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Resilient: In a contested field, sheet vinyl still competes on value, visuals

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Mara Bollettieri

 

There’s no denying that LVT and WPC have nipped some market share from sheet vinyl, but by no means is the workhorse subcategory down for the count. Although other resilient formats are growing in popularity, the product still has a place in the flooring industry today, offering benefits to residential and commercial markets.

Thanks to new technological enhancements and product design innovations, resilient sheet is showing it can hold its own against the onslaught of hard surface competition both within and outside the category.  “WPC is getting all the attention today, but sheet vinyl has been waterproof since long before WPC came on the market,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager of residential sheet vinyl, Mannington.

Mannington is working to remind retailers and consumers of the many benefits of sheet vinyl, such as its durability and ease of maintenance. With the company’s Revive collection, it’s promoting these positive attributes while providing dealers with unique and on-trend visual options to make it more appealing to customers. Dyczko-Riglin also emphasized the affordability of the product as a key benefit. “The key to sheet’s success is to remind people that it has those great features and benefits,” she explained.

Other industry executives believe enforcement is the key. “We are continually reminding our customers of the advantages of sheet vinyl—installation ease, quiet, comfortable, durable, inexpensive and future flexibility,” said Liz Marcello, director of residential products–marketing, Tarkett. To that end, the company plans to launch a new sheet vinyl product, TruTEX, which has the ability to dissolve moisture and is mold and mildew resistant while providing strength. According to Marcello, with this new sheet vinyl product, Tarkett is hoping to “create more excitement” around this flooring category.

Mannington and Tarkett are not alone. IVC, a Mohawk brand, is doing its part to keep sheet top of mind. “The attributes of sheet vinyl, such as durability and waterproof features, all go hand in hand with still offering the most economic resilient product in the category,” said Amie Foster, senior product director, IVC U.S.

Suppliers are also leveraging sheet vinyl’s other attributes. “The versatility of sheet vinyl makes it an ideal solution for any number of residential, commercial and project-oriented applications,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “This multi-tasking capacity has allowed sheet vinyl to journey into builder, multi-family and residential-remodeling applications.”

Emphasis on design

Technological advancements have allowed manufacturers to deliver updated sheet vinyl looks that have more realistic visuals. Many suppliers are leveraging new printing techniques to deliver stylish visuals that today’s consumers demand.

“Sheet vinyl’s upgraded visuals and its competitive pricing make it a competitive flooring option,” said Clark Hodgkins, director of resilient, Shaw Floors. “This isn’t the dated vinyl sheet that once graced the kitchens and bathrooms of old.”

Advancements in printing technologies, according to Hodgkins, allow for new pattern creations and gives sheet the ability to better mimic popular visuals like wood and tile. He believes costumers can get beautiful visions at a “fraction of the cost,” compared to other resilient flooring. In particular, he cited Shaw’s DuraTru sheet line, which features realistic visuals.

Other manufacturers are also leveraging technology to render improved looks. “Products like Mannington’s sheet vinyl are highly styled with embossed-in-register, realistic visuals—in all constructions,” Dyczko-Riglin explained. “If you think about it, sheet vinyl is also the ultimate long and wide product as well.”

A case in point, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is Mannington’s Revive collection—a line that draws its inspiration from natural materials. “Revive patterns are inspired by popular porcelain looks, which are making consumers do a double-take,” she said. “It allows them to get the aesthetic they are looking for.”

Equally important as aesthetics, supplier say, are the performance advantages resilient sheet provides. This is particularly critical in situations where hygienic conditions are a major requirement, such as healthcare applications.

“Vinyl sheet floors are seamed by heat welding, which fuses the sheet together and creates strong, clean, aseptic seams that resist the penetration of dirt and moisture,” said Dave Bailey, associate product manager, Armstrong Flooring. “New material and coating technologies have enabled a wider range of colors and patterns, better wear resistance, reduced maintenance requirements and improved chemical and stain resistance.”

Like many products in its lineup, Armstrong’s sheet vinyl products have been enhanced with its signature Diamond 10 technology. According to Bailey, the technology boasts resistance to stains, scratches and scuffs while providing high-indentation performance.

IVC’s Foster feels sheet vinyl has the advantage in this regard. “Visuals continue to challenge the best LVTs, hardwoods and ceramic looks, so the consumer is getting an economic product with enhanced visuals.”

