By Megan Salzano
Not only does the resilient flooring category continue to take market share from most other flooring categories, it is still reporting growth despite challenging times. As part of that growth, the category has splintered into various subsegments, each touting its own value to the end user. As such, flooring dealers have had to stay educated on each subsegment’s features and benefits and where each will thrive once installed in the home. Two such subsegments—and those most competitive with one another—are WPC and SPC.
While WPC has been in the market longer than its sister subsegment, SPC has proven itself valuable in the field. For a retail operation and its RSAs to remain valuable to their consumers, they must find a way to recommend the best match, and experts say qualifying the sale is the key. “Selecting the ‘best’ rigid core product comes down to preference, application and expectation of the consumer or end user,” explained Jon England, director of resilient category management, Shaw Floors. “Both WPC and SPC offer solutions for the consumer; some overlap and other benefits are specific to a particular construction.”
For example, SPC is geared toward high traffic and resists extreme temperature fluctuations (once installed), England said, making it great for commercial settings and three-season homes in addition to residential applications. WPC, on the other hand, is softer, warmer and quieter underfoot and offers ample performance for most residential settings, even active households with kids and pets, he added.
WPC puts comfort first
When it comes to WPC, there are several features that draw consumers in—the aforementioned attributes being high on the list. “The biggest difference in WPC vs. rigid core is the added comfort and quietness you get with WPC,” said Steve Weisberg, president of Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa.
Bruce Odette, owner, Carpet Exchange, Colorado, agreed, adding that WPC’s comfort-first characteristics can be marketed as an added value for an upgraded price point. “The foam injections in the core offer a softer walk and more apparent value because of the thickness, and more insulation keeps your floors warmer,” he explained. “The WPC construction has always appealed to me and our customers for many reasons. We sell it as an upgrade to the rigid products.”
Experts agreed WPC is also a good product to have in a retailer’s flooring arsenal because it helps round out the consumer’s options. “Providing the right floor for the purpose intended is paramount,” Crest Flooring’s Weisberg said. “Glue down, rigid core or WPC—it’s the flooring professionals’ job to write the right Rx for the job at hand. A consumer doesn’t know which construction is best for them so they pick the visual they like and then we—as flooring professionals—will advise them on which we feel is best suited for their needs.”
Despite competition from its sister subsegment, WPC remains a major player for many dealers. “We’ve always done well with WPC,” said Chris Cosentino, president of Hadinger Flooring, Naples, Fla. “We embraced the product early and our people had great success with it. We will continue to support this category as long as the product looks great and the customers want it.”
So, where does WPC thrive once installed? According to retails and suppliers alike, WPC thrives anywhere comfort is needed including second floor spaces, bedrooms and family rooms, in addition to other areas where hard surface is wanted.
SPC equals durability
For some suppliers and retailers alike, the new kid on the block—SPC—is everything its WPC sister subsegment is and more. “SPC fills a lot of gaps in comparison to its predecessor,” said Ed Sanchez, vice president of product management, resilient, Mohawk Industries. “The most notable is around residual indentation. If you think about consumers’ lifestyles and how those have changed recently because of COVID-19, more people are spending more time at home. Their floors are getting a lot more use, so they have to be more resilient, and an SPC helps deliver on that.”
Carol Kentis, vice president of operations, Republic Flooring, agreed, noting the importance of SPC’s waterproof story as part that durability. “SPC is truly waterproof, which is what allows it to be in the laundry room, bathroom, kitchen, etc. SPC is leading the market because of that durability.”
While SPC is driving some of the residential market, suppliers also noted its move into commercial spaces as well. “SPC began as primarily a residential option, to be used in any room of the home,” explained Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “This made it very popular with builder and multi-family segments. While it’s still quite popular and useful in those applications, SPC is making inroads to commercial applications thanks to its superior indent resistance and the acoustic benefits.”
So where will SPC thrive? For retailers like Kevin Frazier, Frazier’s Carpet One Floor & Home, Knoxville, Tenn., relative to other floor covering segments, SPC flourishes, robustly, in every space, but especially in kitchens, bathrooms, home offices and basements. “SPC thrives everywhere, above and beyond WPC,” he said. “If you add on top of the visuals the fact that it does everything as well as WPC, and resists indention better, then you have a foolproof recipe for SPC thriving everywhere better than WPC.”
Armstrong Flooring Vantage
Armstrong Flooring’s Vantage is 100% waterproof, making it ideal for any room including bathrooms, kitchens, basements, laundry rooms and more. When exposed to water, it won’t swell, buckle or lose integrity. The line boasts a dense polymer composite core for superior dent resistance, a commercial grade, 20-mil wear layer that resists dents, scratches, stains and wear and fast and easy installation—no glue or nails required. It also offers a striking design with extra-long, 60-inch planks that feature the look and feel of authentic hardwood with embossed-in-register texture. It is backed by the company’s 30-year limited residential warranty.
