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Underlayment: Suppliers serve up solutions for multi-family applications

June 5/12, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 26

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 11.04.52 AMUnderlayment suppliers are focusing more of their attention on the all-important multi-family sector of the housing market. Specifically, they are developing products that aim to meet or exceed the stringent building code requirements for multi-family dwellings while complementing the vast array of flooring products designed to coordinate with them.

That’s certainly the focus of companies like MP Global Products, maker of the well-known QuietWalk brand of sound-deadening underlayment products designed to quiet noisy floating floors such as laminates. “Our company has concentrated on acoustic underlayment almost since our founding 20 years ago—which incidentally is exactly the same year the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) was formed,” said Jack Boesch, director of marketing. “Together with NALFA, we helped the manufacturers of laminate flooring establish standards for underlayments with regard to several attributes, including sound attenuation.”

QuietWalk, MP Global’s hallmark product, is branded as such for its ability to draw sound in and deaden it. “The original train of thought was to help deaden the ‘clicky’ sound of laminate flooring within the room and make it sound more like solid wood,” Boesch explained. “During that process we also discovered that architects and designers loved our underlayments for use in condominiums and apartment buildings.”

Other major suppliers of underlayment products are busy at work tackling the noise-transfer issue in multi-family applications. For example, Diversified Industries, manufacturer of the popular FloorMuffler line of products, is looking to make sure it has all the bases covered in that respect.

“While flooring suppliers are working to develop products with better sound characteristics, the best solution for noise reduction is a quality underlayment,” said Colleen Gormley, national marketing coordinator. “We are continuously testing our products with the most up-to-date building code requirements to ensure flooring suppliers have a proven underlayment to partner with their flooring.”

Due to the advances in sound-reduction technology, Gormley is seeing the use of hard surface flooring becoming much more prevalent in multi-family construction than ever before—which is guiding much of the new product development within the company. “We have developed an entire line of products to provide superior noise reduction for every type of hard surface flooring installation. This includes our new line of rubber underlayments, FloorMuffler FLEX, which can be used under anything from tile to hardwood flooring.”

Dan Davis, national retail business manager, multi-family sector, HPS Schönox North America, also sees the multi-family market moving away from carpet and toward LVT. For its part, Schönox has developed several underlayments to address this trend. Chief among them is Schönox TS, an impact, sound-deadening underlayment made of cork and recycled urethane granules that not only provides impact and sound attenuation but also comfort underfoot. “This is used underneath LVT floors so the residents living below won’t hear anything,” he explained.

Schönox takes it a step further by focusing on the condition of the substrate prior to the application of a sound-deadening underlayment. To that end, the company offers AP, a dust- reduced synthetic gypsum compound that’s suitable over gypsum-based cement floors common in multi-family applications, and APF, a fiber-reinforced self leveling compound. “These are high-performance products that are proprietary to us and designed to go with these gypsum subfloors,” Davis said. “Our products are specifically designed to bond with gypsum subfloors, not separate or push away from them.”

Future Foam is also keeping a close eye on trends in the multi-family sector and is responding accordingly. “Multi-family is a very interesting sector for carpet cushion companies, including Future Foam,” said Mark Foster, regional manager. “We are often challenged by economic hurdles with carpet cushion, but we have seen an uptick in interest for sound abatement and comfort under LVT flooring.”

Builders, Foster notes, often lose sight of the advantages of providing a cushion under LVT floors. “Acoustical properties play a big role in deciding what is to be used in multi-family dwellings today, so Future Foam provides sound ratings for applications under numerous hard surface products. A cushion that provides comfort and sound absorption are the keys to these projects.”

Soundseal, which offers a range of underlayment products specifically for certain flooring categories, is also keenly focused on the red-hot LVT segment. “As new products become available we endeavor to find suitable products to use under them,” said Dale Asp, business development manager, Impacta Floor Underlayments. “We developed VC300 and Probase Vinyl to be used under LVT products in multi-family dwellings. We also offer our Cerazorb and Probase Rubber underlayments, which can be used under a broad base of flooring products.”

In that same vein, the increasing popularity of LVT has led WE Cork to its latest introduction, Silently-LVT, which provides a low-profile sound solution under floating and glue-down LVT. According to Ann Wicander, president, “Silently-LVT can also be used as a single-stick method over hard-to-glue to substrates—such as lightweight concrete or surfaces that are expensive to remove like asbestos tile—by loose laying the Silenlty-LVT over the floor and gluing directly on it. This method saves time and money during installation, and is the perfect underlayment for apartments offering a high sound insulation rating of Delta IIC 20.”

