Specifier’s Guide shows way on LVT

IT’s not always easy being an architect, designer, facilities manager or specifier. There are so many areas of responsibility that few can be blamed for wondering where to start with respect to a new installation. One responsibility sometimes regarded as an unsexy part of their job is flooring – whether that’s in gyms, hospitals, nursing homes, retail locations, schools or universities. But now help is at hand.

The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring, which was launched in May during Clerkenwell Design Week, is a guide intended to help FMs, designers, architects and specifiers with their installations.

The guide is packed with information (complemented by generously sized images) from manufacturers in every sector of flooring, from acoustic vinyl and adhesives to carpet tiles, cork, linoleum, resin and solid hardwood flooring. Below are examples of how the guide provides advice on decorative vinyl and LVTs.

Sport flooring

Gerflor’s Taraflex vinyl sports flooring is designed for sporting and non-sporting activities. Catering for elite sporting performance and everyday education and community life, it’s versatile enough to be used in various multi-specialist applications and affordable for new projects and refurbishments.

According to David Carter, sport marketing and communications manager for Gerflor, although premium budgets are available for a wide range of sports flooring, it’s important to weigh up quality and cost. ‘Flooring may seem expensive at first,’ he writes, ‘but when you consider the value of the floor underneath and the equipment and people it’s there to protect, you’ll easily realise it’s a necessary expense that should be seen as an investment.’

It’s also critical, advises Carter, to not just consider the initial cost of the flooring but the use of each zone and the lifespan of the flooring. ‘Some flooring may be more expensive but could last twice as long, thus working out as a less expensive option over the product’s lifetime.

He adds: ‘Making that shift in mindset isn’t too difficult, but it does require research. You’ll need to do your homework when specifying your sports flooring project, which means doing more than just reading reviews and learning which types of reviews to trust.’

Installing a sports surface that will stand the test of time and deliver a legacy of top level performance and safety through its lifecycle is hugely important – and making that investment now will yield rewards way down the line, says Carter, adding that it’s akin to making a large capital purchase like a car or a house.

‘A sports floor surface is arguably the most important element of a sporting facility to its players and designing, building and managing indoor sports premises need high quality and sustainable sports floorings that provide the comfort, safety and performance aspects that are so crucial to everyone taking part in sport on that floor,’ writes Carter.

‘Clearly aesthetics, acoustics, hygiene, resistance to wear, easy maintenance and good indoor quality are key factors to sports venues. However, when it comes to reducing the risk of injury, minimising the severity of an injury, should it occur, and helping prevent short- and long-term impact injuries, then the choice of sports flooring is critical.’

Carter says: ‘It’s a valid argument to say you get what you pay for. Sports flooring like many other sporting products is all about supplying quality that really performs versus the lifetime cost of the product. Sports flooring is no different.

‘As the performance qualities required differ from sport to sport and venue to venue, the new generation of sport floorings is rising to the challenge of delivering solutions fit for champions. Gerflor has more than 70 years’ experience with its Taraflex sports flooring. It offers a wide range of colours and is suitable for various applications. Taraflex sports floors have been used since 1947 at the largest sports federation events (volleyball, handball, badminton, table tennis).

‘Through partnerships with these federations, Gerflor has been present at the Summer Olympic Games since 1976. It’s an Olympic pedigree stretching back over an incredible 42 years.’

To continue reading this advice, refer to pp88-92 of The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring

Luxury vinyl tiles (LVT)

‘It’s important for any flooring specifier to understand what layers make up the product they’re intending to use as part of a project,’ says Paul Barratt, managing director of Karndean Designflooring.

‘LVT is a multilayer product that builds to create a highly durable flooring surface,’ he writes. ‘The combination of layers (clear PVC-embossed wearlayer; K-Guard+ surface protection; high definition photographic layer; and backing layer) creates a flooring product that has many benefits against traditional flooring materials. Starting from the base layer, where it’s formed to bond with an adhesive and adhesive to the subfloor, to the top PU coating for added durability and easy maintenance, eradicating the need to seal the product post-installation.

