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A Great Future Lies Ahead For Vinyl Flooring

Richard Hackett, Gerflor’s retail and LVT manager, explains vinyl design innovations, past, present and future:
A VERSATILE flooring, vinyl offers remarkable performance, durability and ease of maintenance, yet its most noticeable asset is its appearance. Vinyl is now widely used in the retail sector to provide striking aesthetics where long- lasting, design-led solutions are essential.

Vinyl flooring first became popular in the 1930s. ‘Crunchy’ homogeneous floor tiles offered marbleised or speckled designs, but there was little chance to enhance the look other than by using the tiles to create marble-effect patterns. It was only later that manufacturers developed multilayer products with reinforcement, a carrier and a design using ink rollers.

The real innovation came in the late 1960s and early 70s with the introduction of print film applied to the carrier. This allowed virtually any design to be photographed and then printed onto the vinyl.

As a result, natural materials such as wood and stone can be reproduced and enhanced so, for example, Oak may be changed in both appearance and colour. These elements are embraced today in luxury vinyl tile and plank formats, while the look is even more realistic duetotheuseofhighqualitytexturingtoprovide graining and embossing.

In recent years, innovation and technology further expanded the possibilities for realism and versatile design. This is likely to progressively improve in the future as the clarity of the design on the print film itself becomes eversharper,withtheadditionofimproved embossing techniques. Vinyl flooring will appear
ever more natural, with high quality renderings that exactly mirror the materials they replicate. Importantly, clients increasingly work with manufacturers to enhance or create their own designs. At its simplest, this may involve minor adjustments to colour and lightening or darkening the appearance of the printed image. At a more advanced level, customers can pick from a palette of designs and create their own colour. This is currently limited to larger orders but, as technology advances, smaller requests will be possible.

What is already taking the market by storm is the availability of luxury vinyl tiles and planks in a loose lay format. These products do not necessarily need to be stuck down and, in some cases, there is minimal subfloor preparation, speeding installation and saving valuable downtime for retail and other establishments.

Further product development has seen the availability of multi-width planks and a variety of tile sizes with, in some cases, tiles getting bigger and planks longer and wider. To realise the full design potential of these products, luxury vinyl tiles and planks are supplied in boxes containing a variety of sizes, patterns and colours.
While much of this innovation has occurred in the last five years, the next five years seem almost certain to see even greater aesthetic potential offered by luxury vinyl products. This will bring huge benefits for the designer, installer and,mostimportantly,theclient.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at