June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26
By Ken Ryan
Luxury vinyl tile has clearly found a home in the commercial flooring market where its footprint is exhibited in all settings and applications. And with the advent of WPC and rigid core offerings flooding the market, specifiers have more options than ever to complete their projects.
Prior to taking over as Tarkett’s director of product management and marketing for LVT, Jeremy Salomon spent seven years on the commercial side overseeing sheet goods and VCT. He saw firsthand how the market was transitioning to LVT. “What we found is while there is a lot of application for sheet vinyl in commercial the quality of installers is dwindling,” he explained. “Sheet is a different skill trade; many installers haven’t been working with sheet goods and don’t have the skill to master it. And the ones who do know sheet are nearing retirement. In contrast, anyone can install tile or plank.”
Salomon said that while VCT is less expensive to install than LVT, there is a cost to maintain VCT that makes LVT the more cost-effective solution for the long term. “You have LVT costs coming down and you also have all the aesthetics that VCT couldn’t provide. LVT is so much easier to work with.”
Commercial clients are looking for a durable product that can withstand heavy foot traffic and rolling load environments and still provide an aesthetically pleasing design. “Like the residential market, there is a need for realistic visuals in wood and stone, but commercial clients are also looking for alternative designs that include woven, textile or wood and stone blends that can function as transitional elements in a space,” said Amanda O’Neil, product manager for Armstrong.
Al Boulogne, vice president, commercial resilient business for Mannington Commercial, added that this “aesthetic freedom” comes with the security of a product that performs in even the toughest commercial applications. “High-performance wear layers, balanced constructions and a huge variety of installation options complete the package to make LVT an easy choice in any application.”
The competition within the LVT category has pushed manufacturers to improve print designs, color offerings, in-register embossings, wear layers and larger sizes. Gary Keeble, director of marketing for Metroflor, said manufacturers are adding new platforms “above and beyond traditional glue-down products. Floating platforms can be either loose lay or commercial resilient vinyl click, which offer speed of installation and reduced cost without the costly floor prep required with glue-down products.”
Christy Schofield, director of commercial hard surface for Mohawk, said the overall value of LVT, the flexibility of the visuals, performance and ease of maintenance combine to make it a natural fit for the commercial market. “It has opened doors and allowed us to provide the entire flooring solution for commercial and hospitality projects.”
LVT/LVP wasn’t always the product de jour for the commercial segment. However, concern over constant maintenance, scratches and moisture have—in some cases—dissuaded some commercial establishments away from real wood, observers say. “As wood imagery becomes more authentic, faux wood alternatives have become more attractive,” said Laura Nieto, communications and marketing specialist for Cali Bamboo. “The high-end LVP options today are more beautiful than the vinyl of years past, which was typically seen as the run-of-the-mill industrial option. Today’s LVP also carries improved durability and waterproof properties—an absolute must for many commercial spaces like restaurants, grocery stores, gyms and medical centers. That extreme durability translates to very little upkeep and no sanding, refinishing or polishing.”
Mannington’s Boulogne said LVT “is in play” in virtually every commercial segment today. “Traditionally, we’ve seen LVT in retail, healthcare and education but now the category is breaking new ground in hospitality, multifamily and corporate. Because of the features and benefits there are compelling attributes of LVT that can drive the product through each one of the main commercial sectors.”
Cost and time spent on a project are key factors when specifying products. LVT and its iterations provide a significant savings compared with other products and save time on the installation end. “The product itself often comes at a lower price point than hardwood, and is lightweight and easy to install with less underlayment prep,” Nieto said. “Businesses see a faster, less-expensive turnaround and they save money on labor. They also don’t have to shut down for too long a period to accommodate lengthy acclimations or installations. Due to vinyl flooring’s dimensional stability, expansion is not a major concern and therefore requires fewer transition pieces. Depending on the product’s construction, indoor air quality is not compromised—a common concern with laminates and lower quality products.”
