RIGID FLOORING VERSES VINYL FLOORS
Rigid flooring verses vinyl floors starts with understanding the pros and cons of each type of flooring.
All waterproof vinyl floors fall under one category called resilient flooring. Each type of resilient floor has its own unique construction, but the one thing they all have in common is P.V.C, (polyvinyl chloride). Each of these floors will have a percentage of PVC in them of vary amounts. PVC is why some refer to resilient floors as waterproof.
PVC is also known as plastic or vinyl, and it has been around for decades, but the new category of flooring, called M.L.F. (multi-layer floors) has changed the resilient flooring category forever. These floors are not like anything your mother or grandmothers had in their kitchen or home. Technological advances have made it possible to create a very durable, waterproof, and fashionable resilient floor that looks like real wood, linen, or stone.
For this article, we will focus on the difference between rigid flooring (MLF) and vinyl floors (PVC) floors, because this is an area in which there has been some confusion and misinterpretations of the products. When considering any kind of PVC floor, there are six points you need to consider. 1. Health 2. Dent Resistance. 3. Dimensional Stability. 4. Installation. 5. Telegraphing and subfloor. 6. Fashion. Why is fashion last? Fashion or style is subjective, and it is the one thing both products can deliver, regardless of the construction of the resilient floors.
We will start with PVC vinyl floors. Vinyl floors are also referred to as LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) or LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank).
VINYL FLOORS | PVC FLOORS
Construction: Vinyl floors are made up of PVC, additives for flexibility, and aggregate for density and durability. However, the PVC that is used to make the vinyl floor is essential. 100% virgin vinyl is the best choice for your health, and for the floor’s durability and stability. It means there is no recycle vinyl content in the construction of the floor, and it is Ortho Phyllite free, and free of heavy metal contaminants. This is very important to look for when buying vinyl floors. Ortho Phyllites are considered to be harmful to people and pets. This is why 100% virgin vinyl is the only kind of PVC vinyl floor you should have in your home. Better safe than sorry as the saying goes.
Dimensional Stability: Expansion and contraction is a factor in all flooring, including vinyl floors. Vinyl floors will contract and expand and must be acclimated to the environment for at least two days before installation. This may be challenging for meeting tight construction deadlines.
Installation: Vinyl planks with locking joints will be challenging due to the flexibility of the plank. Rigid floors have an advantage here over LVT. Glue down/ dry back vinyl is a standard installation.
Fashion: Vinyl floors can be beautiful and offer a wide range of prints, colors, and textures. The biggest differences between rigid and vinyl floors is the size. Since vinyl floors lack stability there is a limitation on width and length of the floors.
Residential Vinyl Floors
Now that we explored the pros and cons of vinyl floors, we will focus on rigid.
What are rigid floors?
RIGID FLOORING | MLF FLOORING
Rigid flooring verses vinyl floors.
Construction: Rigid flooring are made up of PVC, additives for flexibility and a higher amount of stone aggregate. Rigid floors are also referred to as SPC. (Stone Plastic Component). They are the same in construction, but the industry refers to it as rigid vinyl. The amount of stone aggregate will vary with manufacturers, but we will caution against too much stone because it will be cumbersome and feel like you are walking on concrete. Rigid flooring with an attached pad will provide greater comfort for your back and feet. Courtier waterproof flooring is an excellent example of a rigid floor with an attached pad.
Also, as with vinyl floors, the PVC they use to make the floor is essential. For example, Courtier rigid floors are made with 100% virgin vinyl and stone aggregate, which provides the best choice for your health. It means there is no recycle vinyl content in the construction of the floor, and it is Ortho phyllite free. Again, this is why 100% virgin vinyl is the only kind of PVC you want in your MLF floor, too.
Dent resistance: Rigid floors have a very high load barring compacity making it far more dent resistant than PVC vinyl floors. The average load barring measurement for rigid floors ranges from 3,500 to 5,000 plus PSI. Courtier rigid click floors have a rating of 5,500 plus PSI (Pounds per inch). Why is this important? Plastic will dent. It may not break, but it will dent so the higher the PSI, the better chance your floors will look beautiful for years to come.
Dimensional Stability: Rigid floors provide greater dimensional stability than vinyl. This advantage is a tad technical, but it plays a vital role in deciding between vinyl and rigid floors.
First, it is perfect for 3 season rooms, because it handles extreme temperatures better than ordinary vinyl. Rigid floors can handle different environments because they contract and expand at a minimal amount.
Second, it takes less time to acclimate to an environment, like engineered wood floors, rigid floors provide greater stability and minimum expansion and contraction.
Lastly, because of the stability of rigid floors provide, they have a more extensive span capability, which means there is less demand for transition trims. Why is this important? It adds to the beauty of a large room or hallway. Transitions trims will break up a large room into smaller sections, which destroys the flow of the floors and the open expanses.
Installation: The planks are stiffer because of the stone composite, making it is easier to line up the joints and planks, which makes the installation easier. Easier installation is more of a benefit for installers and dealers than homeowner or business.
Telegraphing and Subfloor: The same rules apply for rigid flooring for telegraphing and subfloors, but there is a significant advantage with rigid floors with attached pads. The subfloor requires less preparation and tends to be more forgiven than vinyl, and as a result, can lower the cost of installation by saving time and money.
Even with rigid flooring, it is still important to prepare the subfloors properly to prevent telegraphing and to prolong the life of the floors.
Fashion: Rigid floors offer a wide range of prints, colors, and textures and because of the higher stability factor rigid provides, the planks are wider and longer than vinyl planks, and as a result, they are far more fashionable, too.
Side note: Contrary to what most salespeople and marketers will tell you, there is no such thing as absolute waterproof floors. Although vinyl is 95-99% waterproof, the subfloors are not, and if water goes below the vinyl flooring and gets trapped between the vinyl and subfloor, it may create mold and damage the vinyl floor.
Main contributor: Ron Oliver
Ron Oliver has been in the flooring industry for 30 years and is Hallmark Floors’ resident expert on flooring. If you would like more information or have additional questions, please contact us and we will get back to you.
Another source for understanding reslient flooring is Floor Covering Weekly.
FCW flooring 101 articles.