Do you love selecting products for each new project? From paint to furniture to lighting to flooring, there are so many choices and so many decisions to make. Do you check out every wall, floor and ceiling everywhere you go? You are not alone! Every space is special, and you want to pick just the right thing to look great and create a beautifully functional space for years to come, no matter the finish. With all the different finishes to select, we want to take the guesswork out of at least one – LVT!
We are a flooring manufacturer, and we spend a lot of time with end-users, designers and specifiers and like you - we really like product! We spend months tweaking and laboring over color, pattern and texture details that the average person might not notice, but we know you do!
You’ve heard of it, you’ve walked on it, and you’ve maybe even specified it, but do you really know what LVT is? Think of this as a materials study of the hard surface flooring product, Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT).
In this guide, we’ll give you a birds-eye-view of the flooring product known as LVT. We’ll go over what it’s made of, how it’s made, how to design with it, what you need to know for specifying LVT, how to install and maintain your LVT flooring and give you a comprehensive pros and cons list.
Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) is a layered flooring construction typically composed of wear layers, a visual film and backing layers. Each of the layers plays an important part in the performance and look of the LVT.
The Rise of LVT
LVT is used in both commercial and residential applications, but often has different properties and performance characteristics depending on the application.
LVT has become a very popular flooring choice in recent years. It has evolved considerably in performance, construction and design and continues to change at a rapid pace.
Mannington Commercial entered the LVT category in 2003 with partnerships in Asia. With the rapid growth of LVT and a desire to control our own destiny, we invested further by purchasing Amtico International in 2012, which allowed for domestic manufacturing of both residential and commercial LVT. We now have one of the largest LVT SKU offerings in the world with the majority being produced in our Madison, GA facility.
What is LVT Made of?
Starting from the top, the wear layer is typically made up of a thin clear layer, or layers as seen to the right, as well as a liquid urethane coating applied on top of the clear layer during the manufacturing process, after lamination. The total wear layer thickness is typically measured in mils, a thousandth of an inch — .001 inch.
The wear layer is a highly specified characteristic of LVT with commercial performance standards being at 20 mils or greater. There is a range of wear layer thicknesses available in LVT to serve different performance needs. To find the best LVT for your space, check out our recommended usage chart.
Below the clear wear layer is the print film. This layer provides the visual of the product, such as wood, stone or abstract looks. Although there are different print technologies, the most commonly used in LVT is opaque print film.
Opaque print film visuals are printed on one side of the print layer using a rotogravure printing process, a common printing process found in many different industries. This is a printing system that uses a rotary press with intaglio cylinders, typically running at high speed and used for long print runs. The process transfers fluid ink from depressions in a printing cylinder to the printing surface.
This layer is the most delicate layer and must be protected during the manufacturing process to ensure the inks are not distorted or damaged.
Last you have the backing layers. This is a very important layer for the dimensional stability and performance of the product. The backing provides the balance and stability to the top layers. This is also the major contributor to the total thickness of the LVT. Total thickness is often measured in millimeters (mm) and can range from 2.0 mm to 5.0 mm in traditional LVT constructions.
Now you know the layers that make up LVT. How do they get put together to make a finished product?
LVT is manufactured using heat, time and pressure to laminate the layers together into one product. No secret ingredients here. There are two primary ways to manufacture LVT, although there may be nuances within each based on the supplier and equipment used.
How is LVT Made?
In the United States, LVT is typically produced on continuous lamination equipment, such as a rotocure machine. This means it is made in large continuous runs, cut into smaller sections, called slabs, and then cut into the finished product format, such as tile or plank.
Every manufacturer has their own variation or configuration of the equipment. This continuous method allows for temperature and pressure control resulting in higher quality and yields. It also typically has energy and labor efficiencies compared to other methods.
