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Vinyl, Linoleum and Rubber Flooring

October 29, 2012

diamond origami vinyl floor from Monduleo

Vinyl is shorthand for polyvinyl chloride or PVC and the higher the % of PVC content in vinyl flooring the more rigid and hardwearing it is. This type of flooring comes in a wide range of designs and styles and several width options. Sheets are typically 2, 3 or 4m wide and come in thicknesses of 1.5, 3, or 5mm. Some vinyl flooring is cushioned for extra comfort and sound / heat insulation and some is textured or treated with carborundum dust to make it more slip resistant. When vinyl flooring is first laid it gives off strong fumes. This is due to the volative organic compounds (VOC’s) in the vinyl. These fumes are said to be non-toxic but they can cause headaches. This process is called ‘off-gassing’ and will subside after a short while. It is also capable of emitting toxic hydrochloric acid fumes when burnt.

Vinyl is inexpensive, impervious to water, non-allergenic, easy to clean, suitable for underfloor heating and a good insulator. It is resistant to oils but is affected by cigarettes, rubber and some types of plastic. On the downside vinyl lacks visual warmth, is hard to repair, is easily dented or scratched and is not recyclable or bio-degradable. Also because it is heterogeneous, i.e. colours and patterns are only printed on the surface of the material and so if it gets damaged the white body of the flooring will show through.

Amtico is a brand of vinyl flooring with a high PVC content, making it very rigid. It is typically more expensive than the standard vinyl flooring and comes with a 20 year guarantee. Rigid vinyl like Amtico can be prone to cracking on uneven surfaces and is not naturally a good thermal or sound insulator

Linoleum is a natural floorcovering made from linseed oil, resin, wood flour, limestone and pigments. Linoleum is inherently anti-bacterial, anti-static, slip-resistant, very easy to clean and suitable for use over underfloor heating. It is generally resistant to staining once polished but it can be damaged by damp and a variety of solvents. It is easily dented or scratched by heavy objects and deep damage is hard to repair. That said as its homogeneous, i.e. colours and patterns extend from top to bottom, so damage to it is less noticeable and if the damage is minor – such as a burn or a scratch – it can be buffed out by carefully rubbing with a soft nylon brush or a nylon cleaning pad. Generally it is a hardwearing floorcovering that becomes more durable as it matures. Marmoleum, one of the best know brands of linoleum, comes with a 10 year guarantee.

It comes in over approximately 90 colours and is available in thicknesses of 2, 2.5 or 3.2mm, and in either tile or sheet format. Sheets tend to be 2m wide while tiles tend to be 500mm x 500mm. It can also be provided with a cork backing for improved acoustic performance.

Linoleum has a slightly yellow tone – called ‘stove yellowing’ or ‘drying room film’- to it when it’s first made but this disappears when exposed to light. Linoleum also releases a harmless odor (from the linseed oil) when it is first installed but this odor dissipate over a short period of time.

The edges of linoleoum need to be welded or glued with a specialized welding tool or specialty seam adhesive. Linoleum likes to grow in width and shrink in length and so typically this flooring needs to be installed by an experienced professional.

The best feature of linoleum is it’s environmental impact; because it is made from a natural material it is biodegradable.

Tip: Linoleum tiles can also be more prone to warping and curled edges than the sheet version.

Tip: Some manufacturers do not recommend linoleum for bathrooms as the humid conditions may cause it to rot.

Rubber flooring is available in sheet or tile format and can be either 2.5 or 3mm thick. Sheets are typically 1220mm wide, while tiles are normally 500mm x 500mm. It can be made from synthetic or natural rubber, the latter being less consistent and harder to colour. Rubber flooring is hard wearing and resistant to cigarette burns and most chemicals. It is easily marked if unpolished and is incompatible with underfloor heating as it gives off a rubbery smell. It is also quite slippery when wet unless heavily studded or textured which can make the floor difficult to clean.

Cork flooring is a natural flooring material and available in either plank or tile format. Planks are typically 900 x 185mm and 9mm thick, while tiles are typically 300mm x 300mm and either 3 or 4.8mm thick. It comes either unfinished or with a top layer of clear PVC, lacquer or acrylic varnish but any surface finish darkens the natural colour of cork. Cork flooring is very resilient to compression, inherently anti-static, non-slip and flexible unless coated with a PVC top layer. It is also a good insulator and is biodegradable if uncoated.

Tip: When buying cork tiles make sure you buy flooring-grade.

Installing Sheet Flooring
Sheet flooring should only be laid on a perfectly-even, dry subfloor otherwise the imperfections will show through the floorcovering.

When laying sheet flooring on a concrete subfloor the PH of the subfloor should not exceed 10 as this can ruin the adhesive used to bond the flooring. Also the concrete sub-floor should not be sealed as this may interfere with the adhesive used to fix the floorcovering.

Tip: Make sure the moisture content of your subfloor is below that recommended by the sheet flooring supplier / manufacturer before laying it.

Tip: The edges of sheet flooring laid in bathrooms should be sealed with silicone caulk to prevent leakages.

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