Wear layer question

Discussion in 'Vinyl Flooring Q&A' started by Deb-UT, May 14, 2018.

  1. Deb-UT

    Deb-UT Member

    I'm a consumer in the market for vinyl plank flooring that will provide the greatest scratch and wear resistance possible as I would like the floor to last a long time.

    So far my research has indicated that a 20mil--40mil urethane wear layer is better than 6mil--12mm. Also, it appears that aluminum oxide (alox) or diamond added to the wear layer would offer the best scratch resistance. Ceramic bead appears to be good, but a bit below alox and diamond in terms of scratch resistance.

    Today I spoke with an individual who told me that the best wear layers are just pure urethane with NO ADDITIVES such as those mentioned above. This individual stated that diamond, alox, ceramic bead, etc., will all loosen from the urethane protective layer over time and then actually grind into the floor and damage it, rather than protect it. Has this been the experience of anyone here?

    Any and all input is greatly appreciated, thanks!

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  2. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    I'm not sure who you spoke with, but that is absolutely not true. I have several million sf that I've sold and continue to sell with aluminum oxide in it in every imaginable commercial application from surgical suites, restrooms, patient rooms, ER's, restaurants, taverns. I have never had one wear claim in all that time and some of those floors go back to the early 90's. To be clear, scratching is not wear. Scratching is damage - stop and think about something - if I park my car next to a bush and everyday i pull in and out of that parking spot and the bush rubs the side of the car would you not expect to see a scratch mark? That's metal and paint on something that's supposed to be used outdoors. If we could make flooring that never scratches - wouldn't we build cars out of it? Even stained concrete can and will scratch, look at any new Walmart where it's been used and you'll see them.

    That being said, vinyl flooring with a good modified urethane (Diamond, Alox, Ceramic Bead, or Quartzite) wear layer is going to hold up beautifully to normal household traffic and "living". The flooring is scratch resistant not scratch proof. But preventing scratching is more a function of a combination of preventing grit and debris from getting onto the floor with proper entrance barrier matting and good maintenance habits that remove those things if they make it passed that point. Properly protecting the flooring when you move heavy appliances and furniture is also key.

    The additives we're talking about are extremely small, almost microscopic and they are integral to the wearlayer. You would literally have to wear through the urethane that your source is saying is the "best" wearlayer to remove any of the modifiers we are talking about. So, if you're wearing through the urethane to release the additives doesn't that kind of prove the point that urethane is softer? ;)

    To give some scientific backing to what I'm saying, there is something called a Taber abrasion test that is used to compare simulated scratching of the flooring. The test basically takes a specific grit of sandpaper and "rotates" the sandpaper against the test sample for a specific number of cycles (usually in the 10,000's or higher). After the test you can visually inspect as well as measure the wear through of the samples against one another. This testing will clearly show that a "straight" urethane wearlayer will quickly show abrasions and scratches vs. any manufacturer's thinner modified wearlayer. I've seen a 12mil modified wearlayer product outperform 30, 40, even 50 mil straight urethane.

    Your research is good with the exception of the cited source. Get rid of that and go with what you've learned, you'll be fine! Hope this helps and enjoy your new floor!
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  3. Tom Potter

    Tom Potter I Support TFP

    I always like to tell people that you can scratch steel with a stone. Flooring is no different.
    Theres far too many numbers that are thrown to the average joe consumer that just complicate the whole process. Weather you get a 5 mil or a 50 mil wear layer, its going to scratch just the same.
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  4. Deb-UT

    Deb-UT Member

    Commercial Floor Rep,

    Thank you for your detailed and informative reply. The information I was given seemed counterintuitive to me as well, which is why I sought out a second opinion. You have definitely put my mind at ease regarding wear layer additives!

    • Appreciation Appreciation x 1
  5. Deb-UT

    Deb-UT Member

    Hi Tom, so true -- when I first started researching vinyl plank, I thought that scratch resistance and longterm wear were basically the same thing.
  6. WHans

    WHans New Member

    I ordered many, many samples and scratched them on purpose to compare scratch performance. They all scratched easily. The main difference was how apparent the scratch was and that depended mostly on the color/pattern.

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  7. Commercial Floor Rep

    Commercial Floor Rep I Support TFP Published

    Here are two images of a commercial sheet vinyl. The first picture is with aluminum oxide (the little white "crystals") and the second is the same product with a straight urethane topcoat. These are several years old now and the process to refine the alox has been improved even further so that it's almost impossible to see the little white crystals. As I mentioned earlier the alox is integral throughout the clear wearlayer and does not "wear off".
    With Alox.jpg Without Alox.jpg

    Here is an image of some comparative stain & scratch resistance tests. The criteria for the testing was:

    stain & wear performance
    Developed to visually demonstrate stain
    performance and wear simulation.
    Stain Performance – Applied Kiwi brown
    shoe polish and asphalt driveway sealer to
    Samples were exposed to the stainants for
    two (2) hours. At the end of the two (2) hour
    test period, the stainants were cleaned with
    a paper towel dampened with isopropyl

    Wear Simulation – Mini-Martindale Abrasion
    and Pilling Tester Model 401 with 100 grit
    “Light Traffic” samples were exposed to
    elliptical cycles of 100 grit sandpaper with
    125 gram weights.
    “Heavy Traffic” samples were exposed to
    elliptical cycles of 100 grit sandpaper with
    260 gram weights.

    Scratch and Stain Comparisons.jpg

    Just thought this might help give some visual perspective on the topic.
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  8. Mark Brown

    Mark Brown On The Surface Flooring I Support TFP

    I love that you omitted the name of the product being tested, shows some class mate :)
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  9. Deb-UT

    Deb-UT Member

    I've picked up quite a few samples and plan to do the same. Thanks for your input! Deb
  10. Deb-UT

    Deb-UT Member

    Very interesting, thanks for taking the time to post this, much appreciated. Deb

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