August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5
By Megan Salzano
Resilient flooring and its rigid core brethren continue to flood the market and have no doubt grabbed market share from adjacent product categories. Laminate has felt the brunt of the onslaught, but pressure from the likes of LVT, WPC and SPC has jostled laminate producers back to the R&D drawing board to enhance their lines with in-demand performance features while continuing to tout the category’s well-known durability and aesthetic attributes.
“It has pushed laminate to innovate to compete,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO, Inhaus. “Today’s laminates are better than ever and offer a value that is hard for any flooring category to compete with.”
Roger Farabee, president, North American wood products, Mohawk Industries, noted the laminates of old are no longer a growth opportunity for dealers but it’s those lines born anew with higher added value that will bring the category back to life. That value is coming in the form of major performance enhancements that allow the category to compete with resilient players.
Water-resistant/waterproof lines, for example, have become a must-have for laminate consumers, and manufacturers have obliged. Mohawk’s RevWood Plus, for example, touts all the benefits of its RevWood counterpart, such as stain, scratch and dent resistance, but with the added value of waterproof performance.
Eternity Flooring enlists its Triple Moisture technology to enhance its laminates. “It is a special wax coating process to prevent moisture from penetrating the HDF core,” explained Isaac Lee, regional manager for northern California, Eternity Flooring. “We do see laminate flooring in the forecast making a comeback with manufacturers implementing 100% waterproof systems to their products, which looks positively promising for the laminate flooring category.”
Mannington continues to improve its SpillShield technology and this year even upgraded its warranty to a waterproof surface warranty (featured on its Restoration Collection series). “Laminate has always been one of the most durable flooring types available,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood, laminate, resilient sheet. “With the growth of SPC and WPC, it became time to develop technologies to address the moisture resistance as well.”
For CFL, water-resistant laminate has been the name of the game for five years. “We believe we are the industry leader in water-resistant laminate and set the standard five years ago when we introduced these products to the market,” said Barron Frith, president, CFL North America.
Water resistance is also driving performance at Inhaus. The company has tapped its potential by adding the feature to all of its laminate offerings such as its Classic Estate collection, according to Welbourn.
However, water damage is not the only consumer concern laminate floors are able to assuage. Laminate’s scratch, stain and dent resistance, for example, are still “incomparable” to their resilient competitors, manufacturers say. Of the category’s durability, John Hammel, director of category management, hardwood and laminate, Shaw Floors, noted, “Durability is laminate’s competitive edge, and its price point combined with its durability make laminate a great value.”
New looks and on-trend design capabilities are also key selling points for today’s laminate. Shaw’s Hammel explained high-resolution printing advancements have elevated the overall performance value of laminate. “Embossed-in-register technology allows us to emulate texture and add depth to a flooring visual,” he said. “Consumers have a variety of laminate options from which to choose, including grouted tile, realistic wood plank and stone visuals—giving them a durable, low-maintenance product with high style. RSAs can promote that the on-trend visual appeal is enhanced by realistic embossing.”
Another major story behind laminate’s selling potential is its eco-conscious construction. Most laminate flooring is bio-based, renewable and recyclable. In addition, RSA’s are able to explain that laminate is not made with PVC or plasticizers like traditional resilient flooring. Juxtaposed to its resilient counterparts, laminate’s sustainable story rings clear. “When showing a WPC or SPC product to consumers, many feel that because of it being a plastic vinyl product, it does not belong throughout their entire home, which is one of the many reasons why 100% waterproof laminate flooring is showing consistent growth in the market,” Eternity’s Lee explained.
Overall, manufacturers agree laminate’s selling potential is continuing to grow as new and expanded performance attributes join the category’s tried and true benefits. As Mannington’s Natkin said, “Now we combine the best parts of laminate—bio-based, renewable, recyclable, highly scratch resistant and indentation resistant—with significantly improved topical moisture resistance and you really have the best of both worlds.”