Another popular method of manufacturing is using large presses to laminate the layers, such as a static press. This LVT manufacturing method is most commonly found outside the US. The press methodology allows for more flexibility than continuous lamination, but is much more labor intensive as slab pieces are put together manually using pre-cut individual layers and emboss plates, then loaded into the press .
production can also have lower quality yields and requires large amounts of energy to heat and cool the equipment. The material has pressure applied to the top and bottom of the press and it is heated and cooled within the same chamber to achieve lamination.
There are other types of constructions in the LVT category including Rigid Core constructions such as Expanded Polymer Core or Solid Polymer Core (SPC) and Waterproof Core (WPC). These typically have a core layer as part of their construction in addition to the wear layer, print and backing layers.
Rigid Core constructions typically use a click installation system and are often found in residential or multi-family applications. Depending on the product, these types of constructions often offer superior sound transmission and hide subfloor irregularities better than traditional LVT. However, because of the construction and click installation system, they are not recommended for many commercial and heavy commercial environments.
Related: What is Rigid Core LVT Flooring?
The wonderful thing about LVT is the variety of visuals offered; because LVT visuals are printed, it allows for a large degree of design and color flexibility often not found in other flooring constructions.
Designs in LVT include everything from bright, bold patterns to more subtle, textural visuals. Another dimension that adds uniqueness to an LVT floor is the wide variety of tile and plank sizes that can be mixed and matched into beautiful laying patterns with ease.
The unlimited nature of LVT’s printed visuals, range of possible colorways, and ease of custom-like installation makes LVT a designer’s dream material.
With the versatility available today, the design possibilities can feel endless, which isn't always the best thing. With so many choices to explore we want to walk you through design considerations as well as offer some inspirational ideas on how to use LVT to tell the story of your space.
- Consider the role of LVT in the overall design
With so many different LVTs to choose from, it is important to align your design brief with the LVT options you are considering. Do you want the floor to be a focus or a backdrop?
We know that each of your projects are unique, so each space will need to be given careful consideration. “Some spaces want to be energetic and lively, while others need to be calm and soothing. Tapping into those emotive design cues is such an important piece to the design selection for LVT,” says Samantha Fletcher, Creative Manager at Mannington Commercial.
Defining the role your LVT floor will play helps narrow down the aesthetic options.
- Consider the role of color in your flooring
Now that you know the role you want flooring to play in your overall design, it is time to talk color. Color plays an important role in the look and feel of a space. Some designers would say it is the most important element of the flooring selection.
Finding just the right warm or cool tone of the color palette can be a real challenge. Again, LVT is offered in many different color options. Using color accents in LVT is a great way to create a unique look without compromising performance or maintenance.
Perhaps you want the floor to incorporate wayfinding elements that stand out. That is very easy and affordable to do with LVT. Many LVT collections, like Color Anchor LVT, offer both neutral and bright colors in the same or similar patterns. This allows you to maintain a consistent look across the floor palette while punching up those active or gathering areas with color where needed. Color can also play a key role in how big or small a space feels.
- Consider the size of your space
Space is another thing to consider. Too much or too little and you have a design challenge on your hands. From open warehouse office space to a small breakroom, you want to take advantage of all available elements your project offers.
Color is an important selection to help minimize or maximize how large the space feels. Pattern can also have a similar role, particularly in delineating functions in large spaces.
A larger area allows for the incorporation of multiple patterns, allowing you to be creative with your selections. Perhaps you incorporate a unique design element in a small area and use more subtle patterns elsewhere.
- Consider using laying patterns in your design
Most LVT comes in squares, rectangles, and/or planks. With the various color options on the market today and within collections, you can often use varying colors and/or sizes to create unique and fresh looks on the floor.
A great example of this is using Mannington Commercial’s Choice Layouts, installation ideas using running line sizes with no upcharge, minimums or extended lead times. Utilizing these types of layouts, such as Cross Band or Wicket, can turn a subtle wood plank installation into a sophisticated, custom looking installation without all the custom work, time or cost.
