February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Contrary to popular belief, the laminate segment is alive and well despite recent threats from LVT, LVP and its latest challenger—the hybrid, which can come in the form of cork plus synthetic WPC, a combination of polypropylene and wood fiber and much more.
At Surfaces, laminate manufacturers honed in on the one thing that differentiates the product from any other in the market—it’s ability to replicate hardwood while providing enhanced wear resistance and durability—by introducing a number of reclaimed wood looks. By virtue of advanced printing technology and new embossing techniques, attendees could easily mistake laminate for wood in the respective suppliers’ booths as they were surrounded by “natural” features such as hand-scraped finishes, nail holes and saw marks, while wide, long planks generally leaned toward whitewashes and grays.
Armstrong is introducing 20 laminate SKUs of which three are new designs inspired by existing styles within the company’s best-selling collections: Architectural Remnants, Rustic Premium and Antique Structure.
“The reclaimed look has been tremendously successful for us,” said Brian Parker, laminate product manager. “Architectural Remnants Woodland Reclaim is the best-selling design in the entire portfolio. People love the low-gloss look. [It has] a lot of character and dramatic visuals from plank to plank, and the color changes even within the planks themselves. So we wanted to create new visuals and designs along that theme.”
The result was Reclaimed Hickory, a distressed plank; Reclaimed Pine, a warm gray plank mixed with a brown tone and blue accent, and Reclaimed and Weathered Oak, a mixture of blue and gray tones.
Parker noted each design is of high visual count. Whereas typical laminate incorporates six to eight unique visuals, these designs have 18 that create variation and reduce pattern repeats. “You’re not only getting the high fidelity print quality that makes it look like real wood, but you’re also getting the great embossing texture that gives it the feel of real wood. That’s a real big focus for us in design: reality in print, texture and the variation and randomness overall.”
With artwork made of laminate strung across the walls of the BerryAlloc showroom, the company showed off new designs and colors that were added to existing collections.
Known for its high-pressure laminate, BerryAlloc was able to take advantage of its presence outside of the U.S. to stay ahead of the game. “Since we’re a worldwide company, we were able to access different designs in different countries and fine-tune the visuals for the U.S. market to be a step ahead trend-wise,” said Cindy Thornton, marketing director. Some of the bolder colors that BerryAlloc produces for its European market aren’t so popular here in the U.S. “We find that people want different, but not that different.”
The company’s Elegance line debuted with six SKUs in October 2013 that were so well received that four new colors were added, including grays and whitewashes, in walnut, oak and maple visuals. The 9mm collection carries extra-long (6 to 8 inches) and wide (9 inches) planks.
Vintage Impressions, the company’s new collection set to launch in July, uses a conventional press plate to create a unique, embossed-in-register visual to achieve a reclaimed wood look.
“Reclaimed wood is hot,” said Derek Welbourn, CEO. “It’s always a hot category and very diverse. With reclaimed wood, it can be anything from paint splash to alternative species, so there are all kinds of designs involved. That’s the direction we went with ours.”
He highlighted one design method in particular called crosshatching, which emphasizes areas where blades have gone in two different directions so it starts to look like linen, as well as a few new colors.
KronoSwiss’ goal as a laminate manufacturer is to produce products that can “hardly be distinguished from real wood,” said Urs Küchler, product manager, laminate. In an effort to provide enhanced realism, the company focused on textures and larger planks with the launch of two products this year.
Aside from its embossed-in-register visuals, the Swiss Infinity product stands out in a crowd of laminates because of its “endless appearance.” Each plank is a continuation of the previous one, giving the entire floor a flow and connectivity that makes it look like “one giant plank.” The product is available in seven species. Also new is the Grand Selection Monumental, which comes in an XXL format measuring 9.4 feet in length.
Mannington launched four new patterns for its popular and fast-growing Restoration collection. “We’ve continued to evolve the looks in Restoration as both print technology and embossing techniques continue to get better,” said Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products.
The first pattern, Treeline Oak, is designed as a high variation floor mimicking the reclaimed look of wood after it’s been pulled out of old factories or barns due to years of wear. In this design, red, blonde and brown planks are visible but subtle. Treeline is available in three colors.
The second pattern, Riviera Teak, comes in two colors and is hand-rubbed with oil, allowing it to lean toward contemporary while still offering a rustic flare.
Fairhaven’s subtle embossing was designed to replicate the understated wirebrushing “found in the real thing,” while Nantucket comes in three colors: true white, gray and beige.
“The trend in wood right now is wider and longer, so we’ve carried it over to laminate,” Natkin continued. “This year, three of our four introductions offer 8-inch widths.”
In order to keep up with today’s laminate trends, Power Dekor launched two collections centered on the popular reclaimed wood look. The first, Montrose, features 15mm beveled planks with crosscuts and natural textures, and utilizes the Uniclic glueless installation locking system. The second, the Random Width & Length Laminate Collection, offers variable widths ranging from 4 to 7 5⁄8 inches and lengths ranging from 23½ to 71¾ inches in several species with V-groove and embossed finishing.
Sustainability is also a core value for Power Dekor, proven by offering a majority of its products with E0, super-low emitting VOC coreboards that will become more important to consumers in the very near future, the company said.
The goal for Quick-Step is to ensure it launches interesting, innovative products that will capture a part of the market that it previously wasn’t hitting with existing offerings. In other words, the manufacturer must put out something better each time.
In an effort to do so, Quick-Step launched new SKUs in its Reclaimé, Veresque and Dominion collections as well as a completely new line called Envique.
Fire-charred, sandblasted and “wood concrete” textures lend to Envique’s realistic look coupled with extra-long and wide 12mm planks measuring 7½ inches wide x 54 inches long. The line includes four oak and two pine colors and is made with GenuEdge technology, in which the edge treatment of the product can be completed by pressing rather than milling, allowing the design to roll right over the surface.