Vinyl Floor Coverings

Vinyl Floor Coverings

The primary ingredient in all vinyl flooring is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from which it derives its name. The production of vinyl floor coverings include both tile and rolls (sheet) and offers an infinite number of patterns, colors and styles.

There are some general characteristics that separate the vinyl classification into sub-classes. These characteristics impact the maintenance of the floor because they influence the wear layer and the body of the product. The basic difference between sheet vinyl products and vinyl composition tile is the percentage of vinyl in the product. There are many types of vinyl based floor coverings that offer solutions to most hard floor maintenance problems.

Sheet Vinyl

Sheet vinyl is most commonly available in 2, 3 and 4 metre width rolls, up to 85' in length and account for 85–90% of all vinyl flooring sales. Great for quickly covering large areas relatively seamlessly, these floors are very moisture–resistant when the seams are sealed with chemical bonding or heat welding.

Sheet vinyl manufacturing process is as follows:

Sheets are processed on large drums or made by coating a thin layer of liquid (comprised of vinyl resin, plasticizer, filler and other additives) onto a backing material. This method produces a multi-layered construction typically comprised of a backing, vinyl foam core, decorative layer and clear vinyl layer. The entire product is cured in an oven, then, in some cases, coated with a thin film of urethane.


During the manufacture of rotovinyl, patterns are applied to some sheet vinyl flooring using the rotogravure printing method, in which colours and patterns are printed on the surface of the base layer; or by the inlaid method, in which the design goes all the way to the backing. With rotogravure, a rotating cylinder prints coloured inks on top of the core layer, offering virtually unlimited possibilities in patterns and designs. The printed pattern is then covered with a clear vinyl wear layer and the product is oven cured. In the inlaid process, solid-coloured vinyl chips are laid on top of a carrier sheet and then bonded together, under heat and pressure, creating the resulting pattern.

There are three types of sheet vinyl flooring:

  • Homogeneous: Sheet vinyl that is uniform in structure and composition throughout.
  • Hetrogeneous: Particles of vinyl are stenciled onto a vinyl backing and heated with the wear layer, resulting in through and through colouring/patterning that will resist fading even after the wear layer is worn down.
  • Layered Cushion Sheet Vinyl: The most common type of vinyl flooring, composite vinyl is made up of four layers. A backing layer of vinyl or felt, a liquid urethane (PVC) and filler layer over it, a decorative layer over that and finally a layer of clear vinyl.

Homogeneous Sheet Flooring

The homogeneous vinyl floor covering is made of one single layer that offers vibrancy and depth of the colour. Floor surfacing in sheet form that is of uniform structure and composition throughout, usually consisting of vinyl plastic resins, plasticizers, fillers, pigments, and stabilizers. (Sometimes called unbacked vinyl sheet flooring.) The flooring meets requirements of ASTM F 1913, Standard Specification for Sheet Vinyl Floor Covering without Backing.

Heterogeneous Sheet Flooring

The heterogeneous flooring is a multi-layer flooring which comes in wide variety of beautiful patterns with endless design possibilities. This feature gives a feel and a look of natural flooring materials. Heterogeneous flooring also offers low maintenance cost, which is why is primary choice of homeowners, health care facilities, schools, etc. Floor surfacing in sheet form consisting of a wear layer and other layers which differ in composition and/or design and may contain a reinforcement. (Sometimes called layered composite or backed vinyl sheet flooring) The flooring meets requirements of ASTM F 1303, Standard Specification for Sheet Vinyl Floor Covering with Backing.

Layered Cushion Vinyl

Cushion vinyl has become extremely popular, both with homeowners as well as commercial property owners. The reason behind this huge popularity of cushion vinyl flooring is pretty obvious. Cushion vinyl flooring is versatile, adaptable and highly durable so that it can be used in all kinds of settings, ranging from residential flooring to commercial flooring.

Cushion vinyl flooring is made by making use of different kinds of layers. Some of these are a clean layer, a fibreglass layer, protective wear layer and a foam layer. It is the foam layer which gives vinyl flooring its cushioning properties. When it comes to the various flooring options, cushion vinyl flooring undoubtedly stands out. Given its style, flexibility, comfort, soft underfoot feel and warmth.

Cushion vinyl flooring is available in a wide range of colours and designs so that you can have a completely different feel in each part of your home. Many people prefer to go for carpets, owing to their soft underfoot feel, but in many circumstances cushion vinyl is a better option due to its low maintenance. Also, this flooring option is great for families having small children as it offers enough support to the floor and makes way for a soft landing.

Vinyl Tile

Vinyl tiles come in a multitude of colours and patterns. These tiles are much easier to repair than sheet vinyl as a tile or two can be popped out and replaced if damage occurs. Vinyl manufactured to look like wood is available in plank–shaped tiles.