To get a more unique shape and really distinct look, also consider moving to a Signature Layout design that really takes your floor to the next level. Signature Layouts are cut to the job size and easy to select. No custom work is required. You choose your colors, and Mannington Commercial does the rest.
- Consider different LVT size plank/tile options
After considering all the above design elements of your floor, don’t forget to choose the best size product for your space. The same LVT visual can look very different in different size options (see image below). The variability and pattern on the floor changes. Using a visualizer tool really helps to get an idea of what will fit your design best.
With more than 13 running line sizes offered, the Amtico Signature collection really lets you get the pattern and color you desire, but also choose the size and shape that works best for a small kitchenette or large dining hall.
For a smaller space, you may want to utilize a smaller plank or tile to make the space appear larger. Or perhaps you want to minimize the number of seams by going bigger in that same visual.
Depending on your selected LVT, the number of sizes available will vary. Not all collections have multiple sizes, but look for those options that allows you to scale up and down to make the most of the product.
- Other Considerations
You have narrowed down your LVT options and put a lot of consideration into colors, patterns, size and overall feel of the project. Before you make your final selection, here are a few other key items to make your project a success.
First, consider the longevity of the space and the performance characteristics needed. Color and design are key, but you want it to look as good after 5 years as it does when it was installed. Make sure your wear layer specification matches the needs of your space and is complimented with an appropriate warranty.
Look for performance enhancements, like Quantum Guard Elite®, offered on certain products that help them stand up to tough commercial environments with leading stain, scratch and scuff resistance.
Second, we discussed the size of your space above, but also think about the lighting in that space. Lighting can play a big role in how the floor looks after installation.
Similar to how paint color can appear to change colors in different rooms, flooring can also appear different in natural lighting versus an area with artificial lighting. Some things to consider regarding lighting include how much side lighting is in the space or how much direct sunlight is the flooring exposed to.
From a performance standpoint, if you have areas of flooring that are exposed to heavy direct sunlight for long periods of time, it is recommended to utilize window coverings and/or utilize the recommended special adhesive for such installations.
Finally, consider how the area will be maintained. This is a challenging area across many different market segments.
How To Specify LVT
With so many options for LVT products in the market today, it is important to consider all variables before making your final selection when designing your space. Visuals, size offerings, edge treatments, surface texture (embossing), and customization options vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. At Mannington Commercial, we have developed an easy guide that walks you through all the considerations when putting together your LVT specification.
Depending on the space you are designing, it’s important to choose the correct LVT product. Aesthetics are very important, but equally important is choosing a LVT product that is well constructed, will enhance the performance of the floor and will keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
Why It's Important To Specify Domestic LVT
LVT is fast becoming the flooring product of choice. With that said, many LVT products are produced internationally. Mannington Commercial produces more than 90% of its LVT products in Madison, GA. Manufacturing LVT domestically has many advantages for us as a manufacturer, but even more benefits for you as a customer:
- Quick Turn Around Time – Importing a product adds extended shipping time that can add weeks or even months to your order. Product produced here in the USA allows you to get the product you need quickly.
- No Tariffs - Let’s face it, added tariff costs are hefty and most likely a portion of these costs will be passed onto the customer which drives up the product cost.
- Lower Shipping Costs - In addition to tariffs, imported products incur transport and customs fees when shipped from overseas as well as lengthy customs and import process once the product arrives in US ports.
- Supports Local Economies – Creates jobs and helps support local communities keeping disposable income and tax money within the community.
- Vertical Integration – We control the supply chain from raw materials to finished goods and through the production process.
How Is The Floor Being Maintained?
When choosing the LVT for your space, providing your customer with the proper maintenance protocol they should follow is critical.
Knowing how to maintain the floor properly from day one is key to keeping the floor looking like new for years to come. Most Mannington Commercial LVT products feature Quantum Guard Elite® Technology. This patent-pending technology provides the ultimate solution for all aspects of LVT performance with the highest scratch resistance in the industry, advanced stain resistance, and easy no-polish maintenance significantly reduces overall life cycle cost and total cost of ownership.
