Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12
By Reginald Tucker
It’s no secret that certain segments of the resilient flooring category—namely WPC and SPC—have seized significant share from competing hard surface categories across the board. No other category has felt that pressure more acutely than laminate, with category sales trends continuing to decline as consumers jump on the waterproof bandwagon.
However, laminate suppliers are not sitting idly by as WPC and SPC products gradually increase their market share. In fact, several major companies that supply laminate flooring products are taking a page right out of the resilient playbook by investing in technologies designed to boost laminates’ resistance to water incursion.
“Without a doubt, competition from WPC/LVT/SPC has grown tremendously in the past 10 years and have presented some headwinds for the laminate category,” said Dan Natkin, vice president of hardwood and laminate, Mannington. “The positive aspect of that is it has driven a renewed level of innovation to combat the single-selling point of these competing products.”
Mannington, which participates in a variety of categories—including rigid core flooring—has seen the writing on the wall for several years now. That’s why back in 2017 the company added SpillShield technology to its sig- nature, top-selling Restoration laminate collection. SpillShield was billed as an innovative new coating that protects against pet messes, standing moisture and spills. This means the product can go in bathrooms, laundry rooms and other areas prone to moisture.
“SpillShield responds to consumer demand for flooring that resists moisture,” Natkin explained. “Today’s homeowner needs peace of mind that her floor will stand up to everything her family can dish out—and that includes accidental spills and pet messes. Mannington laminate is already exceptionally durable; SpillShield adds that extra bit of assurance that her floor will look great and perform well for years to come.”
Other major laminate flooring suppliers have been busy developing water-resistant laminates over the past few years—some even longer. “When we brought Atroguard to market in 2013, we did so with the intention of offering a product that combines the natural visuals of hardwood and the rigidity and scratch and stain resistance of laminate with the same water resistance found in vinyl,” Thomas Baert, president of CFL Flooring, explained. “That has not changed.”
Other major suppliers have invested heavily in the laminate flooring category to compete more directly with resilient floors that tout waterproof capabilities. Such is the case with Mohawk’s RevWood Plus, which utilized a variety of advancements—Mohawk’s patented Genu-Edge technology, Hydroseal and the Uniclic system—to provide waterproof benefits on what is essentially a wood-based product.
“RevWood Plus has been engineered by Mohawk’s experts to offer homeowners a flooring answer that combines the look and feel of authentic wood with the toughness of laminate,” said Adam Ward, senior product director for wood and RevWood, Mohawk. “Featuring the ability to keep spills, accidents and tracked-in stain-makers on the surface for quick and easy cleanup, RevWood Plus is a top-performing and revolutionary wood flooring option that is both scratch-resistant and 100% waterproof.”
Another example is Shaw Floors’ REPEL Laminate collection, which boasts water-resistance technology. How it works: a barrier of proprietary water-resistance technology is applied to laminate flooring and activated when moisture strikes the surface or sides, thereby shielding the floor from damage. According to John Hammel, hardwood and laminate category manager, this protection gives consumers more time to discover and clean spills, demonstrating REPEL’s effectiveness at resisting moisture.
“Extensive product testing and research have proven this product has superior resistant to household spills or messes, and demonstrates that water-resistant claims for laminate products are legitimate,” he said.Not just performance
Suppliers believe laminate can go head to head with WPC and SPC in areas other than water resistance. “From a design standpoint, a big advantage of laminate is the number of unique, realistic visuals that make it very hard to see repeats once the floor is installed—as opposed to vinyl or WPC floors for which this is, technically, more difficult to achieve,” CFL’s Baert explained. “Atroguard puts a tremendous amount of effort in developing in-house stunning design visuals, using the specifics of laminate to really bring out something special. That includes experimenting with varying lengths or random widths within one box or developing designs from different wood species used within a particular product.”
Those companies who offer laminate point to the irony WPC/SPC products pose. “Most customers looking for flooring are asking for a wood look,” Mohawk’s Ward explained. “RevWood, RevWood Plus and RevWood Select are wood products—and that differs from all the WPCs and vinyl products currently available on the market.”
The technology utilized in RevWood Plus, according to Ward, delivers higher style and design with more realistic textures than competitive LVTs and rigid core products out there. “Looking at competitive laminate, WPC and rigid products out there, the customers can generally see the difference for themselves,” he explained.
To that end, manufacturers are increasingly utilizing technology to develop realistic patterns and designs. “Our styling team is able to take real wood and enhance it through advanced scanning and digital manipulation to get the exact look they want,” Natkin explained. “Add to that advancements in digital print and there are exciting times ahead for laminate.”