I recently attended a meeting with a number of leaders in LVT manufacturing. One attendee referred to his product as“a luxury flooring system featuring vinyl chemistry technology.”That’s ingenious, and a pretty accurate definition of pure LVT.

If you are still lumping LVT into a generic category with vinyl composition tile and sheet vinyl, it’s time to expand your horizons. Of course, there are great applications for each product, but for designers seeking styling with exceptional durability, then LVT is a shining star.

Would you be shocked to know that LVT commands 20% of the floor covering market? It’s second only to carpet and still gaining momentum. The LVT product category has sustained significant year-over-year growth – from 17% in 2009 to 25% this year! Market analysts say this is the result of consumers learning more about the product, both at the retail level and online. Consumers want the look and feel of real hardwoods or natural stones without the accompanying care, maintenance, or pricey investment. Enter LVT: a high-style crossover product that can perform well both residentially and commercially.

Kitchen and bath designers have much to say about LVT and why it consistently ranks high on their specification list. Senior designers Nellie Layne, CKD, and Carmen Lund of San Dimas, Calif.-based J.B. Kitchens, Baths & Designs recently honed in on the reasons why they specify LVT so often.

 “Moisture and liquid spills constantly occur in both bathrooms and kitchens. LVT isn’t affected by wet spills, and our clients can get the look of hardwood without dire consequences if it gets wet,” Lund said. “Pets are another reason why we steer clients towards LVT. One client had an 85-pound Irish setter who had run of the house. She chose an Amtico/Spacia (america.amtico.com) product and installed it throughout the entire downstairs. That’s at least five years ago and no complaints about scratches or scuffs.”

“The success of LVT depends a lot on skilled installation,” Layne said. “We have an installer on staff who is an expert at this, and our clients are always amazed at the end result. They report back to us that their friends and family insist it must be hardwood. One unique project was a charming 1929 home in Pasadena. It had the original hardwood floors still down, and the owner needed to match it in an expanded kitchen and family room area. We were able to find a very close facsimile in LVT and gave him a practical floor with the hardwood look he wanted. Keeping the integrity of this historic house was really important, and we accomplished that.”

Commercial designers differ in their reasons for specifying LVT. There is currently a design shift toward hard-surface flooring for guest rooms in the hospitality sector. This might be surprising to some, but hotel rooms are looking to LVT to provide a hygienic floor covering coupled with a homey feeling. It’s easily cleaned and maintains its appearance for many years.

Clean lines and uncluttered designs call for something more contemporary on the floor, and LVT is answering that call. With large-scale hospitality applications on the rise, LVT is coming to the attention of many more consumers. Factor in the lifespan of LVT and it becomes a great choice economically as well. Designers focused on health care facilities have embraced LVT for these same reasons.

Based in San Jose, Calif., Carolina Lyon Interior Design has done both residential and commercial interiors for almost ten years. Generations Health Care sought her design expertise for a remodel of their Arbor Hills Nursing and Rehab Center in La Mesa. Mannington’s Nature’s Path(www.mannington.com) was the product of choice.

“My client wanted residents at Arbor Hills to have a ‘luxury experience’ living there. We wanted the look of an expensive floor, but something that would provide longevity and cleanliness,” Lyon said. “Of course, the floors have to endure frequent cleanings, and we felt luxury vinyl woods and stones would hold up to that. I knew Mannington Mills was health-care focused, so I turned to them for a solution.” 

Since this was a remodel of an older facility, Lyon had to work with elements already in place. Much of the millwork throughout the building was refinished to coordinate with the newly installed LVT. Northern Maple wood plank LVT was used in corridors and resident rooms, bordered with American Walnut. The original maple interior doors were retained, and the LVT color choices coordinated and added a rich contrast. Lyon chose paint and fabric accents of green and navy throughout the facility to give it an updated look. The main dining room features a realistic “stone” LVT in neutral tones.

Given the number of manufacturers scrambling to throw their hat in the LVT ring, you can deduce that this is not only a growing market, it’s a profitable one. Be smart and research brands with longevity, but always keep in mind that what’s in your shop today may not be what the consumer will be asking for tomorrow. You are the expert, and as such you’re expected to have all the latest and greatest options available to fulfill your clients’ design needs.