Judges recognize excellence across six categories
Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21
By Steven Feldman
Las Vegas—Six companies were voted best of class in the third annual Best of Surfaces competition co-sponsored by Floor Covering News and Hanley Wood, owners and operators of the International Surface Event. The awards have become the benchmark for new product excellence and booth design at the industry’s premier trade show.
The winners were:
•Innovation: Armstrong’s Architectural Remnants
•Style & Design: USFloors’ CoreTEC Plus
•Sustainability: Mohawk’s Everstrand Soft Appeal
•Technology: Schluter Systems’ Ditra-Heat
•Best Booth Design Over 1,200 square feet: Mannington
•Best Booth Design Under 1,200 square feet: Horizon Floors
The judging was conducted by a panel of retailers who were initially tasked with narrowing the many entrants in each category to five finalists by the start of Surfaces. Specifically, they were each asked to explore all submissions and select their top five that best represented the category in which they were entered. The most popular selections by consensus in each category made it to the final round, in which judges viewed each finalist on the first day of Surfaces.
Style & Design
COREtec Plus from USFloors
Introduced last year, COREtec Plus has become one of the company’s best-selling resilient products. Building on that success, this year USFloors took the wraps off COREtec Plus XL, the longest and widest vinyl plank available at 6 feet long and 9 inches wide. The rigid patent-pending COREtec Plus construction features a vinyl top layer, wood plastic composite core and cork underlayment. The product is said to eliminate the waviness common with ordinary LVT floors and is waterproof, stable and easy to install, the company noted.
Piet Dossche, president and CEO of USFloors, couldn’t hide his jubilation with winning a Best of Surfaces award. “Winning the Best of Surfaces for Style and Design for COREtec Plus XL is a great honor for our company and something we’re really proud of. To be able to receive this recognition as a newcomer in this LVT category proves our strategy to bring unique, innovative products to our customers is being recognized, appreciated and awarded by the retail community.”
Dossche believes the selection of COREtec Plus XL sends a broader message. “I think the panel of judges understands and wants to emphasize the importance of the role that innovation, design and styling plays in our industry and particularly in this fast-growing LVT category, where over the next 18 months additional manufacturing capacity will come on stream in the U.S. Without innovative styling and design, this will soon lead to a commoditizing and price erosion even more aggressive and rapid than what we have witnessed with laminate flooring over the last 10 years.”
Best of Surfaces judge Jim Mudd, president of Sam Kinnairds’s Flooring in Louisville, Ky., believes COREtec Plus XL can be a perfect alternative to laminate. “There is really a problem with laminate and moisture. COREtec Plus XL is 100% waterproof, plus it has a cork underlayment, so nothing can telegraph through. That’s a winner there.”
Judge Deb DeGraaf, owner of DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich., added, “The visuals CoreTEC Plus XL has to offer have a great variety of graining and color to match almost any decor.”
Architectural Remnants from Armstrong
Capturing its first Best of Surfaces award, Armstrong was cited for its acclaimed Architectural Remnants laminate collection.
Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president of marketing for Armstrong Floor Products, has called Architectural Remnants “perhaps our most unique laminate to date. It combines multiple species and colors that look as if they have withstood years of use or were pulled directly from a historic structure. The line is available in random widths with extensive but ‘intelligently applied’ embossed-in-register to provide the realistic graining, texture and depth of reclaimed wood.”
Sara Babinski, the company’s principal designer for laminate flooring, said Architectural Remnants is designed to look as if it is a gateway to the past. “These floors would likely have come from an old church or barn in the countryside, a shuttered city warehouse, or a 20th century antique salvage yard.”
DeGraff noted that Architectural Remnants’ clarity and depth of pattern and design is something beyond what is found in other laminate floors offered today. “With laminates of such design, this product category is bound to see some increases in market share that in recent years was lost to LVT.”
Mudd also thought the reclaimed wood visuals were noteworthy. “There was one style, a milk white, that for a laminate was hard to believe.”