The first few steps into a building are critical to the performance of the flooring throughout a facility. Mannington Commerical's Entryway Systems help trap excess dirt and moisture at the door, which will help reduce maintenance costs, extend flooring life and enhance safety.
How Will The Room Sound?
The building structure has a lot to do with sound ratings. Is there a drop ceiling? How big is the concrete slab? These are just a few items to consider in your specifications. Different LVTs have different properties that can assist with meeting required sound ratings.
“The acoustical environment of a workspace is typically given little or no attention during project planning and design.”
Overall flooring plays a minimal role when it comes to acoustics, but there are a few things that can be done to help. Installing an underlayment or soundproofing barrier can help provide noise reduction when people walk on the floor.
Mannington Commercial’s Silent Solution® is suitable for most of our LVT products. This advanced underlayment technology provides sound deadening and reduces noise by providing exceptional sound absorption. Silent Solution meets or exceeds IIC sound requirements and is made in the USA.
In addition to an underlayment solution, some LVT products have a thicker construction and are available with an attached pad. The attached pad can help with noise reduction too.
Mannington Commercial’s Mannington Crown and City Park®, rigid core products with FloorArmor® have an attached sound abatement pad for greater acoustic comfort, making this flooring an ideal solution for multi-family, hospitality, senior living, and education spaces, as well as workplaces that would benefit from a quieter environment.
Related: Amtico Specification Guide
Now that we know what LVT is, how to design with it and how to specify it, it’s time to talk about how to install and maintain it. These are arguably the two most important pieces of the puzzle. You might be wondering why that is.
Why do I need to know about LVT flooring installation if I’m not a flooring installer? You don’t need to know how to install the flooring, but you do need to know how the flooring is installed so that the design on paper can come to life in reality.
LVT Installation Tips:
Subfloor Prep is Key
A skilled installer knows there are 5 key items to keep in mind when prepping a subfloor prior to installing LVT. The subfloor must be flat, clean, smooth, dry, and structurally sound.
If your subfloor does not conform with the items listed above, you may not initially be able to see waves in the concrete or projections from debris, but over time these high spots will wear quickly from foot traffic and rolling loads and become visually noticeable, which you do not want!
Taking the time to properly prepare your subfloor can ensure a successful installation and avoid costly corrections down the road.
Avoid Cost-Cutting Mistakes
Budgets are always a key factor in every installation, but successful finished projects should
Choose The Right Product and Adhesive Combination
Another issue can be that the adhesive can bleed through and surface between tile-lines making the flooring system difficult to clean. It is imperative that your installer follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on adhesive options and applications based on the end-use needs of the space.
When choosing the LVT for your space, there are several product constructions to consider from profile options, product thickness, and then how the product will be installed.
- A 2.5 mm LVT product is installed using an adhesive application. The adhesive is spread, sprayed, or rolled over the subfloor. You do want to choose the proper adhesive option if the substrate has high moisture conditions.
- Mannington Commercial's 4 mm LVT product can be installed either two ways - full spread, or with a perimeter glue installation method.
- A 2.5 mm LVT product is installed using an adhesive application. The adhesive is spread, sprayed, or rolled over the subfloor. You do want to choose the proper adhesive option if the substrate has high moisture conditions.
LVT Installation in Different Environments
You want to keep in mind to select the correct flooring type depending on how the space will be used. Healthcare spaces, for instance, consist of many types from operating rooms, waiting rooms, patient rooms, rehabilitation spaces, cafeterias, corridors, etc. All of these spaces will be used differently, so there are several things to keep in mind such as performance, infection control, slip resistance, and compliance with ADA.
Healthcare spaces are very busy places, so consider commercial products that are constructed for these high-traffic demands. Understanding the overall foot traffic in a space is important when selecting the right product that will remain beautiful in years to come.
LVT provides a breadth of options depending on the usage of the space. The different wear layer options from 12 mil for low traffic areas up to 40 mil for high traffic areas, allow you to pick the best product for the area.
