By Reginald Tucker
In the flooring industry—much like other fashion-oriented businesses—trends come and go. But when it comes to hardwood flooring, one movement in particular seems to be defying the ages—wide-plank, long-length boards.
Case in point is the new XL and XXL Välinge Flooring with Woodura® technology. These wide-width, long-length boards employ advanced technology that allows for the production of extra-wide planks up to 11 inches wide x 8 inches long. “We have developed a great first collection for the U.S. market and are especially proud of our capability to produce XXL planks that everyone can afford,” said Emanuel Lindberg, head of design at Valinge.
The colors and species utilized in the Välinge Flooring with Woodura® technology are also on trend. Available in 11 unique designs, the offerings fit a variety of styles ranging from contemporary, vintage or industrial. “Eleven colorways in ash, walnut and oak give consumers the designs they want,” Lindberg added.
Välinge Flooring with Woodura® technology also scores points in terms of performance and sustainability. According to the company, the technology employed creates floors that are three and a half times stronger compared to traditional wood floors while using less lumber during the production process. What’s more, the Woodura technology in combination with the company’s latest innovation, the 5G Dry fold-down system, allows for a for a smooth installation and a water-resistant floor.
“We are very eager to present this product on the market, and we are convinced that others will see the many advantages it has compared to a traditional wood floor,” said Zach Adams, general manager, North America.
Compatibility with open floor plans
The seemingly timeless allure of the wide-plank, long-length format can be attributed to several factors—the most notable being its suitability in homes that incorporate the increasingly popular wide-open floor plan.
“Wider, longer boards help make the visual of the ‘fifth wall’ more dimensionally proportionate,” said Bob Fish, vice president and general manager of retail sales for Cali. “They allow a floor to balance out the vastness of the space, or to evoke a sense of expansiveness in rooms homeowners want to appear bigger. Larger cuts of wood also show off more of the timber’s personality, playing on the design trend of bringing the outdoors in and filling rooms with a sense of natural calm. Smaller planks tend to create busier patterns that can be overwhelming, especially in oversized rooms.”
Industry observers point to another benefit of wider-width/long-length boards—they tend to create a cleaner, more open visual, especially in contemporary homes. “When it comes to wood flooring, designers are trying to reduce the seams across the floor,” said Tony Markarian, who handles national account sales for Boden-Floor, known for its extra-wide, long-length boards. “If you have a product that’s wide, but it’s only 2- or 3-feet long, it defeats the whole purpose. If you have too many seams across the floor, you’re adding that clutter on the floor.”
Plus, from a design perspective, wider/longer boards play to perennial favorites such as traditional, rustic looks. “Consumers, builders and designers are looking for that modern take on the older rustic plank wood style,” said Pat Oakley, vice president of sales and marketing at Mullican Flooring. “The demand for wider and longer plank options has been rising for the past several years.”
More importantly, industry experts say it’s a trend that’s likely to endure for some time to come. “I think the wider-longer trend is going to continue to reign,” said Adam Ward,
senior product director, laminate and wood, Mohawk. “When you think about wider/longer, it really fits because of these big open floor plans that people like. It appears that suburban living is picking up a little more in light of COVID-19, and I don’t anticipate that abating anytime soon. Suburban houses are typically bigger, and people are definitely wanting that now that they may be running their office and a school and every- thing else out of their home as well.”
Design attributes aside, wide, long boards in many cases offer retailers higher profit margin opportunities. Along with the high-end aesthetic many of these products provide, floor covering dealers can often command bigger tickets due to the quality of the construction as well as the sheer amount of raw materials utilized in these floors.
A prime example is the Karastan Belleluxe brand of premium wide-plank/long-board hardwood launched last year. The product launched with an MSRP of $12-$15 per square foot and up. “When you look at our Karastan line, it’s all longer/wider, starting at 7 inches and going up to 91⁄2 and 10 inches,” Mohawk’s Ward said. “We’re getting great response on that line, particularly the Villa Pointe collection.”
Top sellers sizzle
The popular wider/longer trend has been a boon to many hardwood flooring suppliers. That’s evident in the amount of SKUs manufacturers have dedicated to the subcategory. Following is an overview of some of the top-selling designs and collections:
Mullican Flooring has produced many collections that are available in 6-inch widths and wider. “The top trending collections for us this year have been our Wexford collection (avail- able in 4- and 5-inch widths in 3⁄4-inch solid hardwood, or in 7-inch widths as engineered hardwood) and our two new collections, Revival and Madison Square (engineered products available in 6 1⁄2-inch widths in random lengths up to 6 feet),” Oakley said. “Our Wexford collection is one of our flagship premium products, while both Revival and Madison Square offer many of the features and popular styles at a more affordable price point. All of these collections are offered in a variety of colors and finishes to complement any space.”
