Purchasing new flooring for your organization is a difficult task; as well as juggling all of your organization’s practical needs, you want to be sure that the flooring you purchase is durable, and that it will keep on looking great for years to come.
To help you choose durable, long-lasting Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) flooring, today I’m sharing what it is that affects the durability and longevity of your LVT, and how you can choose LVT that is the best-fit for your organization.
Featured image: Red Creek Elementary, Black River Falls, WI. Design Firm: Bray Architects. Photography: Carla Garvey, Image Studios.
What is LVT?
Luxury Vinyl Tile is a type of hard-surface flooring, made up of several layers that are fused together during manufacturing, under heat and pressure.
LVT is made up of five distinct layers:
- Polyurethane coating (sometimes re-enforced with ceramic bead, silica bead or aluminum oxide) to improve durability
- Protective clear layer known as the ‘wear layer’
- Print film layer (with your chosen design)
- Vinyl core
- Vinyl backing
How the Wear Layer Helps to Protect Your LVT
One of the most common concerns around LVT centers on durability, and the risk of walk-off (the idea that over time, your chosen design will be worn away underfoot). However, the protective clear layer, over the top of your chosen design, shields the print layer from impact and wear.
When it comes to durability, the wear layer is Luxury Vinyl Tile’s secret weapon: it protects the print layer from scuffs and scratches, as well as the impact of foot traffic. In fact, the wear layer of your Luxury Vinyl Tile plays a large part in determining how long your tiles last.
How to Choose the Most Appropriate LVT for Your Organization
Different LVT products come with wear layers of different thicknesses. As such, the thickness of the wear layer can have a significant impact on the performance of your LVT flooring, in terms of its durability and appearance retention.
Wear layers are measured in mil (one thousandth of an inch – but easily confused with millimeters). As a general rule, the higher the levels of foot traffic in your organization, the thicker you will need the wear layer on your LVT to be. A word of warning: some of the thinnest wear layers are suitable for residential use only, and as such wouldn’t be suitable for your organization.
Flooring manufacturers produce LVT flooring with wear layers in a wide range of thickness. Some commonly-available examples include:
- 8 mil – for residential use – not for commercial environments
- 12 mil – for residential and light commercial use
- 20 mil – for commercial areas with low-to-medium foot traffic, such as administrative offices or break rooms
- 28 mil – this is suited for commercial use in areas with high foot traffic as well as rolled traffic (like trolleys or delivery carts). For example, school corridors, hospital corridors, building lobbies and entrances, and hospitality environments.
While you can get LVT with wear layers thicker than 28 mil, this has a big impact on cost. Some products have a wear layer of up to 40 mil, but this would be best suited for large storage areas with high levels of heavy traffic such as fork lifts and other machinery, rather than in a commercial setting. Additionally, wear layers over 28 mil also impact the aesthetic of the tiles, affecting the clarity of the print film layer underneath.
When it comes to choosing LVT for your organization, the thickness of the wear layer should be one of your first considerations. If you want durable, long-lasting flooring, you might want to specify to your designer or flooring dealer the thickness of wear layer you want, and choose from the designs that fit that specification, rather than focusing on getting the ‘right’ look first.