Flooring has expanded from plain concrete to now include an array of styles in either solid wood, tile, carpeting, marble, and even imitation materials such as vinyl or laminate flooring. Each type is in constant development to maintain durability and ease of installation, which must adapt and grow with the consumer’s ever-changing needs.
With the recent advancement of industry research and technology, flooring materials have reasonably incorporated a tough compound or composite structure – essentially, a calculated mix of materials, to maximise their function and durability, whilst maintaining a sleek appearance.
It’s no wonder why we’re always spoilt for choice when entering showrooms and find it hard to choose just one floor covering.
Stone plastic composite (SPC) flooring is one of the more hardy types of flooring products available today. This type of flooring has long been in production, but quickly gained popularity after cushioned and plank varieties were launched in the 1960s. SPC flooring became an integral part of home design ever since.
What is SPC flooring?
The SPC (stone plastic composite or stone polymer composite) flooring material is a high-quality type of vinyl, commonly referred to as luxury vinyl with an exceptionally rigid and durable core composed partly of polymer. It is particularly useful in high-traffic environments such as those in commercial applications.
Vinyl flooring options are customizable and come in tile, sheet, and plank forms – all these forms of stone plastic composites are made to cover entire flooring areas and feature a click-and-lock system along its edges; they can be assembled and disassembled with relative ease.
Just like its other product forms, SPC in plank form is a resilient flooring option that can last a long time due to the combination of limestone or stone powder and assorted stabilisers in its core. The layers above and below the core assures dimensional stability in each plank.
The layers in each individual piece are as follows, labelled from top to bottom:
UV layer (topcoat)
Prolonged exposure to UV (ultraviolet light) rays can cause significant damage to most surfaces, including tough hardwood floors. Selected SPC flooring features a protective UV topcoat layer, which helps prevent unsightly discolouration from the sun.
Unlike premium brands, all forms of SPC flooring will have a heavy-duty, protective wear layer of varying thickness, which is resistant to scratches and stains. One example of this is an aluminium oxide wear layer. The lasting strength and durability of flooring planks are attributed to this transparent layer.
A urethane-based wear layer, for example, is easy to clean, enabling this type of flooring to look freshly installed even after lots of foot traffic and multiple wipes.
Vinyl image layer
Mimics the appearance of natural wood or stone via a decorative print – embossed stone plastic composite planks tend to have a natural yet realistic look to their vinyl images that belies the true nature of the material.
Composite core layer
The most unique component of stone plastic composites is its dense and rigid core, made from a mix of pulverised limestone and stabilisers such as bamboo dust and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) materials.
Stone plastic composite planks are an excellent choice for areas with heavy foot traffic due to this sturdy core layer which is able to withstand a variety of impacts that would dent regular vinyl or plank floors.
Backing layer (optional)
Resting behind the functional layers is a foam or cork backing layer that provides the stone plastic composite planks with added comfort and insulation.
What about WPC flooring: Is it similar to SPC flooring?
The short answer is, no.
Unlike pure hardwood flooring, WPC (wood plastic composite) flooring has a less rigid core made from plastic and wood by-products. Also a form of luxury vinyl flooring, wood plastic composites are a tad bit softer and prone to dents; the faux wood flooring options are cheaper and more widely available compared to stone plastic composites.
Installing SPC flooring
SPC products are easily installed on your existing floor thanks to their nifty click-and-lock edges. The plank version, for example, is usually available in 2mm to 8mm+ thickness. Choosing thick or thin planks will depend on the type and condition of the existing floor or subfloor you already have.
Although you can forgo installation costs by hired contractors, you will still need ample planning and some elbow grease when affixing the planks yourself at home.
Flooring layout planning
Like regular vinyl plank flooring, stone plastic composite planks are best arranged by working from the most prominent wall of a room outward, towards the door- or entryway. In your DIY installation, plan to lay the first row of planks parallel to this wall.
As you continue across the room, stagger rows so that end joints do not align at the same point for adjacent rows – end seams offset at least six inches from row to row is recommended.
You can use baseboards or similar to hide uneven plank formation in your last row.
Remove trim moulds
Any wall trim in contact with the floor including baseboards and case mouldings around doors, should be removed for ease of plank installation. Trim mouldings can be pried off the wall with a flat pry bar, and reattached after the new plank floor has been installed.
Door case mouldings are also relatively easy to remove. Plank installation can be done quicker in rooms if you remove the door case mouldings and the doors from their hinges too.
Before the new planks are affixed, be sure to sand down any uneven subfloors – a flat, even surface is optimum as the underlayment for plank flooring.
However, if you have a subfloor made of concrete or wood, be sure to use appropriate compounds to level the subfloor first. You can then choose a thick or thin stone plastic composite plank to lay over the modified subfloor, to ensure stability and prevent hidden irregularities.
Cutting SPC planks
Use a quality utility knife to carefully score through the face of a plank, several times. The pieces may snap off easily when folded backwards from the front of the plank – if not, lightly run the utility knife along the fold to finish the cut.
TIP: Use a fine-tooth handsaw to cut straight through the entire plank, to save some time.