End-use applications

A majority of the suppliers told FCNews that an advantage of sheet vinyl is the product’s ease of installation. This attribute makes the product suitable for a range of applications and environments, be they residential or commercial.

Beauflor, for instance, is seeing its Blacktex fiberglass sheet vinyl being installed in the builder and property management segment. That’s due in no small measure to the product’s exclusive black-textile backing, which allows for loose lay installations up to 500 square feet. “Manufactured housing and RV markets love Beauflor’s sheet for our proprietary 16 foot, 4-inch width capability on a dimensional stable, cold-crack proof, waterproof and flexible construction,” said Michael Finelli, director of strategy, product and marketing.

Then there are products like Forbo’s Marmoleum, which is being installed across a range of both commercial and residential applications. “This USDA- certified, 100% bio-based product also fits the bill for sustainable-minded customers looking for healthy flooring options,” said Lori Lagana, marketing manager, Forbo Flooring. “It’s ideally suited for a variety of commercial and residential applications, ranging from patient rooms, classrooms, hallways and boutiques, to kitchens, bedrooms and family rooms.”

Tarkett’s Marcello sees its FiberFloor being used in multiple rooms in the home for single families. She believes it’s the ideal floor for kitchens, bathrooms, great rooms and/or laundry rooms. She also mentioned its usage in multifamily homes as well, where it is typically installed in spaces that see a lot of use and foot traffic. Also, when paired with its ProSheet Plus 3 product, Tarkett’s FiberFloor and TruTEX sheet vinyl products have the ability to be installed over existing floors. Since TruTEX is moisture resistant, along with being resistant to both mold and mildew, it works in areas that tend to get wet, such as basements, laundry rooms and bathrooms, Marcello added.

Mannington’s sheet vinyl, according to Dyczko-Riglin, is going down in wet areas such as kitchens, laundry rooms, mudrooms and bathrooms.

All of this is no surprise given the category’s waterproof attributes. Shaw Floors’ Hodgkins believes these qualities make sheet vinyl the go-to product for areas of the home that are prone to spills, messes or accidents. “Consumers don’t have to worry if their beloved pet tracks mud through the house or their children make a mess—Shaw’s DuraTru sheet vinyl will maintain its look and shape,” he explained. Shaw’s sheet goods, he noted, features OptiClean technology—an innovation that offers an extra boost of stain resistance.

But sheet vinyl is not just a utilitarian floor as far as installation, maintenance and upkeep are concerned. At the end of the day, proponents say, consumers will select the product because they love the way it looks, along with its suitability for a variety of installation scenarios.

“We’re seeing ArmorCore installed throughout a living space—including entryways and hallways—because of its visual continuity across multiple substrates and subfloor conditions,” Congoleum’s Denman said. He sees this as partly due to the trend of open-concept living in homes, and the continuity of a singular floor to “visually open up smaller spaces.”

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Nuflors’ SetaGrip grabs the attention of retailers

Resilient installation system utilizes suction technology

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. This certainly holds true for Nuflors’ new SetaGrip product, which imitates the nano-suction technology on geckos’ feet to create an adhesive-, tape- and click-freeluxury vinyl floor.

“It’s no secret nature has inspired solutions for everyday challenges, including those in design,” said David Kim, managing partner, Nuflors. “Scientists have studied geckos’ feet and found they contain physical properties that promote stickiness. Using biomimicry, we studied geckos and began looking into nano-suction technology. We applied this technique to our flooring manufacturing process and SetaGrip was born.”

This patent-pending flooring installation technology uses millions of nano-sized pores and vacuum, negative fluid pressure to securely adhere flooring to non-porous surfaces. Once the flooring is pressed against a surface, the nano-sized pores—which act like millions of micro-suction cups—are activated and generate a strong adhesion to the surface.

SetaGrip was developed to simplify installation methods in the flooring industry. Unlike other installation options that can be labor intensive, require machinery and need to be reinforced, SetaGrip maintains a strong adhesion similar to glue-down methods without the need for glue, the company claims.

“Quick-install products such as loose lay and click cannot match the value of this technology,” Kim explained. “Our patented core layer is specially formulated with white ceramic particles to provide extra dimensional stability. SetaGrip’s nano-suction technology also allows the floors to be easily replaced and reused.”

