By Bud Coburn
A sheet vinyl floor can be a cost-effective option that is typically less expensive than other types of flooring, but the cost of a sheet vinyl floor is directly related to its quality. Though it tends to be cheaper than other types of flooring, inexpensive vinyl may be of low quality, while more expensive vinyl is usually of better quality. Low-quality flooring can last for 10 years, while high-quality vinyl floors can last for 30 years or more. All vinyl flooring has a wear layer, but the more expensive vinyl generally has a thicker wear layer than the cheaper versions, providing more durability.
Issues Associated with Installation
Proper installation of sheet vinyl flooring actually requires a high level of skill, in addition to specific training. Sheet vinyl products have their own set of instructions and factory-approved compatible products. Underlayment, adhesives, nailing patterns, subfloor, and seam-sealers are not always interchangeable between different types of vinyl. Every component of the installation must be factory-approved for use with the specific type of vinyl being installed. Techniques specific to different vinyl materials may also need to be employed. The major sheet vinyl manufacturers print detailed instructions and guides that should be followed, and they also offer extensive factory training for professional installers. When sheet vinyl flooring is incorrectly installed, it leads to problems down the line.
- wrong patching;
- seam failure or open seams;
- the wrong adhesive;
- improper or lack of subfloor preparation;
- wrong underlayment material;
- cracking; and
- irregular surface.
After installation, time and temperature are important. For the first 24 hours after new vinyl flooring has been installed, all the seamed areas should be protected, and the seam sealer should not be walked on. The temperature of the room should be kept at around 68° F for at least two days after installation to allow the adhesives to set up properly.
The use of good-quality, compatible underlayment is essential to proper installation. Numerous types of underlayment can be paired with sheet vinyl, and it is important to correctly match products approved for use by the factory with the specific type of vinyl being installed. The underlayment must be completely free of any ink, oils, dirt, factory stamps, and residue from old adhesives before it is covered with vinyl in order to ensure that surface irregularities or adhesive failure do not occur.
Maintenance and Other Issues
- Dulling of Gloss
This is almost always the result of poor maintenance, and can be observed in high-traffic areas and under furniture. Dirt, dust and grit can act as sandpaper on the glossy finish, eventually eroding the sheen on the vinyl, if it is not cleaned on a regular basis. Dusting and mopping regularly will help prevent loss of sheen due to the impact of dirt and grit. Use of floor mats and track or area rugs can help preserve the vinyl installed in high-traffic areas.
Many commercial floor-cleaning “protectors” and polishes are available that provide a glossy surface and seal on the floor. However, some of these are not appropriate for all vinyl floors, and may, in fact, dull the floor rather than polish it. Those suitable for vinyl floors coat the surface to reduce wear and tear, and add an additional sheen to the surface. Using the wrong polishes will only dull the floor. The manufacturer’s recommendations for specific products should be checked before using any of these so-called “floor polishers.”
Once or twice a year, it may be advisable to strip a vinyl floor. A stripping solution (often provided by the manufacturer at the time of installation) is designed to remove the inevitable buildup of oils and soap residue that accumulate over time, even with regular maintenance. The stripping solution should return the vinyl floor to its original condition.There are also commercial refinishing products available for vinyl floors. These are rarely used and are appropriate only where heavy wear has worn the surface of the vinyl floor away, such as is common in commercial and public buildings. The refinisher re-seals the vinyl and adds a lustrous coating to its surface, but should be used only when the vinyl floor’s original surface has been compromised, and not as a polish. The manufacturer’s directions should always be followed carefully when using a commercial refinisher.
Yellowing and slight discoloration or staining are common in areas of high traffic, such as walkways between rooms and near entrances and exits. Often, asphalt sealers, dirt, oil, or anything else tracked indoors on the bottoms of shoes, including the soles of certain types of shoes themselves, can cause discoloration. This is a function of normal wear and tear on the vinyl. Regular cleaning and strategic placement of floor mats and rugs can help prevent discoloration.
Heat and direct sunlight can also cause discoloration. Areas near heating vents, radiator legs or supply pipes, as well as spots near windows and glass doors, may be at risk. It is best to avoid installing sheet vinyl flooring in spots that will be subject to high levels of heat, and to use curtains or shades on windows that would allow vinyl to be bathed in direct sunlight for extended times during the day.
- Surface Damage and Dents
These are usually the result of negligence or accidents. Furniture can cause scratches and dents if it is slid along the surface of the vinyl, or if couches or chairs with metal or angular feet that could be potentially damaging are used. Some types of shoes with very hard bottoms can scratch or scuff the surface of the vinyl, as well. Hard or sharp objects dropped on the floor can also cause gouges and dents. Padding under the legs of furniture can help prevent gouges, as can removing shoes before walking on the floor.
Repairs should be approached slightly differently, depending on the type of flooring and damage. With vinyl tile, it is generally best to simply replace the marred tile. Sheet vinyl requires patching or fusing of the surface.
Small cuts and scratches can be permanently fused with liquid seam-sealer, a clear compound that’s available wherever vinyl flooring is sold. Once the area is cleaned with a soft cloth dipped in lacquer thinner, a thin bead of sealer can be squeezed into the damaged area. After the sealer has dried, the repair should be virtually invisible.
For tears and burns, as well as larger dents and scratches, the ruined area can be cut out and replaced with a patch. This is done by placing a scrap of the same material over the damaged area and cutting through both pieces simultaneously to create a perfect- size replacement patch. The damaged area is then removed, and the freshly cut patch is glued down in its place. Installers will usually leave some scrap pieces of vinyl for exactly this purpose.Replacing a vinyl tile is also simple. The adhesive can be softened with a heat gun or even a blow-dryer, allowing the tile to be scraped out with a chisel or putty knife. A replacement tile can then be put in place after the subfloor has been cleaned and prepared for the new adhesive.