We touched on key installation items above; however, you do want to make sure the flooring installer is knowledgeable in commercial installations. Healthcare spaces, for instance, is one of them.
Healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, have many different spaces within its complex, and many times have different types of flooring.
The flooring types can sometimes have different manufacturers which require an installer to be knowledgeable with each manufacturer’s installation recommendations.
Projects are always different, regardless if the project is a remodel or new construction. Moisture mitigation in a subfloor needs to be top of mind when installing commercial flooring and can delay construction, affect budgets, and possibly affect the original product of choice. Make sure your installer is knowledgeable on all of the items listed below so that the floor installation goes smoothly.
- Why Does Moisture Matter?
- How to Prepare Concrete for Flooring
- How to Test for Moisture in Concrete
- What Could Go Wrong?
- How to Solve Moisture Issues in Concrete Floors
Maintaining Your LVT Floors
One of the benefits of LVT is its ease of maintenance. Proper cleaning is necessary, and it is important to establish a daily maintenance routine and know-how to conduct ongoing corrective cleaning methods using the right cleaning products and equipment.
- Once your new LVT floor is installed, make sure the casters and glides on any furniture are protected to ensure your LVT is not scraped and the load is distributed evenly.
- Entryway systems should be installed at all entrances that are at least as wide as the doorways and are 10-14 feet long. This will reduce the amount of soil spread throughout your space.
- Check to make sure any excess adhesive residue left behind after installation is removed. Using a wet mop or any type of scrubbing device should be avoided until five days after your new floor is installed.
- Establish a multi-step maintenance routine depending on the size of your space and choose the correct cleaner and tools. A site survey can help determine the amount of foot traffic, the type of soil typically found in the area, the equipment available, the time allotted for maintenance and the budget for cleaning.
- Remember to review your maintenance procedure as the seasons change and adapt any changes necessary to avoid unsightly residue build-up on your flooring.
- Most of our LVT products offer Quantum Guard Elite Technology. These high-performance wear layers offer superior appearance and durability which do not require floor finish (polish). Establishing the basic protocol, using the proper cleaning products and equipment are key to maintaining your LVT floor and a clean work environment, especially during a pandemic, such as COVID-19.
While we can offer guidelines, these are neither comprehensive nor final. Please consider your regional climate, facility type, staff capabilities, type and age of floor covering as well as the type of soil and traffic volume when determining how to achieve the best results for your space.
Learning how to maintain your LVT doesn’t stop there. What about problems that may occur during the winter months? If you happen to live in a climate where treatment like calcium chloride is used to melt ice, this may cause a residue to form when tracked into the building. It’s important to review your maintenance plan when the seasons change to accommodate any maintenance changes necessary to keep your flooring its best.
LVT checks a lot of the boxes for easy materials to use, which is why it has become so popular in recent years. As one of the oldest domestic LVT suppliers in the US and with one of the largest commercial LVT offerings available on the market, we know all about the pros and cons of LVT for commercial spaces. Whether you are a seasoned LVT user or a new specifier, each project has different considerations. Here are a few tips from our team on the pros and cons of LVT in commercial spaces.
LVT Design Flexibility
One of the best features of LVT is the wide array of visuals offered. You don’t have to settle for limited visual options like you might have to in other flooring constructions, such as VCT. You can have it all from stone to wood to abstract in LVT with new visuals being introduced at a rapid pace and new technologies, such as digital printing, continuing to allow further design exploration.
Added to the deep design portfolio are various size options, and the sky's the limit. Don’t let all the options overwhelm you; instead, use them to your advantage. LVT allows you to get creative with your space. Put in a feature area with a unique laying pattern or mix different size planks in the same color or in complementary colors to elevate the look without having to switch materials or price points.
