How durable is my flooring? This is a loaded question: “I’m looking for the most durable flooring for my home or business. What’s the most durable floor I can get?” I want something that will not scratch or dent. My answer to this would be concrete. But even concrete can get scratched and chipped.
Strand Woven Bamboo has a Janka Hardness of about 3000 psi. Brazilian Walnut has a Janka Hardness of 3800 psi. Consumers think that just because the product is hard, it will not scratch and withstand more abuse. A sheet of steel is extremely hard, but I can still scratch it.
Resilient flooring is a very durable product if properly cared for. This does not mean I can drag appliances over it without any protection underneath the feet or legs like pictured below. The Mercedes Benz E Class Sedan is a quality product, but I would not drag something abrasive across the hood of this car. So why then do people think they can drag a 250 pound object across resilient flooring and not think anything will happen? If done properly, I can move a 1,000 pound object across resilient flooring and not do any damage. The key word here is properly. This will require moving the object on a board or panel to help disperse the weight of the object and absorb any damage the feet or casters will cause.
How many customers move their refrigerator and damage their floor and can’t believe the flooring could not withstand this? But my refrigerator has wheels on it! My truck has 4 wheels on it too, but I would not drive it across my floor without proper protection under the load.
In the vinyl flooring industry, the wearlayer thickness is measured in mils. 1 mil equals 1/1000 of an inch, or 1000 mils would be equivalent to 1″. Yes, the more mils, the better the durability. A 20 mil Wearlayer will have better durability than a 6 mil product. A 6 mil product would not be a good choice in a commercial application.
For comparison, common plastic food wrap is roughly 5 mils thick. So, the protective surface on my 6 mil wearlayer product is a slightly thicker than 1 sheet of plastic food wrap. A 20 mil wearlayer is 4 sheets of plastic food wrap.
Let’s take this a step further. Just because a product has a 20 mil urethane coated wearlayer, this does mean all 20 mils of the wearlayer are urethane. Generally, the urethane coating on these products is usually less than 1/1000 of an inch. That means on a 20 mil urethane coated wearlayer, 19 mils (or less) of this wearlayer is a vinyl coating that is then coated with a high performance urethane coating. No one would be able to afford a product with 20 mils of urethane on it.
Vinyl no-wax is a clear vinyl top coating. The least durable of the three wear surfaces and susceptible to staining and yellowing.
A urethane-coated wearlayer provides greater durability and resistance to stains and daily wear than a vinyl wearlayer without the need for polishing.
Enhanced materials used in urethane finishes provide the highest level of protection. Wearlayers with aluminum oxide or ceramic bead in the coating provide outstanding resistance to scratching and are far more durable than flooring with a urethane layer alone.
Laminate flooring durability is given as an AC rating. Laminates go through a number of tests when being assessed for an AC rating. Each line of laminate flooring is tested for resistance to burns, scratch- es, stains, abrasion, and impact. Tests are also done to assess the effects of furniture legs on the floor- ing, swelling, etc. To be able to acquire an AC rating, all of the tests must be passed.
AC Ratings for laminate flooring are sometimes listed in different ways. Often, a laminate manufacturer will simply label it as AC1, AC2, AC3, AC4 or AC5. Other times, they’ll use a pictogram (see below)
to communicate the AC Rating.
AC 1 laminate is designated for light use in a home setting. It would be best suited for bedrooms where foot traffic is not particularly intense.
AC 2 flooring is also best for home use, but can withstand greater amounts of travel. AC2 laminate would be ideal in a formal room such as a living room or dining room.
AC 3 is durable enough for general home use in all traffic areas, and can be used in a professional setting with light foot traffic.
AC 4 is fit for commercial operations with standard amounts of foot traffic such as a small shop or office.
AC 5 is the toughest laminate flooring available, and is best used in a business with heavy amounts of foot traffic such as a public building or department store
Pictograms show a house or a commercial building or a number of people. The building type shows if the laminate flooring product is recommended for residential or commercial use and the number of people signifies if the laminate is suitable for moderate (1), general (2) or heavy (3) use.
Above, I wrote about the hardness of hardwood above as being measured by the Janka Hardness. Again, hardness does not necessarily mean the product is more durable. The hardness may help with some indenting, but it can still wear the same as a softer product. For example, I have a consumer with a large family and pets. I can show them a smooth, shiny Strand Woven Bamboo with a Janka Hardness of 3000 psi or I can show them a Red Oak Hand Scraped product with a Janka Hardness of 1290. The smooth shiny products has no hiding power for scratches or wear, were as the Red Oak Hand Scraped product has wear and hiding power in the hand scraping.
Despite the hardness of the hardwood product, taking the proper measure for protection can make any product last for years. The photo below shows a bar stool with no protective pads on the bottom of the chairs and it has worn through the finish where the bar stool is moved in and out.
In the builder market, resilient flooring takes abuse from trade work being done on top of it. Resilient flooring is too far in the front of the house schedule. Flooring is installed prior to other trades being completed. Drywall is being sanded after the flooring is installed and gets ground into the flooring because the floor has not been properly protected as shown in the pictures below. On hand scraped hardwood, the drywall dust catches on the rough edges of the scrape and is all but impossible to re- move. Cabinet installers and appliance delivers drag their work across the new flooring damaging it beyond repair. Before the new homeowner even sets foot in their new home, they have 5 or 6 board replacements. It is highly recommended that the installation of resilient flooring not begin until the work of all other trades has been completed. This is a statement from flooring manufacturers. The problem is builders and general contractors continue to ignore this along with environmental conditions for flooring, but blame the flooring contractors for their flooring issues.
Protecting the flooring can be as simple as floor protectors under furniture and chairs, walk off mats as you enter a home or business.