Laminate trends: More options than ever

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Originally produced to mimic the look of hardwood flooring while offering enhanced performance characteristics through state-of-the-art technology, laminate floors have come a long way in the 15 years or so they’ve been available in the U.S.

As methods of production have advanced, manufacturers now seemingly have the ability to make laminate look like whatever they want, including ceramic tile, natural stone as well as more realistic wood-look designs and patterns. So what are some of the latest laminate trends?

Features such as wider planks, bolder colors and textures, and never-before-seen species currently play a growing role in laminate’s hottest new looks.

David Sheehan, vice president, laminate/resilient business for Mannington, said the mill’s new Longwood Collection, introduced at Surfaces, has captured the attention of the industry and is poised for success when it launches later this spring. “What makes it unique is not only its size—7.87-inches wide by 80.63-inches long—but its styling. Brazilia has the look of exotic Brazilian cherry, while the unique Aberdeen looks like reclaimed wood. These products feature our new fold down mLock technology and Diamond finish.”

Fred Giuggio, vice president of the Formica Flooring brand, attested to Sheehan’s take on longer planks, noting, “Coming out of Surfaces, we continued with our long plank program in Quintessa, which we brought to market two years ago. We also believe continued improvement on beveled edges and textures are very important.”

George Kelley, president and CEO of Pergo, noted several trends in the laminate category are reflected in Pergo’s new specialty retail line-up planned for 2010. “There are a variety of new colors and textures emerging in the laminate category. Rich and refined oaks continue to be popular. Elegant Expressions is getting new decors throughout the year with the Reclaimed, Renaissance and Fleming Oak collections. These classic looks are inspired by the new flooring trend toward refined rustics and feature the latest in multi-layer EIR texturing.

Jeff Katz, director of laminates for Tarkett Residential, called attention to the company’s new Trends Collection. “This is an on-trend laminate flooring line that features eight of the hottest antique-stained and soft-hand-scraped designs in the marketplace. Trends also features realistic embossing, beveled edges and narrow widths—at a reasonable value.”

Eric Erickson, laminate category manager for Shaw Industries, noted how much customers are currently looking for a good value. “With the tough economic times, consumers are looking for the best value they can get in the marketplace. Collections such as Luminiere, featuring Fountainhead Lake, a pear wood visual in three different colors,” he noted, “and Provencial, a collaboration with Anderson that showcases a stunning, hand scraped look in three colors with worm holes and scars to make a natural and realistic visual, offer high-end looks and colors with better durability and wear resistance that consumers could not get in real hardwood products.”

According to Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Unilin, the biggest news from the company is its introduction of GenuEdge technology in the Mohawk and Quick•Step product lines. This new edge technology “represents the next evolutionary step for laminate and will take the category to a new level of realism.”

Mohawk’s Barrington product and Quick•Step’s Veresque collection feature the new GenuEdge technology, which allows the surface design and color to literally “roll over the edge,” he noted, “creating the same edge visual found in real wood planks.”

Veresque offers three new, smooth furniture finish products in jatoba, maple and walnut visuals. “Furniture finish products will become the logical successor to high-gloss finishes in the next generation of laminate,” he said.

Tile takes off

Ceramic looks remain a relatively small part of the overall business, less than 20%, Farabee noted. While not as popular as the wood looks laminate is known for, ceramic tile patterns offer consumers yet another exciting choice.

They comprise an “extremely important segment and one that we feel we have a competitive advantage,” Sheehan said. “We’ve just introduced two 16-inch visuals in Revolutions Tile: Sedona and Portofino. Both patterns offer thinner grout lines that mimic what’s going in real ceramic and porcelain tile.”

Formica Flooring’s ceramic looks were updated during the fourth quarter of 2009 and “we have seen an uptick in interest,” Guggio said. “Registered embossed looks in stone and travertine have been more popular than the traditional ceramic looks. In addition, random-size tiles within the visual have been a great item.”

Erickson noted that while Shaw is not seeing growth in the segment, “we do a good job with the tile, stone and concrete visuals in our Majestic series. Our 16-inch format tiles and modular visuals that feature our Loc-N-Place single action locking system, makes the product the easiest and fastest laminate to install. We’ve also designed our modular looks to be able to stagger the planks every eight inches, allowing installers to create a random and unique visual on the floor. Also, 12 x 24-inch stone and concrete visuals have done very well for us, bringing an upscale and unique look to laminate.”

-Louis Iannaco

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