Resilient Flooring History

The first rubber floor tiles debuted sometime in the 12th to 13th centuries, but declined in popularity toward the end of the 17th century. The use of plain, square, undecorated red clay tiles became common throughout Europe during the 18th century. Linoleum was invented and patented in 1845. It was first manufactured in Scotland in the 1860s, and the first U.S. plant was built in 1872.

Linoleum remained popular until after World War II, when easy-to-maintain and durable vinyl flooring was introduced.

In 1894, Philadelphia architect Frank Fumess patented a system for rubber floor tiles. Colors were limited, but the tiles could be laid in geometric patterns to produce an eye-catching design. By the end of the century, recessed tabs allowed rubber tiles to be nailed to the sub-floor, and soon the tabs were eliminated altogether. These tiles were durable, sound-deadening, easy to clean, and easy to install. However, they also stained easily and deteriorated over time from exposure to oxygen, ozone and solvents, and were not suitable for use in basements where alkaline moisture was present.

The first cork tile floor was introduced in 1904, and became the most popular type of resilient flooring in the 1920s. It was available in a limited range of colors and designs, but was expensive and porous.

Asphalt tile arrived on the scene in the 1920s, and by the 1950s, was the most widely used floor tile on the market, fueled by low initial cost and easy installation. These tiles were tough, durable, highly resistant to abrasion and moisture, and fire resistant, but the styles and patterns were limited.

In 1933, vinyl made its big splash when a vinyl composition tile was displayed at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Because of the scarcity of vinyl during the war years, vinyl flooring was not widely marketed until the late 1940s, but then quickly challenged its competitors. Originally used only in high traffic areas, vinyl flooring eventually became the most popular choice for flooring in just about any hard-surface application.

In the 1950s demand for resilient flooring grew due to its superior performance characteristics when compared to other flooring alternatives. During the 1960s cushioned vinyl floors and ‘no-wax” resilient floors were introduced to provide underfoot comfort and ease of maintenance. During the Last twenty years specialty resilient floors which provide enhanced slip resistance and static conductivity have been developed to meet the needs of the marketplace.

Today, resilient flooring is second only to carpet in floor covering sales in North America. Resilient flooring continues to be a popular choice in almost any application because it is durable, easy to maintain, available in many different colors and patterns and is easy to install.

About The Industry

Resilient/Vinyl Glossary

Above-Grade Above the surface of the ground, as related to floor location, above a well-ventilated space with at least 18 in. between the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member and any point of the ground.

Abrasion Wearing, grinding, or rubbing away by friction.

Across Machine Direction The direction perpendicular to which a product moves through the manufacturing process.

Asphalt Tile An obsolete floor surfacing unit composed of asphalt or hydrocarbon resins, or both, crysotile asbestos fibers, mineral fillers, and pigments.

Adhered (See Perimeter Adhered)

Aluminum Oxide Added to the urethane finish for increased abrasion resistance of the wear layer.

ASSURE CERTIFIED™ is a third-party quality assurance testing program especially for Rigid Core flooring products developed by RFCI and conducted by SCS Global.

Backing Vinyl is constructed of several different layers: the wear layer, the printed or decorative layer, an inner core consisting of a foam and vinyl layer, and a backing. The type of backing determines how it can be installed.

Below-Grade Below the surface of the ground, as related to floor location, part or all of the floor is below the ground.

Concrete A hard, strong material made by mixing a cementing material (commonly Portland cement) and a mineral aggregate (as washed sand and gravel or broken rock) with sufficient water to cause the cement to set and bind the entire mass.

Coefficient of Friction The ration of the tangential force that is needed to start or maintain uniform relative motion between two contacting surfaces to the perpendicular force holding them in contact.

Cushioned Vinyl Flooring Any vinyl sheet floor covering incorporating a foam layer as part of its construction.

Cork Tile A floor surfacing unit made from natural cork shavings compressed and baked to be thoroughly and uniformly bonded together.

Cork The bark of a tree commonly known as Cork Oak and native to the Mediterranean region. The bark naturally splits every 9 to 15 years and can be safely harvested causing no harm to the tree. Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mold and mildew.

Decorative Layer The rotogravure printing process offers a multitude of design possibilities that are expressed through the decorative layer such as patterns, geometrics, natural stone designs and more.

Dimensional Stability The ability of resilient flooring to retain its original dimensions during the service life of the product.

Drying Room Yellowing A yellowish cast on linoleum resultant from the oxidation process that will go away with light exposure.‚ Without continued light exposure, the cast may reappear.

Embossed Having a permanent multilevel surface produced by mechanical or chemical means.

