Surfaces laminate coverage: Suppliers test category’s limits

February 03, 2017

Performance enhancements tout water-resistant capabilities

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Reginald Tucker

No longer content with ceding market share to competitive categories such as WPC and LVT, laminate suppliers are taking a page out of history by touting the features that first garnered consumer attention when the category first launched in the U.S. in the mid-1990s. Specifically, the category’s ability to go where other hard surfaces, namely wood, fear to tread—areas prone to water spills.

To that end, several large suppliers are incorporating new water-resistant or waterproof attributes in their product lines. Some industry veterans said it hearkened back to the days of the famous Formica water tank test demonstrated at Surfaces in the late ’90s.

Case in point is the new SpillShield moisture wicking technology from Mannington. Now offered on all its Restoration collection laminate floors, SpillShield is an innovative new coating that protects laminate floors against pet messes, standing moisture and spills. As Dan Natkin, vice president of wood and laminate, explains, it wicks moisture away from the core, preventing damage from accidental moisture and keeping its visual and structural integrity intact. “The difference between our technology and other waterproof laminates out there is we treat the edges and sides of each plank,” he said while conducting a demonstration at the booth. “This prevents moisture from penetrating the board.”

A similar demonstration was conducted across the showroom floor at the Quick-Step booth, where laminate planks were submerged in water alongside competing products that touted water-resistant capabilities. According to Roger Farabee, senior vice president of laminate and hardwood, the Quick-Step products performed admirably in the comparison test.

Performance attributes aside, another recurring theme evident across the laminate spectrum at Surfaces was the continued use of wide-width, wide-plank formats—clearly a nod to patterns that have emerged on the hardwood side of the business. In fact, those suppliers who play in different hard surface product categories freely admit to taking cues from one product segment, i.e., wood, and applying those attributes and qualities to other product segments such as laminates.

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 4.05.18 PMFor example, Mannington introduced three new flooring designs into its popular Restoration collection this year. According to Natkin, these new looks tap into the trend of natural, reclaimed woods in muted, less saturated colors. Standouts include Blacksmith oak, a European white oak look that evokes images of gently time-worn flooring; Seaview pine, which captures the aged look of rustic pine that has been weathered by the elements; and Historic oak, which builds on a best-selling design in the Restoration collection.

In that same vein, Mohawk’s latest laminate offerings draw their inspiration from trends seen in its hardwood flooring offerings. For example, Painted Charm provides a clean, modern look in light tones while Reclaimed Spirit conveys a more rustic, weathered visual. Lastly, Wooded Vision imparts the look of recovered barnwood while Artistic Creation features aggressive saw-cut distressed marks.

Quick-Step also showed its strength in the design department. Its signature Veriluxe line was expanded to include new, stylish European white oak visuals, offering what Farabee called the “richest, most sophisticated premium looks and textures available today in the longer, wider market.” The company also expanded its award-winning 12mm Reclaimé collection with five new decors and added new designs in its 12mm Elevae collection.

Suppliers went to great lengths to expand their color palette and overall style offerings. Kronospan, for instance, unveiled nearly 100 new patterns and colors in a wide variety of patterns and species reflecting the global influence on design. The company made a huge splash at the show, showcasing five distinct, on-trend design collections: Authentic, Bohemian, Downtown, Pioneer and Voyager. Each collection contains unique styles and finishes, with formats ranging from 8mm–12mm thick to 125mm-204mm wide.

“The Authentic collection provides a diverse, colorful landscape and rich canvas for any design hue from traditional to modern,” said Mark Bircham, head of design and product management. “This perfect collection of native American beauties, available in different shades with natural tones, replicates classic styles for any room in the home. These genuine designs have stood the test of time as did the oaks, maples, hickory and walnuts of the American landscape.”

The Bohemian collection combines the perfect mix of the treasured and exotic to provide a wide range of colors, species and textures. Meanwhile, the Downtown collection was inspired by New York City’s diversity, Los Angeles’ lights, Miami’s colors and Chicago’s character. Pioneer and Voyager round out the latest offerings and include looks ranging from sophistsicated and cozy (Pioneer) to exotic offerings that reflect global diversity.

Not to be outdone, Swiss Krono unveiled its Wood Medley line available in four species, including oak, white walnut, weathered pine and birch. “We’ve worked hard on coming up with designs that are closer to real, authentic hardwood,” said Barbara June, who handles public relations for Swiss Krono. “Consumers would be hard pressed to tell the difference.”

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