Luxury vinyl tiles rival the real thing

Vinyl flooring isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find underfoot at the upscale Harrods Department Store in London, the high-visibility set of NBC’s “Today Show” in Manhattan or the high-traffic main entrance at Hillcrest Medical Center.

But Amtico luxury resilient flooring is at home everywhere from a residential contemporary kitchen to an historical home’s entryway and from posh boutiques to busy airports.

The product has been available in Europe for 30 years, and wasn’t introduced in the United States until almost two years ago, but in that time both commercial and residential orders have been pouring in from around the country, said Mary Docker, business development director at Amtico, in a phone interview from Amtico Co. Ltd. headquarters, Coventry, England.

Amtico has more than 100 U.S. retail dealers, a showroom at the New York Design Center and a studio in Atlanta, which is also its U.S. headquarters.

Most of the eco-friendly flooring’s designs and colors are borrowed from nature such as wood, marble and stone. Parquet and brick designs are also available. For a more glitzy look, the metallic collection features variegated metallic-ore colors.

Although made of vinyl, the flooring looks amazingly like the real thing, said Mac Harbour, owner of Harbour Paint &Wallcovering.

“It’s not until you get down and touch it that you can tell it’s not real marble,” said Harbour, of the floor he recently installed at Hillcrest.

Docker said even craftsmen at home shows have mistaken Amtico’s wood flooring for laminated real wood, and she’s seen couples have arguments over what it is.

Flexibility, versatility and durability are Amtico’s biggest draws. Because of the vast designs, variations and colors available, virtually every floor has a custom-designed look. Plus it’s easy to care for and continues looking good after years of heavy traffic, said Docker.

The product is also attractive to the environmentally conscious because they can get a natural look, knowing that forests weren’t chopped down or that quarries weren’t raped of their marble. Plus all waste produced during manufacturing of the product is recycled and used on the bottom two layers of the flooring, said Docker.

The flooring is composed of five layers, said Harbour. The bottom two layers are made of recycled polyvinyl chloride, the third layer is color or the design, and the top two layers are clear. The clear layers give depth to the flooring’s design, creating a more realistic look.

Designers find it an exciting product because they’re able to create virtually any design. You can have a Mona Lisa on your kitchen floor, if that’s what you want, said an Amtico representative.

In homes, the most popular room to use Amtico is the kitchen, followed by the bathrooms, then entryhalls and family rooms, said Harbour.

Businesses choose the flooring for its durability, but also to add a distinctive touch to a standard design or to incorporate the company’s logo or name, said Docker.

“Depending on the design used, the color, the product, you can create any feel. For an Old World look, you can use the marbles or woods. If you want to go really way out, you can use the metallics and a wacky border,” said Docker. “It’s such a fun product to work with because you can cut it into almost any shape that the designer wants.”

At a natural history museum, for instance, dinosaur footprints in the Amtico flooring lead to the dinosaur exhibit, and one designer created a 33-by-33 Monopoly board out of the flooring for a toy shop, said Docker.

Amtico uses a computer-aided design process and advanced cutting techniques that enable designers and their clients to custom design their own floor, to reproduce a design to scale or to modify existing designs, she said.

Once a customer selects a floor, the order is custom cut and sent to the retail dealer – Tri-County Flooring America. The dealer receives custom and standard designs in numbered pieces and installs the floor much like putting together a puzzle. Depending on prep work, a job usually takes around three days to complete, said Harbour.

Because the flooring designs are all made from the same product, woods can be combined with marbles, granites, metallics and so on, in virtually seamless borders, patterns and motifs, said Docker.

The flooring is warmer underfoot than marble or tile, and because it’s resilient it’s more comfortable to walk on and offers more traction. Compared to real wood flooring, Amtico wood won’t warp, doesn’t need sanding or refinishing and resists heel marks and indentations, said Harbour.

Each design collection can be cut to any size or shape or can be ordered in standard sizes. For example, the wood collection is available in standard plank sizes from 3-by-36 inches to 9-by-39 inches. The granite collection is available in standard 12-by-12-inch, 12-by-18-inch and 18-by-18-inch tiles. Accent squares and stripping, which can be used between tiles and planks, can be custom cut and are available in standard sizes from 36-by-1/8 inches to 36-by-3/4 inches.

Some collections are available in both smooth and textured surfaces. Standard borders and motifs are available in any combination of colors.

Prices begin at $9 a square foot, including installation, for standard designs, and range from $9 to $11 and higher for custom designs. Condition of the original floor’s surface can raise the price.

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