Flexibility The ability to be bent, turned, or twisted without cracking, breaking or showing other permanent damage and with or without returning of itself to its former shape.

Floating A method of vinyl flooring installation in which the flooring is not bonded to the substrate by any adhesive.

Friction Resistance to the relative motion of one body sliding, rolling, or flowing over another with which it is in contact.

Full Spread A vinyl flooring installation method in which the adhesive is trowled over the entire substrate.

Gouge A groove or cavity in the flooring surface accompanied by material removal and penetration below the immediate flooring surface.

Heat Welded Seam A seam produced by grooving abutting edges of resilient flooring and filling said grooves with heated, fused, or melted material to provide a bond and seal.  A glazing or top coating may be applied after the seam is trimmed.

Heterogeneous Consisting of dissimilar ingredients, constituents or compositions.

Heterogeneous Resilient Flooring A resilient floor surfacing material consisting of layers of dissimilar compositions or colors, or both.

Homogenous Rubber Flooring A rubber floor surfacing material, in sheet or tile form, that is of uniform structure and composition throughout.‚ It usually consists of compounded natural or synthetic rubbers, or both, in combination with mineral fillers, pigments, and other additives.

Homogeneous Vinyl Flooring A floor surfacing material in sheet or tile form that is of uniform structure and composition throughout. It usually consists of vinyl plastic resins, plasticizers, fillers, pigments and stabilizers.

Hydraulic Cement A binder system used in concrete subfloor assemblies that harden by chemical reaction with water and is capable of doing so even under water.

Injection molded Flooring A floor surfacing material made by driving or forcing a polymeric compound into a mold.

Inlaid Sheet Flooring A floor surfacing material in which the decorative pattern or design is formed by colored areas set in to the surface.‚ The design so formed may or may not extend through to a backing.

Inner Core Consisting of a foam and vinyl wear layer, the inner core provides durability, insulation and comfort.

Lightweight Concrete Concrete with a density of less than 115 lb/ft³ (1840 kg/m³).

Linoleum Made of natural ingredients that include linseed oil, cork, limestone, wood flour and tree resins. The color goes all the way through, making it extremely wearable and durable.

Linoleum Cement The binder in linoleum consisting of a mixture of linseed oil, pine rosin, fossil or other resins or rosins, or an equivalent oxidized oleoresinous binder.

Machine Direction The direction in which a product moves through the manufacturing process.

Mar A mark made on the flooring surface by the deposition of material from friction or rubbing of traffic bodies against the surface.

Oleoresin A plant product containing chiefly essential oil and resin.

On-Grade In contact with the ground, as related to floor location, in contact with the ground or with less than 18 in.(457.2 mm) of well-ventilated space between the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member and any point of the ground.

Patching Compound Compound used to fill or smooth minor depressions or irregularities in a flooring surface.

Perimeter Adhered A vinyl flooring installation method in which adhesive is only applied to the perimeter of the flooring and also at the seams.

Plank A form of resilient floor covering having an aspect ratio greater than 2:1.

Polymeric Poured (Seamless) Floors A floor surfacing material composed of polymeric materials applied to the substrate in liquid form alone or in combination with mineral or plastic aggregates, desiccants, or fillers.

Post-Consumer Recycled Content The portion, often expressed as a percent by weight, of material used in the manufacture of a new product, where the material has been recovered or otherwise diverted from disposal.

Pre-Consumer Recycle Content Material recovered or diverted from industrial waste streams for use in the manufacture of a new product or a product made by a new process, often expressed as a percent by weight. This excludes materials and by-products generated from and commonly reused or reworked within the original manufacturing process.

Printed Sheet Vinyl Flooring A floor surfacing material which has a printed pattern and is protected with a wearlayer of transparent or translucent vinyl plastic. The wearlayer may also include a specialty performance top coating.

Recycled Content The sum, normally expressed as a percent by weight, of post-industrial or pre-consumer recycled material plus post-consumer recycled material.

Resilient These floors have some “give” or elasticity when you walk across them. Tending or able to recover from strain or deformation caused especially by compressive stress. This category includes linoleum, cork, rubber and specialty resilient.

Resilient Flooring An organic floor surfacing material made in sheet or tile form or formed in place as a seamless material of which the wearing surface is non-textile. The resilient floor covering classification by common usage includes, but is not limited to asphalt, cork, linoleum, rubber, vinyl, vinyl composition, and polymeric poured seamless floors. Resilient in this sense is used as a commonly accepted term, but does not necessarily define a physical property.

Resin Any of various solid or semi-solid amorphous fusible natural organic substances that are usually transparent or translucent and yellowish to brown and are formed especially in plan secretions, are soluble in organic solvents but not in water. Any of a large class of synthetic products that have some of the properties of natural resins, but are different chemically.

