Laminate suppliers leverage new capabilities

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The resurgent U.S. laminate flooring segment continues to defy the naysayers as it gains greater momentum in a market clamoring for alternatives to competing hard surface categories. This renewed and ongoing interest has given suppliers a broader platform to explore and incorporate new technologies that not only aim to elevate the category as a whole but also help suppliers differentiate themselves.

Some of these advancements were on full display at recent markets like TISE 2023 in Las Vegas earlier this year. From laminate offerings that provide greater visual realism and performance, to those that promise greater waterproof protection or noise reduction, there was no shortage of head-turning innovations to pique the interest of retailers and distributors. “Laminate flooring is undergoing a major renaissance in the industry,” Derek Welbourn, Inhaus CEO, told Floor Covering News. “We’ve seen a lot more demand for laminate flooring products.”

Lamdura from Inhaus utilizes advanced EIR technology for a more realistic look.

In the case of Welbourn’s company, the focus was on Lamdura, which launched in 2022 and has expanded in 2023 to include multiple tiers. All products within the line—each featuring new colors—are now water resistant, anti-microbial and embossed in register. Lamdura, made by Germany-based Classen, 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 surface. All Lamdura collections also feature Classen’s patented Megaloc 2.0, a water-resistant, angle-fold locking system.

Other major suppliers are also touting their products’ design and performance capabilities. AHF Products, primarily known for its wide assortment of hardwood flooring offerings, is also banking big on laminate. “Our customers came to us and wanted to leverage the Bruce brand across other categories, including laminates,” Brian Parker, vice president of product development, explained. “So we’ve launched our Bruce TimberTru laminate portfolio into the market in three structures: a 12mm (10 plus 2mm pad) and an 8mm option. 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. “Today’s laminates now have a top-down waterproof performance story,” Parker explained. “That gives us a story that helps us compete head to head with SPC and WPC. We needed a water 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.”

For those companies specializing in laminate flooring, the renewed interest 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. Suppliers across the board are infusing the product with waterproof and water-resistant capabilities. Whether it’s improvements to the core materials, edges or resins themselves—or the product-specific installation systems—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 popular Restorations collection, for example. The company’s top-selling laminate line gets expanded with Heirloom and Harmony—two new and trendy, high-performance lines. 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. What’s more, the laminates feature TruDetail digital printing technology that allows for fewer pattern repeats—especially in the wood looks—across a larger installation area. In fact, Mannington offers 20 unique planks in a single box—a feature that translate into a more realistic visual for the consumer.

“Today’s products also feature embossed-in-register designs for an extremely realistic texture and digital printing for crisp and clear visuals,” said David Sheehan, vice president, residential hard surfaces.

All RevWood lines now feature Mohawk’s proprietary Signature Technology, an innovation based on high-definition scanning and printing capabilities for extremely realistic visuals.

Other major suppliers, including Mohawk, remain committed to the category. The company has expanded its popular RevWood portfolio by adding 14 new styles to RevWood’s Plus and Premier tiers. Both RevWood Plus and RevWood Premier feature Mohawk’s proprietary WetProtect technology plus improved scratch protection and an All Pet Protection & Warranty. The collection was recently upgraded to feature Mohawk’s proprietary Signature Technology, an innovation based on high-definition scanning and printing capabilities for extremely realistic hardwood visuals. Signature Technology captures all the nuances of the raw source material and transfers those details to the design layer of the final product.

“With Signature Technology, you can really drive home that natural authenticity,” said David Moore, senior product director, wood, laminate. “Using this technology, we are able to take all that texture information out of the source wood and pull out 64 independent layers of data. The next step entails putting all that data back into the product.”

Across the board, laminate suppliers are raising the bar with respect to more realistic visuals. The latest designs from BHW, Cali, Johnson Hardwood and Lions Floor, for example, are making it harder for even seasoned industry experts to tell the difference between their laminates and genuine hardwood.

BHW’s Kingston line features a tough AC4 wear layer and is 100% waterproof.

The new Kingston collection from BHW boasts high-resolution planks, while Cali’s new Shorebreak line features ultra-realistic stone visuals fortified by an SPC core for 100% waterproof protection. Johnson Hardwood applies its expertise in genuine wood to its high-style, high-performance Olde Tavern and Bella Vista collections. The former is available in realistic, rustic/reclaimed visuals with EIR embossing that mirrors its genuine hardwood offerings, while Bella Vista conveys cleaner, more elegant visuals. Olde Tavern and Bella Vista are AC4 and AC5 rated, respectively, for wear resistance, and each features WaterShield technology to prevent topical water incursion.

Lions Floor Comfort Heights aims to take home décor to the next level. The large-profile laminate plank resembles the authentic and timeless charm of hardwood. The EIR embossed yet matte finish is designed to better replicate natural species. Water-resistant with a micro painted bevel, waxed joints and AC4-level scratch resistance, Comfort Heights high-density core delivers the trifecta: beauty, durability and performance.

Laminate suppliers are not only looking to better replicate the visual characteristics found in real wood, but they are also seeking to mimic the ever-popular wide/long plank format. Case in point is Sequoia XL, the latest laminate offering from Eternity. The eye-catching, 6-foot-long plank, made in Spain, boasts trendy designs, including wood visuals that offer up to 24 variations before you see a pattern repeat. Built on a platform that entails 6-foot planks on a 9 ½-inch board, the product features a 3D textured surface.

Beyond visuals

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the knock on laminate has been its “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. Like its predecessor, AtroGuard, the line is still highly scratch resistant and waterproof but doesn’t have the shortcomings associated with earlier laminate iterations—namely noise transfer, the company said.

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April 10/17, 2023

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