Popular choices for floor tiles in the 1950s underwent a major change from natural materials, such as ceramics, to resilient composites containing vinyl and asbestos. The new vinyl tiles were cost-effective and offered patterns and colours not previously available. After asbestos was determined to be harmful to human health during the 1980s, vinyl tile components changed to comply with the new health guidelines, but remain a popular choice for inexpensive flooring today.
Vinyl Composite Tile
Vinyl composite tiles, or VCT, are among the most popular types of floor tiles from the 1950s to the present. Older VCT tiles were produced with asbestos fibres, but today's versions are asbestos-free. The tiles contain a mixture of limestone, clay and talc as the primary component, plus filler, fibreglass, vinyl, plasticiser and pigment. Patterns popular in the 1950s included geometric shapes in a mixture of colours. VAT tiles were primarily produced in 12-inch squares, but 9-inch squares were also available.
Vinyl Asbestos Tile
Produced during the 1950s to the 1980s, vinyl asbestos tile, or VAT, was a common choice for flooring in the mid- to late-1950s due to its dimensional stability and resistance to heat. VAT was made primarily of limestone combined with asbestos, a plasticiser, a binder and pigment. VAT tiles were most popular in 9-inch squares, but 12-inch squares were also available. VAT tile production stopped in the mid 1980s due to health concerns related to asbestos.
Cork tiles were popular flooring choices during the early 1950s due to the durability and cost-effectiveness of the product. Cork tiles in sizes ranging from 6-inch squares to 8-inch squares were common, but colour options were limited. The popularity of cork tiles decreased in the mid 1950s with the availability of vinyl tiles in a variety of colours and patterns.
One of the most popular styles of 1950s flooring tile designs was the hexagonal ceramic tile. Frequently in white, or a black and white pattern, the five-sided tiles were 3 inches across at the widest point. Other popular colours for hexagonal floor tiles in the 1950s were soft pink, soft blue and turquoise.