Vinyl flooring used to be boring. Remember the old school corridor? Flooring materials have taken huge strides over the past few years, and none more so than vinyl.
Yards of dull, faded colour stretching to infinity – or at least to the Head’s office. But nowadays flooring companies are responding more and more to the demands of the specifier, as he or she becomes more design-and value-conscious. Project requirements have also changed over the years – legislation now dictates certain criteria for public areas and the workplace. Fortunately, technology has moved forward in tandem with these changes, allowing manufacturers to offer a greater range of products for use by the creative designer.
In specifying a smooth floor finish, safety is obviously a prime concern. One of the biggest causes of accidents in both public and private areas is “slips and trips”, resulting in not only loss of man hours but also possible litigation. As a result, safety flooring is now being installed in all environments – from leisure areas to supermarkets. Smooth floor coverings are playing an increasing role in the office too, where anti-static flooring is often a requirement. Here the long-term performance of the floor finish is also an issue as it has to cope with the regular movement of office chairs and other furniture.
More often than not the designer will start with a list of technical and legislative criteria, and this may include requirements on slip, bacteria, acoustics, fire retardancy, static electricity and resistance to wear. Manufacturers’ brochures are often the first port of call, and it is obviously important that product literature has sufficient technical information for a first selection to be made. In addition to thorough literature, many flooring companies now have an in-house technical rep or department. These are able to give sound advice while cutting through the sales patter that was once inevitable.
Having satisfied the technical criteria, the actual design or decorative element comes into play. Traditionally the chequer-board effect was the easiest way to create a patterned floor, but with the increasing sophistication of new technology, bespoke decorative flooring and afforadable flooring selections are becoming more common.
The latest trend with vinyl and rubber flooring is to make it more interesting by adding graphics and patterns such as the school emblem, company logo or directional signage. Most major flooring companies have now invested in computerised cutting services . Often there is also a standard range of designs and borders available for those seeking a cost-effective option.