Rosin A translucent amber to almost black brittle friable resin that is obtained by chemical means from the oleoresin or dead wood of pine trees or from tall oil.

Rotogravure The most commonly used method for making residential vinyl floors. This process involves a print cylinder that spins around while the vinyl’s core layer (called the gel coat) passes underneath. The cylinder systematically prints various colored ink dyes to create the pattern.

Rubber Rubber flooring is extremely durable, virtually indestructible, quiet and warm to walk on. It also resists dents and stains and its waterproof surface has an anti-slip finish. However, rubber is relatively expensive and must be installed by an experienced installer for maximum performance.

Seams Since vinyl comes in 6′ and 12′ widths, seaming may be necessary depending on the area to be covered. Certain patterns will hide seams better. For example, tile patterns with grout lines are better able to mask seams.

Seam Sealer A thin liquid adhesive applied to the cut edges of carpet to lock in the tufts and prevent edge ravel. Seam sealers may be visible in contrast with different vinyl textures and finishes.

Sheet, Resilient Flooring Flexible resilient flooring, packaged in roll form, in which the length substantially exceeds the width.

Slip Resistance The ability to counteract loss of traction.

Solid Vinyl Tile A resilient tile flooring composed of binder, fillers and pigments compounded with suitable stabilizers and processing aids. The tile meets requirements of ASTM Specification F 1700. The binder consists of polymers and/or copolymers of vinyl chloride, other modifying resins, and plasticizers which comprise at least 34% by weight of the finished tile. The polymers and copolymers of vinyl chloride comprise at least 60% of the weight of the binder.

Static Coefficient of Friction The ration of the tangential force that is needed to start uniform relative motion between two contacting surfaces to the perpendicular force holding them in contact.

Tangential Force A force that acts on a moving body in the direction of a tangent to the curved path of the body.

Substrate The surface on which the vinyl flooring will be laid. If installing over a wood substrate, an underlayment will generally be necessary. A concrete substrate will not require an underlayment but will require some floor preparation.

Subflooring A rough floor on top of which the vinyl flooring is applied. That structural layer intended to provide support for design loadings which may receive resilient floor coverings directly if the surface is appropriate or indirectly via an underlayment if its surface is not suitable.

Terrazzo A form of mosaic flooring made by embedding marble, onyx, granite, or glass chips in Portland cement, polyacrylate modified Portland cement, or resinous matrices. The terrazzo is poured in place, cured, ground, and then polished. Rustic terrazzo is a variation where, in lieu of the grinding and polishing, the surface is washed with water otherwise treated to expose the chips. Quartz, quartzite, and river bed aggregate can also be used.

Tile, Resilient Flooring Resilient flooring which is packaged in flat pieces which can be installed as individual units.

Traction The adhesive friction of a body on a surface on which it moves. Underlayment A material placed under resilient flooring, or other finished flooring, to provide a suitable installation surface.

Vinyl Asbestos Tile (VAT) An obsolete form of resilient tile composed of vinyl plastic binders, crysotile asbestos fibers, mineral fillers and pigments.

VCT Vinyl Composition Tiles A resilient floor covering composed of binder, fillers, and pigments. The binder shall consist of one or more resins of poly (vinyl chloride), or vinyl chloride copolymers, or both, compounded with suitable plasticizers and stabilizers. Other polymeric resins may be incorporated as part of the binder.

Vinyl Made from a mixture of polyvinyl chloride and plasticizer, it is usually flexible and non-porous. Pigments are added for color.

Wearlayer A layer of material applied to the top surface of vinyl flooring. The thickness of the wearlayer varies with each vinyl product collection, or series, and is generally measured in mils. The thickness of a mil is about the same as a page in a phone book. Premium wearlayers offer superior resistance to stains, scuffs and scratches. How long a vinyl floor will look new and fresh is based on the wearlayer’s performance.

Wear The accumulative and integrative action of all the deleterious mechanical influences encountered in use which tend to impair a material’s serviceability. Such influences include, but are not limited to abrasion, scratching, gouging and scuffing.

Resilient flooring: helping keep the earth green

Every day, members of the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) are proving that it’s possible to meet the flooring needs of today’s generation while protecting the environment for tomorrow’s. Our member companies are not only changing the ways that resilient flooring products are made, but they’re also changing the materials these products are made from. They’re discovering and implementing green innovations that impact every stage in the product life cycle – from design…to manufacturing…delivery…installation…maintenance…and beyond.

