By Lucas Lambert | July 30, 2019 | Flooring
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Let's admit it's all very confusing for someone to pick the right flooring when all these technical terms are thrown around, with different price ranges and seemingly ludicrous promises that suppliers label on their products...
In this article we will break down the different floor types one can choose from, and explore the benefits/shortcomings of each. Hang on to your seat as we dive into the world of flooring!!
Anyone who's been shopping for a floor, be it for a new house or a renovation, has come across the crazy terms that are often used in the flooring industry. LVT, PVC, HDF, MDF, AC rating, service class, VOC's, noble layer, thermal conductivity, etc... The list is seemingly trully endless, but what does it all mean? :O
Let's start by exploring the various products available to Kenyans today...
Arguably the oldest product on the market has been Parquet flooring, you know the mvuli or mahogany latts that are usually installed in the form of small squares with opposing directions. Chances are if you've visited houses in the 254, you've come across these types of flooring as they trully are everywhere... Especially in older homes.
Parquet flooring consists of full (massive) hardwood latts, cut to shape & size and pre-assembled in factory into the shape of well known little squares that are installed in opposing directions.
A lot of companies manufacture this type of floor with an ever increasing pricetag due to the global impact of deforestation, an industry that often relies on illegal methods of aquiring materials.
Dues to the basic machining of parquet flooring, it pretty much is a "what you see is what you get" package, no special scratch proof coatings, no water-proof surface protectors, and a whole lot of maintenance is required to keep your floor looking fresh and clean...
Of course for those rooted in the pleasure of owning a genuine wood floor and none of that fancy tech-stuff, and wiling to pay the price, a parquet floor still holds an appeal.
There has been a steady decrease in the popularity of this type of material since the introduction of more modern flooring type in Kenya, which brings me to the next option.
Vinyl floors first made they're way into the market several years ago with the apperance of the thin plastic rolls with little to no cushioning as a very thin brittle material that reminiscent of the plastic table cover used in your favourite Kibanda.
It's weak, looks fake and is generally installed in a way that leaves inconsistencies in the level.
Obviously this very quickly created a negative perception of vinyl flooring across the region. Vinyls were associated with cheap floors or very poor quality. The backlash was global and violent with most owner who opted for such materials quickly having to turn to remedies for their flooring.
Since then, a lot of upgrades have been made to vinyl technology and the latest materials appearing on the market have earned a place in the market and Kenyan's hearts as an affordable, reliable and satisfactory floor option for those working on a budget.
Some brands now surfacing on the market with cushion vinyls
Recently there has been a growth in the appreciation of cushion vinyls, these vinyls take the good from the older vinyls but add to that durability and beautiful designs.
Some brands now surfacing on the market that offer cushion vinyls have struck a balance between affordability, quality and the ease of application.
The main benefits of vinyl materials is of course the high resistance to water & have become a good option for bathrooms, kitchens and spa's. They don't, however, perform well under high temperatures.
Vinyls are also exceptionally quiet as compared to laminates, engineered wood or parquet flooring, somewhat comparable to tiles...
As vinyls are based on a polymer/plastic composition, high temperatures can impact the integrity of your floors. In simple terms, too much direct sunlight or hot water can make your floor wrinkly, like your grumpy shosh in shags.
Another drawback is the scratch resistance. As these types of materials are usually thin (on average 1 to 1.5 mm) they don't offer much protection against damage caused by sharp objects, furniture or even those high heels you pulled out for your housewarming party...
The method of installation remains a key factor in the final outcome and durability of the floor, with elements like subfloor screeding, type of adhesive used and ambient conditions working together to make it or break it...
Here we look at one such technical term 'VOC', which stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, which you will find slapped on a number of products, from glues to laminates, vinyls, polymers, etc...
VOC's are an international standard that determine the emissions of hazardous chemicals (a well know type being Foraldehide) in to the air and environment. Such compounds can lead to serious health complications and also contribute to global warming... so yeah, you'd want to pay particular attention to the VOC ratings of your fully fitted floor...
As most vinyl's are glued down, in contrast to laminates that use a click mechanism to interlock, they are much more likely to diffuse higher VOC levels.
There are of course vinyls that make the best of both worlds and apply the click system found in laminates making them a superior product albeit at a higher price.
These click vinyl as they are known, are generally much thicker than the cushion vinyl counterparts (usually 5mm) and as such are more resistant to scratches, high temperatures and are overall a better solution for demanding applications such as hospitals, gyms, etc...
Now let's move on to laminate flooring.
Our pick for a great balance between price, durability, ease of maintenance and a genuine wood finish that's indistibuishable from the hardwood counterparts.
Laminates have been around for quite a while and have undergone several technlogical advances over the years that keep it a very relevant and sught after flooring material.
So let's throw in another technical term now, AC ratings and Service Class.
These two terms are interchangable and depending on the supplier will most likely find it's way into your new box of flooring. AC rating or Abbrasion Criteria determintes the resistance of a material to, as it's name suggests, any surface damage, chipping, peeling or errosion.
As a general rule follow this chart to determine the right AC rating for you.
Now, in the industry we usually advice againt anything under an AC4 rating as it has become the industry standard for quality flooring.
The main benefits of laminate flooring originate from the material used, wood.
Theres just something about wood, as parquet lovers could testify. It looks beautiful, brings warmth to the house, smells great (weird I know, but true) and performs great.
In contrast to parquet flooring however, is that laminates are much more resistant to scratches, water, warping and expansions. In addition you don't have to worry nearly as much about maintenance. There's no waxing, varnishing or sanding ever required.
The main disadvanted being a poor resistance to water, something which major flooring companies are now solving with advanced hydrophobic (repels water) technologies that allow laminates to be almost as waterproof as vinyl floors and ceramic tiles.
In fact Quick-Step has patented it's hydroseal tech that makes it's Eligna, Impressive, Classic and Largo floors an ideal option for bathrooms and kitchens.
Now, emphasys on the "almost as waterproof" as a vinyl still performs better in wet areas, it's simply a matter of material, and the installation of the laminates play a bit part in the final water resistance of your new floor.
What about the bumps? Some of you out there who have had the displeasure of experiencing the appearance of mount Kilimanjaro in your living room, may ask..
Well, it does happen, but that's generally always the result of a botched installation. See laminates are wood, a living, breathing material that reacts to the ambient temperatures and humidity. That means if it gets humid all of a sudden, the floor will absorb some of that moisture and expand a little (now it's important to stress that this expansion is not noticable at all). The problem comes when no allowance is given and the floor has no opther option but to expand upwards.
This effect is notible in a majority of materials including tiles, hence the use of spacers when placing tiles...
Above ^ (Quick-Step Eligna-Wide laminate flooring) Installed at Lordship Africa showroom along Ngong Road, Nairobi.
Okay, let's stop for a second and allow all this information to settle. I know, it's been a long one.....
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