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Vinyl flooring vs ceramic tiles

Posted by Tandy Coleman on 2017/07/28 11:55 AM
Tandy Coleman
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Building or refurbishing a hospitality venue?  A retail or commercial space?  A hospital?

Trying to decide whether vinyl or ceramic tiles will suit the various spaces in your building best? 

To make an informed decision, first identify the factors that will determine w

hich flooring is fit-for-purpose.  Front-of-house, back-of-house, dining spaces, bathrooms, hotel bedrooms receptions, boardrooms etc. all require different features, so their floor coverings may differ too.

Then explore some of those important factors in more detail in the table below:


Ceramic Tiles

Design versatility

  • Vinyl offers a vast range of flooring products, from sheet flooring to luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs), in a range of very realistic stone and wood looks

  • Large variety of colours 

  • Malleability makes designing and branding easy for any look and feel

9861 9845 Hotel_Storm 9845_Copper Ornamental 9861.jpg
  • Ceramic tiles are available in a large variety of shapes, sizes and designs, including many very realistic wood-look options



  • Warm

  • Insulation properties prevent cold from filtering up from the screed below

  • Good thermal conductivity means no cold is stored overnight or during cold periods

  • Cold

  • Natural-stone ceramic tiles are cold underfoot and often store the cold absorbed overnight or during cold periods

  • Generally only store warmth if exposed to a heat source, usually from above, such as direct sunlight


  • A resilient floor, which is soft underfoot

  • For a high degree of softness, choose a heterogenous vinyl floor with a wear layer and a 2 – 3.7mm foam underlayer

  • If good shock and sound absorption are required as well, e.g. where staff are on their feet all day, use a 3.7mm foam underlayer

  • Hard

Acoustic properties

  • NRC (noise reduction coefficient) measures the amount of noise that is absorbed, rather than reflected, by a material. It is referred to as the ‘sound bounce’ of a floor

  • Whilst carpet has the highest NRC rating, vinyl is also highly rated

  • As a resilient floor, it allows much less sound bounce than hard floors such as ceramic, cement, stone and porcelain. It will therefore substantially reduce the ‘clutter noise’ in hospital corridors, hotel foyers, shops, banks, etc.  

  • Particularly useful in multi-storey buildings, specialised acoustic vinyl floors can offer a noise reduction level of up to 19dB. This refers to sound transmission so the maximum effect is felt not in the room in which it is laid, but in the space below

  • NRC can be improved if ceramic tiles are floated or laid on an underlay or insulation

Slip resistance

  • The slip resistance of a standard vinyl floor is likely to be similar to the slip resistance of a standard ceramic tile when dry and considerably better when wet

  • Specialised non-slip vinyl safety floors are available

  • A sustainable, slip-resistant safety floor should always achieve a Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of 36 or more (in wet conditions), using 4S rubber/Slider 96. An in-use PTV of 36+ classifies the floor as having a low slip-potential, and equates to the potential for one person in a million to slip on the floor

  • IMPORTANT: Beware of pendulum-test results only conducted in dry conditions

  • Some (not all) slip-resistant vinyl floors have a cross-linked and UV-cured polyurethane reinforcement  (PUR) coating which facilitates easy cleaning and ensures longevity of the slip-resistant properties

Radisson Blu Hotel Athlone_Chromite 4202.jpg


  • Available in a textured non-slip finish

  • For tiles made from a porous/absorbent material with good drainage, a non-slip coating can add to their slip resistance

  • Check how long the slip resistance is expected to last

  • Ask for pendulum-test results in both dry and wet conditions

vinyl vs ceramics.jpg

Floor shine

  • Whilst shine used to be regarded as an indication that a floor was clean and in good condition, recent research suggests otherwise. A shiny floor is not necessarily clean, and it is less comfortable for walkers. The brain perceives the shiny floor as slippery and adjusts accordingly, leading to greater fatigue than when walking on a more matt floor

  • Retailers should think carefully before installing a shiny floor in shops and walkways if they want shoppers to maintain focus and not tire

Hygiene properties

  • Excellent floor of choice in healthcare and hygiene critical areas ie kitchens, because sheeting is hot welded to form a seamless and impervious floor surface where bacteria cannot find space to thrive. LVTs are laid without a grouting space to ensure a hyigienic surface.

  • Easy to clean

  • Dry cleaning is sufficient for PUR-coated tiles (bacteria thrive on warmth, moisture, dust and grit, which means that wet cleaning can provide the ideal environment for bacteria to spread)

  • Best used in areas where hygiene is not of primary importance

  • Textured non-slip tiles tend to trap dirt  

  • Dirt and germs collect in grouted areas, which are difficult to keep clean and hygienic

  • Some ceramic tiles can be laid without grouting and specialised germ- and grease-resistant grouting is available, but the joins remain a challenge for infection control


  • Product and production dependent

  • Many top-quality vinyl products are very eco-friendly across the full chain of production and use. PVC can be recycled many times over.