Vinyl tile is manufactured by one of two methods:

By melt-compounding the ingredients at high temperatures, then moulding the hot material into the desired shape; or

By using the calendering technique, in which the components are mixed together then fed through a series of rollers that gradually squeeze the material to the desired gauge. The calendered sheet is then coated to increase abrasion and stain resistance. Although the total process and product raw materials will vary depending on the type of tile being produced, solid vinyl tile and printed vinyl tiles in general contain a much higher content of vinyl and less filler than vinyl composition tile (VCT).

There are two types of vinyl tiles:

  • Solid Vinyl Tiles: These tiles are comprised of homogeneous vinyl.
  • Vinyl Composition Tiles: These tiles are constructed with composite vinyl.

Solid Vinyl Tile

Solid vinyl tile is relatively new to the hard floor industry. It is a resilient tile floor covering composed of binder, fillers and pigments compounded with suitable stabilizers and processing aids. The binder consists of polymers and/or copolymers of vinyl chloride, other modifying resins, and plasticizers, which comprise at least 34% by weight of the finished tile. The polymers and copolymers of vinyl chloride comprise at least 60% of the weight of the binder. Classification is solid vinyl floor tile. These products have a heavy-duty wear layer on the surface and emulate many other floor coverings. They are very deceptive and can look like natural stone, wood and many other textures.

Vinyl Composition Tile

Vinyl composition tile (VCT) is a finished flooring material used primarily in commercial and institutional applications. Modern vinyl floor tiles and sheet flooring and versions of those products sold since the early 1980s are composed of coloured polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chips formed into solid sheets of varying thicknesses (1/8" is most common) by heat and pressure. Floor tiles are cut into modular shapes such 12" x 12" squares or 12" x 24" rectangles. In installation the floor tiles or sheet flooring are applied to a smooth, leveled sub-floor using a specially formulated vinyl adhesive that remains pliable. In commercial applications some tiles are typically waxed and buffed using special materials and equipment.

Modern vinyl floor tile is frequently chosen for high-traffic areas because of its low cost, durability, and ease of maintenance. Vinyl tiles have high resilience to abrasion and impact damage and can be repeatedly refinished with chemical strippers and mechanical buffing equipment. If properly installed, tiles can be easily removed and replaced when damaged. Tiles are available in a variety of colors from several major flooring manufacturers. Some manufacturers have created vinyl tiles that very closely resemble wood, stone, terrazzo and concrete and literally hundreds of varying patterns.

Maintenance for Vinyl (VCT, Sheet & Luxury) Floor Coverings

The first objective for maintenance is to determine the chemical system needs of the vinyl. The coating and cleaning chemicals associated with hard floor maintenance is known as the chemical system. The chemical systems available for vinyl floor coverings are no buff, polishing/buffing, spray buffing, high speed and ultra high-speed systems.

Selection of the chemical system will be predicated by the assessment criteria associated with the facility. The environment, traffic conditions, congestion, time factors and budget will all have an impact on which selection to make.

Assessment criteria are a critical part of determining service procedures and frequencies. Establishing the service procedures and frequencies allows for easier scheduling and implementation of your customized program.

Initial Maintenance As with all hard floor coverings, maintenance begins directly after installation. The degree of initial maintenance will be dependent on the level of cleanliness in which the floor covering was installed. Some installations are much better than others and can make the initial maintenance much easier to accomplish.

Most manufacturers of vinyl products recommend a waiting period of approximately 3 days after the floor covering is installed before wet maintenance can be performed. The reason for this is to allow ample time for the adhesive under the floor covering to completely cure. If wet service procedures are performed prior to the adhesive curing, it can cause problems for the newly installed product.

Generally sheet vinyl that are heat welded are not an issue because water or solution has no way to get under the product. Some sheet vinyl that isn't heat welded may have problems because the solution can get under the edges of the seams and cause them to curl up. If the damage is significant enough it may require the whole installation to be pulled up and redone.

Floors that have tile products have many more seams for the solution to get under. This can cause serious damage when service is performed too soon. In some cases the adhesive may soften and ooze out of all the seams making it very difficult to clean and dry the floor. Many times, individual or groups of floor tiles will release from the sub floor. In severe cases the tiles can curl, warp or buckle.

The type of sub floor that the product is installed over can also be affected by performing services too soon. Generally, resilient floor coverings are installed over a concrete sub floor. The exception to this is probably residential. However, in some situations the flooring product will be installed over plywood or particleboard. If water or solution gets under the floor covering it may cause serious breakdown of the wood product underneath. Caution should be taken when working with these types of sub floors.

Initial maintenance for vinyl type floor coverings is not only to remove the soil accumulated during the installation, but also to remove the factory coating from the product. Factory coating is applied to the product to protect it during handling, packaging and installation.

