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Vinyl Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of vinyl floors differs from other flooring types as they are only recyclable in some instances. As a result, they are often made with new materials and taken to the landfill at the end of its useful life. Use this section to learn more about the green and not–so–green elements that contribute to the lifecycle of vinyl flooring. We've outlined details concerning the origin of materials sourced, the manufacture and installation processes, as well as the transport of the finished vinyl flooring product.

Featured Vinyl Flooring Products

Origin of vinyl flooring:

Globe or Earth image representing Origin

Vinyl flooring is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a petroleum–based thermoplastic polymer. Because PVC is a very hard and durable plastic, it is popularly used for windows, plumbing, pipes and vinyl siding. PVC can be recycled at the end of its useful life.

How vinyl flooring is transported:

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Vinyl flooring is manufactured all over the world and transported by freighter, rail, and trucks. In the matter of transport, vinyl flooring can have a smaller carbon footprint than other flooring types that require the raw materials to be shipped to the factory (e.g. cork and hardwood). In the case of vinyl floors, PVC can be made in the factory where the floor is manufactured, meaning less distance traveled overall.

How vinyl flooring is processed:

Factory illustration representing the production process

  • Vinyl tile: There are two basic processes for creating vinyl tile. In one, vinyl pellets and other ingredients are melted at high temperatures. The material is then molded into its finished shape. In the other, the ingredients are mixed together then fed through rollers that squeeze the material to the desired thickness. The sheet is then shaped and coated with materials that increase abrasion and stain resistance.
  • Sheet goods: Layers of vinyl and other ingredients are applied to a backing material. Typically, these layers include a vinyl foam core, a decorative layer, and a clear vinyl layer. The entire product is cured in an oven. Afterward, it may receive a coating of urethane.

How vinyl flooring is installed:

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  • Vinyl tile: Some vinyl tile has a self–adhesive backing. Essentially, you peel away the backing and press the tile into place. Other tile connects together with click–lock mechanisms and doesn't require any adhesive. Still other tile requires adhesives.
  • Sheet goods: Some manufacturers recommend spreading an eco-friendly adhesive over the entire subfloor before installing large pieces of vinyl flooring. In other cases, the adhesive is only spread at the perimeter of the installation area. Either way, the sheet goods are pressed into place and then rolled with a floor roller to eliminate bubbles or air pockets.

Disposing of vinyl flooring:

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Vinyl flooring made with or without PVC can sometimes be recycled. Flooring that cannot be recycled can be sent to a landfill. PVC does not biodegrade quickly, and when incinerated is believed to emit harmful toxins into the atmosphere.