WE Cork has a long track record of developing products for the multi-family sector. Back in 1978, when condominium development began to take off, WE Cork initially offered sound-control products for ceramic tile applications under the WECU (WE Cork Underlayments) brand. That paved the way for Soundless +, a product Wicander called “the highest performing product under ceramic tile applications in a concrete structure without a suspended ceiling.” WE Cork then went on to introduce the Warm & Quiet product line for use under hardwood and laminates. “This offers an easy-to-install, lightweight yet highly insulating solution that meets all requirements in the U.S.”

 

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Underlayment: Latest products fill category-specific needs

December 5/12, 2016; Volume 31, Number 13         

By Jana Pollock

 

When it comes to underlayments, what’s underneath really does count. There are seemingly countless underlayment options—each with their own features and benefits—so it’s important to know the specifications and attributes of each product prior to the installation.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-29-50-amIn virtually all cases, the type of underlayment selected is contingent upon the specific type(s) of flooring that will be utilized in a given space. For example, with tile, underlayment that provides support is preferred. Underlayments for these products must not only be strong enough that the tile and grout won’t crack over time, but also flexible enough to absorb movement and expansion and contraction from changing temperatures. Installers suggest cement board underlayment or uncoupling membrane underlayments for these scenarios.

The requirements are much different for other hard surface products such as laminates, which are typically installed via the floating method. Experts say laminate floors require underlayment products that provide stability and protection from moisture, as well as sound abatement. These options may range from foam products to cork or polypropylene. For hardwood floors, installers say, it’s wise to pick an underlayment made from felt, cork or rubber. Rubber or foam underlayments also work well for carpet in some cases.

The challenge for most manufacturers of cushioning and underlayment is to keep pace with new product development from the flooring suppliers. At Carpenter, for example, the emphasis is on introducing new products that provide more comfort underfoot.

“Unfortunately, carpet has dropped considerably in terms of market share over the last five years as millennials are coming in,” said Rob Heuay, senior vice resident. “But we have kept up by improving the feel of the carpet.”

Carpenter also focuses on developing underlayment products that can withstand a host of issues, namely pet accidents. “Many people have pets, so stains and cleanability of carpet is important,” Heuay said. “So the innovations have been in treatments of the cushion to reduce wear and to eliminate odors from accidents.”

One such innovation is Carpenter’s Serenity carpet cushion, which features Everfresh probiotic technology. According to Heuay, the 100% organic probiotic technology reduces odor naturally, continuously and safely. How it works: When pet accidents occur the urine is transformed into water and CO2 which evaporates, leaving no smell left behind and no lingering bacteria. “The floor covering industry recognizes the importance of living in a clean home without the worry of germs that pose potential harm to homeowners,” he said. “Serenity with Everfresh probiotic technology does just that.”

Keeping in lockstep
Experts agree that today’s underlayment products are geared more toward the bevy of new products being developed. “In years past, one pad was recommended for all available flooring installation types,” said Jeffrey Castor, national sales manager, Diversified Industries. “With the introduction of products such as LVT, that has since changed. Based on the characteristics of LVT/LVP, anything thicker than approximately 1mm has been subject to failure over time.”

Diversified Industries is working to stay ahead of the game. “In 2016 we’ve already introduced five new underlayment SKUs and anticipate the addition of at least 10 more by years end,” Castor stated. “We anticipate the needs of the industry so we are not playing catch up.”

Other major suppliers attest to the rapid rate of new product development. Jack Boesch, president of MP Global Products, has also seen an increase in the popularity of LVT. This, he notes, has resulted in multiple requests for underlayment products that complement the installation. “As far as we know there are no requirements for underlayments in this category, but there’s always a need to deaden sound between floors in multi-family housing such as condominiums and apartment buildings,” he explained.

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-29-56-amAnother factor in the choice of underlayment is the environment/region in which the flooring material will be used. Take ceramic tile and radiant heating flooring systems, for example. “These systems have been around for years; however, up until this past year there has never been uncoupling membranes that serve a dual purpose,” said Julia Vozza, marketing manager at Loxcreen Flooring Group, maker of the Prova Flex Heat+ system. “Now you can have heated tile floors while also avoiding tile cracking, which can extend the life span of a tile for years to come. The uncoupling membranes for use with in-floor radiant heating systems allow heating cables to be embedded or inserted into channels while the membrane can also serve its purpose of strengthening the overall tile installation.”