The wearlayer, Barratt explains, is a hardwearing but transparent layer embossed with a texture for grip-and-effect. ‘It’s only registered embossed products which emulate the exact image beneath. For example, you not only see but feel knots and textures. The thickness of the wearlayer ultimately determines the overall performance of the floor, and therefore the thicker the wearlayer, the longer the floor will last.’

The authenticity of each design comes from the photographic film layer, which is based on the original wood or stone materials, says Barratt. ‘Specifiers should look to suppliers who invest heavily in their design process to guarantee an authentic finish.’

Karndean’s product designers search the ancient forests of Europe to the remote Australian outback and beyond to seek out expressive and intriguing forms in the natural world to influence unique floor designs. It ensures every product has an individual story to tell – from its origins to its distinctive knots, grains and textures.

‘LVT should be manufactured to the international standard ISO 10582 which has superseded EN649,’ says Barratt. ‘As with all products, it’s essential standards are met to ensure quality installations that last. This guarantees the product falls within quality and fit-for-purpose guidelines.

‘It’s also worth looking out for the ISO 9001 certification for quality to guarantee the product being specified is of a high quality.’

Like all floorcoverings, says Barratt, the most important part of any installation is the preparation of the subfloor. ‘In fact, we estimate the subfloor preparation makes up 75% of the time required when installing an LVT floor. It’s imperative it’s clean and dry, free from oils and bisemous compounds.

‘The floor must be smooth, sound and level, and be less than 75% relative humidity – this should always be checked by the contractor or installer.’

First, to ensure the floor can be laid successfully, a moisture test must be carried out. When installing a floorcovering in a newly-built property it will have to be a damp-proof membrane (DPM) installed, thanks to building installations.

‘However,’ continues Barratt, ‘it may be necessary to install an additional surface DPM on the subfloor to prevent moisture rising through the floor if the subfloor hasn’t had time to dry out thoroughly. With refurbishments, a screed is often required to ensure a smooth and level subfloor, which will also need to dry to less than 75% relative humidity. If relative humidity is above 75% a liquid DPM must be applied prior to the floorcovering going down.

‘When laying on to wooden floors it’s imperative the floor is prepared by overlaying with a good quality 6mm plywood complying with BS 8203-2017 to form a strong, smooth surface. Natural wood floors shrink and expand depending on the atmospheric conditions.’

To continue reading this advice, refer to pp12-16 of The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring

Sheet vinyl flooring

Tom Rollo, marketing manager of Polyflor, says sheet vinyl is an incredibly versatile flooring option which is available in a vast number of colours, designs and specifications, offering specifiers a solution to suit almost any project they’re working on.

‘As both a high performance and high design product, sheet vinyl flooring can be functional and practical, as well as a stand-out design feature in an interior scheme. As the market develops, further advancements are being made to diversity of the sheet vinyl products available to cater to the demands of modern interior design projects and the expectations of clients.’

With a multitude of building materials at an architect’s or specifier’s disposal, commercial sheet vinyl has had to evolve into a high-performance product and a design-led flooring option worthy of consideration for education, healthcare, office, retail environments and more, notes Rollo.

‘Specifiers need to consider the use of a space before selecting a suitable sheet vinyl floorcovering,’ says Rollo. ‘How much foot traffic will there be? Is enhanced slip resistance required? Is impact sound an issue in this building? What design will work with this interior design scheme? The sheet vinyl flooring market offers flooring solutions to these requirements a specifier has on their checklist, and there are various vinyl flooring types for them to choose from.’

These types include:

Homogenous flooring which is made up of a single layer, manufactured by calendaring and pressing, to ensure a dense, smooth structure

Heterogeneous flooring which has a construction made up of multiple layers, including a clear PVC wearlayer, an integral printed layer and a PVC backing.

Safety flooring products offer sustainable wet-slip resistance for areas that are a potential slip hazard. These products are now a combination of style and substance, with warmer, brighter and more contemporary designs available.

Acoustic flooring is designed to tackle noise transfer throughout a multilevel building. Good quality acoustic vinyl flooring features a closed-cell foam backing which will provide a reduction in impact sound exceeding UK Building Regulation requirements of 17Db.

