Vinyl composition tile (VCT)
is a finished flooring material used primarily in commercial and institutional applications. Vinyl tiles are composed of colored vinyl chips formed into solid sheets of varying thicknesses (1/8” is most common) by heat and pressure and cut into 12” squares. Tiles are applied to a smooth, leveled sub-floor using a specially formulated vinyl adhesive that remains tacky but does not completely dry. Tiles are typically waxed and buffed using special materials and equipment.
Vinyl tile is favored over other kinds of flooring materials in high-traffic areas because of its low cost, durability, and ease of maintenance. Vinyl tiles have high resilience to abrasion and impact damage and can be repeatedly refinished with chemical strippers and mechanical buffing equipment. If properly installed, tiles can be easily removed and replaced when damaged. Tiles are available in a variety of colors from several major flooring manufacturers. Some manufacturers have created vinyl tiles that very closely resemble wood, stone, terrazzo, and concrete. Tiles can easily be cut and assembled into colorful and decorative patterns.
Vinyl composition tiles took the place of asbestos tiles, which were widely used in schools, hospitals, offices, and public buildings up until the 1980s. Use of tiles and adhesives containing asbestos were discontinued when asbestos materials were determined to be hazardous.
The asbestos content of tiles sometimes can be determined by size or appearance. Tiles free of asbestos cannot be distinguished by their size alone – although asbestos tiles were commonly manufactured in 9-inch squares, not all 9-inch square vinyl tiles manufactured before 1980 contain asbestos, and asbestos tiles were created in a variety sizes. Mastics and adhesives containing low concentrations of asbestos were used into the 1970s and are generally considered non-hazardous because the asbestos is not considered friable.
In the debate over the "greenness" of building materials, vinyl has become a divisive topic. Burning the material can release dioxins and other hazardous chemicals. Harmful additives such as phthalates and heavy metals can leach out of the roughly 1.5 million tons (1.4 million metric tons) of vinyl discarded each year just in the United States