The Dirt on LVT
By Stan Hulin
The development of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) over the last decade has increased the sales of these products significantly. Floor Covering Weekly estimates 1.87 billion square feet of luxury vinyl tile worth 1.50 billion dollars was sold in 2016. This represents a substantial percentage of resilient flooring sales.
Since LVT began making inroads in the United States flooring market, it has been touted as a game changer, especially in the resilient category. Every year seems to bring more and more attention to this product and rightfully so. Sales in 2016 represented 50.83 percent by value and 34.99 percent by volume of the resilient category (see below graphic).
The term “luxury vinyl tile” is not recognized as an ASTM classification in the flooring industry; however, the name and acronym are recognized as accepted terminology and used extensively. Technically, LVT is defined by ASTM F1700 – 13a: Standard Specification for Solid Vinyl Floor Tile as Class III, Printed Film, Type A (smooth surface) or Type B (embossed surface). Because it is really a sub classification of solid vinyl tile (SVT), and due to its physical properties, it was named LVT, which is much easier to remember and say.
Luxury vinyl tile construction
Commercial LVT is a high-quality flooring material that is manufactured as a layered product (see graphic below). The construction consists of a base layer (LVT back) and core (solid rigid core) of poly vinyl chloride, which is flexible yet stable.
The next layer is a printed film (decorative layer) with a high-resolution digital image that resembles stone or wood or has an abstract design. The printed film is protected by a heavy-duty, clear vinyl, wear layer (urethane wear layer) that can be up to 30 mils thick — 1 mil is equal to 1/1,000 of an inch — and is applied over the surface. LVT manufacturers often provide an application of urethane or polyurethane coating as additional protection, which may contain aluminum oxide or silica for reinforcement.
Maintenance of luxury vinyl tile
LVT is manufactured predominately in tile and plank form, which may vary in dimensions and design. The properties and characteristics of the flooring make it an aesthetically pleasing alternative to natural wood and stone, and it can be used in many environments. The durability of the wear layer and polyurethane coatings give LVT a surface that can endure for years if maintained correctly.
The maintenance for LVT is the real game changer. Floor maintenance technicians traditionally have maintained vinyl flooring products using sacrificial polishes with various levels of buffing/ burnishing, agitation, abrasion, and reapplication of polishes. Because of the durable wear layer and polyurethane coatings, most traditional service procedures are not warranted. That does not mean that floor maintenance is eliminated altogether; it just changes the dynamics of the service procedures and the frequency in which they are performed.
The daily/ routine and periodic maintenance procedures are the key factors to keeping LVT flooring looking its best. Performing the dry soil removal and proper mopping procedures frequently is essential for the longevity of the floor. Machine scrubbing, with soft or medium scrubbing brushes or pads, and general-purpose cleaner will still be required periodically.
The use of acrylic polishes is not necessary but is sometimes allowed by manufacturers. When maintaining LVT products, it is always best to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures for optimum results.
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