By Stan Hulin
Historically, the flooring market, like all markets, tends to change. In the late 1800s, linoleum was the latest and greatest choice. Throughout the early 1900s, asphalt tile, followed by vinyl asbestos tile, were the flooring of choice. Due to the harmful health consequences of asbestos, the manufacturing of these materials ended in the 1970s and 1980s, and this pushed forward the popularity of contemporary vinyl composition tile, or VCT.
Now we have luxury vinyl tile (LVT) as the hottest-selling resilient flooring material. Of course, that can and probably will eventually change.
Vinyl composition tile facts
VCT is a composition of polyvinyl chloride, plasticizers, and limestone filler. The prominence of VCT in the market had to do primarily with its durability and affordable costs.
For decades, this product has been used extensively in commercial, retail, healthcare, and educational environments. VCT is prevalent everywhere, and there is still a significant amount sold and installed today.
LVT may be the largest-selling resilient flooring on the market today, but there are billions, if not trillions, of square feet of existing VCT in use every day. VCT is still the workhorse of the resilient industry and is very much alive. Its versatility in the built environment is unparalleled by all other flooring materials.
Vinyl composition tile maintenance
There are several factors purchasers consider when choosing flooring material, of which maintenance is an important one.
It may not be as highly regarded, considering its aesthetic appeal or initial cost, but it must be considered in the overall price and ownership of the floor. Because floor maintenance of VCT is accomplished using floor polishes, it is often considered a high-cost maintenance system, which may not be entirely accurate.
The cost of maintaining a sacrificial film versus maintaining the actual flooring material becomes highly apparent when “low maintenance” results in abrasion of the floor surface instead of the floor finish. This can ultimately end up as visually unacceptable or prompt replacement of the floor altogether.
Polishes are an integral aspect of maintaining VCT, and technicians that know how to maintain polish can keep a VCT floor looking great for years. Acrylic sealers and finishes are the most popular polishes used to maintain VCT. Used in conjunction with a good floor maintenance program of daily/ routine, periodic, and restorative service procedures, VCT flooring can be flawless for decades. There are many schools, hospitals, and large retail stores that can attest to that fact.
One of the most astonishing facts about VCT is that no matter how much abuse the floor is subjected to, if the tiles themselves are not damaged or broken, they can almost always be restored to an acceptable condition or better. For the floor maintenance technician, there is no better story than the one about how a pleased customer was astonished to find that his floor was not ruined, but completely restored to like-new condition by the flooring professional he hired.
The argument regarding high maintenance costs of vinyl composition tile may be a valid point; however, you can effectively maintain VCT and, in some cases, bring it back from the dead.
Stan Hulin has over four decades of hard floor maintenance, services, training, education, sales and marketing, and management experience with companies such as ABM, DuPont, and milliCare. He is president and CEO of Future Floor Technology Inc. and the League of Hard Flooring Professionals. He can be reached at [email protected].