Resilient flooring: vinyl

Resilient flooring: vinyl

It's the wipe clean sensible choice - yet lots of us think vinyl flooring is decidedly un-eco-friendly, not to mention a bit low-rent, so don't choose it so much these days. But Kay Hill finds many stylish designs and a product that's recyclable

Vinyl floor printed by Floorink

Resilient flooring is undoubtedly the most sensible choice if you have a house full of marauding kids and pets; and vinyl has tremendous powers of mimicry so it can look like wood, stone or metal, and it lasts for donkey's years. Pictured above: If you love Aran jumpers why not choose a 'woolly' floor by knitwear designer Melanie Porter....the image was digitally-printed by Floorink on recyclable vinyl by Forbo.

Resilient flooring may not be a term you're familiar with - even if you walk on a vinyl floor at home. In case you don't know it, it means flooring that is firm yet has some give or bounce and it can be made from synethic or natural materials - so PVC plastic, rubber or cork . 
 
The most widely used resilient flooring is vinyl, which is made from PVC, and perhaps the most well known brand is Amtico, with other key manufacturers being Karndean, Forb, Gerflor, Polyflor and British brand Harvey Maria.
 
Vinyl flooring has many advantages – it's warmer and more comfortable underfoot than stone or tiles, easier to keep clean and longer lasting than carpet. It can be made to look like stone, wood or metal, and it can be very affordable. It comes in myriad colours, on rolls or in tile form and you can be creative when it comes to making your own patterns and designs.
 
Lancs-based Floorink for example, works with Forbo to digitially print bespoke designs/patterns onto its vinyl - so if you want your kitchen floor printed with a historic map of Edinburgh, for example, well, that couldn't be easier (prices from around £105m2, min order size is 4mx2m).
 
But while a lot of us may be drawn to it for practical and aesthetic reasons, we might feel unsure about its eco merits.
Amtico's Urban Marble from its Signature collection, around £70m2, www.amtico.com
Technicolour stripe floor by Liverpool based Murafloor, which turns your images and artwork into vinyl flooring
Wood look vinyl from Amtico's Signature collection. £70 m2. www.amtico.com
Typography floor - printed by Floorink on Forbo vinyl. www.floorink.com
Copper vinyl floor tiles from Harvey Mari's Urban Colours range, £42.95m2, www.harveymaria.co.uk
Karndean's Looselay Series Three is designed so single pieces can be replaced if damager, £43m2, www.karndean.com
Neisha Crosland Parquet Charcoal vinyl tiles for Harvey Maria, £42.95. www.harveymaria.co.uk
Gerflor's Deco range. Product is fully recyclable. www.gerflor.co.uk
If you're on a budget, Moduleo's country oak vinyl is a good alternative to the real thing
VINYL: high scores for recyclability
 
Vinyl flooring polarises opinion – is it bad because it’s made from petrochemicals and can contain nasty gender-bending phthalate plasticisers? Or is it an unlikely hero for its longevity, resilience, imperviousness to water and grime and endless recyclability?
 
For just how complex the issue is, in its report What’s Wrong with PVC, Greenpeace lists worries about dioxin pollution from vinyl fires, hormone disruption from plasticisers, cancer, brain damage to babies and a whole lot more.
 
Yet co-founder of Greenpeace Dr Patrick Moore has defended PVC, from which vinyl flooring is made. In one interview he said: 'There is absolutely no evidence that vinyl damages human health or the environment. PVC is durable, low maintenance, recyclable and performs well on life cycle assessment tests.' So that clears that up then…
 
Some of the wood finishes available from Moduleo..they are very realistic
For a woven look, Gerflor has a vinyl tile that has a fabric-like look
Companies that make high quality vinyl flooring say it's vinyl's recyclability that makes it a green choice. At Belgian manufacturer Moduleo, for example, UK MD David Bigland says: 'All our floors contain up to 50 per cent recycled material of verified origin and can themselves be recycled; while our Belgian production plant meets the strictest EU air and water pollution policies.
 
'Our flooring is not only eco-friendly in production, but also in practice as cleaning does not require harsh chemicals and products also contain heat-insulating properties to cut down on heating requirements.'
 
