LVT: versatile, realistic designs for imaginative floors.
By Paul Barratt Managing director Karndean Designflooring.
KARNDEAN Design flooring has for many years been the most ‘go-to’ choice of flooring by specifiers in the commercial luxury vinyl tile (LVT) market and is most recognised for its authentic wood, stone and contemporary designs.
LVT is designed to replicate the characteristics and beauty of natural wood and stone but without the drawbacks that come with installing and maintaining the real thing. Available in individual planks and tiles, LVT is stylish and practical being waterproof, durable, easy-to-clean, and compatible with underfloor heating.
There are many designs and laying patterns to choose from, including parquet, basketweave or block designs, as well as straight lay, 45deg angle and 90deg angle. Decorative borders and design strips can also add unique elements.
LVT is a multilayer product that builds to create a highly durable flooring surface. Flooring specifiers need to understand the features of each layer making up the product they’re intending to use as part of a project. The combination of the five layers, as shown in the diagram below, creates a flooring product that has many benefits and offers a versatile flooring material.
The base layer of looselay LVT is designed to bond with an adhesive and adhere to the subfloor, while the wearlayer is a hard-wearing, transparent layer with a textured emboss for grip and effect. A top PU coating adds durability and facilitates lifetime maintenance, eradicating the need to seal the product post-installation.
Karndean’s registered embosses provide a tactile surface which emulates the exact image beneath so you see but also 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.
An important sustainability consideration is that Karndean’s products are recyclable, meaning production and post-production off-cuts can be granulated and recycled back into the product to reduce waste.
The authenticity of each design comes from the photographic film layer, which is based on the original wood or stone materials. Specifiers should look to suppliers who invest heavily in their design process to guarantee an authentic finish.
Karndean’s product designers search the world, from 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. This ensures every product has an individual story to tell, from its origins to its considered blend of colours and distinctive knots, grains and textures.
LVT should be manufactured to the international standard ISO 10582. As with all products, it’s essential standards are met to ensure quality installations that last. This ensures the product falls within quality and fit for purpose guidelines. It’s also worth looking out for the ISO 9001 certification for quality.
Subfloor preparation is vital
Like all floorcoverings, 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 bituminous 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.
A moisture test must be carried out to ensure the floor can be laid successfully. A newly built property will have a dampproof membrane (DPM) installed, to meet building regulations, however, if the subfloor hasn’t had time to dry out thoroughly, it may be necessary to install an additional surface DPM on the subfloor to prevent moisture rising through the floor.
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 over 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 and smooth surface. Natural wood floors shrink and expand depending on the atmospheric conditions.
The ply must be fitted with a ring shank nails or screws fixed at 150mm centres, finished flush with the surface. It may also be necessary to apply a levelling compound to ensure a level surface.
If a new LVT floor is replacing carpet or previous LVT, the installer must ensure the subfloor is clean, dry, smooth and sound and free of old adhesives and previous product.
With ceramics and stone, provided there is no damp and they’re secure, they can be overlaid with a smoothing compound prior to LVT installation. Specifiers should expect suppliers to provide comprehensive instructions for ease of installation.
With a huge range of realistic wood and stone designs to choose from, it’s easy to recreate the natural look of a wood or stone floor but with all the benefits of luxury vinyl flooring.
Using different shades of the same design, or a mix of wood and stone designs, LVT can be used to create zoning to facilitate wayfinding.
To create a personalised design or to identify areas that have different functions, designs can incorporate borders or ‘rug’ type features and use a combination of contrasting colours and textures.
In environments such as retirement or care homes that require a ‘home-from-home’ feel, specifying LVT in an authentic wood or stone effect can meet requirements for a domestic look yet also meet a project’s technical specifications. Making use of familiar looking wood flooring designs ensures care environments can also be soothing and comfortable.
Particularly important for areas designed to be dementia-friendly or suitable for the visually impaired, combinations of different colourways and light reflective values (LRV) can help people identify locations and direction, giving a sense of independence and security.
There are two common emboss types used in LVT products; a random texture (or emboss) and a registered emboss. The first provides an emboss that varies in texture, from a light emboss that barely effects the aesthetics of the product to a stronger texture that changes the look of the LVT from a smooth engineered finish to a more rustic appearance or even an effect that mimics a hand finished texture found in some wood products, such as hand scraped wood.
A registered emboss delivers a texture that is registered to, or matches, the image used in the print layer. For instance, a knot in a plank can be seen but the inherent roughness or texture can also be felt, and they match. Registered emboss products are available in woods, stone, pebbles and contemporary blend LVT products.
The thicker the wearlayer, the more durable the product. The international standards ISO 10582 and ISO 10874 help specifiers relate wear layer thickness of a product to its end-use suitability. For example, most commercial applications state that a 0.55mm wearlayer is required. This will provide good wear characteristics for heavy commercial applications. For very heavy commercial traffic areas, 0.7mm is preferable as this will provide a thicker wearlayer and therefore longer lasting floorcovering.
Where a product has a thicker wearlayer, it’s possible to supply the product with a bevelled edge. When the product is laid, these bevels bring a third dimension to the floor and add additional authenticity to the surface.
LVT is waterproof, resisting spills and avoiding dust and mites, contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment. Specifiers are advised to look out for floors benefiting from a surface protection system using PU technology. This will provide a hygienic and durable finish that will protect the floor for years to come.
With LVT products produced with a low volatile organic compound rating and using adhesives free from harmful emissions, specifying this flooring can help meet project requirements for anti-allergen environments.
It’s important to recognise the slip resistance of an installed floor can be affected by surface contamination such as water and grease from spillages, inappropriate maintenance techniques and wear. So, consideration must be given to whether the floor in use will be always dry or if contamination is likely and whether it will be subjected to heavy traffic, as these factors can influence installed slip resistance and safety.
The Pendulum Method (BS 7976) is used to assess the slip resistance of LVT in the UK and it’s the preferred method of the Health and Safety Executive. Testing the wet and dry rating, the Pendulum method was first introduced by the UK Slip Resistance Group.
Recognising the importance of slip resistance in health, care and education environments, Karndean has worked with its supply chain to develop a range of wood and stone designs, Opus Enhance, which boasts a result of 40-plus in the Pendulum Wet Test.
Versatile geometric designs
Although LVT has always offered endless design capabilities using wood and stone effect planks and tiles, solid colours and geometric shapes have been introduced to offer new opportunities to recreate create period features such as classical tiled floors or to design a unique statement floor.
With geometric shapes, such as triangles, chevrons and hexagons, cut in wood or stone designs, it’s possible to create a unique statement floor for any situation. A 3D effect can be created with repeating patterns in three colours to give an individual style and visual interest to commercial and residential spaces.
Alternatively, the opulence of historic interiors can be recreated with heritage patterns of tiles in solid colours. With such wide scope for shape and colour, the only limit to an LVT floor is the designer’s imagination.
Unlike other materials, LVT can be intricately cut to create any bespoke shape or image, logo and mission statement, which can be matched to fit in with the overall floor design.