PVC, vinyl, polypropylene, who can make sense of it all? They are all plastic and all of them are used for manufacturing floor coverings, but their prices are different. They have different properties and here again; the rule applies that the cheapest option may not always be the brightest.
We need not worry about the difference between PVC and vinyl because they are basically one and the same. PVC is short for polyvinyl chloride, vinyl then is just its middle part. The name PVC is usually used for floors curled up into rolls, whereas with vinyl you are supposed to think it is the same floor, only sold in parts of various sizes. It should, however, be noted that this is just a custom that may not always be observed.
Polypropylene is a completely different material, but just to show it’s not so simple, it’s also used to produce floor tiles (such as vinyl). Polypropylene uses a different interlocking system, but far more important is the different properties of both materials. Although both are thermoplastics, they have different resilience and other attributes. So how do polypropylene components differ from vinyl ones?
Polypropylene has a more complex interlocking system
If we consider the practice that PVC represents a roll and vinyl floor tiles, we can then say that vinyl floor tiles are basically like a puzzle, where the tiles fit exactly into each other thanks to a system of locks. Plastic tiles made of polypropylene are also fitted with locks, but of two types. There are male locks on two sides, two female on the other two, and they fit into each other. After installing, the difference cannot be seen, but during the procedure, you must rely on the system, because you simply cannot rotate the tiles.
Vinyl floor tiles can handle a higher load
If you look at PVC and PP tiles, you will probably notice that vinyl-interlocking tiles are usually uniform, whereas polypropylene tiles tend to have the structure of a grid. It is the nature of the materials that determines how they can be shaped. Vinyl tiles are consequently able to handle higher loads and also have better impact resistance. Polypropylene is more fragile, you can damage it by dropping a hammer.
Many mistakenly believe that the grooves on the underside of polypropylene tiles are intended for moisture management, but this is not the case. They are only there because the material is far better shaped this way and also less of it is used – it is cheaper as a result.
Polypropylene is good for sports venues
You can easily take PVC floor tiles and bend them because they are close to a rubber-like structure, while polypropylene plates are harder. It has to do with what has been said about brittleness and firmness, but of course, the big difference is also the sense of standing on such surfaces. PVC floor tiles are used in stores, gyms, doctors’ offices, and in dining facilities because they are softer. Polypropylene is used a lot as the floor in stadiums and sports halls, etc., but unlike PVC, it would not be suitable in a children’s playroom precisely because of this hardness.
PVC and PP have excellent resistance to chemicals, leaking oil, salt in wintertime, and to water. This makes both materials often used in garages and service garages where vehicles are tended.
Vinyl is quieter
Vinyl flooring is known for perfectly absorbing sound. This comes from those properties we have already talked about – flexibility and softness. The tiles are soft, they adapt to the floor, and they absorb and dampen sound when walked or driven on. On the other hand, polypropylene does not dampen well, and sometimes even transmits the sound of people walking on it. If the surface is uneven, the tiles even move and can make a clatter. Of course, we can avoid this by making the surface level using, for example, a self-leveling compound.
So which one is better for your needs?
It depends on where your floor is. The differences between these two materials could be summed up quite simply. For the average garage, where the important thing for you is a low price, polypropylene floor tiles would be good. However, if you are looking for durability against higher loads or a floor in a place with a lot of traffic, PVC (or vinyl, depending on what you call it) is preferable.