My sense is that LVT is a better choice than laminates in many situations. Is this correct and why? You need to fully understand the products you are working with in order to compare and only once you understand both products are you able to make that choice.
How do the specs for LVTs compare?
Even though there are no specifications for the SA climate at this stage, the European specifications will be used and these will be on the same level as the laminate specifications.
Are they more durable? They are more durable in moist environments but even this very forgiving flooring has its boundaries and precautions need to be taken
Less likely to swell, shrink, stretch or otherwise change in any way that could impact on appearance and durability? Vinyl exposed to heat/temperature changes could be problematic if care is not taken; the dimensional Stability is a good indicator re the performance of a LVT/click vinyl product. The EN 434 European test will indicate the percentage movement that the vinyl will experience when exposed to heat. The minimum requirement is <0.25%.If installed correctly and the surroundings taken into consideration, you should have no problems with swelling, shrinkage or otherwise.
Is LVT graded for commercial as well as residential?
Different application areas depend on the thickness of the wear layer: It is graded, the following can be followed:
0.1mm – 0.3mm – Suitable for home, office, exhibition stands, kinder garden school classrooms etc. 0.3mm – 0.5mm – Suitable for cinema, school classrooms, hospital main reception areas, super markets, hotels etc. 0.5mm – 0.7mm – Suitable for airport terminals and main access passages, lift lobbies, subways and train platforms. The heavier the potential traffic usage the greater the wear layer required.
Check for high-quality manufacturing processes using 100% vinyl, as some imports include “fillers” which could contain contaminants or lesser quality materials.
What, if any, are the risks with LVT in commercial installations? Installers not following correct installation procedures and not taking the environment the floor will be installed into consideration and also not handing over maintenance instructions.
How does this compare with the risks with laminates in the same commercial installations?
Just the same, if the installer does not follow correct procedures, the floor will fail.
How has the specifier market responded to LVTs? Is there confidence in their quality or is the vinyl seen as an inferior substrate? Some specifiers are hesitant to recommend Vinyl due to the installers and retailers not understanding the product and it’s capabilities but correct training should change this concept, with training being essential to anyone installing or selling vinyl.
How has the retailer market responded?
Are customers happy to switch if they go in looking for laminates or are they locked into what they know? Most people are open to change and the customers are happy to go with what the sales people recommend.
Are they recyclable? (And are laminates?)
Mechanical and Physical recycling methods are adopted worldwide. Some manufacturers recycle their own products 100%. They don’t recycle products of others, because they are unsure of what they contain. This process is not adopted in SA at this stage however vinyl contains low levels of Volatile organic compounds, so therefor is healthier than recycled vinyl. It is not made of wood, so it is less harmful to the environment, and it can be transformed and used for other plastic products. Quality laminates can be used as firewood; however this said, laminate flooring should not be burnt around people due to the resins.
Do they have good green credentials?
As with Laminates, some manufacturers are very responsible whilst others just chase sales at any cost. This makes it vital for consumers to investigate the manufacturer/distributor when making a selection.
Are they re-usable – can you move them?
Depending on the quality of the click system itself but Interlocking vinyl can be up- lifted and re-installed; unfortunately glue down vinyl cannot be up-lifted.
Can you mix LVT with laminates – eg have them in inter-leading rooms? Yes, one can but only under controlled conditions where proper expansion/separation details are addressed between the floors. It is not recommended to lay LVT directly against laminates as the rate of expansion/contraction would not be the same with temperature fluctuations and locking mechanisms will differ. Levels would need to be rectified or a reducer profile used to compensate for the difference.
Are the LVTs safer from a slipping perspective?
All ranges will differ depending on the type of wear layer used and the embossing incorporated into it, this is generally no different to other floor surfaces but all vinyl’s have a slip resistance and can be checked against the EN standard 13893:2002/EN14041
Do LVTs and laminates have the same installation requirements?
The Click system (floating floor) is very similar to a laminate installation. Click LVT’s are however a little more forgiving than Laminates in respect of moisture but remember that with both the vinyl and the laminate floor, a floating floor should be a floating floor, never pin them down and restrict the expansion and contraction.