Evolution of LVT

— By Aaron Hartung —

The vinyl flooring market is evolving: Here’s what you need to know in 2019.

If you’ve read about the commercial vinyl flooring market lately, then you know demand for vinyl flooring products is growing at a good clip. The vinyl flooring market is expected to grow to nearly $50 billion within the next 5 years. And as the market for vinyl expands, it’s worth exploring how this evolution will impact the products themselves by taking a look at recent design and technology trends facility managers need to know.

The LVT Renaissance

Better Products, Better Design, Easier Installation

Aaron Hartung, Spectra Contract Flooring

Traditional commercial vinyl flooring types — vinyl composition tile (VCT) and vinyl sheet flooring — likely aren’t going anywhere soon. But LVT is taking the headlines, with improved design possibilities, installation technology and the emergence of a new sub-category of rigid-core LVT products.

It should come as no surprise that luxury vinyl tile (LVT) will grow at the fastest rate of all vinyl flooring categories, growing at an average annual rate of 14.1%.

Demand has followed innovation as manufacturers have developed newer, better LVT products. And the development of more advanced products has put pressure on everyone in the industry to keep up, catalyzing even more innovation. Truly a renaissance in LVT flooring.

Let’s look at the LVT trends that will drive advancement in the vinyl flooring market as it grows and evolves in the coming years.

Limitless Design Versatility in LVT Products

Manufacturers have mastered the art of imitation. With stunning graphics and detailed embossing, today’s LVT products are nearly identical to the premium products they mimic. And with the water resistance, high durability and low cost of LVT, it’s a viable competitor to more expensive materials such as ceramic, marble and wood.

Design is no longer the limiting factor for LVT manufacturers, freeing up time to explore the boundaries of LVT’s design potential. This is great news for facility managers who want to make a statement: mixing natural+modern, subtle+bold, or any other out-of-the-box design.

There are hundreds of lines of stylish, fashionable LVT out there with the functionality to withstand heavy-duty commercial applications. Architects, designers or owners searching for a high-performance material that’s conducive to their design vision have an abundance of options. Every manufacturer has something to offer: Mannington, Armstrong, Shaw, Novalis and on and on. Here are some design innovations worth looking at:

  • Blurring the line between hard and soft flooring

This cutting-edge design of woven textile LVT — such as the ReThink line from Shaw — straddles the line between hard and soft surface flooring, with plenty of neutral and bold colors to mix and match. The textile layer giving the warmth of a carpet tile, with the water resistance and durability we’ve come to expect with luxury vinyl.

  • Wood grain flooring with a twist

Flooring manufacturers are so good at imitating premium materials that the untrained eye isn’t able to tell the difference between wood and LVT. Manufacturers are beginning to add a pop of color to traditional flooring looks. An example is the SNSE® line from AVA®, a new line of wood grain LVT flooring. With traditional neutrals (and the entire rainbow) to choose from, designers can create fun patterns or colorful paths to aid in wayfinding.

These are but a couple examples of how manufacturers are modernizing how and where facility managers can use LVT.

Advancing Beyond Aesthetics

Improving the Performance of LVT Systems

Enhanced design is far from the only advancement in recent years. LVT manufacturers have also put increasing focus on developing solutions to improve the construction, performance and ease of installation of the material.

It’s an innovate-or-perish market, and vinyl flooring manufacturers work hard to keep abreast of performance trends.

Here are a couple examples of innovation in the construction of LVT flooring systems:

  • Stain and Scratch Resistance

The rise of more effective stain-, scuff- and dirt-resistant LVT finishes are helping improve the long term performance and durability of the flooring system. Certainly the most attention-grabbing example of this would be Armstrong’s Diamond 10 technology. It’s a coating atop their LVT, which uses cultured diamonds to enhance the flooring system’s stain, dirt and scuff resistance. Other examples include Mannington’s Quantum Guard® and Shaw’s ExoGuard®.

  • Pre-Applied Adhesives

This trend — having LVT products with adhesive already on the back — are exciting for installers and owners alike. Faster, easier installation means less downtime for installation and less money spent on labor. The first pre-applied adhesive product to hit the market was Mannington’s QuickStix, but other manufacturers are following suit.

While these examples barely scratch the surface of the advances we’ve seen in the past several years, they’re helpful in understanding the upward trajectory in performance and construction for the luxury vinyl market.

Multilayer flooring (MLF)

The New Face of Luxury Vinyl

Amidst all the improvement in luxury vinyl construction, one product breakthrough stands above the rest: multilayer flooring. MLF is a relatively new subset of luxury vinyl, distinguished by superior performance and strength.

MLF goes by many names: rigid core LVT, wood plastic composite (WPC), solid polymer core (SPC) and more than 400 others. But all of these terms refer to a type of flooring similar in almost every way to LVT except of the core, which is “rigid” instead of “flexible.”

Rigid core LVT provides many benefits over traditional products. It’s more dimensionally stable and doesn’t telegraph subfloor imperfections. It is quicker to install, simply clicking into place — and with no acclimation time because it doesn’t expand and contract like flexible LVT. To top it off, it offers superior acoustics, water resistance and long term appearance retention.

The luxury vinyl sub-category launched into existence when USFloors released its line of COREtec® luxury vinyl products in 2012. Since then, seven of the biggest manufacturers have come together to develop an official ASTM standard for the product category, which they established at the end of 2017.

It’s a fast-growing category of vinyl flooring, and widespread commercial use is imminent as manufacturers continue to pursue the advancement of MLF technology and lower-priced lines are released.

Even beyond MLF, you don’t have to look hard to find innovation in commercial vinyl. It’s in every product brochure from every manufacturer — just look.

Aaron Hartung is the communications manager at Spectra Contract Flooring, the largest commercial flooring contractor in the U.S. For more information, visit www.spectracf.com.

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