New association created to establish standards for nascent composite core category
FCNews Ultimate Guide to WPC: July 17/24, 2017
The laminate flooring industry has NALFA, while NWFA sets standards in wood manufacturing and installation. RFCI covers the resilient sector; carpet has CRI. So when it came time to launching an association that would begin setting standards for the WPC/composite core segment, several industry leaders took the lead in creating MFA—the Multilayer Flooring Association.
Officially launched in February by seven founding companies—Armstrong Flooring, CFL, Mannington, Metroflor, Novalis, Torly’s and USFloors—MFA has grown to include Karndean, Mohawk and Shaw, as well as three associate members: MP Global, Pak-Lite and SELIT, N.A. Peter Barretto, president and CEO of Torlys, serves as marketing chairperson of MFA. Joining Baretto on the board is MFA president Harlan Stone, CEO of Halstead International/Metroflor Corp.; Barron Frith (CFL) as vice president; Mark Hansen (Novalis Innovative Flooring) as treasurer; Jamey Block (Armstrong Flooring), secretary; Philippe Erramuzpe (USFloors), membership chairperson; and Jimmy Tuley (Mannington), serving as member at large.
Barretto cited the impetus for the founding of the association, noting the rapid rise in popularity of polymer composite rigid core floor products, first introduced in 2012, and the lack of existing standards. This situation, he said, presented an opportunity for a new association to rise and fill a void in the market by creating a stronger and better controlled flooring segment for the benefit of retailers and consumers. This is particularly critical with relatively new categories such as WPC—a segment in which products are not always constructed the same way or use the same materials.
MFA held a meeting during Surfaces 2017 to discuss the organization’s initial goals and objectives. Among the key topics discussed were category standards, membership and third-party certification. “This meeting was about getting new members, talking about the ASTM standards we are trying to create and the speed at which we want to do it,” Barretto told FCNews. “We already have a first draft of the standards to get that ball rolling.”
The initial standards Barretto referred to were created within the ASTM framework to first better define the multilayer flooring category for the benefit of retailers and customers. “It’s a new category; we don’t have the standards here that we have in other categories such as LVT, laminate and wood—all of which are established,” he explained. “It’s a hybrid category so we need to make sure we have a hybrid standard.”
Why the sense of urgency in developing a standard? Primarily to avoid confusion in the marketplace—a consequence of a new category that’s growing rapidly. For instance, WPC is viewed by many as a segment of luxury vinyl tile (LVT), the fastest growing product in the industry. However, there are differences in the construction of WPC vs. LVT. For instance, WPC is a composite material made of thermoplastics, calcium carbonate and wood flour. Extruded as a core material it is marketed as being waterproof, rigid and extremely dimensionally stable. (In the case of COREtec Plus, USFloors’ product, a veneer of luxury vinyl is layered on top of the coreboard and core underlayment is attached at the base for sound abatement and enhanced comfort underfoot.)
Second, the creation of uniform standards ensures products that fall under the WPC umbrella (including subsequent iterations of “WPC-type” floors) establishes a threshold in terms of product quality, construction, performance, etc. Novalis’ Hansen, for instance, said many WPC products in the market today would not pass the basic ASTM F 1700 test, which is the specification used for solid vinyl flooring. ASTM F 1700 classifies solid vinyl tile in three categories: Class I Monolithic, which means through color tile with no backing; Class II Surface Decorated, which usually means an “inlaid” type tile with a backing; and Class III, Printed Film Vinyl Tile, which is a photographic print film with a clear vinyl wear layer and a backing system.
“WPC is really a new product and concept, and we need to have proper specifications for this product so the retailer and ultimately the consumer can better understand the product,” Hansen explained. “We need to put the proper information in consumers’ hands so they can make an informed decision about what they are purchasing.”
MFA is quickly—albeit carefully and methodically—making progress in those areas. The association, based in Calhoun, Ga., recently wrapped up its first official “general meeting,” where members provided an update on the group’s initiatives over the past six months. (FCNews will share details of that meeting in the weeks to come.)
After the initial standards have been finalized and published, MFA will explore different types of certifications for association members. “We are looking at creating performance and safety standards for the product with third-party certification,” Barretto explained, adding these standards will be categorized according to residential and commercial specifications.
As the composite core flooring category evolves, MFA seeks to keep in lockstep with its development. “The association is moving at the same speed as the subcategory itself,” Barretto stated. “It has come from nothing to over half a billion dollars in four years.”
MFA membership has its privileges
The newly formed Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA) is seeking to build on its membership ranks. To encourage participation, the group has established two membership tiers: “regular” and “associate.”
According to Philippe Erramuzpe, membership chair, regular membership shall consist of any non-consumer facing manufacturer or manufacturer with an OEM that sells or distributes multilayer modular flooring. All members shall maintain a significant operational presence in North America. Note: Regular members have voting privileges, and its appointees may hold office.
Associate membership shall consist of members who are affiliates of or provide ancillary services or products to multi-layer flooring with polymer composite core. Associate members shall not have voting privileges.