USFloors’ COREtec is on the road to becoming a consumer brand, but the many variations of COREtec expand into the commercial space. Its 2017 introduction, Plus XL Enhanced, for example, is offered in 18 hardwood decors with an embossed grain pattern, an attached cork underlayment and a four-sided enhanced bevel edge that works well in light commercial environments. The patented COREtec technology allows easy handling and installation, making COREtec Plus XL Enhanced an alternative to glue-down LVT, locking LVT or laminate flooring. The company said the rigid core platform—which is constructed of recycled wood, bamboo dust, limestone and virgin PVC—provides a 100% waterproof floor that can be installed in wet areas and will not swell when exposed to moisture or excessive amounts of water.
Metroflor took a major step forward in the rigid core category with the introduction of its proprietary Isocore technology in Aspecta Ten and Engage Genesis. Isocore’s solid PVC cellular core gives it strength and rigidity, along with an LVT top layer and an attached pad to help mitigate sound transmission, according to the company. Aspecta Ten and Engage Genesis are specified for most commercial segments including retail, hospitality, assisted living, education and corporate.
Karndean’s glue-down products, which include Kaleidoscope—a collection of modular designs custom cut in compatible geometric formats—offer a variety of designs, sizes and technical specifications to address the needs of any commercial sector. Larry Browder, CEO of Karndean, said the company’s components system allows designers to create wayfinding and zoning to make the best use of the space, no matter the commercial specification. “Whether it’s a hospital looking to facilitate patient flow, highlight key areas or walkways in educational environments or separate areas of an open office plan, we can meet each of these requirements.”
Novalis Innovative Flooring continues to make a big push in commercial. The company is touting its two newest AVA collections—SMPL and SPRK. SMPL is floating floor with a click locking system and an attached cork underlayment for improved acoustical performance. AVA SPRK is available in 18 x 18 tiles in a variety of brights and neutrals with built-in antimicrobial properties.
Mannington launched more than 200 visuals into the market in 2016 and continued that trend in 2017. Featured are bold colors in its new Color Anchor line, along with a relaunch of Mannington Select premium LVT and rigid core products seen in City Park and Crown collections for commercial applications.
In May Johnsonite unveiled Transcend with SureSet technology. Salomon said the product is unique in that it is a loose-lay design but includes a pressure-sensitive adhesive that allows the floor to remain steadily in place. “Most of the market is glue-down because of rolling traffic. This product is exceeding expectations. There is no wait time for the glue to dry and all acoustics are intact.”
Specifiers have cited Raskin Industries’ Elevations loose lay because of its weight and stability, citing the ability to loose lay a vinyl floor without having to deal with either gluing the strips together or clicking boards together. In addition, Elevations offers environmental benefits (no adhesives or VOCs). Elevations comes with an anti-skid rubber Gravity Grip backing system and double-sided perimeter fastening tape that firmly secures it to the subfloor without any additional tools or materials.
Cali Bamboo’s operations team spent months fine-tuning custom HiFi imaging technology to precisely capture the authentic look and feel of real hardwood grains. The result was Cali Vinyl. The collection includes imagery for three of Cali Bamboo’s most popular solid bamboo floors—Java, Antique Java and Natural. A specialized quality control process ensures all Cali Vinyl styles include twice the number of unique planks.
Lineate by Durkan, one of Mohawk’s latest enhanced resilient tile collections, drew inspiration from two of the hottest trends in surface visuals: ombre/gradient and striated textile looks. “The color ebbs and flows across the plank to give the illusion of depth on a flat surface,” Mohawk’s Schofield said. “Lineate’s loose-lay construction allows for quick installation and immediate occupancy.”
Schofield said the designation of LVT as a product category is falling away at Mohawk and being replaced by ERT (enhanced resilient tile) “because we believe that all Mohawk products are all enhanced in some way.”
Armstrong’s newest commercial LVT collection, Natural Creations with Diamond 10 technology, promises a longer life cycle that translates to fewer replacement costs thanks to its scuff and stain resistance. New Natural Creations offerings for 2017 include Spettro and Mixer. Spettro captures the textural and visual softness of carpet, while Mixer offers a palette of colors. Both feature Diamond 10 technology.