Successful LVT installation: Flooring Forensics - Mar 2014

By Lew Migliore


Luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, is one of the fastest growing hard surface flooring materials on the market today. Everyone making hard surface flooring, and even manufacturers who aren’t, want to jump on the bandwagon of LVT’s popularity.

What drives manufacturers’ desire to enter this product category? First is its versatility from a styling perspective. LVT can be extraordinarily beautiful with vibrant colors and texturing and offers opportunities for customization, from business logos to intricate patterns. LVT can be made into planks or tiles that can resemble wood, stone or metal plates. With all these options for styling, it’s no wonder that LVT is popular; it adds a wonderful design element to a space as a palette against which all other decorative items are showcased. 

Not only does LVT look good, but it is also an extraordinarily high performance flooring material, for the most part. I make that qualification because, as every Tom, Dick and Harry enters the LVT market, product quality can be marginalized as producers cut corners, thinking a lower price will increase their sales. The floorcovering industry is notorious for taking a great idea and seeing how fast the price can be driven to the basement, so, if you’re buying LVT to sell or install, make certain that you’re choosing product from a manufacturer not afflicted by the dreaded “make it cheaper” mentality. You want this product better, not cheaper, in keeping with its name—luxury vinyl tile—luxury being the operative word here. 

As with all flooring products, you want to make sure you understand the product you’re buying and where it will work—in addition to knowing where it won’t work. By making your purchase from a reputable manufacturer with a history of producing quality flooring, you can be more comfortable the products will perform. That being said, when selling LVT find out what styles are rated for a particular application. As with all flooring materials, the biggest problem is the wrong product installed in the wrong place, which then does not live up to the expectations of the end user. Remember, when the end user is buying luxury vinyl tile, the perception is that the product is of top quality and offers high performance. 

Installation of LVT is generally no different, as far as the basics are concerned, from any other flooring material. Like the material, the installers must be of the highest quality. They should be versed in the idiosyncrasies of this product and capable of installing and working with it in a professional manner. As for preparation, the substrate must be clean and dry, free of contaminants that will compromise the installation. Moisture levels must also be checked prior to installation, as they should be with any flooring material. LVT should also be acclimated to the environment, which means placing the LVT in the space it is to be installed in, so that it can relax. The space has to have the HVAC system operating as it would if it were occupied. Whatever the LVT product being installed, the installer should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines exactly as they are written, which includes using the specified adhesive and trowel size. An easy way to make an installation of LVT fail is to use inferior adhesives, not apply enough adhesive and not install into the adhesive when it is properly set up. 

Furthermore, the substrate also needs to be smooth because every imperfection will eventually telegraph through to the top. Installing LVT over old cut-back adhesive, that black gooey stuff exposed when removing old vinyl, laminate or commercially installed carpet, should never be done. The cut-back must be removed, encapsulated or a barrier coat of sealer applied to combat a reaction and failure of the installation. Even when this is done, there could be a failure in the future if you don’t do moisture testing prior to installation. The substrate doesn’t care who you are or how smart you think you are; it answers to the laws of physics and chemistry. Do everything right so nothing goes wrong. 

There are several methods for installing LVT—like click, loose lay and overlap strip—but the preferred method is direct glue down, even over moisture sensitive flooring. Just because a click system means the flooring will float doesn’t mean it can’t be affected by moisture. The substrate must also be level, as with any flooring but especially with a tile, so that the material won’t run off square when installed, creating gaps and spaces in the installation.

Copyright 2014 Floor Focus 

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