Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and luxury vinyl plank (LVP) has exploded in popularity over the last few years. As a result, it is the cause of a lot of discussion. Everything from great value, fast to install and very durable to shrinking, buckling and peaking at the seams. Should we glue it down or float a click together product? What are the criteria that separate the good from the bad? As usual there’s no one silver bullet to answer all the questions. Each client has a different set of needs, set of job site circumstances, time frame and budget influencing the final decision. Needless to say, no one wants the problems which seem to be plaguing this sector of the industry.
National Floor Covering Association (NFCA) floor inspectors have seen and reported on many of the problems associated with LVT and LVP. Problems range from using the wrong adhesive to incorrect product acclimation, to sunlight overheating the floor, to substrates that are not flat to manufacturer’s standards.
Here are a few pointers that should help:
- Understand the restrictions for the type of LVT that is being installed before the product is delivered to site. They are found in the installation guidelines that should come with every carton of material.
- LVT products have good water resistance, making them good for just about any space in a residential or commercial space.
- Spend time setting your client’s expectations regarding what to expect regarding wear and tear and maintenance. Yes, LVT scratches!
- Discuss sub-floor flatness and the likelihood that extra work and dollars will be needed to meet the manufacturer’s strict sub-floor flatness guidelines. NFCA standards call for 3/16″ over 10′ feet using the straight edge measurement system.
- Ambient temperature on site should be 18 to 29 celsisus. Acclimate the flooring indoors under acceptable conditions for a minimum of 48 hours. Deliver materials to site only when eventual living conditions have been achieved, usually 20 celsius with Relative Humidity at 35 – 55 per cent.
- Concrete sub-floor temperature is important. Understand that a concrete substrate can be 10c cooler than the ambient temperature of a room – more than enough to cause significant problems. It is reported that 90 per cent of LVT failures occur because the product was installed too cold. Make sure the product is stacked in a ‘log cabin’ way so that warm air can circulate and bring all of the packs up to ideal temperatures.
- When gluing LVT or LVP to concrete, moisture and alkalinity levels in the concrete must meet the manufacturer’s guidelines. If they don’t, then delay the installation, change the product or use a moisture barrier that you know works when high moisture and alkalinity are present.
- For south facing windows, sunlight and heat are the enemy of LVT and LVP. Here is a direct quote from the installation guidelines of a well known distributor regarding their product and sunlight/heat affecting the floor.
“Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for prolonged periods; such exposure may result in discoloration, and excessive temperatures can cause the flooring to expand and lift off of the sub-floor. During peak sunlight hours, the use of drapes or blinds is recommended.”
- Understand that it is the flooring contractor’s responsibility to check that site conditions meet the manufacturer’s recommended levels before shipping the flooring to site. Installation should not proceed if conditions are not correct. NFCA standards state: ‘Installation implies acceptance of conditions’.
- Installers should record site conditions prior to installation for future reference in case there is a problem. Homeowners, designers, general contractors should request these results. Take a photograph showing the date and a picture of the test results. Once these conditions are proven to exist and recorded, move forward with the installation. At the end of the day it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to manage their own interior living conditions after installation.
With a few simple guidelines followed at the beginning of each installation, many of the problems associated with LVT and LVP can be avoided. With this done, what a great flooring category this is because it solves so many design issues and provides visual appeal, durability, resilience and value all in a growing segment that is adding new designs, colour and style every day.
Chris Maskell is president of the National Floor Covering Association.