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Vinyl flooring

At only $2 to $8 per square foot, vinyl flooring is the least expensive type, up to 90% cheaper than the most expensive common flooring choices. Despite the low price, however, vinyl is durable and fairly long-lasting, and it comes in a variety of colors and textures. Although it is durable, vinyl is also surprisingly thin, measuring only 1/100" to 1/10", based on type. It comes in a variety of types, finishes and styles.

There are two basic types of vinyl: sheet vinyl and tile vinyl. Sheet vinyl comes in 6-foot or 12-foot widths and generally requires professional installation. It is sold on rolls and attached to a subfloor with various adhesives. Sheet vinyl is pricier than tile vinyl, but it is fairly durable and creates a solid field on the floor, with barely noticeable seams.

Tile vinyl is sold in squares that generally range from 12" to 18" in size. When installed properly, these tiles give floors a uniform look and allow for damaged sections to be replaced at a low cost. Tile vinyl is generally installed by the consumer, and many types even come with "peel-off" adhesive backing. A less common type of tile vinyl comes in plank form and is manufactured to look like wood flooring.

In addition to the two basic types, there are three possible finishes for vinyl flooring. A "vinyl no-wax" finish is the lightest type and is best for installation in areas with light traffic and minimal dirt and moisture exposure. A "urethane" finish is heavier and will stand up to normal and somewhat heavy foot traffic. Vinyl with a urethane finish is resistant to scuffs and scratches and cleans easily. The toughest available finish is "enhanced urethane," which is a high-quality finish designed to hold up under heavy traffic. Flooring with an enhanced urethane finish is highly resistant to stains and scratches and has a lasting luster, even without constant care.

Perhaps beyond any other flooring type, vinyl is available in a wide range of colors and patterns. These colors and patterns are applied to the vinyl in two different ways. Inlaid color is imbedded within the vinyl resin itself, giving a rich finish and making color less likely to wear off. Printed color, on the other hand, is applied to the vinyl using colored inks. While printed color is fairly durable due to clear coating and sealants, inlaid color is the best choice for lasting beauty.

Vinyl flooring is durable, stable and generally moisture-resistant. It is easy to care for with a broom and damp mop and has special backing to prevent mildew growth and water damage. It lasts for a relatively long time - at least five years - and resists UV fading, stains and dents. Vinyl is also soft and quiet underfoot, easy to repair and affordable. To match any décor imaginable, it comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, some even mimicking wood or stone.

Despite its many benefits, vinyl also has a downside. It is resistant to most damage, but seems to cut and scratch fairly easily. It can also show fairly extensive wear after a few years in high-traffic areas, making it less long-term than many other flooring types. Additionally, sheet vinyl requires professional installation, increasing the cost factor. For many people, vinyl flooring is also considered less visually pleasing than more expensive options.

While sheet vinyl requires professional installation, tile vinyl can be installed yourself. Many varieties of tile vinyl come with peel-off adhesive backing and can be adhered directly to the subfloor or other flooring surface. Vinyl can be installed quickly and easily over almost any surface, including concrete, ceramic tile, wood and even other vinyl. Major manufacturers of vinyl include Congoleum, Mannington, Armstrong and NAFCO.

Vinyl is an excellent choice for moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, as well as entryways and other areas that experience heavy traffic, and it's inexpensive.

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