Sheet vinyl flooring is vinyl flooring that comes in large, continuous, flexible sheets. A vinyl sheet floor is completely impermeable to water, unlike vinyl floor tile, which comes in stiff tiles, and vinyl planks, which come in interlocking strips. It is sometimes called linoleum after a similar product of different (oiled linen) chemical composition.
Vinyl flooring is extensively used because it is water-impervious, fairly durable, adjustably resilient and insulating, easy to install, available with a variety of appearances, and inexpensive. Custom-print vinyl sheet flooring may cost an order of magnitude more, if ordered commercially,
However, vinyl flooring has environmental concerns in manufacturing, use, and disposal.
The three basic categories of vinyl sheet flooring are homogeneous, inlaid, and layered composite. Vinyl flooring differs in manufacturing process and polyvinyl chloride content.
Composite manufacturing begins with a fibrous backing sheet. This was often felt or paper (before 1980, often with asbestos); more modernly, it is generally fiberglass. This sheet is coated in vinyl and plasticizer. The resulting sheet is printed and possibly embossed (the print layer). Then the sheet is coated again with one or more protective wear layers, the topmost of which may be polyurethane, to avoid waxing.
Cushioned vinyl sheet was developed in the 1960s. It features closed-cell-foam lower layers. A cushioned floor has more give and spring.
Low-VOC vinyl flooring is certified by the industry group Resilient Floor Covering Institute. However, it still emits volatile organic compounds such as phenol; ventilation may not appreciably lower concentrations.
Durability and sustainability
Manufacture of polyvinyl chloride involves polymerizing vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen and has other negative health effects. Its escape into the environment is a concern. Other ingredients in vinyl flooring vary widely, and some are harmful.
The thickness of the sheet and the wear layer determines the durability of the floor; unlike linoleum, vinyl flooring is usually not homogenous, and once it wears through the print layer, it will be obviously damaged. Thinner floors may also tear. While it is possible to wax or otherwise resurface vinyl floors, it is not often done.
Vinyl floors can be recycled, but currently almost never are. They are landfilled rather than used as raw materials in a closed loop. Vinyl floor’s life cycle environmental impact is worse than that of linoleum.
Landfilled vinyl can leach phthalates (commonly added to flooring for flexibility).
Incinerated vinyl produces polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), dioxins, and other toxic chemicals. It can produce polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), especially at higher temperatures.
Vinyl flooring decomposes and releases toxic gasses, mostly hydrogen chloride, long before bursting into flames. This can kill fire victims and firefighters working without a SCBA. Vinyl fires are also hard to extinguish, due to the impermeability of vinyl.
As it does not let water through, sheet flooring is suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. Some types can be used in wet rooms.
Because the closed-cell foam backing of vinyl sheet can be varied, it can be given the resilience profile of sprung performance floor, suitable as a sports or dance floor. It can make a permanent or portable dance floor which can be laid on problematic surfaces such as concrete.
Some sheet vinyl flooring can be used outside.
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