Nine steps to superior sustainability

There are a lot of actions a company can take to protect the environment. They can be as simple as encouraging office employees to recycle paper or as sophisticated as developing entirely new manufacturing methods. Among the many things our members are doing to improve sustainability, here are nine key steps that are making a huge difference for our planet:

Using recycled and recyclable materials

Cutting back on waste generation

Reducing packaging-or eliminating it altogether

Lowering product emissions

Conserving water use

Certifying products under the FloorScore® Indoor Air Quality Certification Program

Implementing post-consumer recycling programs

Certifying products under the NSF 332 Sustainability Assessment Program for Resilient Flooring

Certifying Rigid Core LVT for indoor air quality, performance, heavy metals free and ortho-phthalates free.

Setting a high standard for sustainability

Everyone who specifies resilient flooring should know the real environmental impact of the decision they’re making. That’s why RFCI has partnered with SCS Global to develop programs like FloorScore® and ASSURE CERTIFIED™. FloorScore® sets high standards for sustainability and measures flooring products against those standards. Resilient flooring products with the FloorScore® seal are certified to contribute to good indoor air quality and healthy living.

ASSURE CERTIFIED™ is for Rigid Core LVT only and tests products for indoor air quality, performance, heavy metals and ortho-phthalates.

Through initiatives such as the FloorScore®, ASSURE CERTIFIED™, and the ANSI/NSF332 Sustainability Assessment Standard, RFCI is helping raise environmental standards for the entire industry. Call it sustainability. Call it conservation. Call it saving the earth for generations to come.

Slip Resistance and Resilient Flooring

Slip Resistance is defined as the relative force that resists the tendency of the shoe or foot to slide along the walkway surface (ASTM F1637). Resistant means the floor opposes slipping.

Walking is an enormously complex activity involving many muscles, bones and nerves, as well as kinesthetic sensory information that must be blended, graded and coordinated by the brain to transport the body from one point to another. Studies published in 1953 by the Federal Construction Council show that the horizontal component of walking is the force that must be overcome by friction between the shoe material and the walkway surface, if the process is to be accomplished without slipping and possibly falling. The ratio of the forces required to move one surface over the other under a given vertical force (e.g., the total mass of the pedestrian) is called the “coefficient of friction”(COF).

Development of reliable test methods for evaluating the slip resistance of floors has been an ongoing process. Although there are many slip test machines available, the resilient flooring industry has found that the James Machine is the only machine to consistently and reliably simulate the sequence of events which occurs when a person actually walks on the floor surface. The method, developed in the 1940’s by Sidney James of Underwriters Laboratory (UL) has survived more than 60 years of scientific demands for reliability and reproducibility.

The measurement of slip resistance characteristics, particularly under wet or contaminated conditions, is subject to numerous uncertainties and variables, including footwear traction (i.e., the type of shoes worn and their condition), a person’s walking gait, physical condition and attentiveness. The presence of contamination may affect the degree of contact between the walking surface and the footwear. There are unresolved scientific questions regarding the accuracy of COF test methods and results predicting the likelihood of slipping on a walkway surface, particularly under wet or contaminated conditions. Thus any COF test results provided by flooring manufacturers are for informational purposes only.

Americans with Disabilities Act

In the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), which formed parts of the ADA of 1990, builders and designers were encouraged under Appendix A 4.5 to specify materials for flooring surfaces that have a static coefficient of friction values no less than 0.6 for level surfaces and 0.8 for ramped surfaces.

In hearings conducted in Washington, DC on March 13, 2000, the guidelines (which were issued in 1991) were roundly criticized on scientific grounds and were the cause of considerable confusion. Many parties testifying at the hearing stated that the numbers were misinterpreted and unfortunately misused as requirements by specifiers and others. The inventor of the slip tester on which these requirements were based has publicly stated that the ADA requirements never should have been based on the results of the tests on his equipment.

As a result of the hearing in March 2000, the Access Board decided to eliminate the original coefficient of friction guidelines and replace them with these sections in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design which are in effect today:

Chapter 3: Building Blocks

  • 302 Floor or Ground Surfaces
  • 302.1 General.
  • Floor and ground surfaces shall be stable, firm and slip resistant and shall comply with 302.

Advisory 302.1

A stable surface is one that remains unchanged by contaminants or applied force, so that when the contaminant or force is removed, the surface returns to its original condition. A firm surface resists deformation by either indentations or particles moving on its surface. A slip-resistant surface provides sufficient frictional counterforce to the forces exerted in walking to permit safe ambulation.

Chapter 4: Accessible Routes

  • 403 Walking Surfaces
  • 403.1 General
  • Walking Surfaces that are part of an accessible route shall comply with 403.
  • 403.2 Floor or Ground Surface. Floor or ground surfaces shall comply with 302.