affordable, and beautiful alternative to hardwood flooring. Coupling the word "luxury" with "vinyl" may seem like an oxymoron. After all, vinyl flooring has long been associated with bargain installations. So why is luxury vinyl now found in $2 million downtown condominiums? Answer: new technologies.
Long ago, laminate flooring eclipsed vinyl as the go-to inexpensive and easy-to-install flooring product. There were two reasons for this. First, laminate’s photorealistic image layer successfully imitated the look of wood and its plank format imitated the "long and narrow" board shape of real hardwood. Sheet vinyl could only offer up unrealistic grout lines for stone-look flooring and practically nothing in the way of wood-look flooring.
With its introduction in October 2006, luxury vinyl flooring reinvented vinyl flooring, and manufacturers quickly began positioning it as a viable flooring material for homeowners who are well-educated about flooring. It is also seen as an initiative to capture the urban market—condominium dwellers who are loath to install solid hardwood due to cost, or who may be prevented from this by HOA covenants.
It’s well-suited for a variety of residential and commercial applications, and, when installed correctly, perfectly mimics the look, texture, and warmth of real wood. But how much do you know about the vinyl that gives LVP flooring its resilience and strength? Luxury vinyl flooring has far surpassed laminate as the go to flooring in today’s flooring market!
The Early History of Vinyl
In 1926, an American scientist and chemist Dr. Waldo Semon stumbled onto a new material with fantastic properties during his search for a synthetic adhesive. Waldo Semon was intrigued with his finding, and experimented by making golf balls and shoe heels out of the versatile material called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. Soon after his discovery, PVC-based products such as insulated wire, raincoats and shower curtains hit the market. As more uses for vinyl were discovered, industry developed more ways to produce and process the new plastic. But it was only in the 1930’s that vinyl flooring was invented and first made an impact on the architectural world in the years following World War Two.
By the 1950’s it was a major competitor against other resilient options, and had all but usurped linoleum’s position as a low-cost water and mold resistant flooring option. Today, vinyl is the second largest-selling plastic in the world, and the industry employs more than 100,000 people in the United States alone.
What sets today’s luxury vinyl tile apart from the vinyl of days past is appearance. The hokey designs and limited options of yesteryear are history. So-called "luxury" vinyl flooring (LVT-LVP) differs from standard vinyl flooring in its ability to closely mimic the look of natural materials, such as wood or stone. It accomplishes this by a surface layer that has a very realistic photo-created image, combined with textures that resemble that of the real materials.
Qualities of Luxury Vinyl Tiles and Planks
- Simulates natural materials. Luxury vinyl flooring takes on one of two forms. Either it simulates stone (slate, travertine, marble, etc.) or it simulates wood (hickory, acacia, teak, maple, oak, walnut, and pine). (Traditional vinyl flooring sometimes imitates natural materials and sometimes does not.)
- Often plank-shaped. Another thing that distinguishes luxury vinyl tile (LVT & LVP) is the shape of individual pieces. Traditional sheet vinyl flooring comes in room-widths and lengths to minimize or even eliminate seams. LVT tiles are usually square: 12"x12" or 16"x16" most often. LVP often imitates solid wood flooring, it comes in plank shapes. In this respect, LVP and laminate flooring are similar in sizing. Sizes vary, but the general shape is long and narrow. A typical size is 7" wide by 48" long.
- Luxury vinyl tile is typically a vinyl/limestone mixture, while Luxury vinyl plank is 100% vinyl. Stone and Marble-look LVT (Engineered Stone) often will contain minerals as an example, limestone and a vinyl mix. Note that only the base layer is limestone, while the top layer is vinyl. So, you are looking at and walking on the vinyl layer.
- Thicknesses range from 4mm to 12mm (about 1/8”). Ordinary vinyl flooring can be as much as 10 times thinner with bargain tiles coming in at 1.2 mm.
Composition of the Layers
There is no difference in the number of layers between LVT and LVP—only the thickness of these layers. Both have four layers, starting at the top and going down:
- Aluminum oxide: This topmost aluminum oxide-based layer prevents light scratching and shoe scuffs.
- Clear film: This layer protects against harder damage, such as rips and tears.
- Design layer:This is the photo-realistic print of stone or wood.
- Backing layer: The bottom layer is the real "meat" of the flooring, giving the product structure and solidity. The backing layer comprises 90% of the product’s thickness.
Luxury Vinyl Plank flooring is durable, water resistant, and mold resistant, which means that it can be used everywhere. · Living Rooms · Hallways · Entryways · Dining Rooms · Bathrooms · Kitchens · Laundry Rooms
How much care does it need? Simple & easy-The floor is low maintenance and easy to care for. Vacuum regularly and mop with soapy water and use an approved vinyl floor cleaner to remove any stains.
Vinyl flooring is still evolving. It’s more durable—many companies offer lifetime warranties. Patterns and textures convincingly mimic their old-school competitors or boldly go in a more modern direction. And in response to health concerns, some flooring is now certified to meet strict standards for indoor air quality. When a flooring is this versatile and has so many looks, who needs a historic pedigree?