The Evolution of Vinyl Flooring
Anybody who knows anything about the commercial vinyl flooring market knows that the segment is hot and growing at a good clip. In fact, the vinyl flooring market is expected to grow to nearly $50 billion within the next five years. As the market for vinyl expands, it’s worth exploring how this evolution will impact the products themselves by taking a look at recent design and technology trends facility managers need to know.
Traditional commercial vinyl flooring types—vinyl composition tile (VCT) and vinyl sheet flooring—aren’t going anywhere. But luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and its close cousin, multilayer flooring (MLF), are taking the headlines, featuring improved design possibilities, better installation technology and the emergence of rigid-core products.
Demand has followed innovation as manufacturers have developed newer and better LVT products. And the development of more advanced products has put pressure on everyone in the industry to keep up, catalyzing even more innovation. Let’s take a look at the LVT trends that’ll drive advancement in the vinyl flooring market as it grows and evolves in the coming years.
Armed with increasingly advanced digital printing technology, manufacturers have mastered the art of making LVT look like “the real thing.” With stunning graphics and detailed embossing, LVT products on the market look nearly identical to the premium products they mimic. And with the water resistance, high durability and low cost of LVT, it’s a viable competitor to more expensive materials such as ceramic, marble and wood.
Design is no longer the limiting factor for LVT manufacturers. This is great news for facility managers who want to make a statement: Mixing natural with modern, subtle with bold, or any other out-of-the-box design. There are hundreds of lines of stylish, fashionable LVT with the functionality to withstand heavy-duty commercial applications. Architects, designers or owners searching for a high-performance material that’s conducive to their design vision have an abundance of options. Here are some design innovations worth looking at:
- Blurring the line between hard and soft flooring. The cutting-edge design of woven textile LVT straddles the line between hard and soft surface flooring, with plenty of neutral and bold colors to mix and match. The textile layer giving the warmth of a carpet tile, with the water resistance and durability we’ve all come to expect with luxury vinyl.
- Wood grain flooring with a twist. Flooring manufacturers have mastered the art of imitating premium materials—to the point that the untrained eye wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between wood and LVT. Manufacturers are beginning to add a pop of color to traditional flooring looks. With traditional neutrals—and the entire rainbow— to choose from, designers can create fun patterns or colorful paths to aid in wayfinding.
These are but a couple examples of how manufacturers are modernizing how and where facility managers can use LVT. To get a big-picture idea of the wealth of design options out there, spend some time flipping through a few manufacturers’ most recent product brochures. You won’t be disappointed.
Improving the performance of LVT systems
Enhanced design is far from the only advancement in recent years. LVT manufacturers have also put increasing focus on developing solutions to improve the construction, performance and ease of installation of the material. It’s an innovate-or-perish market, and vinyl flooring manufacturers work hard to keep abreast of performance trends. Innovation has led to some notable advances in LVT:
- Stain and scratch resistance. The rise of more effective stain-, scuff- and dirt-resistant LVT finishes are helping improve the long-term performance and durability of the flooring system. One attention-grabbing example of this would be Armstrong’s Diamond 10 technology. It’s a coating atop their LVT which uses cultured diamonds to enhance the flooring system’s stain, dirt and scuff resistance. Other examples include Mannington’s Quantum Guard and Shaw’s ExoGuard.
- Pre-applied adhesives. The trend of LVT products with adhesive already on the back is exciting for installers and owners alike. Faster, easier installation means less downtime and less money spent on labor.
While these examples only scratch the surface of the advances we’ve seen in the past several years, they’re helpful in understanding the upward trajectory of performance and construction in the luxury vinyl market.
Multilayer flooring (MLF): The new face of luxury vinyl
Amidst all the improvements in luxury vinyl construction, one product breakthrough is gaining the most attention: Multilayer flooring. MLF is a relatively new subset of luxury vinyl, distinguished by superior performance and strength.
MLF goes by many names: rigid-core LVT, wood-plastic composite (WPC), stone plastic composite (SPC) and more than 400 other variations have been used for the category since its introduction six years ago. But all of these terms refer to a type of flooring similar in almost every way to LVT except of the core, which is rigid instead of flexible.
Rigid-core LVT provides many benefits. It’s dimensionally stable and doesn’t telegraph subfloor imperfections. It is quicker to install, simply clicking into place—and with little to no acclimation time because it doesn’t expand and contract like flexible LVT. And to top it off, it offers superior acoustic performance, water resistance and long-term appearance retention.
It’s a fast-growing category of vinyl flooring, and widespread commercial use is imminent as manufacturers continue to pursue the advancement of MLF technology. Even beyond MLF, you don’t have to look hard to find innovation in commercial vinyl. It’s in every product brochure from every manufacturer—just look.