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What’s new with vinyl flooring? A lot. Brighter colors, bolder patterns – Inside the Western Home

November 12th, 2007 · No Comments

Long valued for easy care and comfort underfoot, resilient vinyl flooring now has new design punch to recommend it as well.

Today you’ll find brighter colors and bolder patterns in both tiles and sheets. Vinyl tile now comes in more sizes, shapes, and finishes. Many products have become easier to work with; they come as self-adhesive tiles and as sheets to lay without adhesive.

The samples pictured here give a taste of what’s available and what it costs (installation is extra). For each bold pattern, we photographed a 36-by 36-inch area; for small, all-over patterns, we shot 6-inch squares.

If you think vinyl flooring is cheap, you may be in for a shock. Top-of-the-line can cost as much as low-end wood, ceramic tile, or stone. Our report suggests how to tell what you’re paying for.

When you’re ready to shop, you’ll find the widest selection at flooring dealers who carry imported as well as American-made custom vinyl flooring. (No longer are high-end American, European, and Japanese products available only through architects and designers.)


The most sophisticated vinyl floorings don’t allude to nature, nor do they apologize for being manmade. Spattered or geometric, solid-colored or multi-hued, they can make a design statement or subtly complement furnishings.

One major American manufacturer has introduced a line of colored tiles that homeowners can mix and match for a customized floor. Another makes tile to order-you choose from a thousand colors and patterns as well as from numerous sizes, shapes, and textures.

More traditional vinyl imitates other materials: wood, stone, ceramic tile, brick. Photo-transfer processes have made these look-alikes more convincing, and embossing has added relief to printed grout lines.

New in the US. is a Swedish tile that sandwiches thin layers of real wood or cork between a cushioned backing and a layer of tough, clear vinyl. These combine the looks of the real McCoy with easy care.


Popular with do-it-yourselfers, vinyl tile offers more options in size and configuration than ever before. Both 6- and 18-inch squares have joined 9- and 12-inch ones. Imitation-wood tiles now come in 36-inch-long planks, as well as parquet squares, and one manufacturer makes planks in three widths you can mix.

Beveled edges sometimes reveal a contrasting color, and many lines offer tiles with decorative strips to break up a large area or accent a room’s perimeter.

Some sheet vinyls now come in 9-foot widths, as well as standard 6- and 12-foot widths. Wider rolls are harder to work with but leave you with fewer seams.


Besides pure vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC), most products contain a less costly filler-usually clay or gypsum. To qualify as solid vinyl, tiles or sheets can contain as little as 40 percent PVC. In general, the greater the proportion of vinyl, the tougher, more cushioned, and higher priced the product.

Both tiles and sheets are composed of layers fused under heat and pressure. Since the composition of these layers may vary, it’s important to compare total vinyl content when comparing prices (ask your dealer).

Color and pattern are created in several ways. Most tiles and sheets have the color and pattern printed directly on a backing, and a clear protective layer-called a wear layer-applied and fused on top. These are known as rotovinyls.

Inlaid vinyls are first printed on a backing, then thousands of vinyl granules are fused on top of the rotoprinted layer before a wear layer is applied. Inlaid tiles are not necessarily more expensive, but inlaid sheet vinyls generally are-and they come only in 6-foot widths.

Some tiles are formed by layering two or more colored vinyls, then fusing them in a mold that may add texture to the top layer. In some cases, a smaller piece is placed on top of a larger one to imply a grout line, or the edges of the finished tile may be beveled to show the second color.

Today, most tiles and sheet goods for residential use have what is commonly referred to as a no-wax surface-a wear layer of either top-quality vinyl or polyurethane. Polyurethane is harder and resists wear longer. Eventually, both types may lose their gloss, but they can be buffed to restore shine.


Prices (uninstalled) range from about $1.50 a square foot for the least expensive tile to nearly $15. Sheet vinyls range from about 35 cents to $5.50.

In general, you get what you pay for. You pay more for high vinyl content, for inlaid as opposed to printed surfaces, and for thicker and longer-lasting wear layers. Expect to pay a premium for custom tiles and for imported products.


You can install a new vinyl floor over plywood, concrete, or existing vinyl, but make sure the surface you plan to cover is smooth, clean, and structurally sound. If you need to install a new subfloor, plan on that costing $5 to $15 a square yard.

Easiest by far to install are tiles called self-sticking or self-adhering. They come with a preapplied adhesive-you simply peel off the paper backing, position the tile, and press down firmly.

Usually, sheet vinyls are cemented with adhesive applied to the entire floor surface. But the past few years have brought simpler methods. Loose-lay sheet vinyls have a cushioned backing that hugs the floor, staying in place without adhesives. Other sheet goods have a stretchable backing that needs no adhesive and can expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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