Specialist hardwearing SD (static dissipative) and EC (electrostatic conducive) flooring is another type of sheet flooring required for ESD critical locations. Electrostatic discharge caused by the scuff of a shoe or the scrape of a chair creates an electron imbalance which can have serious consequences.

Residential: Sheet vinyl flooring is an ideal choice for commercial and residential environments, so it’s an increasingly popular flooring solution used in the housing sector. Commercial grade sheet vinyl products are often used for heavy footfall communal areas such as staircases and entranceways, while domestic grade products are suitable for inside homes.
Installation: Most commonly available in 2m widths, sheet vinyl flooring can be welded together using a ‘cold’ chemical weld or hot welded using weld rod in a complementary shade, which will make the appearance of any joins subtle.

Maintenance: Vinyl flooring is also easy to clean and maintain, often featuring a polyurethane reinforcement which allows for a polish-free maintenance regime and optimum appearance retention, helping prevent stains and scuff marks.

Environmental impact: Another benefit of vinyl flooring is that it’s environmentally sound building material. Over it’s whole lifecycle, a vinyl floorcovering performs comparably or better than competing materials across a range of impacts. Vinyl is exceptionally energy efficient to manufacture (using less energy than other plastics and linoleum) and is highly durable with a 20-25-year lifespan if correctly if installed and suitably maintained. As a material, vinyl is ideally suited to being recycled. It’s 100% recyclable and can be recycled many times over without losing its performance properties.

To continue reading this advice, refer to pp6-10 of The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring

Acoustic vinyl

Ortwin Top, product manager at Itec Contract Floors, says throughout commercial, public and education environments, the presence of noise is often problematic, particularly in areas where partitioning or furniture cannot act as acoustic insulators. Even when such insulators are present, anything that can be done to combat noise is welcome. As one of the largest surfaces in any building, the floor has a role to play in dealing with acoustics, but one must also bear aesthetics, practicality and durability in mind.

For many retro-fit environments when the application of advanced acoustic subfloor constructions isn’t possible, the ability of the floorcovering to absorb sound can be even more significant. Traditionally, acoustic absorption has been left to textile-based floorcoverings, but there are instances when these simply aren’t practical.

In areas that need to withstand high levels of wear, provide ease of use for wheeled traffic and remain easy to clean under normal schedules, then alternatives need to be sought.

Acoustic performance from vinyl flooring: Vinyl flooring meets these performance requirements and is favoured in healthcare and education establishments for this very reason, but until quite recently did little to deal with noise-related issues. However, there are now specially developed acoustic vinyl floors that are tested to reduce impact sound by up to 19dB, while retaining the performance characteristics of traditional heterogeneous vinyl flooring.

Excellent acoustics in a wide range of environments: A chief advantage of acoustic vinyl is that it can deliver excellent acoustic performance in a wide range of locations. In fact, if there is a need for a low maintenance, hardwearing floor that stays looking good but that can also deal with sound; acoustic vinyl is an ideal choice.

More than just noise: With such wide-ranging applications, it’s certainly important acoustic flooring delivers performance and so floors are packed with technology that enhances usability. All acoustic flooring from Itec Contract Floors is equipped with Hyperguard+, a polyurethane wear layer technology that provides a long-lasting low maintenance surface that resists scuffs and stains.

Universal performance in a range of authentic looks: Using a drum-printed décor layer, acoustic vinyl is extremely adaptable when it comes to aesthetics. With everything from popular wood and stone effects, through to mineral looks and even bright and bold colours; it proves that delivering a functional flooring surface doesn’t have to mean a compromise in aesthetics.

Seamless looks: A huge tell-tale sign of all types of vinyl flooring, including acoustic, has been the presence of ugly welded seams. At best a noticeable division and at worst spoiling a perfectly good wood effect, these four-mm wide joins have long been seen as the only way to install vinyl flooring. While manufacturers had done much to colour-match weld rods, it is still a rather unsightly method.

