Posted on 11/28/2011 11:12 PM by Grace Jeffers

Vinyl Composition Tile, or VCT, is one of the most commonly used flooring worldwide. But how much do you really know about what you are walking on?

The unique ingredient used to produce vinyl, aka PVC (poly-vinyl-chloride), as opposed to other plastics, is salt (NaCl, sodium chloride).  Salt is cheap, naturally occurring, and readily available—a truly renewable resource.

Vinyl itself was created by accident in the 1920’s by Waldo Semon, who was actually hoping to make a synthetic adhesive. Semon quickly realized that he was onto something big. The first vinyl flooring tile was not a solid vinyl product but rather a vinyl composition tile called Vinylite that was made by Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Corporation. Vinylite contained asbestos as a filler. Vinyl composition tile was invented in the 1930’s, and was first presented in the Vinylite House at Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition. Vinyl made for a safer alternative to asbestos tile, which was in common use through the first three-quarters of the twentieth century.

There are many types of vinyl tile; Vinyl Tile or VT, Vinyl Composition Tile or reinforced vinyl tile also referred to as VCT, LVT or luxury vinyl tile or LVT, and solid vinyl tile or SVT.  All are classified as resilient flooring as are cork, linoleum, and rubber.

Mannington Commercial vinyl tile: on the left is their 'Dissolve' line, on the right 'Progressions'

An interior using Mannington Commercial's 'Natures Paths' 

VT is a homogeneous (otherwise referred to as solid) material tile. One distinguishing feature is that if you break a tile in half you will see that the color is consistent throughout the material.

VCT is distinguished by the fact that its primary raw ingredient is limestone, a naturally abundant material. Almost 65 percent of vinyl composition tile is made of limestone. This is referred to as a “filler” material. VCT is most commonly used in high-traffic commercial applications and public spaces, such as retail stores and schools. It is known for being highly durable and easy to maintain and all for less cost than most other material alternatives.

SVT and LVT are characterized by a higher vinyl content than VCT, which renders them less porous but just as durable. Often, LVT and SVT flooring will have a photographic-film top surface, that can realistically replicate stone or wood, so it makes a great, less-expensive alternative to those actual flooring materials.

We’ll keep this discussion going in a future post by addressing sheet vinyl. ‘Til next time!...

Bio: Jeffers received her masters in Decorative Art History at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts and was one of the first in her field to focus her attention on materials instead of the objects that they became. Her pioneering work conserving the Ralph Wilson House in Temple, Texas was awarded the Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the house is the only structure on the National Register of Historic Places listed because of its use of material. Her approach is a synthesis of design history, materials science and cultural anthropology. And for the past eight years she has been working on an encyclopaedia of modern materials.