October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9
By Ken Ryan
In baseball, a five-tool player excels at all the fundamentals. In flooring, that five-tool “player” would be LVT—a rare product rich in features and versatility suitable for virtually all commercial and residential segments—from Courtyard Marriott hotel rooms to residential basements.
LVT (including WPC and rigid core products) has been growing at a double-digit rate for the past several years, during which time it has expanded its reach across all segments.
Simply put, LVT has succeeded in the property management channel because it provides longer life than carpet. That’s according to Jerry Hosko, president and COO of Redi Carpet, which bills itself as America’s largest multi-family flooring provider. LVT has been widely accepted on first floor units of apartment communities because there are no acoustical issues to be concerned with. “It is not being used as widely on upper floors for the acoustic reasons although the underlayments on the market have helped somewhat,” he said. “WPC is not used as much due to additional cost above and beyond standard LVT products, but it is gaining acceptance in certain applications and is expected to gain more interest for its waterproof qualities, especially in the wake of recent flooding.”
John Kelleher, president of the property management division of Rite Rug, a large retailer, said LVP has really taken over the new construction of apartments and renovation, supplanting carpet and VCT. “Eight years ago LVP started to come around, and the last five years we have seen tremendous growth in that product. It has gotten better as far as development, and I think it is going to continue. It is a big product for us in property management and continues to grow thanks to the innovation of the plank.”
Gary Russo, owner of United Flooring and Paint, a flooring contractor, said ease of maintenance was a huge factor in United’s ability to get quick product placement for customers in its St. Louis and Chicago markets. As he explained, “Typically a plank can be pulled up and replaced, although many times with direct glue-down plank, the substrate can be damaged when the flooring is removed.”
Russo noted that easy cleanup is another reason for the success of vinyl plank.
Among hard surfaces, hardwood flooring is the aspirational product of choice for most consumers. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for a consumer to walk into a flooring store, ask for hardwood flooring and leave with LVT/WPC. “People are buying it because of the way it looks,” said Larry Noel, president of sales for retail for Rite Rug, citing the incredible realism.
Of course, LVT goes well beyond aesthetics. LVT is a much more family-friendly product than wood or laminate, proponents say. “LVT provides style with much more realism than laminate,” Noel said. “You don’t hear the tapping sound you get with laminate when you walk over it, and LVT is more forgiving than laminate.”
LVT is finding usefulness in virtually every room of the house these days, and some of these homes are large and expensive. Noel shared that Rite Rug just secured a project on a $2.2 million home in Columbus, Ohio, in which the homeowner requested LVT be installed in his basement.
LVT/P wasn’t always the product de jour for the commercial segment, and in some LEED buildings, designers are hesitant to specify LVT because it contains PVCs, and therefore is not a truly sustainable product. However, concern over constant maintenance, scratches and moisture have steered some commercial establishments away from real wood and put LVT in play.
LVT is also gaining ground in hospitality. For years, designers would only specify carpet for guestrooms in hotels. Today, LVT is being paired with area rugs in many hotels, especially boutique properties and limited service brands like Courtyard Marriott. Marriott is even using LVT in the bathrooms of new properties.
Cost and time spent on a project are factors when specifying products. In LVT businesses see a faster, less-expensive turnaround and save money on labor. They also don’t have to shut down as long to accommodate lengthy acclimations or installations.
Angie Clarkson, LEED AP BD+C, a registered interior designer at architecture and interiors firm LWPB, weighed the pros and cons of LVT vs. other hard surface products. “On one hand, LVT is never going to feel the same underfoot as a natural hardwood floor. Any imperfections in the substrate will certainly transfer to the surface, just like any 1⁄8-inch-thick product. On the other hand, it gives designers a world of exotic wood species at their fingertips. You want the look of endangered African rosewood? You’ve got it without the long lead times or the ecological guilt.”
Many builders would rather install hardwood floors or ceramic tile for entryways, great rooms, kitchens and bath areas because it raises the value of the home. Increasingly, however, LVT is being used in new construction given the product’s relative affordability and realistic looks of stone and wood. What’s more, LVT is easier underfoot than wood or ceramic and individual tiles and planks that get damaged can be more easily repaired.
Eastwood Homes, Charlotte, N.C., offers luxury vinyl planks in several divisions and has received positive feedback. “Our homeowners love LVP because it gives them the look of real wood in a material that is even more durable than wood,” said Clark Stewart, president. “When installed correctly, LVP is impervious to water and holds up incredibly well to the wear and tear of real life.”
Stewart called LVP “a dream come true for dog owners, parents or anyone who appreciates low-maintenance, high-durability flooring.”
Small businesses are playing a pivotal role in the growth of the U.S. economy. These Main Street businesses—whether they are small retail shops, professional offices, restaurants or cafes—all have one thing in common: They need a durable, beautiful floor that’s low maintenance. LVT, engineered with more durability than what would normally be considered adequate for residential, has found a home in Main Street, and flooring dealers are seizing this channel opportunity.
“In Main Street LVT/WPC—with its durability—is quickly replacing VCT as a mainstay floor,” said Mike Foulk, president of Foulk’s Flooring America, Meadville, Pa. “The wood looks and tile visuals give the designers added decorating possibilities. The ease of maintenance is a welcome feature for the end user.”
Casey Dillabaugh, president of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America, in Boise, Idaho, said many Main Street jobs have imperfections in some of the spaces; as such, a product with flexibility like LVT can fill that need. “It’s simply the most practical given the different installation options and should the space have stringent guidelines on what is and is not allowable. Add in how easy LVT is to replace and/or repair and clients see even more benefit.”