At French brand Gerflor, sales and marketing manager John Hardaker says recycling is top of Gerflor’s environmental agenda: 'Most products are fully recyclable, nearly all post-production waste is recycled back into product manufacture and the company uses recycled waste from other manufacturers. In particular, Gerflor Fibre Technology vinyl floorings score highly on environmental benefits as they are 100 per cent recyclable, made with a significant proportion of recycled material and have a textile backing system made from 97 per cent recycled plastic bottles.”
 
At British manufacturer Harvey Maria, the company stresses the overall lifespan of vinyl flooring, as well as the recyclability of its floor tiles. The company says its floors are durable and long-lasting, 'helping to reduce the overall lifetime environmental impact from manufacture, distribution, installation and maintenance.  When compared to common alternative floor coverings, the lifetime environmental impact is much lower.'  
 
It’s also worth noting that vinyl uses around 15 per cent less energy in its manufacture than linoleum and half the energy of ceramic tiles.
 
Vinyl flooring comes in myriad colours, patterns and textures and manufacturers have become very good at making their 'wood' look very realistic
Blue Diamond design on vinyl flooring by Murafloor, www.murafloor.com
Bespoke geometric pattern printed on Forbo vinyl by Floorink. www.floorink.com
Moduleo's Jazz collection, from £20 m2, www.moduleo.co.uk
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Here’s what market leaders are doing to convince us that vinyl is a green choice:
 
Amtico: The company points out that alongside oil, the main ingredient of vinyl, 57 per cent is salt, something the earth has an inexhaustible supply of. In five years, Amtico has reduced waste by 93 per cent. It accepts its own post-consumer products back for recycling as well as recycling all of its production wastage back into the product. Amtico flooring is made in the UK, reducing carbon emissions from transport, and also has international certifications showing that its products have the lowest level of VOC emissions. Amtico’s premium Signature range comes with a lifetime warranty, while its easy-fit Click tiles have a 20-year warranty. 
 
Forbo: Better known for its linoleum, Forbo also makes vinyl floors in its European factories which are run on electricity from renewable sources. The vinyl flooring has a backing containing up to 60 per cent recycled materials, and the company accepts back its own vinyl waste and other post-consumer vinyl to recycle and reuse. The company claims that a micro-embossing technique reduces the need for chemical cleaning and increases the floor's lifespan. Its premium Allura range is guaranteed free from phthalates and comes with a five-year warranty. 
 
Gerflor: This French manufacturer has worked hard to reduce energy and water consumption during manufacture, eliminate phthalates in favour of bio plasticisers and reduce VOCs. All production waste and nearly all post-production waste, along with some end-of-use vinyl from other manufacturers is recycled, and the floors contain an average of 25 per cent recycled content. Guarantees last 10-15 years. 
 
Harvey Maria: this UK brand's vinyl tiles are fully recyclable and contain a proportion of recycled materials. The tiles are stronger than vinyl on a roll so are extremely hard-wearing, and come with a 15-year guarantee. The company is also involved in the Recofloor vinyl recycling scheme
 
Karndean: Recycled PVC is used in all of Karndean’s floors, and in some it makes up half of the material. All manufacturing waste is recycled in a closed loop system, and all of floors are recyclable. The company also claims that the manufacturing process for the polymer used in its luxury vinyl tiles uses less energy than that of other plastics. Some of its products are certified as having very low VOCs. Karndean, which is a family-owned UK business, offers warranties on its floors ranging from 12 to 20 years.
 
Moduleo: Vinyl tiles are made in a highly eco-friendly factory in Belgium which will shortly be run entirely on energy from owner IVC's own private wind farm. Tiles contain up to 50 per cent recycled materials and can all be recycled at the end of use. Moduleo offers warranties of 10-15 years on its flooring products. 
 
Polyflor: This UK manufacturer has reduced energy consumption in manufacture by 46 per cent and carbon emissions by 17,612 tonnes in 12 years. Rainwater is collected in tanks to substitute for mains supply. The product itself contains up to 40 per cent recycled materials and is 100 per cent recyclable, with some floorings also offering very low VOCs. Polyflor was a founder of Recofloor, the industry’s leading vinyl take-back scheme for recycling end-of-life post-consumer vinyl flooring - which has so far recycled enough flooring waste to cover 87 football pitches. Polyflor warranties last seven to 12 years. 
 
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