In most cases, the type of underlayment product selected will be dictated by the type of flooring material specified or installed. As Wil Younger, marketing manager for Regupol, explained: “From carpet to LVT, from engineered hardwood to ceramic tiles, floor coverings have different hardnesses and thus different acoustical performance. Typically, the harder the floor covering the louder is the noise in the room itself and the lower the damping and sound isolation to neighboring rooms on the same floor level, the level below or above. As a result, floor coverings require different underlayments in order to achieve the desired acoustical performance and comply with building codes.”

Some of the latest underlayment products have a dual purpose. Schönox DSP, for example, is a self-leveling compound that can also be used as an overlayment. This applies to applications where customers require a durable coating for concrete that can be polished.

“The flexibility and product attributes of of Schönox DSP are finding wide appeal in new construction, remodel and renovation projects where leveling as well as a top surface can be accomplished in one process,” said Doug Young, executive vice president.

Many underlayment manufacturers seek to leverage insight gained from consumer testing when developing products that offer desired performance features and benefits. “Our product development team then uses these insights, developing innovative solutions for this category that maximize the comfort and performance of our underlayment,” said Jeff Briney, vice president of sales, Innocor Foam Technologies, maker of the CUSHIONcor memory foam carpet cushion product. “It’s made with gel memory foam that provides the comfort and support consumers crave underfoot.”

 

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Inaugural event sets the stage for future growth

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.09.36 AMMiami—In the aftermath of the debut of Surfaces East, or The International Surface Event (TISE) East as it is officially known, show manager Hanley Wood has been left with something to build on for 2015.

While TISE East was never designed to be anywhere near as large as its Las Vegas counterpart, the event, which encompasses Surfaces, StoneExpo/ Marmomacc Americas and Tile Expo, lived up to those who had realistic expectations, particularly Hanley Wood. “To launch a show with 50,000 square feet is huge,” said Dana Teague, vice president. “People aren’t launching shows very much anymore in the first place, so it was a big risk. But it says a lot about the industry that we have had the response we have.”

She added that she was happy with the number of exhibitors and is seeking about 10% growth across the board for 2015. “That’s reasonable, and we can support that growth.”

Teague cautioned that realistic expectations must prevail with a show of this nature. “TISE East was designed to be a regional show. [Miami] is strong with designers and architects. We do have some national people here, but a good 75% will be from the Southeast region.”

In fact, it was this regional draw that attracted most exhibitors. Take Dream Weaver, for example. According to Melvin Silvers, the company’s founder, the biggest motivator to exhibit was its lack of presence in the Southeast. “We thought some of the customers we haven’t had before would come here. We’ve also added four territory managers in the last six months, so we wanted to see if we could open up the new territory here.”

Some companies used the show as a networking opportunity more so than a launching pad for new product, but not Dream Weaver. “Our theme for this show was ‘Mardi Gras comes to Miami,’” Silvers noted. “We have some new colorations, some blended tonals, double space dye, and some other new things coming out.

“This show will be successful in our minds if we get some new customers,” he continued. “If we can get the top 50 customers in the area to come see us, that’s a success for us.”

The theme at Dream Weaver’s booth was Mardi Gras Comes to Miami, helping to draw attention to some new offerings.
Dream Weaver’s Mardi Gras Comes to Miami booth.

Some companies, such as Stanton Carpet, were hoping to parlay the success they traditionally have at Surfaces in January into some new business. “It just made sense to try [East],” said Jonathan Cohen, COO. “The Surfaces muscle, and knowing we have a fair amount of East Coast companies who don’t come to Vegas, lent to our decision.”

While Cohen was not expecting Las Vegas traffic, “We’re still looking at our core—the flooring retailer. It’s good for them to see new things they can’t see day to day because it’s just not out yet, or displays they don’t have.”

Unfortunately, after the show wrapped, Cohen told FCNews that his expectations fell short.

Kane Carpet was another carpet supplier using Surfaces East as an opportunity to highlight new displays that showcase top carpet offerings. According to Bruce Kurtz, vice president of sales and marketing, the company saw a “great opportunity” in exhibiting at a second show, “as there has only been one show for the whole industry up until this point.”

One of the highlights for Kane at Surfaces East was its new carpet tile line, the Royal Empire Series, which consists of broadloom that’s carved and then clipped into tiles for residential or commercial use. “A lot of the young people are looking for carpet tile, but everything offered is very commercial looking,” Kurtz explained. “This is a residential product—a brand new product that’s available now.” Among the new merchandising systems highlighted by the company was an 8-foot Shagtacular display featuring Kane’s leading shag designs.