Along with great visuals in LVT, another big pro is that it’s a product that can be used across more commercial market segments than almost any other flooring type. LVT is used in Acute Care, Medical Office Buildings, Senior Living, Workplace, Multi-Family, Education (K-12 and Higher Ed), Mainstreet, Government, Retail, and the list goes on. Its ease of use, installation, high performance and budget friendly price point make it appealing and an easy choice for commercial spaces.
There are a lot of different visual options out there, but also a lot of different constructions. Make sure you understand the specs of the materials you are selecting. If mixing different products, make sure they work together for installation, maintenance and performance. You don’t want to have one material that needs wax and another one that doesn’t right next to it. The whole floor will get waxed!
Yes, LVT can go into tons of different spaces and market segments, but that doesn’t mean that every LVT is meant for every space.
Beyond just basic specification requirements (12 mil wear layers are for light commercial, etc) the installation method may limit applications, and some spaces require features most LVT simply doesn’t have.
For example, LVT with a click or locking profile is not recommended for heavy commercial traffic applications, specifically those with heavy rolling loads. Other commercial spaces, like an operating room, require a seamless or monolithic floor for infection control and LVT simply doesn’t make sense in this space.
Compared to many other flooring materials, LVT can be relatively easy to install. Most commercial flooring contractors have experience with this flooring type. LVT is also usually affordable and easy to ship and store unlike some other heavier materials or rolled goods that can be challenging for installers to transport to the site. Most manufacturers provide detailed installation instructions as well as a variety of adhesive options to fit the needs of the installer and the space.
While easier than a lot of other materials, installation can quickly become a negative if the right installation partner isn’t used. There are many great flooring contractors around the county, so make sure you are utilizing skilled and qualified installers who are familiar with resilient flooring materials such as LVT.
A big part of the installation is the subfloor preparation. It is critical to the success of an LVT installation, regardless of the construction. If the subfloor isn’t properly prepared you can have beautiful LVT that has telegraphing, gapping or moisture issues over time. Lastly, if attempting a more complicated layout or pattern with LVT, the installation only becomes that more critical. Depending on the complexity, the installation prices may go up for more intricate designs, so discuss that with your contractor beforehand and make sure they are qualified to complete your project needs.
Performance & Cost of LVT
Besides the great design offering and installation flexibility of the product, LVT performs well when specified in the right space. Commercial LVT is a great value for the durability it offers. As with all things, there is a fairly significant range of material costs within the LVT family of products, but generally speaking it is very affordable when compared to many other flooring types that don’t hold up as well or offer as many aesthetic options.
An important element to product value is the long-term cost of your selection. Some materials may have a lower up-front cost, but to maintain that product ends up costing you more in the end. For example, Vinyl Composite Tile (VCT) is often a budget friendly flooring option with a lower price point but requires multiple wax coatings annually to maintain the desired performance. The cost to apply these coatings quickly add up to a flooring that is costly to maintain.
LVT, while slightly more expensive, offers a more economical life cycle cost because coatings are not required to maintain performance levels. When making your selections, look for LVTs that offer no polish options, meaning their warranties are applicable without the requirement of wax or a finish to be applied to the floor. All of Mannington Commercial’s LVTs are warranted as no polish required and most have the added protection of Quantum Guard Elite to hold up to tough commercial applications.
Not all LVTs are created equally. There is a wide range of performance capabilities within the LVT market so make sure you are selecting the right one to meet your performance needs. Having an added performance protection, such as Quantum Guard Elite, is recommended for commercial applications where you want your floor to look great for years to come with basic maintenance. Also consider the source of your LVT. Mannington Commercial proudly makes more than 90% of our commercial LVT products in our Madison, Georgia LVT manufacturing plant. This ensures we know exactly what is in the products we are providing the market and that they are free from components such as heavy metals and ortho-phthalates.
With so many great characteristics, it is easy to see why LVT is such a widely used commercial material. It continues to take share from other categories as its popularity and usability grows. Check out more information about Mannington Commercial’s LVT line and other informational articles about LVT and other topics on our blog.
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