  • Most reputable manufacturers use environmentally sound production methods and most top-end manufacturers use raw materials in an environmentally sensitive way

  • Ask the vinyl manufacturer to provide their sustainability information and credentials

  • Product and production dependent

  • Many ceramic tiles are very eco-friendly across the full chain of production and use

  • Ask the ceramic-tile manufacturer to provide their sustainability information and credentials


  • Warranty is generally 10 years, but vinyl flooring will last much longer if properly installed, cleaned and maintained.

  • If properly cleaned and maintained, ceramic tiles will last a long time but during this period, individual tiles may crack and need to be replaced

Cleaning regime

  • Easy to sweep and mop

  • Resistant to staining

  • A good-quality vinyl floor with PUR coating reduces maintenance costs by 48%, offering polish/sealer-free maintenance over a lifetime of 20 years or more

  • Dry cleaning methods are sufficient, making day-to-day cleaning cheaper and more efficient than in areas where wet cleaning is required


  • Easy to sweep and mop

  • Some have excellent stain-resistant qualities

  • Difficult to clean grout properly

  • Wet cleaning increases risk of slippage

  • Re-sealing may be required

Sub-floor requirements

  • As vinyl is a thin, impervious product, the sub-floor needs to be dry, strong, hard, level and smooth

  • Cannot generally be installed over another floor without a 5mm self-levelling screed

  • Depending on the sub-floor’s moisture content, a moisture barrier may also be required

  • The sub-floor should always be prepared by an expert vinyl installer. The difference between a well-prepared sub-floor and a poorly prepared sub-floor is obvious in the pictures below:
Yes and no.jpg


  • Sub-floor should be dry, strong, hard and level

  • Can be installed over other floor products if a good-quality coating product is used but, as with all floors, the top floor covering is dependent on the condition of the sub-floor

Sub-floor costs

  • Concrete slab: R200–300/m2 (for new lay)

  • Screed self-leveller: R120/m2 (5mm thickness always recommended)

  • Moisture barrier: R40/m2 (may not be necessary, depending on the sub-floor’s moisture content)

  • Concrete slab: R200–300/m2 (for new lay)

  • Screed self-leveller: R120/m2 (thickness dependent on quality of sub-floor)

Installation costs

  • Labour: R60/m2 (includes cost of laying self-leveller and applying moisture barrier and adhesive)

  • Total installation cost (excluding sub-floor and product) therefore = R60/m2

  • Labour: R85m2 for standard ceramic; R100/m2 for porcelain ceramic

  • Adhesive: R40/m2

  • Grout: R30/m2Total installation cost (excluding sub-floor and product) therefore = R155–R170m2

Installation time

  • Two days to apply and dry moisture barrier

  • One day for self-leveller application and drying time

  • One fitter can install 100m2 per day

  • Preferably no other contractors on site during installation

  • Where installation time is critical, choose vinyl products which do not require adhesive and can be loose laid

  • One day to apply and dry self-leveller

  • One layer can lay 25–30m2 per day

  • Other contractors may be on site during installation

Product costs (2017/2018)

  • Homogenous vinyl sheeting: R150–R350/m2

  • Heterogenous vinyl sheeting: R280–R380/m2

  • LVTs: R300–R600/m2

  • Acoustic floor: R375/m2

  • Anti-slip safety floor: R250–R450/m2

  • Rubber range for back-of-house (heavy-wheeled traffic): R600–R1000/m

  • Loose lay vinyl:  R300 - R670/m2

  • Good-quality hospitality-grade ceramic: R150–200/m2

Maintenance costs

  • Minimal with a PUR coating

  • Re-sealing not required

  • Grout should be re-sealed annually

Replacement costs

  • Difficult to damage

  • A well-trained fitter should be able to replace damaged LVTs

  • If vinyl sheeting is damaged, a patch can be welded in but, as with all floors, the replacement will be noticeable

  • If a patch will be unsightly, a complete drop can be installed in various ways, depending on the design and layout of the product

  • Tiles can chip easily

  • Chipped tiles can be replaced by an experienced installer, taking care not to loosen or damage surrounding tiles

The key to choosing the right product for an installation is understanding your requirements, knowing your products and choosing the best application based on all the factors.

What are some of the skills a flooring contractor should have? 17 Vinyl flooring experts think this.

For more advice from our vinyl flooring specialists, why not download our latest eBook, Flooring contractor's guide: Developing and growing your business with vinyl flooring.

Download the eBook

Topics: Vinyl Flooring ins and outs

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