Let’s take a closer look at the four types of flooring that make up the resilient category: Vinyl tile and sheet flooring is durable, stain and water resistant and comfortable underfoot. The colors and patterns available are very extensive, ranging from stone and wood looks to natural earth elements such as water and rocks.
It is available in two different wear layers: Urethane (a mid- to upper-end finish that protects the printed layer from most scuffs, spills and potential staining) and Poly-vinyl Chloride (PVC, a more basic wear layer that wile protective, does not safeguard the printed layer as effectively).
Advantages, in addition to those mentioned above, include ease of replacement when damaged, low maintenance and ability to adapt to uneven areas. Disadvantages include off-gassing in low-end varieties and worse, the product cannot be recycled. To note its history, vinyl composition tile was first exhibited in 1933 in Chicago, but it wasn’t marketed much until after the war years. However, by the 1970s, vinyl was the most popular flooring choice. Take a look at the Congoleum Company, which has been in business for over 120 years, if you’d like to track the development of this product.
The next category of resilient flooring is Cork, which has been around since its introduction in 1904, though it has only re-entered the public consciousness recently, due to its sustainable, environmentally-friendly and durable qualities.
Resilient Floor Brands
Stripped from the exterior of the cork oak tree (a sustainable practice that occurs about every nine years, leaving the tree intact and capable of bark regrowth), this renewable resource offers a pliable “give” underfoot due to its natural cellular structure. This renewable resource is available in four different types of readiness: unfinished, stained and ready to urethane; unfinished, unstained and ready to urethane; pre-finished and urethane covered; and pre-finished and vinyl-covered.
Sound absorbent, resistant to mold and mildew and fire-resistant, cork is available in tiles and planks, as well as finished and unfinished. It coloration is within the “natural” tone realm: brown, black and yellows, though it can be dyed other more intense colors as well.
Unfortunately, cork may initially emit a sort-of “earthy” odor and will also expand and contract slightly due to changes in humidity and temperature. If exposed to sun, the color will fade over time. Being it is a natural product, cork may succumb to abrasion with repeated foot traffic, though you will often see cork products in commercial areas such as museums, libraries and government centers.
Moving onto our next category, Rubber, you might think this kind of flooring is destined only for car dealerships, gymnasiums and cruise line decks. You might be surprised to discover that rubber flooring has been a part of the public eye since 1894!
Patented by a Philadelphia architect, Frank Furness, the first rubber tile flooring was easy to clean and install, but unfortunately stained easily and deteriorated readily. It has come a long way since that time, believe me.
The good news is rubber is experiencing a Renaissance in revival due to its clear, uniform colors, dense, smooth surface and recyclability. While ultimately suited for extra heavy traffic and thus is used primarily in commercial areas, it is now found in residential exercise rooms, bathrooms – even laundry rooms. Its cost is somewhat high, but the hard-wearing qualities offset the initial expense, offering decades worth of usage.
What is rubber flooring anyway? Well, just what you may have suspected. Most rubber flooring is a combination of recycled automotive tires, post industrial waste rubber and virgin rubber. It’s good to know that the piles of discarded tires we have seen in the past are finally being put to good use. Note, too, that while there is a lot of dark rubber flooring on the market, new innovation is allowing for some experimentation with vibrant colorations.
Finally, let’s examine the gloriously colorful Linoleum, one of the oldest “earth-friendly” flooring materials around. Derived from a combination of linseed oil, cork and wood flour, pigments and pine resins, linoleum has benefited from improved technology to allow better and brighter color consistency.
Linoleum has had an interesting history, first surfacing in the late 1900s as an affordable flooring option. Being wood and tile was only affordable by the very wealthy, linoleum bridged that gap.
Unfortunately, it gained a bit of a reputation in the early to mid-20th century: You may recall the wild color and pattern experimentation of that time, when boomerang patterns, speckles and whimsical patterns decorated our ancestor’s floors. Linoleum took on a kind of, well tacky cachet. People began to turn their noses up at the product and sales plummeted.
Today, due to its biodegradable, recyclable properties (the word linoleum is Latin for flax (linum) and oil (oleum)) and its vibrant colors, as well as the allowing designers to use great imagination with color patterning and combinations, cutting and piecing at will, linoleum is again being shown in high-end interiors.
Though somewhat more labor intensive to install, it is well worth the end result: linoleum is easy on the feet, dust repellant due to its natural anti-static properties and is a snap to clean.