In addition to a simpler installation, SetaGrip is waterproof, aids in sound insulation, does not promote the growth of mildew or mold and is able to be removed without residue.

As a newer product on the market, SetaGrip provides flooring dealers with a unique product story, according to Kim. “It is the answer to any designer, builder or installer’s dilemma with flooring. There is no need for adhesives; therefore, you don’t have to close down an area where you are installing. You can immediately walk on the floor as soon as it’s installed, and it can be installed over almost any existing floor.”

Goes down easy

While other types of flooring can be difficult to repair, SetaGrip can simply be picked up and replaced, according to the company. Nuflors sees this product as a huge win for retailers and installers. “Solving problems equals satisfied customers, which in turn equates to success for the retailers, distributors and installers,” Kim stated. “The product sells itself; the time, ease and speed in which [installers can lay down] SetaGrip will have customers clamoring for more.”

Even though the product only entered the market in January, it is already drawing the attention of retailers, installers and consumers. “I think it is one of the bigger innovations that I’ve seen in the flooring industry right now,” said Scott Lubinsky, business development and sales, TF Andrews in Westchester, N.Y. “I think it’s slightly ahead of the curve and it is completely a millennial-based product—the angle of the green story and it being a replication of what’s happening in nature.”

For installers like James Hong, an associate with Cornerstone Mechanical, Oakland Gardens, N.Y., SetaGrip is a convenient product that is easy to install and very forgiving. “It’s easy to maneuver between each plank.”

Hong has also received positive feedback from consumers. “All our clients love the product and how it installed.”

Barry Goldberg, president of Everything Floors, West Islip, N.Y., also noted the ease of installation. “It’s so much easier to work with than anything else I’ve installed,” he explained. “No prep work is needed, and it goes down easy. If you have to lift it up to adjust it, it comes right up.”

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Resilient: Rigid core continues to set new standards

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties... there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.


Armstrong
Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit
FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum
Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group
Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks
Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus
Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC
Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington
Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis
Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor
Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk
2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean
Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis
Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix
Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step
EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin
Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw
Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett
Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors
Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade
Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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Rigid core continues to set new standards

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Ken Ryan

 

Even seasoned flooring executives are stunned at the growth of the rigid core subsegment that burst onto the scene less than two years ago and has morphed into a super cell of flooring.

Jimmy Tuley, vice president, residential resilient business, Mannington, just returned from Domotex Asia where he saw scores of new entries. “We saw combinations of wood on rigid core; some with mineral core to give it different properties… there is a lot of innovation happening. The pace of change right now is just amazing, unbelievable really.”

Jeff Francis, resilient category manager, Shaw Industries, and a 14-year industry veteran, added, “The rate of change in resilient rigid core is so significant it is challenging just to stay ahead of the pace. Based on the velocity of growth, I don’t see it receding at all.”

Francis said he sees rigid core continuing to take market share from soft surface as well as hard surface—laminate, wood and even glue-down LVT. “We see growth accelerating, and in the next 12-24 months, even as fast as the innovation is coming, we see more of it.”

David Sheehan, senior vice president, product management, Mohawk resilient, said he has been “astounded” by the growth of rigid vinyl. “It is definitely a product that has become the darling of the industry. Just as LVT in general was the go-to product for RSAs and dealers, rigid has become that go-to product.”

Rigid core, or SPC (solid polymer core), is made of a composite core construction, a step up from solid LVT, with a higher filler content and higher density without any foaming agent creating air bubbles in the core. The result is a thinner, harder and stiffer plank. Rigid core products are primarily suitable where higher indentation resistance is required and extensive exposure to sunlight/heat can occur.

This broad definition does not stop flooring companies from putting their own marketing spin on their iterations.

Following is a look at some of the newest offerings in rigid core flooring.

Armstrong

Rigid Core Vantage from Armstrong Flooring includes such features as registered embossing in elongated 9 x 60 and 7 x 60 planks and accentuated painted bevels. The line comes with a commercial-specified 20-mil wear layer and urethane coating, and is noted for its dent resistance thanks to a solid polymer core. Vantage is supported by a premium natural cork underlayment for reduced sound transmission. Armstrong said installing Rigid Core Vantage has been made easier with a new drop-lock system. It has been tested for use in fully enclosed three-season rooms where the expected post-installation temperature range falls between 32°F and 100°F. Rigid Core Vantage will be available to retailers in June.