Testing SPC planks
Start with a full plank at the very centre of the prominent wall and continue on either side until you reach the ends of the row. The flooring layout will be aesthetically pleasing if the planks are of equal lengths at the opposite side walls.
Remember to leave a 1/4 inch gap near the wall and at the ends for expansion and final adjustment. For this, you can place spacers against the walls to mark the gap.
The installation method for SPC planks
Each plank features a unique click-and-lock edge on both of its longer sides, so installation can be done in a snap. Just lay the first plank flat against the floor, while the second plank is angled down into the groove along the side of the first plank. The planks are locked into place when the second plank lies parallel to and is flush with the first plank.
Join the planks end-to-end before moving on to the next row. Be sure to stagger end joints in a new row such that they are at least six inches away from the end joints in the previous row.
Cut to fit SPC planks around protrusions
Cutting these planks to fit around immovable floor fixtures is easily done with just a utility knife. The cutout plank can still lock on to the others – first attach the cutout to the adjoining plank while holding it upward, at an angle, and slowly fold down the cutout until it snaps into place with the adjoining plank.
It may sometimes also be necessary to disassemble previous planks in order to get the cutout plank in place.
Installing the final SPC planks
A utility knife is again used to make lengthwise cuts along the plank, leaving room for a 1/4-inch gap with the wall. The planks can then be joined to the others as previously mentioned, by first clicking them together, end-to-end, then folding the tongues into the grooves of the second-last row of planks.
For a snug fit, use a drawbar tool to tug the final row of planks into place against the previous row.
Reattach trim moulds
Bare areas on the wall close to your new floor will make the whole room look unkempt, so reattach the wall trim removed earlier, preferably using a pneumatic brad nailer. Unlike manual nailing, a brad nailer will not damage the trim, but you can still use a nail set and hammer – recess the nail heads below the surface of the trim before manual nailing.
Depending on the thickness of the stone plastic composite planks of your choice, you may need to trim the ends of some mouldings or replace them with new ones to ensure a good fit.
Other considerations of SPC flooring
Stone plastic composites come in a wide range of designs and patterns according to their underlying vinyl image layer, and as such are adaptable to many different styles. The suitability of this type of resilient flooring is determined by its grade, application and functionality, usually for residential or commercial purposes.
Generally, SPC flooring is warranted by its grade. It is important to choose the correct type of flooring that will be able to sustain the related foot traffic after installation, in addition to other wear and tear.
Besides this, two safety functions should be considered when choosing stone plastic composite floors, namely anti-slip and anti-static ability.
The anti-slip rating (R-rating) of stone plastic composites ranges widely, depending on where the flooring is installed. In general, a high value of the R-rating denotes superior slip resistance – only if the floor is free of surface liquid. You should choose product forms with a high R-rating to install in potentially risky areas in your home, such as the kitchen or bathroom.
Flooring protected by anti-static stone plastic composites does not conduct electrostatic charge. It can ideally be used in pharmaceutical commercial offices, laboratories, and hospitals to keep them from accumulating dangerous static electricity.
Advantages of SPC flooring
New SPC products are regularly being introduced in the flooring market in a huge variety, such as planks, sheets, or square tiles. Although these product forms have similar capabilities, each has special features suited to a specific application, such as the ability to withstand heavy foot traffic activity or its moisture-resistant surface.
For example, a traditional LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring has a flexible and soft core due to its polymer composition and often must be fastened down with industrial-strength glue. These planks might not provide as much support underfoot: heavy furniture can easily dent the soft and bendable material, despite it being water-resistant and highly tolerant to greasy stains.
Nevertheless, traditional luxury vinyl planks are a good aesthetic option as they look realistic and are available in a variety of colours and sizes.
Comparatively, for innovative hybrid forms of luxury vinyl planks, such as stone plastic composite flooring, the planks each have a sturdy and rigid core, and therefore, are more resilient to surface damage and/or heavy usage.
Stone plastic composite planks are made with a click-and-lock feature that makes installation a breeze for seasoned contractors and DIYers alike; their elegant, long-lasting, and sturdy finish bumps up the resale value of any property as well.
SPC floorings each have a decent style and are durable, water-resistant, stain-resistant, and pet-friendly to boot! They are available in just as many colours and sizes as regular vinyl planks – if you can’t find them in showrooms, you can just as easily get them for a fair price online.
Summary – The ideal flooring solution?
Regardless of the product form you decide to cover your floor with, SPC floorings are one of the best types of rigid core flooring that will allow for a quick, easy, and long-lasting upgrade to your home:
The style possibilities you can opt to work SPC into are endless, due to the sheer variety of designs they come in.
SPC floorings are able to withstand the demanding requirements of high-use floors. Plus, they repel moisture and are highly resistant to physical and chemical abrasion, impact, humidity, and stains.
Each stone plastic composite product is manufactured with a click-lock system installation which easily and seamlessly fits together with other pieces of the same product family, much like interlocking pieces of a puzzle.
SPC floorings are manufactured with clear top layers which are highly resistant both to scratches and stains – they can be kept clean with just a simple wipe-down, without the need for harsh detergents or scrubbing.
With this, you can see why the stone plastic composite is the preferred choice of flooring in many homes – the composition will likely be improved for even better functionality as time goes by.