The Look of Luxury

by Katie Lee

Looking for a cost-effective luxury floor? We may just have one for you.

By Matt Morrison

You’d likely be hard-pressed to name a product that saw double-digit growth all through the recession and has continued to see double-digit growth ever since. But if you look around, you might see that product is right under your feet.

What is called LVT — luxury vinyl tile — has been the biggest name in floor coverings for the past few years. Don’t let the fact that these floors are referred to as luxury tile fool you. While some LVT flooring may look luxurious, this is a tough floor covering that is exceptionally durable, with a surprisingly long lifespan, and one that is providing a number of facilities and types of facilities cost-effective and attractive flooring solutions. In fact, a study conducted in 2012 found that the key commercial markets for LVT floors are:

• Corporate/office buildings, having a 29% share of all types of floors installed.

• Healthcare, 20%.

• Retail applications, 12% of all floor types installed.1

LVT Floors Armstrong 2Other markets jumping on the LVT floor bandwagon include hotel/hospitality, government, military, education and residential, where LVT floors were first introduced about a decade ago. Other than the fact that LVT floors are durable, they are also relatively easy to install, fairly easy to maintain, and as we shall soon discuss, cost far less than the floors they are designed to mimic.

Now that we’ve covered the fact that this is a very popular floor, we need to clarify exactly what an LVT floor is and a bit about its history. We could call LVT floors a “look-alike” floor if we want to remain polite or a “phony floor” if not so polite. An LVT floor is made to look just like travertine, slate, marble and many types of hardwood (maple, cherry, oak, etc.) floors. The more advanced versions even have what is called surface “graining” and texturing giving it even more a “this is the real thing” image. From a bit of a distance, these types of LVT floors have even fooled some experienced designers. When asked, many said they could not tell if the floor was the “real thing” or LVT.

Without going into too many technical details, LVT floors are the result of advanced computerized technologies. As mentioned, they were first introduced about 10 years ago and were first installed in residential settings, where they became very popular very quickly. While different manufacturers may have different techniques and processes to make LVT, the essence of the procedure is that computers are given images of “real” floors which they then replicate. In the flooring industry, this is often referred to as photographic replication.

Some LVT floors are made of 100% vinyl and others are a combination of vinyl and fillers. While they may look the same, retailers should know that the 100% vinyl floor will likely prove to be much longer lasting and more durable. Also some LVT floors have a protective wear layer, or mil layer, which makes it thicker. If considering an LVT floor in a commercial facility, this mil layer is very important. An LVT floor that is 40 mil will perform admirably while an LVT floor that is 20 mil will work fine in an area of light to moderate traffic. Some products have a mil rating of 12 or less. These are fine for residential use but not commercial applications.

Cleaning and Care

When it comes to the cleaning and care of LVT, there’s good news, some more good news, and even more good news. First, one of the best things about LVT is that in most cases it does not need to be sealed or finished. This can save retailers a lot of money. If a sealant or finish has been applied to a conventional floor, that means it will eventually have to be stripped off and the floor refinished — a very labor intensive and costly procedure.

Next, while spills should always be cleaned up as soon as possible, for the most part the appearance of these floors will not be marred by liquids — cola drinks, coffee, etc. — finding their way on to the floor. Along with being stain resistant in most situations, they will not be harmed by most cleaning chemicals typically used on floors in a conventional commercial setting. In some cases, a powerful chemical can mar the appearance of traditional floors or at the very least, remove the shine. This should not happen with LVT. The floors are also considered moisture resistant. This means that humidity which could impact hardwood and some other “real” floors will not be a concern.

The third “good news” item is that they are relatively easy to clean, no special training needed. However, it is advised that some special cleaning tools be used. For instance, on a daily basis, LVT floors can be swept or dust mopped to remove dry soils. However, it is recommended to remove these soils using a backpack vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner will pull the dry soils off the floor; sweeping and dust mopping pushes these soils. Some soil is collected in the process but much of it is just pushed to another area of the floor.

Also, be wary of damp mopping these floors. As soil collects on the mop, it can spread from one area to another area. And now that we know the overall health of a facility can be tied to how well the floors are maintained, it is recommended to not use mops. A faster and more thorough process is to use a “dispense-and-vac” or “autovac” type cleaning system. Cleaning solution is applied directly to the LVT floor from a spigot at the bottom of a rolling trolley bucket. The solution is then spread and lightly brushed over the floor; the final step involves vacuuming up the solution and along with it soils and contaminants. The floor should be dry very quickly after cleaning.

With construction and renovation booming in many parts of Canada and North America, many building owners and managers are going to think about floor coverings. With all the commotion and double-digit growth, it would be a very wise move to look into LVT floors. Don’t be surprised if they are just what you are looking for.

1 Commercial: Carpet tile, LVT provide momentum in recovering market, Floor Covering News, July 1, 2015

— Matt Morrison is communications manager for Kaivac, a leading manufacturer of floor care tools and equipment as well as other tools used for professional cleaning. He can be reached via his company website at

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