CFL/FirmFit

FirmFit XXL boasts long and wide planks featuring synchronized embossed-in-register technology. “FirmFit was one of the first to launch long and wide rigid core planks that feature an extremely realistic embossed and register synchronized texture in a large way,” said Thomas Baert, CFL president. “The rigid core category is moving forward extremely fast and improving style and designs, which is bringing the category closer to real wood looks and textures. FirmFit XXL is the next step.”

FirmFit XXL, which will be in stores early summer, is backed by warranties on performance on massive installation surfaces without use of transition moldings. It is dent resistant and sun proof.

Congoleum

Triversa’s triple-layer construction delivers exceptional durability with a 20-mil wear layer, stability through a waterproof rigid core and versatility with cork backing for sound mitigation. A SmartLock clic system allows for easy floating installations. Triversa ID offers extensive design options, including mixed-width woods, longer planks, enhanced edge treatments and tile visuals.

Dixie Group

Dixie is one of the newest entrants into the rigid core space but is determined to make a lasting impression, according to Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing and hard surfaces. For 2018, the Dixie Home and Masland brands are coming out with 16 new offerings, all Stainmaster PetProtect with action traction. “We are filling in some gaps in colorations,” Phelan said. “We have fashion-forward colors in gray and taupe, and we are now adding heavier distressed looks.” New size options in Dixie Home (7 x 60) and Masland (5 x 60) are in addition to a 9 x 60 offered by both. Masland’s Big Sky line offers a 28-mil wear layer.

What’s different here is the company’s path to market is through limited retail distribution. As Phelan explained, “Do you want to enter the market for the sake of entering, or do you want to enter with something special? Stainmaster adds to our position in the marketplace. It’s working for us, and our limited distribution model is very powerful. We’re off to a really good start.”

EarthWerks

Noble Classic Plus SPC from EarthWerks boasts an array of high-dimension oak patterns with EIR. The assortment comes in 8 x 48 planks as well as a 9.5 x 60 tile for an even more dramatic appearance—each with cushion backing.

For customers looking for a glue-down application, these same designs and sizes are also available in a 3mm x 20 mil dry back version called Wood Classic II.

Inhaus

Sono is Inhaus’ latest innovation in waterproof dimensionally stable flooring. The German-made product comes with proprietary technology and features high-definition digital printing. The printing process enables vastly improved color variations and a 5% plank repeat, the company said, resulting in a uniquely appealing installation. The core is highly resistant to heat and cold, is waterproof and has an angle fold locking system for ease of installation. The patented ceramic composite core is free of PVCs, formaldehyde and all other additives.

IVC

Urbane, which will be launched in the second quarter through distribution, will be part of IVC’s rebranded Waterproof Solutions display, which replaces Moduleo. Sheehan explained the company is trying to communicate the inherent waterproof nature of the offerings with the three-product display that also includes Horizon and Embellish. Described as a classic flexible offering, Horizon is a 20 mil, 4.5mm construction available in click and glue down. The trade up is Embellish, a flexible LVT that Sheehan called a very significant offering. “We’re not labeling the products, we’re creating a good/better/best trade-up story,” he said.

Urbane is a rigid offering that IVC expects will drive a lot of traffic and enthusiasm. Glass is used to make the product more dimensionally stable. All three products are suitable for three-season rooms capable of handling extreme temperatures.

Mannington

Tuley said he sees the WPC and SPC segments “splitting” as new technologies emerge to create separation. AduraMax Prime is an SPC targeted at the builder/multifamily segment. AduraMax Apex offers a long and wide plank and is embossed with a painted bevel. Mannington also plans to launch Adura Rigid, an SPC with pad attached. “For the most part, these products are variations or improvements on LVT to solve very particular problems,” Tuley said.

Marquis

Marquis’ newest rigid core product offering, Geneva, provides a print with great color movement and depth. Featuring multi-width look patterns representing a new urban twist to a rustic look, Geneva comes in a 7 x 48 board with a 4mm SPC core and 20 mil ceramic bead wear layer finished with a 1.5mm closed-cell IXPE attached cushion.

