When it comes to choosing a bathroom floor, many homeowners want the classic look of hardwood or tile but not the price tags. Or, they worry these hard surfaces don't fit their active family's lifestyle. Vinyl flooring can be a smart solution. The material has come a long way in recent years and is available in a dramatic range of colors, patterns, and styles, including options that provide a similar look to stone or wood. The material provides endless design options as it can be mixed and matched to create interesting and unique patterns and designs.
Although vinyl can give a look similar to tile or hardwood, it is much softer underfoot, thanks to its felt or foam backing. That "give" provides a comfortable surface, which is particularly helpful in bathrooms where slip-and-fall accidents are common on wet floors. The softer surface also provides sound insulation and allows vinyl to stand up well to foot traffic. The spongy quality does mean, however, that homeowners need to be cautious about heavy items placed on or moved across vinyl. Coaster should be used under heavy linen cabinets that will sit atop the floor.
Vinyl installation can be a simple DIY project. Peel-and-stick tiles are easy to install but create many seams where water can seep under the floor. With a little elbow grease, damaged tiles can be replaced (as long as you buy extras). Rolled tile typically measures 6- or 12-feet wide and can cover many bathrooms without a seam. If your bathroom is larger than available roll widths, however, it is best left to a professional installer who is trained at piecing and making seams disappear. With either product, DIYers need to properly prepare the surface, which must be absolutely clean so the vinyl adheres well and lies flat without bubbles or bumps.
If installed and maintained properly, vinyl can last 15 years or much longer. Routine maintenance is as simple as sweeping and washing with regular cleaning products. When vinyl's gloss coating eventually wears down, the shine can be restored using a vinyl floor wax.
Although vinyl flooring is very durable, it can still be damaged. If the floor is nicked or ripped by a sharp object, the damage is almost always impossible to fix and vinyl is difficult to remove for replacement. New vinyl is often rolled out atop the damaged surface but to avoid multiple layers, a special machine must be used to scrape away old vinyl. Also, vinyl is not a good choice for families with allergy sufferers. It emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can affect indoor air quality. Some vinyl includes polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can release harmful gases, however, many manufacturers are beginning to produce reduced-PVC flooring so be sure to ask your dealer.