Many called 2013 “the Year of LVT.” And with good reason: Resilient has been the fastest growing flooring category, and within this rapidly growing segment, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is thriving (Editor’s note: For the purposes of this article, LVT refers to both luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank).

We see no signs of the LVT market slowing down, and we expect 2014 to continue to bring high demand.

The appeal is LVT’s durability, simple installation, and easy maintenance combined with its versatility and increasingly diverse design options. Often considered for its value pricing, retailers can benefit from educating customers about LVT’s numerous other benefits.

Retailers, designers and end users (commercial and residential) have become increasingly familiar with LVT and its benefits over the past couple of years. But the positive attributes that make this product hot are worth repeating. As technology continues to advance with the maturation of this product category, the benefits are growing.


Lasting Durability

Available in a variety of wearlayers to meet diverse performance needs, LVT is ideal for high traffic areas. Popular in office, multifamily, and healthcare settings, LVT is also becoming an increasingly well-liked option for single-family home flooring.

Durable polyurethane and ceramic finishes—among others being introduced to the market—offer supreme scratch resistant features. For example, advanced nanotechnology used to create the ceramic finishes in LVT can be five times more durable than a polyurethane surface making this type of LVT “tough as tile.”

Softer underfoot than many hard surface products, LVT doesn’t sacrifice comfort for durability. Fiberglass-backed LVT provides for particular comfort. To highlight both of these things, in late 2013, Shaw put one of its new 5th & Main LVT products to the test in one of the world’s most visited locations, Grand Central Terminal in New York City, during the iconic landmark’s busiest time of year. With one million people visiting Grand Central and its annual Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair each day during the holiday season, Shaw’s six-week installation showcased LVT’s durability and its comfort.

The artisans and small business owners who participated in the event offered unprompted praise for how comfortable the LVT was after a full day of standing on their feet.


Ease of Maintenance

While other hard surfaces products can offer a warm rich environment, they aren’t suitable for every use or lifestyle. Where ease of maintenance is a priority, LVT—with its easy-to-clean surface and durability—comes out on top.

Like all flooring materials, LVT does need to be properly maintained. However, with water-, mildew- and stain-resistant resilient flooring, typical spills are not a problem if liquids stay on the surface, and therefore, spills can be easily wiped away.

In fact, LVT offers the same ease of maintenance as its resilient sheet counterparts, but in easier to manage sizes that make for simpler handling and installation.


Ease of installation

One of the challenges of any flooring installation is not really being sure of the condition of the subfloor until it’s uncovered. Part of the beauty of LVT is it offers a variety of installation methods suitable for most subfloor conditions. Across a range of installation systems, LVT can be laid directly over a subfloor with minimal floor prep. Whether you want (or need) to glue it, click it or float it, there’s an LVT product to meet the demands—loose-lay, floating floor, full-spread, strip or perimeter glue.

Floating floors are particularly convenient and can even be installed over existing flooring. This is how the floor was laid over the historic marble flooring in Grand Central Terminal creating a unique rich, warm effect without damaging the beautiful flooring beneath.

Particularly innovative is technology that allows for LVT to be secured on all four sides without adhesives while still staying securely in place to create a stable floor. It is now possible to install an entire floor in just a few hours—and with no mess.

The loose lay approach, which is becoming more and more popular in residential installations, makes it easier to change out tiles if needed or to lay over other flooring without damaging it for a temporary special effect. Loose lay systems also allow LVT to be installed flush against the wall rather than leaving an expansion gap.


Versatility, Aesthetics and Design

The ability to install LVT above, on or below ground level and expansive style and color selections make LVT suitable for both residential and commercial use. It is a fit from the boardroom to the laundry room.

The noise dampening attributes of LVT bring added value as well. It creates a quiet setting that is particularly ideal for healthcare and education environments. Where acoustics are particularly important, sophisticated, simple-to-use underlayment systems further decrease ambient noise and sound transmission between floors. It is suitable over concrete, wood and gypsum subfloors and can be used with radiant heat systems.

This versatility is also a key component of its continued success.

Improved technology has allowed for the creation of visuals that offer increasingly realistic wood and natural stone looks with the high performance features expected in LVT. More intricate visual printing and embossed texture deliver remarkable realism. Tiles with true rounded edges allow for grouting to create an even more realistic tile look.

Whether it’s an LVT with the appearance of fine aged hardwood or one that is evocative of marble or concrete, this more sophisticated realism has played a substantial role in driving demand for LVT.

Simultaneously, the variety of sizes also makes LVT appealing. Planks wider than six inches play into the ultra-wide trend seen in hardwood, and 12 x 24-inch LVT mirrors the latest trend in natural stone tiles—the large rectangle.

As the market continues to mature, visuals will not only become more realistic but will also stand on their own. We’re already seeing visuals that are a fusion of wood and concrete, and in the most sophisticated commercial spaces, LVT is offering its own unique, abstract visuals.

With so many positive attributes, it’s easy to see why LVT continues to be a much-talked-about product category and one that not only has the industry talking, but has equally high sales volume—presenting a tremendous opportunity for flooring retailers.