Once the show wrapped, Kurtz reported that the new displays were, in fact, one of the most successful parts of the show for the company. “People we showed the new displays to went crazy for them. We absolutely got the green light on them. People were actually coming by to take pictures of the displays. Those displays are particularly successful in the South Florida market thanks to those contemporary looks. And the carpet tiles were picked up big time.”

Kurtz said the show was also a triumph for the Kane team as they gathered every morning to discuss the results at Surfaces East to adjust what would be best to show at Surfaces in January. “We brought in the best people, went through a good amount of product and got much accomplished.”

Beyond carpet

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.14.56 AMHard surface companies also found value in exhibiting at Surfaces East. Max Woods, for example, used the event as a platform to showcase its rebranding from Max Windsor Floors. Company owner Peter Spirer acknowledged the risk of showing at a first-time event, but considered Max Woods at an advantage as the show helped inspire the supplier to be ready with new product and branding for the fall.

“We were able to get a marvelous amount of things done in time for the fall selling season,” he said. “We think we’re going to have a good leg up no matter what; we will be delivering our products introduced at this market long before those who are introducing in Vegas. We felt it was timely for us, it forced us to hit a deadline, and it made us think and make decisions about how we want to merchandise, which is a very big factor in our business.”

Brand exposure was a major driver for Max Woods’ strong presence at the show, which included women airbrushed to match the company’s wood displays. “We also knew the trade press would be here, and we might have a chance of being a compelling place to visit,” Spirer continued. “It’s more about the exposure to the industry thinkers—the major retailers move mountains with their opinions, and their opinions are usually expressed through what they buy. This is for them. Our program is poised to work with the largest retailers.”

After the show, Spirer said Max Woods accomplished its goals for Surfaces East, which were establishing its brand and giving attendees an idea of the scope of the products the supplier now offers. “On my personal score card, I would rate it very high in terms of what we were after. Our organization was very pumped about the show. We really did well.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.15.44 AMOn the resilient side, FreeFit was one of the few LVT suppliers at the show, which suited Ray Pina, vice president of sales and marketing, just fine. “There’s a risk or uncertainty with a new show, but we have the opinion that it’s better to be an innovator and be here while others aren’t. If we can build business with contractors in the Miami area, it’s a win for us. We’re meeting people we wouldn’t have met. I’m looking at it as a Miami trade show—I’m not looking to get customers from Wisconsin here. If I can walk out of here with three or four new customers in Miami, I’m good with that.”

Also showcasing its hard surface wares was Nuvelle engineered wood floors and laminate, a private-label brand from Florida distributor Suncrest Supply. Dewevai Buchanan, president of Nuvelle, said Surfaces East “paid for itself” with the positive response to some of its hottest products, like Beach House, which includes 32 plank variations. “As far as new customers, we’ve seen people from [as far as] California and Brazil. For us this show has been great. We said if we get five customers out of this, that’s perfect. We’ve already done that in the first day. We will absolutely come back.”

Jeffrey Castor, vice president of sales for Diversified Industries, also cited Surfaces East’s connection to Latin America as a benefit of exhibiting at the show. He noted that he wouldn’t normally get to meet these potential customers, nor would they make the trip to Las Vegas for Surfaces. “I also got to meet with a lot of OEMs who are here. All in all, there was a good showing from retailers—I met people from Colorado, California, Florida, all over. I think the show, for its first year, is good. I think there’s definitely a ramp-up period. I foresee in three year’s time this show really growing.”

Attendee response

Nuvelle reported considerable traffic in its booth, with the  innovative Beach House laminate receiving rave reviews.
Nuvelle’s Beach House laminate.

Positivity wasn’t just on the exhibitor side of the show. Attendees—while many were from the local area—responded well to the event, citing the show’s educational sessions as one of the brightest highlights.

Thomas Crook, manager and owner of East Coast Flooring in Ocala, Fla., said Surfaces East was simply more convenient for him, as he was able to get in his car and drive as opposed to jumping on a plane. “I like things in Las Vegas, too, but I think Miami is a better venue overall for a business type of event,” he noted. “The education portion for the most part has been very good. They had a nice selection in classes. On the show floor, we’ve seen new things we’re excited about, particularly from distributors. I hope they continue to [host this show].”

