Often purchased as an alternative to laminates, LVT, or to use its full title, luxury vinyl tile, provides a surface which, although closely resembling that of the laminated product visibly, is considerably more flexible and noticeably softer underfoot. Although it is customary to refer to both of these products as hard flooring, this is only a convention that is used to emphasise the contrast between these and the much softer surfaces provided by fabric products, such as carpets and rugs. In practice, the vinyl product which is also available in the form of rolled sheets similar to linoleum, is often more accurately referred to by those in the industry as resilient flooring.
LVT, just like its laminated equivalent, provides a walking surface that is considerably more durable than most of the natural alternatives, including both genuine hardwood planks and ceramic tiles. Both of these products also provide their users with a very convincing simulation of the natural materials upon which their designs are based, but are able to achieve this mimicry at a mere fraction of the price that is typically applied to any of the natural flooring solutions.
Another significant property that is shared by these two flooring options is the minimal requirement for both day-to-day care and longer term maintenance. This, and the fact that both are equipped with an effective wear layer, results in significant advantages for LVT and laminates over other surfaces. The wear layers, although of differing composition, renders them resistant to scuffing and scratching, and also inhibits fading due to the UV rays in sunlight.
Installation of these surfaces can, of course, be left to the supplier and may carry a charge. DIY fitting is, however, a feasible option in both cases and requires none of the specialised tools used when laying carpets. Neither should the process require previous experience or exceptional skills and many online videos are available to supply detailed, step-by-step instructions that are simple to follow, even for a complete novice. While LVT is secured in place using an adhesive, modern laminates are fully interlocking to provide a floating surface. This does, however mean that extra care is needed when sealing the joints between planks, in order to ensure that they are waterproof – a step that was less critical with the older glued variety of planks.
One inherent weakness that is common to all types of flooring is, in fact, their susceptibility to the effects of damp. In carpets, especially in humid seaside areas, this may result in the appearance of mould, as well as encouraging the growth of carpet mites. Wooden floors have a tendency to swell and warp in wet conditions and the effect of damp on laminates is to promote buckling that can lead to penetration of water into the core. Of all of these surfaces, LVT is the one that is likely to be least effected by spillages and damp, although this advantage may be offset to some extent by the fact that they are considerably more prone to staining than laminates.
Either way, when faced with spillages, particularly where the spilled substances may be coffee, fruit concentrates, curry sauce, red wine or anything else that may have the potential to cause stains, mopping up should always be treated as a matter of urgency, regardless of the nature of the affected surface. Another way in which LVT may be more vulnerable is seen in its susceptibility to burn damage. Although the vinyl material is fireproof, a relatively limited contact with a hot ember, for instance, is likely to cause visible damage to a tile, although, fortunately, it should not prove too hard to replace.
It should now be clear that all surfaces have their pros and cons. When choosing, you would be well-advised to consult a Top Carpets and Floors expert about the relative merits of LVT and laminates.