Not Your Father's Vinyl Floor
The most popular type of resilient flooring, vinyl is durable, low maintenance, and easy on the budget. Vinyl floor has more depth and texture today than it did a generation ago, so it can look like hardwood, tile, and stone, and it comes in a variety of colors. Vinyl is soft underfoot, so it's comfortable to stand on for long periods. It's also warmer to the touch than hard surfaces like tile. Vinyl comes in various levels of gloss so you can get a range of looks.
Vinyl is composed of four layers: a protective urethane top coat, a protective clear vinyl layer, a printed design layer, and a felt or fiberglass backing. Vinyl flooring is available in sheets, tiles and planks.
Sheet Vinyl: Vinyl sheets generally come in 6- or 12-foot-wide rolls. Sheet vinyl can often be installed seamlessly, making it ideal in rooms with moisture. It comes in a range of colors and designs, including styles that mimic tile and wood.
Vinyl Tiles: These DIY-friendly tiles are easy to install and can be laid in any orientation, from checkerboard to diagonal. Some vinyl tile can be grouted for a more realistic appearance. Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) is primarily made from limestone and is low cost. Solid vinyl tile (SVT) and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) contain more vinyl, for better performance and more realistic appearance.
Vinyl Planks: Designed to closely resemble hardwood, vinyl planks come in the same size as wood planks, and boast realistic features such as texturing and beveled edges.
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Factors to Consider
How to Clean. Sweep, dust, or vacuum regularly, and occasionally wipe the surface with a damp mop or cloth. For glossy floors, occasionally strip and reapply polish as necessary. Avoid waxing or buffing the surface.
Best for: Vinyl is traditionally reserved for hardworking rooms (kitchens, baths, entryways, laundry rooms, and playrooms) but high-end styles are making their way into living spaces. Some types can't be installed on stairs.
Pet Friendly? Extremely. Quality vinyl floors stand up to pets' nails and messes better than many surfaces, and they're comfortable for pets.
Underlayment. With proper preparation, vinyl can be installed over virtually any flat, dry, clean surface. In most cases, a plywood underlayment is recommended for the best results.
Today's vinyl is not your grandmother's flooring. Improved printing and embossing techniques produce a surface that looks and feels more authentic than ever. You can get vinyl that looks like wood, slate, even leather. Often, vinyl flooring is imbued with antimicrobial protection to resist bacteria, mold, and mildew. It also doesn't require waxing and polishing as it did in the past. Some vinyl floors contain recycled content, and many manufacturers are moving toward greener practices, such as utilizing low-VOC inks.
Vinyl is an excellent choice for rooms that get a lot of traffic. It withstands water, and it doesn't easily dent, scratch, stain or fade. It's quiet and comes in a wide variety of colors and designs, and it's quiet and easy to install.
Because of vinyl's resilience, it's warmer and more comfortable to stand on than most hard surfaces, and dropped dishes are less likely to break on it. However, keep in mind that even the best vinyl is unlikely to be mistaken for the material it's imitating, and it can be cut or gouged by sharp objects.
Vinyl typically costs between $1 and $5 per square foot, uninstalled. Although vinyl tiles are fairly DIY-friendly, sheet-vinyl installation is generally better left to professionals.