If you’re a designer, architect, general contractor, or even simply a residential home buyer—chances are high you’ve encountered perhaps the most popular three letters in home and commercial flooring over the past several years: LVT, aka, Luxury Vinyl Tile.
As would be expected from the catchy new name, LVT is NOT your grandmother’s vinyl tile. This is durable, low-maintenance, easy-to-install flooring that offers unbelievable design flexibility and a lower overall cost. It’s popularity has also led to continuous evolution—even to the point where LVT can closely mimic natural flooring finishes!
Of course, not all LVT is created equal. There are more than a few different options on the market, varying in construction, style, and purpose. Today, we’re going to perform a deep dive into just what LVT is, the differences among products, and what kind of commercial spaces should consider it as an option.
The secret behind LVT lies in in the laminated layers that comprise the floor. These layers are what determine its look, feel, and performance—and can vary widely.
Generally speaking, LVT consists of a backing layer that acts as a stabilizer, inter-core layers, the decorative film layer (which is where most of the magic happens), and finally a wear-resistant clear top. Here’s a little more information about each of these:
This final layer also doubles as LVT’s unit of measure—expressed in mils. Each mil is equal to .001 of an inch. The varying thickness and urethane combinations used during manufacturing are what have the highest effect on performance. While the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard for LVT in commercial applications is 20mils, different uses require different wear layer thickness.
Here’s a quick guide to popular wear layer specifications, and what they’re most useful for:
12mils – Ideal for residential or light commercial use
20mils – Perfect for break rooms, administrative offices, or other commercial applications that see light foot traffic
30mils – Preferred for commercial areas like hospital or school hallways that encounter higher levels of foot traffic and rolling carts
40mils – Best for heavy-duty commercial use, and the favored pick for carpet transitions
Thanks to LVT’s durability and versatility, just about the only spaces in which it isn’t recommended are enclosed pools or spas, and sterile areas like operating rooms or ICUs.
Another advantage offered by LVT which has contributed to its popularity, is the ease in which it can be installed. Usually the planks are glued to a concrete subfloor, but they can also be laid in an interlocking system—as is the case for Rigid Core LVT, which we will discuss next.
For clients in need of ultimate durability, LVT can still be an option—in particular, Rigid Core LVT. While Rigid Core can provide the same limitless array of colors, styles, and textures of traditional LVT, it is also held to higher specifications established by ASTM. The difference lies in the inter-core layers, called in this case, rigid core layers.
Typically, there are two kinds of rigid core layers: Waterproof Core, or “WPC” (sometimes referred to as Expanded Polymer Core, or EPC), and Solid Polymer Core (SPC).
WPC products include a foam structure within the core layer, which results in an increase in thickness and corresponding sound absorption. However, once indented they usually won’t recover like traditional LVT or SPC products, and also offer lower static load capabilities.
On the other hand, SPC products don’t utilize any porous structure in their core layer, and are generally superior to WPC in terms of durability. While not necessarily thicker, SPC planks are more dense, providing better stability. As such, Rigid Core SPC is usually the better choice for commercial projects.
Installation of Rigid Core LVT is an easier task than traditional LVT flooring as they do not require the use of adhesives. This removes the necessity of cure time, and more importantly, is better for the environment. Instead, Rigid Core flooring floats, and is clicked together like a puzzle. Subfloor irregularities are generally not an issue due to the thickness of most Rigid Core LVT.
Perhaps by now you’ve been convinced of the value and effectiveness offered by LVT flooring. However, you may also have noticed that there are a myriad different factors involved when determining which might be the right choice for your needs. Of course, the most fun part is selecting a design. However, there are some additional aspects specific to LVT that must be taken into consideration, like plank size, edges, embossing, and laying pattern. Each of these can have an individual effect on the final look of your floor, so consulting with an experienced LVT designer or installer is a must.
We’ll close out this article with some insights to help get you started on your LVT-designing journey:
As a rule of thumb, overly large or wide pieces are incongruent in smaller spaces, while planks, rather than tiles, are typically utilized to elongate spaces like hallways. Many times the same pattern will look totally different depending on cut sizing. This also weighs heavily on waste production and labor—smaller planks or tiles require more detailed installation, but are easier to fit around doorways. Larger pieces on the other hand leave much less room for error and may require several tries to get correct, which means more material cost.
LVT flooring edges are usually straight-cut or bevelled. The later is the choice for a more natural look, and help fight against subfloor irregularities. Whereas a straight edge might create a small lip over uneven sub flooring, allowing dirt and grime to build, a bevel edge plank or tile can fight against this. However, straight edges are ideal for more minimalist or seamless-appearing floors.
The texture of the embossing can have a large effect on how “real” the flooring will feel—particularly if the desire is a more rustic look. Embossing also determines how shiny the final product will be. This is a critical consideration when selecting designs that mimic natural materials like hardwood or stone.
Finally, LVT provides the ability to get a little creative with the pattern in which it is laid. Clients can highlight certain areas of rooms with a difference in pattern, or play with perspectives to make spaces appear larger or smaller.
Between LVT’s inherent creative design and low-maintenance qualities, as well as its limited sound absorption, insulation, and comfort advantages over many other flooring products—even more so depending on the underlayment option selected—it is easy to see why LVT has taken the construction and renovation industry by storm! Here at CIC, we are well-versed in all the specific and unique qualities provided by LVT, and have worked with clients around the world to design, install, and maintain their new favorite floors.
To learn more about how LVT can be utilized in your next commercial project ,contact us today!
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