Jan 18/25; Volume 30/Number 15
By Ken Ryan
In one corner you have the new kid on the block, WPC, or wood plastic/polymer composite, which could be the hot product for 2016 as it is expected to make some noise at Surfaces in Las Vegas. In the other corner is laminate, no longer the “it” product of a decade ago but certainly still very much a relevant product in the flooring world.
According to retailers, WPC—also known as composites, enhanced vinyl, multi-layer vinyl planks and luxury flooring—products such as USFloors’ COREtec, are popular thanks to their water-resistant attributes that enable installation in bathrooms and kitchens. Casey Dillabaugh, owner of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America in Boise, Idaho, also takes other benefits of WPC into consideration. “The WPC category saved, at least in our market, the LVT category as a whole simply because entry-level LVT wasn’t performing. Enter COREtec and Floorté [an enhanced vinyl plank from Shaw Floors], and WPC has changed the game for our clients.”
WPC presents dealers with some challenges but far greater opportunities when it comes to merchandising the product. While consumers may not know what WPC is, retailers can use their expertise to educate customers by illustrating the many benefits.
For example, Jim Mudd, president and owner of Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring in Louisville, Ky., merchandises WPC in the laminate section, selling it as an upgrade to the traditional category. Some dealers even place display pieces of WPC products like COREtec in a fish tank full of water to demonstrate its waterproof features.
Most WPC products are displayed in the resilient section. Some retailers position it against LVT, focusing on issues such as acclimation and subfloor prep—both are easier to handle with WPC.
Laminate has its advantages as well. These products are bio-based and renewable—over 96% of the product is made of wood. “It is also highly scratch resistant—more so than any other flooring type other than maybe porcelain,” said Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products for Mannington.
In fact, the most commonly cited advantage of laminate among retailers is the product’s durability. That is a selling point for active households as laminate is resistant to scratches and staining. Dealers also cited the benefit of laminate’s visuals over those offered in WPC. Some wood looks in laminate are so accurate even experts cannot tell the difference.
According to dealers, manufacturers have put substantial R&D work into the imaging of laminate, which has helped keep the category—especially at 12 mil and above—as relevant as ever.
The disadvantage of laminate is its moisture sensitivity and need for transition moldings at certain intervals. The core of a laminate product acts like a sponge, absorbing moisture that causes it to expand. If there is not enough expansion in a room, the floor will buckle or the joints of the laminate will squeak as it is walked across.
One retailer who carries both laminate and WPC said, “You can swab the deck with WPC which is nice. You don’t have to stress over the water aspect, so perhaps that gives a slight edge to WPC in terms of maintenance. They’re both easy to care for. Not having to stress over water/moisture gives WPC the edge regarding areas of application. It can go more places, most notably bathrooms.”
Both manufacturers and retailers weighed in on the advantages and disadvantages of WPC and laminate.
Editor’s note: For the purposes of this comparison, only laminate products with 12 mil thickness and above were considered.