Luxury Vinyl Tile Missteps in Commercial Installations

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) rose to popularity shortly after it came on the scene. Originally accounting for approximately 10 per cent of the total flooring stock with distributors, this number quadrupled by 2019, thanks to LVT’s endless design, high-performance and cross-segment staying power. However, with more installations has come more mistakes.

Cutting Corners and Losing Keys
It’s easy to look at subfloor preparation as the best place to cut a corner or save money because it’s going to be covered. But think again. A subfloor that’s not structurally sound, flat, clean, smooth, dry and doesn’t have a concrete surface profile (CSP) rating of 1 contains waves or protrusions from debris. Over time, foot traffic and rolling loads will wear these high spots and they will become visually noticeable.

LVT is, by design, uniform and meant to exist in flat rows or in a square grid. When a subfloor is wavy, keeping a square grid during placement will produce unneeded challenges and a struggle to keep the layout square.
Excessive gapping between the modular units or windows at tile-line intersections may occur. It is especially noticeable with light-coloured flooring designs and square tile sizes.

This was a common issue with vinyl composition tile (VCT). Installers would camouflage such discrepancies in VCT by using material shavings called ‘gopher dust’ to fill in the gaps. When sealer was applied, the mishap was generally hidden when observed from a standing position.

With LVT, the key is to begin with a flat subfloor to complement the square material grid. This will result in a visually pleasing installation.

Another cost-cutting mistake in LVT installation is not using the right adhesive and application method. For instance, hospital beds expose LVT to heavy static and rolling loads. With the wrong pressure-sensitive adhesive, this can leave indentations in the floor.

Not using the right application method or tools when applying the adhesive can present similar indentation issues even with lighter furniture. Indentations can occur from adhesive displacement and/or if the wrong metering tool is used.

Additionally, the adhesive can bleed through the surface between tile-lines, making the flooring system difficult to clean. It is important that installers follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on adhesive options and application based on the end-use needs of the space.

Not Understanding Options
LVT comes in a variety of profiles and thicknesses with different options for installation.

LVT with a thickness of 2.5 millimetres is installed with a full spread adhesive application. Different adhesive options should be used when dealing with high-moisture conditions but overall, the application is spread, sprayed or rolled over the entire area to be installed.

LVT with a thickness of four millimetres can be installed full spread or with a perimeter glue installation method where a nine to 12-inch band of adhesive is applied around the perimeter of the room and as a grid every 20 feet when installing in large open areas.

Floating LVT is designed to be installed as a completely non-adhered system. It uses a tongue and groove locking system to connect planks that can create a waterproof, quiet underfoot and sound abating flooring option.

This type of LVT performs well in two circumstances. First, the floor must be flat, otherwise there can be a springboard effect, resulting in bounce being felt underfoot. This bounce will weaken the locking mechanism over time and may eventually lead to damage as planks loosen from one another. Next, there must be a quarter-inch space at all vertical stops and transitions, depending on the size of the room. These include walls, door jambs, cabinetry or any other area where the floor will be ‘terminated.’

When installing floating LVT in an open room, the space should not exceed 100 linear feet in either direction without adding an international termination. (Some material options require less or more.) Allow a minimum of three-eighths-of-an-inch for expansion. The larger the room, the greater the expansion space that is needed.

Other considerations when choosing a LVT profile or installation method are the inclusion of radiant heat, direct sunlight and flooring protection like proper furniture glides. These factors can determine the use of specific adhesives and additional curing time.

When in doubt, reference the manufacturer’s installation guidelines for details and special considerations pertaining to the specified LVT product.

Ignoring the Edge Profile
To bevel or not to bevel, that is the question. Not all but most LVT comes with a micro-bevelled edge. This bevel allows dirt and debris between tiles to be more easily cleaned; however, it isn’t always best when specifying a custom design where tiles will need to be cut on-site.

Keep in mind a bevelled tile needs to meet another bevelled tile and becomes obvious when placed next to a straight edge (unbevelled) tile. For instance, if the design calls for an 18-inch by 17-inch tile instead of the standard 18-inch by 18-inch tile, the square-cut side where the inch was removed can be noticeable when laid adjacent to the uncut side of a bevelled-edge tile.

Staying Power
The right LVT, adhesive and installation method sets the stage for a long-wear, high-performing floor. Its ease of maintenance and lower lifetime cost of ownership versus other flooring types that may require stripping and waxing further adds to LVT’s appeal.

When specifying LVT for a space, be sure to provide adequate walk-off at all entrances. Walk-off helps to trap dirt, abrasive debris, snow melt and other outside materials to keep the floor clean and prohibit wear.

Dennis J. Koutavas is the U.S. Southeast regional installation manager for Mannington Commercial technical services. Dennis began his career in the flooring industry in 1987, with the then-Chicago Carpenters Union focusing on commercial flooring installation. In 2017, he began working with Mannington Commercial in the technical services department where he remains presently. Mannington Commercial is a leading manufacturer of modular and broadloom carpet, luxury vinyl tile, resilient sheet and rubber flooring.

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