This is Not Your Mother’s Floor

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This is Not Your Mother’s Floor



There’s a new standard in town. For the past two decades, Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) has been the standard in resilient flooring. With a low upfront cost, it was inexpensive to purchase and install, but the maintenance was extensive. VCT required stripping and polishing every 6 months. In educational facilities, that equated to many hours of labor and many gallons of floor polish. Although the initial cost was low, the lifecycle cost was high. Then came a new product. Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) was introduced into the market as a resilient floor material that did not require polish. No polish meant no stripping and a simplified maintenance approach. As LVT has increased in popularity

in many industries (education, healthcare, commercial), the use of VCT has declined. The use of VCT has declined so much over the past few years that most commercial flooring manufacturers no longer produce it. Initially, at least four VCT manufacturers were providing products to the US market. Currently, there is one VCT manufacturer with a full line and another VCT manufacturer who recently filed for bankruptcy (with an unknown future). Conversely, at least ten LVT manufacturers are currently providing products to the US market. Supply is high, and demand is higher.

So what is this new flooring material?

Photos courtesy of Tarkett

What Is It?

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

It is vinyl tile or plank with an embossed surface. The embossed surface helps prevent the floor from being slippery.

The finish on LVT is meant to be matte. It is not meant to be shiny like polished VCT.

How Does It Compare?

Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT)

Made of colored polyvinyl chloride (PVC) chips shaped into solid sheets at 1/8” thick

Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

100% vinyl, a color of photographic film layer, and a protective wear layer

Initial Cost $2.50/SF installed

Lifecycle Cost $1.80/SF per year

Sweep and mop regularly, strip and polish every 6 months

Does not require a polish.

Initial Cost $6.00/SF installed Lifecycle Cost $0.50/SF per year

Autoscrub regularly with clear water (add ¼ oz. cleaner to 1 gal. water as needed)

Solid color background with flecks of varying colors, 12”x12” square tiles only

1 or 2

Variety of visuals (wood, stone, solid, abstract), variety of colors, sizes range from 18”x18” square to 3”x36”plank to 18”x36” rectangle

10 (minimum)

Type Composition Cost Maintenance Aesthetic Manufacturers
Vinyl Composition Tile (VCT) Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

How Is It Maintained?


Since LVT has an embossed surface, dirt can get trapped in the lower areas of the tile. Use of microfiber cleaning tools/pads is very important because it can pick up the dirt from the lower areas of the tile. If stick mops are used, they need to have microfiber heads, not cotton.


Based on a school of 100,000 SF, the heavily used floor areas such as corridors should be cleaned with an auto scrubber daily. The best case scenario is to use square/rectangular auto scrubbers instead of round, because it can get the corners better. Equipment such as ones with rectangular scrubbing heads have proven effective. There are no round corners in your facility so why use round equipment.

• If round auto scrubbers are used, then the corners will need to be cleaned manually.

• The pads for the auto scrubber should be microfiber or Astroturf


When auto scrubbing or wet mopping, clear water should be sufficient unless there is food or other oily/sticky items on the floor. In that case, a pH neutral cleaner can be used.

• Take caution to use only 1/4 oz. of cleaner to 1 gallon of water. (Even though the cleaner bottle may call for 1-3 oz. of cleaner.) Adjustments may be needed based on areas being cleaned (such as dining areas).

• Too many chemicals will cause a build-up on the floor and will make it sticky.

• Use of an auto dispenser for the cleaning chemicals is best in order to get the correct ratio.


Dust mopping should only be needed if particles or dirt are present on the floor. Otherwise, dust mopping should not be needed.

If gum or glue is present on the floor, use Goo-Gone or Goof Off to remove it. However, the use of home chemicals (like Fabuloso, 409, or similar) is not recommended because the facility is a commercial building.

Microfiber Stick Mop Microfiber Pad Mop Push-behind Auto Scrubber Riding Auto-Scrubber

Maintenance is key when it comes to flooring. Ensuring each educational facility’s maintenance staff understands the specific maintenance required for each type of flooring is critical.

The best way to do that is through training. Major flooring manufacturers are typically happy to provide that training by sending technical staff to a job site to demonstrate proper cleaning procedures with the local staff. Additionally, having a representative from the flooring manufacturer revisit the site yearly to inspect the performance and maintenance of the floor, and to answer any questions from the local staff, is very important.

H/S EXPERIENCE As human beings, we spend our personal and professional time within the built environment. As Architects, we are privileged to create spaces where people can gather, live, learn, work, eat, sleep, and worship. Therefore, it is incumbent that we design spaces that enhance the quality of life and nurture a greater passion for living. Our design approach is influenced by the environment, culture, and community in which architecture exists. To take it further... We Design for Life.

Although LVT is a new material in educational flooring, it has quickly become the industry-wide standard due to its durability, ease of maintenance, and aesthetic appeal. And as with any new product, it’s only as good as how well it is maintained. While the maintenance of LVT is much simpler than its predecessor VCT, maintenance is still crucial for the floor’s lifespan. Educating end-users on the proper way to care for LVT flooring is perhaps the most important lesson to be learned. By taking the necessary steps to maintain LVT flooring correctly, educational facilities can benefit from its durability for years to come. ■

is an Associate Principal and of Interior Design at Holly & Smith Architects. She is a member of the International Interior Design Association and International Facility Management Association. She has been involved in the design of education facilities for over 26 years. Prior to completion of the project, a maintenance tutorial provided by the flooring manufacturer showcases the proper cleaning techniques for the LVT flooring to the contractor and educates the client on its maintenance.
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