Ditra-Heat from Schluter Systems
The first product Schluter Systems entered in the Best of Surfaces competition was a winner. Equally impressive was that the judges almost unanimously cited the floor warming system as best in category.
Ditra-Heat is the only electric floor warming system that directly incorporates uncoupling technology to ensure that floors aren’t susceptible to cracked tiles and grout. Cables can be placed wherever heat is desired for customized heating zones, and no leveling compounds are required, which makes for a quick and easy installation.
“We’re extremely honored to receive this Best of Surfaces award,” said Greg Gelston, director of sales. “Combining uncoupling and heating in one layer not only results in a comfortable and durable floor, but also a thinner assembly. Heating cables can be placed wherever floor warming is desired, and no leveling compounds are required to encapsulate the cables, which removes a time-consuming step and speeds up installation. We’re very excited for this product line to hit the market in March—we’ve had a lot of installers telling us they can’t wait to start using the system.”
“This product is innovative,” Mudd said. “When we try to do heated floors under ceramic, where you have to use mortar and put wires in, etc., there always seems to be a problem. With Ditra-Heat, by putting the cables in the Ditra matting, it’s a failsafe way of getting it done. It’s fantastic.”
Everstrand Soft Appeal from Mohawk
After winning the Sustainability category in 2013 for its SmartStrand Silk, Mohawk took home its second consecutive Best of Surfaces award, this time for Everstrand Soft Appeal.
Manufactured using Mohawk’s patented Continuum process, Everstrand Soft Appeal is a soft PET carpet that starts clean and stays clean, is built to last and is inherently eco-friendly, according to the company. The product boasts up to 100% recycled content.
“Mohawk is honored to win the Best of Surfaces sustainability award,” said David Duncan, Mohawk senior vice president, marketing & sales operations. “We are pleased that retailers recognize the innovation and value in our Everstrand and Continuum PET BCF platform. Not only is this the industry’s first carpet made from 100% post-consumer recycled material, it also represents the best PET BCF carpet on the market. This is an incredible accomplishment that will provide long-lasting benefits to our retail partners and to society at large.”
Best of Surfaces judge Jon Pierce, general manager of Pierce Flooring & Design, with seven stores across Montana, said Mohawk’s new Continuum process has a “great story to tell behind the technology and will be easy to sell to the consumer.”
Best Booth (over 1,200 square feet)
Every year the largest expanse on the Surfaces show floor belongs to Mannington, and this year the company was rewarded with its first best booth feet honor.
“We are grateful to be recognized for the hard work that we put into our booth,” said Betsy Amoroso, director of corporate communications. “The idea is to keep the booth simple and allow the new products to shine. In addition, Mannington is known for the incredible style and design of its floors, so we are aware that the styling leadership needs to be evident in the booth design as well.”
The judges agreed that despite its size, the booth succeeded in putting the spotlight on product. “The space was very inviting even with the large number of people always in the booth,” DeGraaf said. “Products and displays were laid out in such a way that many people could navigate through the space and see all the new product and design Mannington was bringing to market.”
Pierce added that Mannington “always manages to put together a truly phenomenal booth showcasing its current and new introductions. The company succeeded in tying sheet products into the hot LVT category by creating a ‘new’ category called luxury vinyl sheet. I love creative marketing and the thought put behind it.”
Best Booth (under 1,200 square feet)
Horizon was cited for best booth under 1,200 square feet with an eye-catching space built from reclaimed wood from an old trestle bridge in Ohio. The company also incorporated metal parts from railroad tracks.
But this concept was not just about design. By displaying new products against the backdrop of reclaimed wood, the booth represented Horizon’s philosophy that blends the development of sustainable products with today’s style and design trends. “We are committed to minimizing our carbon footprint and incorporating responsible environmental practices in all aspects of our business,” said Alex Shaoulpour, president. “This honor inspires us to continue on our path of developing innovative floors.”
DeGraaf called the Horizon booth “a very small but impactful space with the integration of materials from an old building and the style of wood flooring Horizon has to offer.”