SURFACES 2016 COVERAGE – Resilient: Composites begin to take hold over traditional LVT

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February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Jenna Lippin

Once again there was no shortage of LVT at Surfaces with many companies continuing to innovate to capitalize on the category’s success. That being said, resilient as a whole had a strong showing with refreshed and new sheet vinyl collections and, above anything else, a significant influx of WPC.

As the subcategory’s buzz grows louder, Floor Covering News has started to investigate WPC/composites/enhanced vinyl—there are many different names for the product group. At Surfaces there was an opportunity to examine the latest and greatest and see who is getting into the next phase of the flooring game.

Leader of the pack USFloors was again a star player at Surfaces, not only because of its active booth and beloved COREtec products, but also because of some major announcements heading into the show: It received its third patent for COREtec, which covers “Engineered Waterproof Plastic Composite Flooring and Wall Covering Planks,” and granted sub-license rights to Unilin’s Flooring Technologies and Valinge.

“The playing field is going to change,” Jamann Stepp, USFloors’ director of marketing and product management, said of the company’s recent developments. “This last patent strengthened the context of the previous patent. Before people were trying to find loopholes with their products’ cores being made from X, Y, Z ingredients which then eliminates them from any patent infringement on what we’ve established. I think this last [patent] we’ve got solidifies what the construction is really about.”

At the show USFloors launched two new COREtec collections: COREtec Plus HD and COREtec Plus Design. The 15 new SKUs from HD include wood visual planks featuring high-definition printing with embossed in register textures and a four-sided beveled edge. The Design collection includes 10 SKUs, both wood and tile/stone looks, in 5-, 7- and 9-inch-wide planks. The new collections are priced at about $.10 more than the current best offering, COREtec XL—the consumer would pay somewhere from $4.78 to $4.98 for just product. Both XL and Design will officially launch and be ready to ship during Q1 2016.

Congoleum is one of many manufacturers that launched a COREtec-eque offering at Surfaces. Its new Triversa product is the best offering from its Timeless LVT collection and will be ready to ship this spring. The 100% waterproof product has a rigid core with SmartLock Clic installation, 20 mil urethane wear layer and cork backing.

“It’s that layered construction that drives the performance overall,” said Kurt Denman, vice president, marketing and sales. “There is a volatility to [traditional] LVT with expansion and contraction, but the Triversa core stabilizes that. It performs better than laminate because it eliminates that Achilles heel.”

The company believes the reputation and familiarity of the Congoleum name will help differentiate its composite offering. “It’s a recognizable brand,” said Pat Buckley, vice president, product management. “More consumers recognize Congoleum than some of the competitive products. There are also opportunities to differentiate us by the design package. Triversa brings a very strong series of designs available in 7- and 9-inch widths depending on pattern.”

EarthWerks launched its WPC product Parkhill last year; this year’s Surfaces saw the addition of Sherbrooke, completing the company’s 12-SKU composite offering. Both collections feature 7 x 48 planks with Parkhill offering a 20 mil wear layer with a total 6mm thickness and Sherbrooke a 12 mil layer with 5.5mm overall thickness. Parkhill comes with a 30-year commercial wear limited warranty and lifetime residential limited warranty while Sherbrooke has a 20-year light commercial wear limited warranty and 30-year residential limited wear warranty. All of EarthWerks’ WPC products feature the Valinge 2G fold-down installation system.

“Consumers are going to buy from EarthWerks because we are EarthWerks, the trusted name in LVT,” said Lindsey Nesbit, head of product development and marketing strategy. “We’ve been in the business for 32 years, developing the whole product category. Our products are in stock, we have a strong distributor network and we stand behind our products.”

Mannington’s version of WPC, Adura Max, is coming out as an extension of its Adura brand (FCNews, Jan 18/25). The 6 x 48 planks feature iCore Gen3 technology with a HydroLoc core and Ultra-Quiet pad to create exceptional water and noise resistance. The ScratchResist layer with aluminum oxide helps guard the floor against scratch and wear.

“We’re trying to differentiate with overall construction and quality,” said Dan Natkin, Mannington’s senior director of residential products. “The problem with this new subcategory is—kind of like the early days of laminate—the wide range of quality. You have to see what lasts and what doesn’t. We’ve done a lot to engineer Adura Max to make sure it’s very stable and of the highest quality.”

Adura Max, which features an extensive selection of varied wood visuals, will have its own display and is expected to be available by late May/early June.

