Is Vinyl the Right Material For Your Home? | Blog Post #16
Vinyl is a synthetic material that has been popular for over half a century and has many well-known pros and cons. Today marks the final instalment in a four-part series which evaluates the suitability of popular materials for interior surfaces. If you’re late to the party, don’t worry – here are the posts on marble, wood, and laminate.
Vinyl generally refers to polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the world’s third most common plastic. It is employed in a dizzying number of things around you, like PVC pipes, car seats, and even old-school discs for gramophones! Vinyl owes its popularity to its low cost and ease of installation, with many design options like wood or marble print. But just how well does it fare as an interior surfacing material?
This section describes how well vinyl withstands everyday abuse over the course of its lifespan, from falling objects and discolouration, to more insidious evils like mould and bacteria.
Scratch Hardness: 3/10
Scratch hardness describes how easily a material is scratched. PVC generally has a rating of 3 on the Mohs scale of hardness. A material can only be scratched by another material of equal or higher rating on this scale. For comparison, a copper penny rates 3, while your fingernail rates 2.5. Consequently, this rating means vinyl floors are easily scuffed or scratched by chair legs or fine grit underfoot. We recommend darker designs or tougher materials if you’re stickler for floor appearances.
Indentation Hardness: 6/10
Indentation hardness describes how easily a material gets dented by a prolonged force, like the weight of a heavy bookshelf. PVC is one of the harder commercially-produced plastics and recovers from impacts and extended compressions relatively well. However, it is known to dent permanently from time to time, so beware of dropping heavy loads like tools or gym weights around it.
Vinyl is generally not a long-term flooring solution. Instead, its low-cost allows it to be replaced as it is damaged – a rather frequent occurrence, considering its low scratch hardness.
Vinyl has the advantage of being water-proof, considering it neither absorbs nor reacts with water. However, depending on how your vinyl flooring is installed, a significant amount of water can seep beneath the vinyl tiles, allowing bacteria or mould to breed in recesses that are almost impossible to clean – short of ripping out your entire floor, at least.
Vinyl is also infamous for its reaction to rubber – even the briefest contact with natural rubbers, like those in shoe heels, can permanently discolour the material. This chemical reactivity extends to certain acids and bases, meaning strong household cleaners will discolour and denature your vinyl flooring. Denatured vinyl often starts peeling or cracking.
Like other cheap materials, vinyl’s strength lies in its replaceability. Vinyl tiles are small and affordable, allowing you to replace damaged sections at will. However, tile designs that are unusual or near the end of their production life may run out a year or two after you first install them. Thus, it is a necessary burden for owners of vinyl flooring to stockpile a healthy number of tiles for replacement, or go with a generic and commonly available design.
The number of pores on vinyl is often related to its price and quality – high quality vinyl is smoother and has fewer pores than cheaper versions. If you’re a loyal follower of this blog, you might know that no homeowner wants a porous floor. Pores trap dirt and organic debris, giving bacteria and mould room and board to flourish. Since vinyl doesn’t deal well with strong cleaners, we highly recommend getting high-quality vinyl tiles if you wish to use the material.
Corrosion Resistance: 4/10
Vinyl is a tough plastic, but it doesn’t fare well against strong chemical agents such as bleach. If you absolutely must disinfect your vinyl surface with bleach, ensure that you strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions and dilute your bleach accordingly. However, do note that even when diluted, strong cleaning chemicals will break down vinyl over time, so avoid using them too often or leaving them on too long.
This section is about the look and feel of a vinyl floor. Since these properties are perceived so subjectively, this section will omit any scoring. It’s entirely up to you, as a homeowner, to decide if the material’s aesthetics are a pro or con.
Appearance-wise, vinyl surfaces are versatile and come in many colours and designs. Pricier options also include some texturing, if you’re inclined. As a plastic, vinyl possesses the ability to absorb vibrations. If you’re fond of playing loud music or working out at home, a vinyl flooring will help maintain a friendly relationship with your neighbours. Vinyl floorings are also less chilly than marble or ceramic tiles, and quieter than hardwood flooring.
The Big Question
At the end of the day, is vinyl the right flooring for you? If you don’t mind: damaged tiles or frequent replacements; replacing tiles yourself or putting up with frequent contractor visits; storing a heap of tiles at home.
Answering yes to these questions is difficult for most, especially if you’re environmentally conscious. Unlike other materials, vinyl is inefficient to recycle. Hence, every time you replace a vinyl tile, the old one simply takes up more space at a landfill or contributes to global warming in an incineration plant.
If you’re looking for a material that has synthetic toughness and a huge range of design options, we suggest checking out a metallic epoxy coating for your floors and countertops. Aside from a ridiculous resistance to physical damage and chemical attack, metallic epoxy coatings can be customised to pretty much any colour and pattern the mind can conjure. For more on this wonder material, read one of our posts on the subject. If you’ve already heard of it and want more personalised information, drop us a message for a free consultation with an expert.
We have come to the end of this four-part series and hope that you’ve learnt many new things about your options for interior surfaces. Visit our other blog posts for a wider and deeper dive into protecting your home or stay tuned for our upcoming posts!