Laminate flooring products have historically been associated with affordability, durability, extreme scratch resistance and, more recently, waterproof performance. Now suppliers are working overtime to add another important descriptor to the long list of desirable attributes: greater visual realism.
Across the board, suppliers are utilizing the latest advancements in high-resolution scanning, direct digital printing and enhanced embossed-in-register technologies in their latest looks. The primary objective is to give retailers more exciting products to sell to today’s demanding consumers.
Case in point is the breakthrough Signature technology Mohawk is currently utilizing across its entire hard surface portfolio, which includes its popular RevWood brand. How it works: Signature Technology captures natural designs by scanning, cataloging and preserving the extraordinary detail and variety common to each wood species. The 64 layers of microdata are transferred to a flooring plank, providing multi-dimensional beauty consumers can see and feel.
“With Signature Imprint Technology, you can really drive home that natural authenticity,” explained David Moore, senior product director, wood and laminate. “Using this technology, we are able to take all that texture information out of the source wood—including all the nuances such as cracks and splits—and pull out 64 independent layers of data from the source wood. The next step entails putting all that data back into the product. We add all that back to the plate process using laser etching.”
The last part of the process is Mohawk’s innovative Clarity finish, which, according to Moore, boasts 4x more resolution than early imaging methods and contains up to 1,000 unique colors in every square inch, resulting in flooring that is indistinguishable from the original, both in look and feel.
“The variety and detail of these natural features are often lost in the low-fidelity digital conversions that currently make up the flooring industry standard,” Moore noted. “We are about 10 years ahead with Signature Technology.”
Other major laminate suppliers are also employing technological advancements in imaging and embossing to create more realistic visuals and textures. Johnson Hardwood, for instance, utilizes proprietary techniques in its top-selling Olde Tavern and Bella Vista collections.
“Old Tavern gives you more of that farmhouse/barn, rustic look, while Bella Vista is more of a clean-grade European oak visual,” said Billy Ko, CEO, Johnson Hardwood. “Bella Vista comes in multiple lengths—much like what you would see in real wood. It’s a very high-end look for a laminate.”
According to Ko, Johnson Hardwood—which models some of its popular laminate lines after its best-selling genuine wood looks—is able to achieve these visuals by replicating the designs on laminate paper while applying special coatings and embossing to mimic the textures found on the surface of real wood products. “We focus on looking for the right types of designs for the film to give it the right amount of variation, but also what looks good in different lengths,” Ko explained. “Then we emboss it and a coating on top to give it a more natural, finished look.”
Realistic wood looks are also evident in the Bruce TimberTru laminate lines from AHF Products. Designs within the Natural World collection aim to mimic the authentic detail and texture found in real hardwood, while the Basic Wonders line keys on popular colors and species. Both are waterproof.
Other new introductions are also turning heads. The Comfort Heights collection from Lions Floor boasts large profile planks designed to mimic the timeless charm of hardwood. The embossed-in-register surface finish aims to captures nature’s essence, while a refined matte appearance replicates the popular look of a low-luster wood finish.
The eye-catching attributes don’t stop there, according to Jerry Guo, Lions Floor president. “What truly sets the Comfort Heights collection apart lies in our unique ability to offer a coordinated visual palette of eight captivating colors that draw inspiration from our top-selling SPC line.”
Then there’s Cali’s new Shorebreak laminate line, which feeds consumer demands for multi-tonal designs and matte finishes that offer a more contemporary touch. “Each tile is designed to mimic the look and feel of popular stones and marbles, [a trend that resonates] with the current inclination toward organic and natural designs,” said Doug Jackson, president and CEO. “Our tiles showcase a range of tones, delivering the depth and dimension a customer would expect of stone.”
The Pacific Vineyard Collection from SLCC Flooring showcases clean, sophisticated designs. According to Vinny Circosta, chief influence officer with the company, the line’s EIR visuals are digitally scanned from SLCC’s top-selling engineered European oak hardwood products.
BHW is another laminate supplier that uses traditional methods—albeit with a little tweaking—to render natural-looking hardwood visuals. The result of these sophisticated techniques is evident in its signature Kingston collection, which boasts some of the hottest designs in wood-look laminate today, according to Jason Grant, vice president. “We’re currently using EIR technology to create natural looking oak patterns,” he explained. “With the technology we’re using we’re able to offer 7-inch-wide planks, and we’re working on a 10-inch-wide boards as well.”
Not to be outdone, Eternity Floors is pulling out all the stops in expanding its SKUs across the board. In fact, its entire laminate portfolio, which includes signature collections such as Sequoia XL, Hyperion XXL, Ecoessent Aqua-Resilience and Proof, its latest offering. Sequoia XL, made in Spain, comes in 6-foot-long planks that boast trendy wood designs offering 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.
“It really, truly feels like hardwood,” said Isaac Lee, marketing and product development manager. “It’s not like some of the other embossed-in-register products that you see in some laminates out there.”
Hyperion XXL, with its massive footprint, is equally impressive. “At almost 8-feet long x 9¼ inches wide, this is the longest laminate planks you’ll see in the market,” Lee stated. And good looking, too, apparently. Like the Seqouia XL line, the 12 visuals in Hyperion XXL are exclusive to Eternity. “The designs reflect more of the coastal and European looks you’re seeing in the market right now.”