Las Vegas—If there was any doubt at all about the resurgence of the laminate flooring segment in the U.S. market, those doubts were quickly put to rest by the major manufacturers that showcased the latest in laminate flooring innovations at their booth spaces here at Surfaces.
“Laminate flooring is undergoing a major renaissance in the industry,” Derek Welbourn, Inhaus CEO, told FCNews at the show. “We’ve seen a lot more demand for the product.”
For those companies specializing in laminate flooring, the resurgence does not come as a major surprise. Laminate flooring has long been associated with durability and scratch resistance. However, in recent years, those attributes have only improved as suppliers leverage new technologies in the area of performance. Whether it’s improvements to the core materials, edges or resins themselves—or the product-specific installation systems employed to lay down laminate flooring—there’s no doubt suppliers have stepped up to deliver more features and benefits for the end user while providing retailers with an alternative to the competitive resilient flooring products available on the market today.
Take Mannington’s Restoration collection, for example. The product was enhanced to include SpillShield Plus—a step up over the original waterproof technology featured on the product just a few short years ago. “Over the past two years we have seen a renewed interest in the category,” said David Sheehan, vice president, residential. He cited attributes that are not only making the product easier to install—i.e., advanced mechanical locking systems—but also more water resistant. “To- day’s products also feature embossed-in-register designs for an extremely realistic texture and digital printing for crisp and clear visuals.”
Many of those enhancements are evident in Mannington’s top-selling laminate offering, Restoration, which gets expanded with Heirloom and Harmony. Both lines—made here in the U.S.—feature TruDetail digital printing technology and SpillShield Plus waterproof production. But perhaps the most impressive feature, according to Sheehan, is there are 20 unique planks in a single box. That translates into fewer repeats in the final installation and a more realistic visual for the consumer. Rounding out the laminate offering is the Charter collection, which is geared more toward builders and large, stocking retailers. The line is available in an 8 x 48-inch platform with a total thickness of 10mm—including a 2mm attached pad.
Other suppliers that have enhanced their top-selling lines include Inhaus, which put the spotlight on its breakthrough Lamdura collection. “All three lines in the collection are now water resistant, anti-microbial and embossed in register,” Welbourn explained. “We have also added several trendy new colors across the lineup to give dealers and distributors more options.”
AHF Products, primarily known for its wide assortment of hardwood flooring products, is also banking big on laminate. As Brian Parker, vice president of product development, explained: “Our customers came to us and wanted to leverage the Bruce brand across other categories. First they asked for it in vinyl, now they’ve asked for it in laminate. We’ve launched our Bruce TimberTru portfolio into the market in three structures: a 12mm (10 + 2mm pad) and an 8mm. We have also expanded our laminate offerings across our Hartco, Robbins and Tmbr brands as well. Those will be in the 10 + 2mm structure.”
Like other suppliers, AHF Products has also enhanced the waterproof attributes of its laminate offerings. “The other piece is you have a top-down water- proof performance story,” Parker explained. “That gives us a story that helps us compete head-to-head with SPC and WPC. The industry needed a waterproof performance story, but laminate lacked it backed then. Now it has evolved. That’s what enabled us to come to market with a viable product. We’re excited to be back in it.”
While AHF Products does not produce the products internally, the company works with a third-party provider on specs, quality controls, etc. “We have partnered with a couple of manufacturing partners here domestically and built a strong relationship with them,” Parker explained.
Another major supplier that’s doubling down on the category is Johnson Hardwood, which put the spotlight on its growing lineup of durable, high-performance laminate offerings. “People are looking for a more durable floor,” said Billy Ko, CEO. “These days the technology is so much better, it looks like you’re standing on real wood.”
Vivid realism is also the hall- mark of The BLVD, a new laminate line from Urban Floor that’s inspired by the company’s up- scale hardwood flooring visuals, according to Jimmy Setiawan, president. It’s positioned as a step-up over entry- to mid-level products on the market.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the knock (pardon the pun) on laminate flooring has been its irksome “clickity-clack” sound heard when walking across the floor, especially in high heels. But one supplier, CFL, said it has solved that issue with the launch of AtroGuard Q. The innovation represents yet another milestone for CFL, which lays claim to being the first company to launch water-resistant laminate in 2013.
“Laminate flooring is an industry with very little innovation the last years,” said Thomas Baert, founder and president of CFL Flooring. “The reason why laminate flooring has so little in- novation is that the products are limited to big producers who focus on manufacturing efficiency, automation leading to cost reduction. At CFL, we see this differently, we think and focus on what customers want. This customer centricity has resulted in bringing laminate to a totally different level.”
With this latest innovation, CFL said customers no longer have to settle for less. “There is no compromise on performance with AtroGuard Q,” Baert said. “It still is highly scratch resistant and waterproof but without the annoying noise of traditional laminate floors.”
(Look for more laminate coverage from Surfaces in future editions of FCNews.)