Daily/Routine Maintenance The most important aspect of any hard floor maintenance program is eliminating or reducing soil throughout the facility. The daily/routine service procedures address the regular maintenance needed to accomplish this task. Generally, larger companies have housekeeping staff or janitorial contractors who provide these daily services.

Sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming service procedures are the primary method of controlling dry particulate soil throughout most facilities. The service can be performed on a routine basis, daily or several times per day.

One of the wet mopping service procedures will be incorporated in the daily/routine maintenance schedule. Spot mopping may be carried out during open hours to eliminate spills that occur. Wet mopping may be performed after hours to remove more aggressive soils. The degree or level of the service will be predicated by the facility.

Light scrubbing with an automatic scrubbing machine can be substituted for mopping procedures in areas large enough to warrant it. In the grocery and retail environments this is an acceptable means of maintenance.

The conditioning or restoring and burnishing service procedure is often used as a daily/routine maintenance service in some environments. Again retail and grocery is the most likely candidates for this service procedure to be performed this frequently.

Periodic Maintenance
The term periodic generally refers to service procedures that are beyond the dry service and wet mopping procedures. They can incorporate buffing, spray buffing, condition/restoring and burnishing or the scrubbing procedure. In heavily soiled environments the stripping procedure is performed on a periodic schedule too.

Coating Maintenance Procedures
The periodic coating maintenance service procedures are methods of maintenance that address the gloss of the floor finish. There are several methods for accomplishing this objective. The method for any facility will be determined when selecting the chemical system for the floor covering.

Dry buffing, polishing and burnishing are service procedures that are independent of the other procedures. There is very little cause for polishing because of the minimal use of softer waxes in use today. Buffing can be performed on some floor finishes, however limited results can be expected.

Spray buffing is a method of maintenance that has been used for many years in the maintenance of vinyl type floor coverings. It is important to point out that the spray buffing procedure is a maintenance method for restoring gloss to the floor finish. It is not a cleaning procedure although many individuals try to use it as one.

When the spray buffing service procedure is used as a cleaning procedure, it effectively encapsulates soil in the floor finish. Although it may appear to be cleaning the floor it is really spreading the soil evenly across the floor causing it to slowly brown out.

Scrubbing and Re-coating
Scrubbing and re-coating (also Top Scrub and Recoat) is a general term that encompasses all of the scrubbing service procedures. There are different classifications of scrubbing that require slightly different procedures. The primary difference centres on the amount of soil or finish to be removed.

The aggressiveness of the scrubbing procedure will be dictated by the environment and traffic conditions. Soil that gets ground into the floor surface will become embedded. Also, during the life cycle of the hard floor maintenance programs that utilize chemical coating systems, soil will ultimately become encapsulated in floor finish. Encapsulated soil lowers the appearance factor and causes the floor to look dirty all the time. The primary reasons to scrub and re-coat vinyl floor coverings is to remove that embedded soil or to remove surface coats of floor finish that may have soil encapsulated in it and replenish the protective film.

There is a misconception in the floor care industry that floors must be striped once annually. This is not always the case. Over the years, a properly maintained floor can go many months, often years between a full strip and refinish (strip & wax). This is usually due to establishing good daily floor care and periodic floor care services.

Stripping and Refinishing or Stripping and Waxing
The definition of stripping is to remove all pre-existing coats of seal and/or finish. Refinishing or Waxing, is the application of new layers of sealer and floor finish (wax).
Note: wax or waxing is something of a misnomer. Modern day floor finishes do not contain any waxes. Yet the term lives on.

Some manufacturers of vinyl floor coverings will recommend products and procedures as maintenance requirements. If these are available, follow the instructions for the stripping and refinishing procedures. If they are not available, find out the type of floor and the manufacturer if possible and get in touch with them for any special instruction, they will be happy to provide it. Investigation into the floor surface may take some time, but it can save you a bundle in replacement costs should you damage a floor covering.

Stripping is the most important function of the vinyl floor maintenance program. It is the beginning and the end. Everything in-between rests on the foundation that is provided by this service. The function of stripping (removing all existing coatings) is necessary at the end of the floor maintenance life cycle. The function of reapplying coatings is the beginning of the new cycle. It is impossible to have one without the other when performing the service procedure.

Stripping is the least performed of the hard floor maintenance services. It requires the most investment of time, physical labour and money. Careful consideration should be used when planning for this service because of these factors. The primary objective of any hard floor maintenance professional should be to put as much time as possible between performing the stripping and refinishing service procedures. This is accomplished by laying a good foundation during the process of performing the service.

There is a misconception in the floor care industry that floors must be striped once annually. This is not always the case. Over the years, a properly maintained floor can go many months, often years between a full strip and refinish (strip & wax). This is usually due to establishing good daily floor care and periodic floor care services.

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