Across AHF Products’ broad brand offering, there are multiple wide-long offerings from which to choose. But some of the standouts, according to Wendy Booker, vice president of marketing, include Big Sky a 9-inch-wide, sawn face, European white oak offering lovingly referred to as “surfboard” planks. The product, part of the LM Flooring brand offering, spans 86 inches long x 9 inches wide with a 3mm sawn face. “It’s really a statement piece,” she said. “When you lay that down in a home, it really looks like you’ve split a tree open and put it on the floor.”
In the wider-longer category, Provenza offers Tresor and Vitali ultra-wide collections that are designed to deliver a product that can fill an interior space with the natural beauty of hardwood without the visual interruptions that occur with narrower planks. The ultra-wide plank floors can make any interior appear larger, grander in scale, take less time to install, saving on labor costs, and are suitable for both traditional and contemporary settings, the company said.
“Provenza Floors has been a long-time leader in the wide-plank flooring industry, bringing to market unique hardwood floors that exceed the demands of builders, architects, interior designers and residential consumers,” said Ron Sadri, principal owner. “Today’s consumers are demanding even more from their hardwood flooring investment—from the practical to the aesthetic.”
The Gallery is Shaw Floors’ premium hardwood collection for the discerning consumer. A collection built for long-lasting style and durability, these five hardwood styles embrace time-worn character and age gracefully over the years. Each premium sliced oak style is hand selected by design experts to bring natural artistry into the home. The Gallery also offers consumers an enhanced shopping experience through elevated online and in-store experiences.
Shaw Floors also offers the Repel Hardwood collection, which features a new 2020 style, High Plains. The product is available in 5- and 6-inch widths and is treated with Shaw’s Repel water-resistant technology to help prevent moisture damage and give consumers more time to clean up spills and messes.
High Plains also features Shaw’s ScufResist Platinum finish for a beautiful hardwood floor that’s sure to look new for years to come. “It’s a stunning wire-brushed hickory featuring low-luster, on-trend colors,” said John Hammel, director of laminate and hardwood category management, Shaw Floors.
Mannington’s top seller that exemplifies the wider/longer trend is the Latitude collection, which features eye-catching patterns such as Park City and Prospect Park. “These are beautiful 71⁄2-inch-wide, sliced white oak products that feature multiple layers of subtle staining and an elegant wire-brushed texture,” said Dan Natkin, vice president, hardwood and laminate. “The plank lengths go up to 7 feet, which gives you a look not easily replicated in other product categories.”
For the consumer desiring something really special, Mannington’s latest collection is called Sanctuary, a 9 1⁄2-inch-wide, 5⁄8-inch thick x 4mm sawn white oak hardwood offered in six elegant colors.
Popular wide-plank options in the Mohawk line include Coastal Couture, which is still going strong after its initial launch several years ago, as well as its TecWood line, which continues to rake in sales, according to Ward.
This year, Mohawk launched five new, wider/longer collections and has seen solid support from that launch. The Preserve and Coral Shores collections, both 9 inches wide, are also big movers, Ward said.
In recent years, Mirage expanded its product offering to include board lengths up to 82 inches, an average increase of 25% for Mirage Engineered 5- and 6 1⁄2-inch widths. According to Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, the long lengths not only make any room in the house look bigger, but because fewer boards are needed the joints are not as visible.
USFloors, maker of the COREtec Original WPC product, enters the hardwood/rigid core hybrid category with COREtec Wood. The product offers consumers an authentic, natural wood floor with the waterproof performance expected from a COREtec product. Real wood veneers cover a mineral core to create a carefree floor with truly authentic wood grains, tones and appeal.
COREtec Wood’s rigid mineral core is completely waterproof and more rigid than traditional engineered hardwood HDF and ply cores, the company said. When exposed to water, traditional HDF cores will swell, which can cause cup- ping and buckling. COREtec Wood’s mineral core won’t swell if it’s exposed to water, leaving the veneer flat and the boards stable.
“COREtec Wood is the best of both worlds and is designed for people who want a real wood product with some of the benefits of waterproof vinyl,” said John Crews, director of product design.