Vinyl floor discoloration is a more common occurrence than one might think. Sheet vinyl floor discoloration can develop from above the product surface, below the product surface or within the product itself. With lighter colored material vinyl floor discoloration from both above and below are common.
Why Vinyl Floor Discoloration
Due to construction characteristics, a rotogravure product will stain easier from the back than an inlaid product which almost always discolor face down. Few vinyl floor discoloration problems are due to a manufacturing defect. Most vinyl floor discoloration problems are either installation or consumer related.
The wise installer will be aware of concerns present at the time of installation. Not addressed properly the installer may be held responsible for a future problem. To limit responsibility, steps should be taken to prevent problems.
Likewise, the dealer needs to be aware of potential problems. Prior to closing a sale, the wise sales person will inspect the installation site and make the consumer aware of potential concerns.
- A high percentage of vinyl floor discoloration appears as yellowing, possibly as much as 95% is external related.
- Retardant yellowing can occur in 2 -3 months in low areas.
- Sun spot yellow (heat degradation). Looks like big freckles in a solid brown or purple. Found near heat registers and sliding glass doors.
- Asphalt tracking – It is the sealer or coating that results in vinyl floor discoloration in the form of yellowing. An asphalt drive without sealer will not cause yellowing. Regardless of the sealer is used, when a floor is washed, the residue spreads and the entire floor can become yellow.
- Sealed driveways, decks, oil and grease, lawn care products can all cause problems that show themselves in a variety of geometrical shapes.
Other Vinyl Floor Discolorations
- Transfer from inks or dye on the back will show through on face, pigments will not.
- Mildew and mold does not have to be in both the embossed and raised section.
- Sun tan lotions such as Paba in sunscreens and Oxy with sun blocker will discolor
Examining with (UV-A) Ultraviolet Light – Black Light
- Long wave UV is preferred to short wave though both will work.
- Tracking type asphalt tracking glows
- Retardant inks glow as blue white in lines
- Stains of petroleum base will glow
- Heat degradation will glow
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Antioxidants — like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), among others — are used in rubber formulations to keep them from prematurely aging and to prevent the rubber from getting brittle or cracking. When a product such as a rug with rubber backing that contains such compounds comes in contact with PVC floors, these chemicals will migrate into the surface of the vinyl material.
Adhesive – Non-recommended
A manufacturer recommends certain adhesives that have been formulated to be compatible with their floor. The recommended adhesive may cost a bit more in the beginning as they often contain more expensive clays, processing oils and anti-oxidants.
An improperly selected adhesive may be less expensive, but it may also contain oils that are dark in color, or have a syrup-like consistency. The result of this adhesive is vapors from the anti-oxidant and processing oil migrating up into the material through the backing. They interact with the ultra-violet light and result in a yellow vinyl floor discoloration.
Adhesive – Old Latex Adhesive Residue: As with the improper adhesive, the processing oils and anti-oxidants in the old adhesive may not be compatible. Old adhesive residue not completely removed from the old floor may cause yellowing. This will be more of a problem with flex floors and homogeneous vinyl’s. Less of a problem with a felt backed product which acts as a barrier. Eighty to one-hundred percent removal of old adhesive may be required depending upon the product.
Asphaltic Cutback Adhesive Residue. When adhesive residue is present after tile removal, it needs to be completely removed or covered with a suitable underlayment. Asphaltic cutback will often cause a yellow discoloration on the new floor. It is important to understand that this type of adhesive and tile may contain asbestos.
Asphalt Saturated Lining Felt
This felt will stain resilient flooring. It is not recommended as an underlayment for resilient floor covering. Lining felt must be removed or covered using a suitable underlayment. Lining felt may contain asbestos.
Using this adhesive to adhere underlayment to subfloor often results in a yellow discoloration. These adhesives contain strong anti-oxidant. It gets into the vinyl and reacts. Typically, it telegraphs at subfloor lines, nail holes or other areas where gas can penetrate. This anti-oxidant discoloration is not correctable.
Gypsum-Based Patching Compounds and Underlayments
These products routinely contain carbon or starch. This food a source for fungus spores, once mixed with moisture will create an ideal environment for its growth. Fungus / mildew growth leads to discolorations of many colors i.e. pastel blue, pink, yellow, orange.
The best prevention is moisture testing to assure that you are working in a dry area. And the use of a portland cement based patching compound when installing below grade or over concrete.
A gypsum-based patch for wood and dry suspended concrete is suitable, only if it is free of any food source for fungi.
Petroleum Based Products
Wood Stain, Paint, Paint Thinner, Kerosene, Heating Oil, and Oil-Based Stain. These products can often be hard to detect. If spilled or dripped, they will penetrate a subfloor. If not completely removed before installation, they will often result in yellowing of a resilient floor.
Pink Synthetic Polyurethane Patching Material
This pink colored material, was most commonly used in the middle 80’s, it is used to fill knots and other voids in wood panel underlayment. While the material is pink, the discoloration to the floor will be yellow. The discoloration will duplicate the shape of the patch in the underlayment. Plywood underlayment that is recommended for use with resilient floor coverings and carry the APA (American Plywood Association mark use a safe patching material. It should be noted that this problem was most common in mid-1980.
Oriental Strand Board (OSB) and Waferboard. Some of these boards contain dark colored wood chips and strands that can discolor a vinyl floor covering. It is important that underlayment materials be purchased from a reliable source that will guarantee the product and stand behind the problem should it occur.
Resin Coated Nails
Framing and sheathing sinkers are not designed for floor covering. While not all resin coated nails will create a vinyl floor discoloration, many will. Unless you can be assured that those you are using will not cause staining, it is best to stay away from them. Many manufacturers recommend that instead you use non-coated ring-shank or spiral-shank nails. You can also use divergent chisel-point staples that are designed for fastening underlayment.
These are staining agents carried onto the floor by means of foot traffic. The actual staining agent cannot always be detected but vinyl floor discoloration has distinct identifying characteristics. Tracking stains will typically be in the traffic area. Also, in the work area of a room while the non-traffic areas are not exhibiting the same discoloration. The discoloration will usually be in the top area of the floor and not in the embossed areas (lower areas) such as grout lines.
Vinyl Flooring Problems
If you experience a problem or the appearance of a failure with a vinyl floor, there are experts that are able to perform testing and evaluate the cause. Among the nations most respected inspection companies is The Weinheimer Group. They have been performing inspections throughout Oregon and Washington since 1990.