Flooring potential

The commercial flooring market has evolved considerably over the last decade, with the options for specifiers and contractors proving wider than ever. Here, Paul Rogers looks at how to balance durability with the latest designs to deliver a standout flooring scheme

Whether it is an office block, shopping centre, hospital or restaurant, all commercial interiors have one thing in common – durability. It’s an essential aspect that must be built into a specification early, especially when it comes to the fixtures and fittings.

One particular product that always receives high attention in the durability stakes is flooring. No building owner, operator or facilities manager wants to pull up the flooring in a commercial property – after all, it can be an incredibly costly process, as well as hugely disruptive to day-today operations.

Consequently, when specifying commercial flooring, a number of factors must be taken into account. As a result, designers and specifiers are often led to consider alternatives to traditional materials.

One such flooring that has created its own definition of durability is the luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which has been used in commercial environments for decades. Indeed, this type of finish is one of the most versatile, durable and hard wearing products available. Subsequently, it presents a commercially attractive alternative to other flooring materials, such as stone, carpet, sheet vinyl and laminates.

To illustrate where LVT gains its residual strength and durability, it’s useful to understand the manufacturing process. High quality LVT products consist of up to six laminated layers, plus a urethane coating. Each layer is created using a blend of PVC, plasticisers and stabilisers, which are exposed to heat and high pressure prior to passing through a series of rollers. This creates a product that is extremely tough and hard-wearing, yet very thin.

Now, at this point, it’s worth noting that not all LVT flooring is the same! Products from competing manufacturers may have a similar number of layers, but their density, thickness and composition can be very different indeed. Simply thickening the backing layers, for example, will not improve durability. Instead, it is the depths of the ‘performance wear’ layers that are crucial, so specifiers should identify these details in order to effectively compare LVT products. In fact, this can often help define whether a product is suitable for a commercial installation or not.

Highly durable
Consider a shopping centre as an example; the daily footfall can easily run into the thousands, and a floor needs to be able to constantly sustain such a usage level for many years. If an LVT product’s performance wear layers have not been designed and manufactured correctly, the flooring will simply not be robust enough to cope. However, established manufacturers, such as Amtico, integrate the highest standard of wear layers, measuring up to 1mm thick. These can guarantee a product’s condition for up to 20 years in commercial environments – and there aren’t many other materials that can instil that level of confidence.

Such a high level of durability also begins to have a positive impact on a building’s budgeted refurbishment costs. Not only is LVT quicker and more economical to install than traditional products – with supply rates cheaper than carpet tiles or sheet vinyl and only three per cent wastage – the maintenance is far simpler, with quick and hassle-free cleaning schedules. Add in to the equation the fact that LVT does not splinter, shrink, curl or stain easily, the cumulative savings over a 20year period are significant.

While the durability of a floor is an essential factor in commercial buildings, aesthetics are equally as important, especially for retail, hospitality or even specialist healthcare facilities. Here, LVT is in a class of its own, with hundreds of design and colour combinations on offer. Taking Amtico’s premium Signature collection as an example, there are 96 wood, 43 stone and 51 abstract designs. And when you combine these with a vast array of laying patterns, from basic to bespoke, LVT offers endless possibilities.

Dependable material
There are, of course, some practical considerations when specifying LVT for commercial applications. Colour, pattern and texture all need bearing in mind, depending on the location and footfall expectations of an installation. For example, a pure white floor is more prone to soiling than a darker colour but, conversely, a lighter option is better at disguising scratches. These are all a design choice, rather than a reflection of a product’s quality, although obtaining a balance of these variables will help maximise an LVT installation and ensure it performs better for longer.

With a wide variation in quality from one brand to another, manufacturing expertise and the thickness of a product’s performance wear layers are of paramount importance to an LVT specification. However, when both of these factors are taken into consideration, this type of flooring is a highly attractive choice for commercial properties – regularly proving to be one of the most durable, dependable and reliable materials on the market.

Paul Rogers is Technical Services Manager at Amtico, a market leader in luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) flooring with a proud British heritage. For over 50 years it has been designing, innovating and manufacturing flooring in Coventry that is not only beautiful but flexible, durable and sustainable.
For more information, please see www.amtico.com