One thing about any industry that tends to weigh it down is outdated associations. This is particularly true of industries and products that have been around a while, and are attached in people’s minds to specific eras.
This applies to vinyl flooring – big time.
So, what is the history of vinyl flooring and how has it evolved? More to the point, how does it now fit in with modern, 21st century spaces in terms of function and design. First, let’s look at where vinyl flooring comes from, and then we can see where it’s going, and how it’s changed in the 21st century.
Brief history of vinyl flooring
The vinyl flooring industry began in one of the darkest years of the Great Depression – 1933. That year, it was featured in composite tile form at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, an event that celebrated that city’s own history, and being one that pointed the way to the future as well. In the years after World War II, vinyl flooring went mainstream when vinyl was no longer a material set aside purely for the war effort.
This was a time of a housing boom, when the newly implemented G.I Bill allowed war veterans to buy single-family homes with all modern conveniences. Vinyl flooring as a surface was a go-to material to fill the need for a floor covering that could be mass-produced in an inexpensive way to keep up with that boom, and serve as a durable, multi-purpose floor covering.
Because it became so common, the associations attached to vinyl flooring made it something of a default, and not exactly a stylish option even if it was thought of as being highly resilient from the 1950s , through to the ’80s. But, as great as a resilient flooring surface may be, resilient isn’t exactly sexy, is it?
Vinyl flooring – the game has been raised since the 20th century
Since the 20th century, the vinyl flooring industry has evolved to balance this out. When it came out, vinyl flooring dominated the market during a boom period because it was a cutting edge material from a forward-looking industry. But, the development of laminate flooring, and engineered hardwood floors demanded that the game had to be raised. It was pure economics! But, how did it happen?
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First, the traditional backing of a vinyl floor up until as late as the 1980s was made with asbestos. Knowing what we know now, that technology had to go. In addition, standard sizing changed too to become more flexible as far as how consumers buy it.
You can still buy vinyl tile flooring of course. But today, you can get it in plank form too complete with core layers and tongue-and-groove glueless locking technology, just like you would a laminate or engineered floor. Wear layers have improved. Static resistance and slip-resistance are also major considerations at the manufacturing stage.
Again – as consumers , we still care about how long a floor is going to last, and how much traffic it can support. But, really, that’s a given by now. We expect that kind of thing from anything we buy; to last a long time, and to be reliable. So, what about style? Can vinyl flooring be thought of as a stylish floor as well as a functional one?
Vinyl flooring and interior design
Well, it’s a lot easier for a vinyl floor in the 21st century to look like a natural surface like a wood or stone floor than it might have been decades ago. The fact is as a culture we pay more attention to details in this century than we did in the previous one. It’s like the differences between special effects in old movies, and the super-realistic, CGI ones we see in recent ones. It’s the difference between the color cathode ray tube TV set we had as kids as compared to the high-def, plasma screens that have set the bar higher today.
Vinyl flooring in the 21st century has followed suit with more varied surfaces, but also with more attention paid to the details that the modern eye expects in any surface to be placed into an interior design. The technology has come a long way.
So, the wood grain style vinyl flooring today pays more attention to how natural grains actually look. The same goes for the subtleties found on the surfaces of ceramic patterns, or natural stone patterns. Details count, particularly in modern flooring. This also applies to things like color spectrums and color variation.
The space that vinyl flooring has filled has been about providing a certain look, while being really, really easy to maintain. That’s still true. But, now, the look part and the number of options available to support it, has increased exponentially.
As stated before, it’s really had to, just because flooring as a whole has improved in our century overall. As a result, if you want to get that spacious minimalist look, a vinyl floor can serve you. The same goes for the rustic cabin effect, or Mid-Century Modern, or Neo-Victorian look. Vinyl flooring in the 21st century is made to fit into that, just like any other modern flooring option.
Vinyl flooring: cut those preconceptions loose!
Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, vinyl flooring is not the floor it was. Well, not that Scrooge was a floor. But,you get the idea; it’s changed for the better.
The point is, vinyl flooring has evolved. It’s been modernized. You can see an attention to detail in its design that allows you to incorporate it into your spaces and get all of the visual effects you’re after. And the easy maintenance, and often completely waterproof advantages are great for high-traffic, high moisture areas as much as they ever were with a vinyl floor. So, if you’re looking to spruce up a space, vinyl flooring can be counted among the options to consider.
It’s come a long way.
P.S – If you’re looking to buy and install the latest in click-lock vinyl flooring, take a look at this video that explains how to do it. The video also gives you a pretty good idea of what this stuff actually looks like, and how it is pretty far removed it is from the cheap vinyl flooring of the past. Take a look!