By Reginald Tucker—From the time laminate flooring was first introduced to the U.S. market in the mid-1990s, it has been associated with both durability and affordability—attributes that have helped it compete respectably with other hard surface categories to this day. On another front, ongoing innovations in visual characteristics such as embossing, digital printing and scanning technologies provided vast improvements in design realism compared to the earlier iterations.
Fast forward to today—that same pioneering spirit continues to usher in advancements in both the form and function of laminate flooring. Laminate manufacturers, importers and component suppliers alike are sparing no expense as they seek to reclaim lost market share at the hands competing hard surface categories. The goal is to give specialty retailers more rea- sons to keep the category top of mind when offering options to the consumer.
A case in point is the newly launched Lamdura line from Inhaus. This high-design, high-performance offering from the company that brought you innovative products such as Sono and Sono Eclipse boasts realistic wood looks but on a laminate flooring platform. “We have been in the laminate business for decades with an excellent team of technicians and designers,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “With Lamdura, we all sat down with a blank slate and said, ‘Let’s develop the best laminate we possibly can, with all the features and benefits possible.’”
Lamdura, an ultra-premium laminate, made in Germany, boasts a high-density, water-resistant core (Aqua Protect), a commercially rated wear layer (abrasion class 5) with a proprietary finishing process that creates a scratch- resistant, antibacterial surface. Offered in two initial collections—Inspirations and Landmark—Lamdura utilizes the latest embossed-in-register technology combined with high-definition printing. Inspirations is a modern take on traditional hand-scraped hickory and some classic oak visuals with character, while Landmark is based on a more formal oak presentation, tout- ing authentic looks with less character marks and more focus on color. Lamdura also features Inhaus’ patented Megaloc 2.0 water-resistant, angle-fold locking system.
“For Lamdura, we turned our design team loose to create their favorite designs,” Welbourn explained.
Inhaus is not the only major laminate supplier raising their game. Others are utilizing advancements in embossing techniques, screening and digital printing technologies to render not only extremely realistic wood visuals but also the texture and heft of floor being emulated. The Restorations laminate line from Mannington is a prime example. Haven, a new addition to the offering, features 20 individual plank designs in a European white oak platform based on the company’s premium hardwood line, Sanctuary.
“Haven uses TruDetail technology, a remarkable digital print method that provides genuine natural variation and unmatched attention to detail,” said Cristen Del Bove, director of residential styling, Mannington.
Another supplier who’s looking to raise the ante in both visuals and performance is Mohawk. The company, which recently took home top prize in the laminate category in FCNews’ annual Award of Excellence competition, showed why it’s an industry leader with the enhancement of its popular RevWood/RevWood Plus offerings. New styles in the collection feature Mohawk’s patented WetProtect technology that enables the product to be safely installed in areas of the home prone to spills or other accidents.
“We are further innovating RevWood Plus with our brand- new WetProtect technology,” said David Moore, senior product director, wood and laminate. “WetProtect offers the right kind of waterproof with water-tight joints, Mohawk’s proprietary waterproof finish and the industry’s only lifetime surface and subfloor warranty.”
In addition to its waterproof attributes, RevWood also boasts improved scratch resistance, thanks to Mohawk’s infused Crystal Shield aluminum-oxide wear layer. With respect to aesthetics, RevWood Plus features Mohawk’s GenuEdge pressed bevels that allow the surface visual to wrap over the plank’s edges, for added hardwood realism. In fact, according to Seth Arnold, vice president of marketing, wood and laminates, RevWood Essentials, RevWood Select and RevWood Plus all feature premium hardwood realism.
“RevWood does not make consumers choose between the beauty of hardwood and the toughness of laminate,” Arnold said. “With RevWood, they can have both.”
Many of the latest innovations in laminate flooring go right at the heart of the attributes that make one of the cate- gory’s most competitive segments (SPC/WPC) so popular. This is especially true when it comes to performance attributes. Case in point is the Lofts Collection, the newest laminate offering from Create Flooring. “It’s a truly waterproof laminate,” said Candince Zhu, owner of Muchsee, parent company of the Create brand. “No special perimeter sealant is needed; the waterproof attributes are built into the product.”
The Lofts Collection also features other in-demand features, according to Zhu. These include: an extremely scratch resistant wear layer; a thick, 12mm construction, which includes a 2mm attached back- ing for sound reduction; and boards entail random lengths of 2, 4 and 6 feet to mimic how real hardwood planks might look on the floor. And from an aesthetic standpoint, the 10 designer colors available in the initial offering are in line with the tastes of today’s consumer, Zhu noted.
Another new entrant to the laminate playing field is Lions Floor. Like Create Flooring, the company is best known for its impressive lineup of SPC/rigid core offerings. However, Lions Floor has broadened its hard surface offering to address the resurgent interest in the laminate flooring category.
Lions Floor’s latest salvo is the Bloom Collection, a 12-SKU offering of trendy looking products, including an eye-catching herringbone pattern. According to Jerry Guo, president, it offers retailers some of the most realistic wood looks available in a laminate. “The unique emboss- ing technique makes the product practically indistinguishable from natural wood floors,” he said.