‘Waterproof’ flooring category creates watershed moment

July 31, 2017

FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017

By Ken Ryan


Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.36.56 AMNot so long ago the terms rigid core and multilayer flooring, and the acronym WPC would have had even the most astute flooring retailers scratching their heads. Today, these subsegments of luxury vinyl tile have created new revenue streams for dealers.

According to FCNews research, LVT, WPC and rigid core products made up more than half the dollars generated by the resilient flooring category in 2016, capturing 48.1% and 19.5% of the sector, respectively.

The features and benefits of WPC/rigid core (many are waterproof, kid proof and pet proof, to name the most common attributes) are hard to dispute. Durability, ease of maintenance and eye-catching visuals are other differentiating factors.

With WPC/rigid core exploding, and with new players entering the market, some voiced concern there isn’t enough separation among the competing players. “The products are quite similar even though everyone says theirs is the greatest,” said Greg Loeffler, vice president of sales and marketing, Pierce Flooring/Carpet Mill outlets in Montana. “The fact is most are coming from a handful of factories in China and the differences are minimal.”

There are 20 suppliers featured in this guide that would beg to differ with that comment. These companies, ranging from WPC pioneer USFloors to newcomers like Southwind, present a compelling argument for unique differentiation that goes beyond slick marketing. For example, Armstrong Flooring is marketing its Pryzm product as a brand new category of high-performance flooring.

Despite the newness of the category, some companies are already touting their new offerings as “not another me-too” product. Case in point is Wellmade, which asserts that its patent-pending, high-density plastic composite (HDPC) core structure outperforms existing rigid core products at higher temperatures and overall environmental extremes.

As so many new suppliers are entering the fray, they face the challenge of securing showroom space in an already crowded market. For companies like Quick-Step, its path to entry is a little easier since first making a name for itself in laminate and later in hardwood floors. Quick-Step is launching 16 SKUs with its luxury vinyl flooring (LVF) line.

And then there is the first-mover advantage enjoyed by USFloors, which introduced its first COREtec line at Surfaces in 2013. Three patents, 11 collections and 200 SKUs later, USFloors continues to blaze a trail with its COREtec family of products.

On the following pages, readers will learn more about WPC and rigid core, and how they are constructed. WPC, in essence, features a composite core construction with a foaming agent to create air pockets in the core that function as a heat and sound insulator to maximize comfort underfoot. WPC is resistant to indentations, thus making it suitable for residential and light commercial applications. WPC floors are dimensionally stable under moderate exposure to sunlight/heat. It has been called the ultimate product for residential environments, especially well equipped for active households. WPC can be installed directly over imperfect subfloors or ceramic tiles and comes with built-in sound abatement properties.

Meanwhile, rigid core is made of a composite core construction and is widely considered to be a step up from solid LVT. Rigid core contains higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent, thus creating air bubbles in the core; the result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core is primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and where extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur. Rigid core works in commercial applications in which performance is demanded. It is relatively forgiving over imperfect subfloors.

Floor Covering News’ WPC Guide is designed to highlight the latest and greatest from some of the industry’s major players. This special issue is intended to provide information retailers can use when customers walk into their stores seeking a particular product. Each manufacturer that chose to participate in this guide were asked to submit photos and descriptions of their newest respective offerings or top sellers. Consider this guide your one-stop shop for all things waterproof in the still evolving WPC/rigid core marketplace.

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