So-called “luxury” vinyl flooring differs from standard vinyl flooring in its ability to closely imitate 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
- Simulates natural materials. Luxury vinyl flooring takes on one of two forms. Either it simulates stone or it simulates wood.
- Often plank-shaped. Another thing that distinguishes luxury vinyl tile is the shape of individual pieces. Traditional sheet vinyl flooring comes in room-widths and -lengths to minimize or even eliminate seams. Normal vinyl tiles are usually square. Because luxury vinyl tile often imitates solid wood flooring, it comes in plank shapes. In this respect, luxury vinyl tile and laminate flooring are the same. Sizes vary, but the general shape is long and narrow.
- Composition. Luxury vinyl is typically either 100% vinyl or a vinyl/limestone mixture. Any wood-look luxury vinyl tile will be made of all vinyl. Stone-look luxury vinyl tile often will contain minerals.
Composition of the Layers:
There is no difference in the number of layers between traditional and luxury vinyl tile – 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.
Size and Thickness
Luxury vinyl tile usually comes in either plank or tile form. A typical plank size is 48 in. x 4.5 in. A typical tile size is 16″ x 16″. Sometimes you can find unusual shapes, such as rectangles sized at 12″ x 24″. Thicknesses range from 10mm to 12mm. Ordinary vinyl flooring can be as much as 10 times thinner, with bargain tiles coming in at 1.2 mm.
Coupling the word “luxury” with “vinyl” may seem like an oxymoron. After all, vinyl flooring has long been associated with bargain installations. New technologies plus some good old-fashioned marketing.
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.