A matter of width: Selected acoustic flooring ranges, including Silento Design and Silento Timber from Itec Contract Floors, are available in two and four-metre roll widths, ensuring waste and seams are minimised. Fewer seams reduce potential failure ‘hotspots’ and this is making four-metre wide vinyl flooring particularly popular in open congregation areas, where the wider sheet also helps create a more attractive floor. Of course, in thoroughfares, a two-metre wide floor makes more sense, and this can be achieved without comprising aesthetics: the same décor can be selected in the most appropriate width.

Acoustic flooring: As a floor that can help combat the issue of noise as part of wider measures throughout the rest of the refurbishment or build, acoustic vinyl flooring makes complete sense. However, it shouldn’t be relied solely on as while excellent at reducing noise without compromising performance, it’s by no means as effective at dealing with impact sound as a dedicated subfloor construction would be. Nevertheless, in occasions where acoustic performance is being combatted through other measures it makes a formidable partner.

To continue reading this advice, refer to pp18-22 of The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring

Looselay vinyl

Paul Barratt, managing director of Karndean Designflooring, says LVT has always been recognised as a traditional glue-down only floorcovering, but in 2013 Karndean Designflooring remained true to its promise to innovate by introducing the first looselay flooring to the market.

‘A unique format of LVT boasting the realistic designs of real wood and stone, but with enhanced acoustic properties, easy-fit approach and excellent environment credentials, it’s fast become the preferred alternative to carpet tiles or ceramic tiles,’ he writes.

‘Karndean Looselay is a range of luxury vinyl flooring featuring a unique K-Wave friction grip backing and increased dimensional stability that holds the product in place, with no click or lock required. It creates a strong secure installation using a combination of weight and friction.

‘Importantly, it opens up opportunities for specifiers looking for more flexibility when specifying for projects with challenging deadlines or where end-users are looking for a temporary option.’

Why looselay?: As well as offering a wide-ranging palette of wood designs such as traditional oaks, contemporary blends and exotic species, Barratt says there are also popular stone effects including travertine, concrete and slate. ‘It’s the perfect option for specifiers looking for a quicker fit than traditional LVT floors meaning reduced installation times and costs.

‘There’s also no in-depth subfloor preparation required in most cases and looselay can be installed over most hard and flat floors as long as they’re dry, smooth, sound and dust-free.

‘Looselay designs are compatible with underfloor heating and ideal for raised access floors where access to underfloor services is required. It can also be easily lifted and replaced or reused in a separate area.’

Acoustic benefits: With wellbeing and increased productivity being linked to happiness in the workplace, acoustic qualities remain high on the agenda for most specifiers, says Barratt. ‘In multi-level office or retail spaces where noise transfer can be an issue or consideration, Karndean LooseLay can be specified to reduce noise transfer to rooms below by 13dB.

‘Unlike natural wood and stone, loose lay is also quieter and softer underfoot – ideal for environments where staff are constantly on their feet. Pioneering fashion brand Farfetch opted for Karndean LooseLay in its new London headquarters as it delivered the industrial, yet luxurious backdrop required as well as the acoustic benefits.’
Applications in practice: Like LVT, looselay is just as versatile and can be used in many commercial applications including education, healthcare, office, retail and leisure environments, Barratt points out. ‘Karndean LooseLay is 4.5mm thick with a 0.55mm wearlayer and ideal for heavy-duty commercial installations.

‘With healthcare establishments looking to floors with a sufficient slip resistance rating for peace-of-mind when protecting the safety of users, specifiers should expect looselay floors to offer an R10 slip rating. Importantly, Karndean LooseLay is designed for commercial dry areas, therefore wet-rooms should be avoided.

‘Hygiene is also just as important and most looselay floors will offer a PU technology to provide a hygienic, easy-to-clean and durable finish. Karndean LooseLay features a K-Guard technology to ensure there’s no need for the specifier to apply an additional surface treatment following installation. Berrington Court is a fine example of a fresh approach to retirement living for residents with 500sq m of Karndean LooseLay throughout the large, open-plan residential communal space and reception.’

To continue reading this advice, refer to pp23-26 of The Specifier’s Guide to Flooring