Sustainability & Environment

The disadvantages of PVC floors

24 Feb 2023
Leestijd 6 minutes
PVC floors are widely used nowadays, but more and more reports about the disadvantages are emerging
PVC floors are widely used nowadays, but more and more reports about the disadvantages are emerging
Foto: Uipkes

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a thermoplast (plastic) that is used in all kinds of products, including in PVC floors. Due to the many application options, the use of PVC has increased enormously. However, more and more messages are coming out about the possible disadvantages of PVC. As a wood flooring specialist, we limit ourselves to discussing the disadvantages of PVC floors in this article.

PVC floors and disadvantages for the environment and health

A PVC floor contains vinyl chloride, this is a chemical raw material that may be harmful to the environment and health. The worries seem to be serious. For example, the HCWH (Health Care Without Harm) Europe published an investigation on why PVC remains a problematic material.

The study stated, among other things, that in every phase of life of PVC (production, use and waste cycle) the product is anything but sustainable. A PVC floor is therefore not a sustainable floor choice.

In addition, there are cheap PVC floors without a quality mark for sale, which can contain harmful substances. On the blog of (Dutch) you can read, among other things, that no joint standard has been set in Europe in the field of permissible emissions for PVC floors.

Emissions are volatile substances that are released, so that harmful substances can enter the air. Greenpeace did research in 2000 and discovered dangerous chemical additives in 5 samples of PVC floors. The title of the report "Hazardous chemicals in PVC Flooring" (PDF) says because we are enough not to opt for a PVC floor.

If you nevertheless want a PVC floor, it is important to do research into the quality of the floor that you want to buy and not to opt for a cheap PVC floor.

Train derails with vinyl chloride on board

There was unrest about the where a cargo train transported vinyl chloride, among other things. In the days after the accident, various residents suffered from dizziness and headaches. Civilians in the area reported dead pets and dead fish were also found in the nearby rivers.

There has been unrest about the train disaster in Ohio where a freight train that transported 5 Wagons with vinyl chloride and 15 wagons with other chemicals derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. The authorities decided to set fire to the wagons for a controlled burn of the chemical spill, but this ended in a huge toxic cloud above the town. In the days after the accident, various residents suffered from dizziness and headaches. Dead fish were also found in the nearby rivers. As if the residents of East Palestine had ended up in a scary movie.

It is still unclear what the causes are, but there are rumors that vinyl chloride could have played a role in this. Such developments do not put PVC in a positive light and shed the question marks when using the product.

PVC floors and underfloor heating: not always a warm combination

Nowadays almost all new build homes are provided with underfloor heating. In addition, when replacing the floor in an existing home, floor heating is increasingly being installed. A good development in our opinion, because underfloor heating offers many benefits.

However, the combination of a PVC floor with underfloor heating can turn out to be detrimental. In fact, heat your plastic when you turn on the floor heating. This can cause the PVC floor to release volatile organic compounds in the air.

According to the EPA (United States Environment Protection Agency), volatile organic compounds can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, among other things. You can also suffer from dizziness headaches and fatigue.

Subfloor must be leveled

A PVC floor is thin and flexible. The disadvantage of this is that it is necessary to level the subfloor before you install the PVC floor. If you don't do that, there is a chance that you will see and feel irregularities in the floor. Leveling the subfloor entails costs, so the total costs of a PVC floor comes close to a budget friendly wooden floor.

Damage to PVC floors are difficult to repair

Living in a house, so it is inevitable that sooner or later damage will occur on the floor. Damage to a PVC floor are difficult to repair. And if wear places occur over time, there is nothing else to do than to replace the floor parts.

This disadvantage does not only apply to PVC floors, but also to laminate floors and tile floors.

Only wooden floors can be maintained well. In most cases, damage, traces of use and wear spots can be concealed with maintenance oil. If you want to give the floor a different color or if the maintenance oil is not the desired result, you can sand and oil the wooden floor. Your floor then looks like new again.

PVC floors and appearance

In terms of appearance, a PVC floor has as a disadvantage that you always see the same prints coming back in the floor parts. This also applies to laminate floors. Only with wooden floors does every floor part have a unique look. After all, no tree is the same.

PolyVinylChloride can cause a lot of damage to people and nature

Do the benefits of a PVC floor outweigh the disadvantages?

You have to draw that conclusion yourself. But as far as we are concerned, the benefits of a PVC floor do not outweigh the disadvantages. We find that, among other things, because of the next recommendation that the HCWH has made:

"Replacement of PVC in applications that pose a risk to human health through exposure indoors (such as floors and furniture) in 2030." (p. 29)

We therefore recommend opting for a different type of floor that does not contain a PVC and is made of renewable raw materials. For example, a wooden floor, cork floor, bamboo floor or carpet.

Always inquire and/or investigate the origin of the floor that you want to buy. For example, there are low quality wooden floors where the wood does not come from sustainably managed forests. In our opinion, it is better not to buy such floors.