Axiscor Performance Flooring’s Trio collection offers superior dimensional stability in extreme temperature ranges, high-impact and scuff-resistance ratings and is designed to look great for years even when exposed to pet accidents and spills. In addition, water will not affect the dimensional integrity of the product. Based on ABA construction, the SPC core is separated by two layers of 100% virgin vinyl. The top layer enables a deeper, richer EIR texture and the underside layer adds to the extreme dimensional stability of the 7 x 60 planks.
CFL’s Firmfit is 100% waterproof and comes with an enhanced surface treatment resulting in superior antibacterial features. It also allows for the use of residential steam mops, which can be used to create an environment at the surface of the floor with temperatures in which most bacteria or viruses can’t survive. With proven quality and a wide range of designs, including its new 72-inch EIR planks and 48 x 24 tiles, Firmfit aims to take the resilient category to a new level. This claim is backed by warranting performance on massive installation surfaces without the use of transition moldings and more.
COREtec The Original has expanded into large formats with the 82-inch Grande, which features 10 oak visuals and a wide color scheme from light and natural to rich and dark. The floor comes with all the waterproof, kid-proof, pet-proof benefits from The Original, plus a 30-mil wear layer that won’t compromise the crisp and clear visuals; an even thicker core (9mm) to provide more comfort, optimal sound absorption and ultimate stability; an extra-thick natural cork underlayment for warmth, comfort and sound absorption; quick and easy installation; and GreenGuard Gold certification.
Engineered Floors Ensiginium
Ensiginium, the new rigid core collection from Engineered Floors Hard Surfaces, is the next step in the company’s premium hard surface flooring. Ensiginium offers a waterproof product with high quality and natural aesthetics. Unlike other products, Ensiginium’s low repeat, real-wood patterns are digitally printed directly on each planks’ rigid core. This low repeat allows for a faster, easier installation. There is no paper film covering the plank giving the illusion of real wood but rather the clean grains, natural wood feel and natural colors are engrained directly on each plank. Each distinguished grain is designed to look and feel like the real grain from a tree without the worry and maintenance of solid wood or the disadvantages of engineered wood.
Mohawk SolidTech Plus
Mohawk’s SolidTech Plus is designed for any room, at any climate. Being 100% waterproof, this flooring is optimal for wet areas and built to withstand spills and pet accidents keeping it as beautiful as the day it was installed. For extra protection, SolidTech Plus also features Mohawk’s EasyClean technology for enhanced stain and soil protection as well as All Pet Plus Protection, which covers all pets, all accidents, all the time, with scratch protection. Being one of the top selling styles, Yakima from the Thatcher collection is an example of beautiful flooring built tough to withstand real life.
Republic Floor – Pure SPC
The new Republic Floor Pure SPC line features the company’s proprietary Stone Plastic Composite technology, which is completely inert and waterproof. Unlike WPC floors, Republic’s stone composite contains no wood or limestone. At 7mm-thick, it is stronger and snaps into place easier than typical 5.5mm composites. It is FloorScore certified and offers a 25-year residential warranty. While others say WPC or SPC flooring is the next best thing to real wood or ceramic tiles, Republic Floor says it is better—better for easy installation, water resistance, noise reduction, budgets and the planet.
Shaw Floorté Classic Series – Pantheon HD Plus
Floorté waterproof collection by Shaw Floors is built to endure—all styles are 100% waterproof and designed to stand up to active households with kids and pets. All Floorté constructions are easy to install and require effortless care and maintenance. Floorté Classic Series features WPC offerings with SoftSilence attached pad for a softer, warmer, quieter waterproof floor. Inspired by a fusion of aesthetics, Pantheon HD Plus incorporates mixed species, high color contrast and embossed-in-register textures for classic appeal and design-forward visuals. The 7 x 48 planks feature a 20-mil wear layer and durable ArmourBead finish.
Stanton Natural Beauty
Stanton’s Natural Beauty Series is a curated collection of color and style. Drawing inspiration from the beauty of nature, it has been designed and crafted with the utmost attention to detail. From the natural, organic look of the wood grain, the performance properties and clean color palette, Natural Beauty is designed to “wow” design-conscious consumers with high-quality decorative flooring choices. Style options range from modern hickory to transitional oaks, edgy metropolitan colors to the new coastal beach favorites; all of which can be paired with Stanton’s fashion-forward designs in made-to-order rugs and carpet.