With its enthusiastic return to the Surfaces show floor, Mohawk brought a preview of Genesis 3.0, the company’s answer to the composite subcategory. At this time Mohawk is still investing in the research and development of Genesis, but attendees had the opportunity to see what the product has in store prior to its summer launch. “It will be a WPC-type product with an LVT top layer,” explained Tammy Perez, director of hard surface. “When you look at the first generation [of WPC] a lot of companies have focused on products being 100% waterproof but what they don’t tell you about is heat. If you are installing this type of floor in Florida or California or anywhere that gets very hot and it is in areas under windows, for example, the floor begins to cup. The second generation of product starting to come out now is trying to correct that issue, along with some telegraphing problems. Once we are ready we are going to hit the ground running because we want to deliver a well-rounded product that doesn’t just focus on being waterproof but also installation in hot areas. We will create our own story because we feel like what we have in our core will be a much stronger story than WPC.”

Genesis 3.0 will also feature the Uniclic Multifit locking system which will provide easy installation thanks to the ability to install at different angles.

Similarly, Armstrong’s return to the Surfaces show floor was not without some noise from its own “enhanced flooring,” Vivero (FCNews, Jan. 18/25) with live demonstrations and a Best of Surfaces win (see story on page 1). However, its best-selling LuxePlank product garnered some attention as well with its new Rigid Core technology.

Continuing on its key selling point of easy installation (previously focused on FasTak), LuxePlank’s Rigid Core technology is the solution to subfloor irregularities, explained Jeremy Kleinberg, product manager, residential LVT. “If you’re going over an existing floor with tile or an embossed felt sheet you can lay this over the top and there won’t be any telegraphing.”

LuxePlank with Rigid Core includes a polymer composite core with a traditional LVT layer, durable wear layer and factory-applied coating. The cork backing provides acoustic benefits that deaden the transmission of sound to spaces beneath the floor and makes it quieter to walk on.

Kleinberg pointed out that LuxePlank selections are more for “specialty installation applications.” In terms of price difference, LuxePlank with FasTak and with Rigid Core cost roughly the same as the better level of Vivero.

After previewing its Pure program last year, Beauflor is now ready to take orders and ship the product in the U.S. According to the company, Pure differentiates itself from the many composite products on the market because of its extruded rigid backing and the vinyl used, which are both made in Beauflor’s own facilities in Belgium. It is cost competitive with other products in the marketplace even though it is unique in terms of construction and with the Dream Click four-sided click installation system. Pure is also 100% waterproof and offers impressive sound ratings.

While Pure has been delivering to the “overwhelming plank demand of the market,” the product will soon be offered in a tile format as well.

IVC launches Text a Sample

IVC US’ space was a popular show floor destination once again, perhaps even more so this year as it is now part of the Mohawk family of brands.

In addition to updates to its exceedingly popular Moduleo and Flexitec collections, IVC US is making major strides in its marketing efforts. Perhaps the most notable is its new Text a Sample program added to display sample labels, which allows consumers to use their smartphones to help see product in detail.

“Right now we don’t offer take-home samples on any of our products,” explained Bart Rich, senior director of marketing. “With Text a Sample a consumer will get a link to a high-resolution digital sample to use to compare products, colors, paint swatches, etc. It also connects to a room scene and a Find a Retailer function.”

Take-home samples are hard to manage for both the consumer and retailer who has to keep large pieces of product organized and in stock. With the Text a Sample function dealers not only offer instant samples with ease, they can also capture where the text request came from to determine a shopper’s area, send coupons, request ratings and more.

“We now have them engaged,” Rich added. “We’ve completed that circle—getting the customer into the buying space, getting them to the retailer and ultimately buying our product. We are touching on something people do every day.”

Quick-Step enters the LVT game

Also part of the Mohawk family of brands, Quick-Step made its foray into resilient with its own branded LVT. The official launch will come this summer as the company is still fine-tuning product attributes that differentiate Quick-Step LVT from Mohawk’s and IVC’s, in addition to competitors in the industry.

According to Dave Thoresen, senior vice president, commercial hard surface, Mohawk Industries, Quick-Step’s LVT is “the most dimensionally stable product in the marketplace. It is five times stronger, more durable, than any other LVT. I think it takes on WPC to some degree because of the dimensional stability in addition to the Multifit click system which is Unilin’s best technology right now.”

The collection consists of 16 SKUs with 6 x 48 planks, 4.5mm thickness and 22 mil wear layer. “It is very North American in style but with a lot of European influence since this is being manufactured in our Belgium plant,” Thoresen noted. “The sweet spot in the market in terms of price will be the mid to low $3 range.”

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