Another local dealer, Laura Hessler of Hessler Paint and Decorating Center, with locations in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, Fla., agreed the education at Surfaces East was a major draw. As the leader of Hessler’s decorating department, she said she finds it “very beneficial to keep up on things, get questions answered and get information from professionals.

“I would still go to Vegas if they didn’t have an event here, but it was an hour drive south and much more affordable,” she continued. “If this show becomes large enough and offers everything the Vegas show does, for sure I would come here again. I would go to both.”

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Underlayment: Suppliers strut their green stuff

May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.24.24 PMAs every area of the industry strives to become more environmentally friendly, products continue to become safer and more sustainable. When it comes to underlayment and carpet cushion, the same holds true. Whether it’s the ingredients in the offerings themselves or the way they are manufactured, cushion and underlayment companies are doing what they can to provide retailers and end users with the safest, most effective products.

Diversified Industries

“To our company, green is much more than a passing fad,” said Jeffrey Castor, vice president of sales. “Our team constantly tries to improve our efficiencies and lower our carbon footprint. Everyone is constantly forced to weigh their desire to take care of the environment versus the cost to do so. Our new product allows them to do both.”

That new product is EcoStep Ultimate, a grade fiber underlayment and moisture barrier featuring Diversified’s UltraSeal self-sealing lip and tape system. EcoStep is made from 98% recycled content, is 100% recyclable and is domestically manufactured.

“It has great compression characteristics, extremely high acoustic ratings and an unparalleled consistency with respect to thickness and density,” Castor said.

Fabricushion

According to Andrea Morris, vice president, sales/marketing, Fabricushion—producer of both carpet cushion and underlayment for hard surfaces—offers various green products, which either leverage recycled tire crumb or acoustical mineral sand. Both add to the properties of the products while furthering green mandates.

“Our products range from residential and commercial carpet cushion to LVT underlayment to other acoustical underlayment,” she said. “On top of achieving CRI approval, our products contain recycled content and are recyclable at the end of their life.”

Fabricushion’s top two lines—Cush-n-Tred and DB Cover—are both rubber-based. Cush-n-Tred features recycled tire crumb, a Textron backing and is available in carpet cushion and underlayment for hard surfaces, while DB Cover is a premium, high-density underlayment containing acoustical mineral sand. DB Cover Vinyl is a palletized product and offers stability, moisture protection and sound absorption for LVT planks or tiles.

Cush-n-Tred is an affordable green choice, Morris noted, and “with its densities and other attributes, the correct Cush-n-Tred cushion can handle a range of traffic levels and perform over radiant heated floors, above and below grade.”

MP Global Products

MP Global’s latest green product is LuxWalk, an underlayment engineered specifically for floating or glue down luxury vinyl flooring (LVF), made with 31% post-consumer recycled content. Providing full subfloor coverage and carrying impressive IIC and STC sound test ratings, LuxWalk effectively reduces impact sound and floor to ceiling noise, noted Kelly Kennedy, national sales manager.

In addition, LuxWalk is LEED compliant due to its construction with a polyethylene film that incorporates blended recycled polyester fiber (derived from soda bottles diverted from landfill) with hot-melt adhesive.

“Because denting is inherent in luxury vinyl, its underlayment has to be dense and firm enough to support the LVF and minimize any denting,” Kelly said

Vinyl Trends

For Vinyl Trends, maker of Eternity brand underlayment, sustainability is nothing new, noted president Rob Kuepfer. The company got its start by reclaiming and recycling plastic and rubber materials into new products. Over the years, the company has managed to keep millions of pounds of scrap material out of landfills across North America.

Most notable from the company’s portfolio is Zero VOC foam formulation, which is the first and only zero VOC underlayment, he noted. “Eternity does not off gas harmful chemicals, and it creates a barrier between the subfloor and the room, while many traditional subfloor materials contain numerous chemical compounds including formaldehyde, which often migrate into the living space.”

Also, Eternity is a natural microbe inhibitor, so Vinyl Trends does not need to add any antimicrobial chemicals.

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Pregis, licensees seek to prevent patent infringement

LAS VEGAS—Underlayment companies have traditionally been a relatively quiet bunch. Maybe it stems from the nature of the product they produce.

But just like every other product sector, the use of technology to help make products perform better and install easier has grown at a rapid pace in recent years. And while some companies have chosen to compete using ethical business practices and follow U.S. law when it comes to intellectual property rights, there are others trying to capitalize by infringing on patents and making false claims to make the sale. Continue reading Pregis, licensees seek to prevent patent infringement