Metroflor

Engage Inception, Metroflor’s new SPC product, expands the company’s portfolio of LVT flooring solutions that address all relevant categories—glue down and a variety of floating platforms such as Grip-Strip (Konecto), Solid Vinyl Clic (Engage), WPC (Engage Genesis) and now SPC (Engage Inception).

The new Engage Inception line is intended to serve as an entry-level, SPC product suitable for multifamily, residential and commercial environments dependent on the wear layer chosen. It is stiffer and denser than WPC, offering favorable dimensional stability characteristics, thereby enabling greater resistance to temperature changes and indentations. Beyond improved dent resistance, the premium attached high-density polyethylene foam underlayment provides sound absorption, reduces transmitted sound and foot fatigue and helps to conceal subfloor imperfections.

Mohawk

2018 promises to be a big year for Mohawk in the area of rigid core. Starting with SolidTech, its flagship line with less than one full year in the market, Mohawk is readying a slew of new rigid offerings from its U.S. production facility that will be a fully integrated rigid core plant. “Customers are getting in line for this,” Sheehan said. “Mohawk has invested a huge amount of capital toward this category. We feel we have the right products and are positioned well in each of our channels.”

Due out soon is True Design, a collection of neat visuals with features such as EIR, painted bevels and longer planks. Within the collection, Blended Tones boasts a 22-mil wear layer with a painted bevel. “The reason we do embossed in register is not to prove to the market that we can do it, but to make the product look real,” Sheehan explained. “We feel we have done that with the True Design collection.”

Both the second and third quarters will be active for Mohawk as it aggressively expands its rigid portfolio. As Sheehan explained, “If rigid is the fastest growing segment, the only way to keep pace and grow your market share is to aggressively invest in your category. We are going to aggressively expand our offering and grab market share with the right product along with the right visuals and price points.”

Karndean

Korlok Select, the company’s rigid core line, took two years to develop but was worth the wait, according to Emil Mellow, director of public relations. “Everything we put in there is top end.”

Korlok’s rigid core line comes fully equipped with K-Core technology, a pre-attached acoustic underlayment, K-Guard+ surface protection, HoldFast 5G locking mechanism and warranty. Its 9 x 56 plank matches that of other suppliers. “We found that anything longer than that logistically doesn’t work for a couple of reasons,” Mellow stated. “The box size becomes too heavy and unwieldy to handle, the retail shelf bins are not big enough to accommodate the planks, and the installation becomes very difficult. You need two people and that defeats the whole purpose of easy assembly.”

While most companies, including Karndean, attach numerous bells and whistles to their rigid core products, occasionally they dial back the features to hit a desired price point. That was the case with the Reserve line, which comes out in May. It launches with a stacker option or waterfall display for dealers.

Novalis

Its newest rigid core product, Serenbe, is part of the NovaFloor line with high density core (HDC) technology. It has 24 styles in planks and tiles—including a new 12 x 36 tile. Serenbe also features Novalis’ newest advancement in protection, patent-pending NovaShield.

NovaFloor HDC is an extruded solid vinyl that provides all the popular attributes of rigid core: waterproof, dent resistance and ease of installation over common subfloor imperfections. “We equipped it with an attached foam underlayment as a sound barrier and added comfort underfoot,” said Steve Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “So, if you’re a dealer, you will want this product line on your retail floor. It’s the whole package.”

Phenix

Bold Statement from Phenix is a Stainmaster PetProtect SPC in seven colors, five planks and two tile options. Velocity is a 9 x 60 SPC rigid core that combines Corex technology with an EVA foam backing to eliminate additional underlayment. “Both products have some unique features and benefits,” said Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sales. “Our Bold Statement is [among] the only PetProtect SPCs on the market. It also has the Stainmaster PetProtect finish, so it provides superior scratch resistance and pet action traction.”

Velocity is a 22-mil product that is extra wide and long but is also available in a 12 x 24 tile. “We have worked hard to develop a rich and diverse color palette for both products, so just about any home can find something within Velocity that fits their space,” Johnson said.

Quick-Step

EnduraTek and EnduraTek Ultra, the company’s newest rigid core offerings, will be sold through distribution. These unique tile visuals are constructed of an internally routed grout line that renders the product incredibly real, according to the company. “It gives the visual appearance of a 12 x 24, when in fact it is a 12 x 48 plank.” EnduraTek Ultra is slated for the second quarter. “We have rigid flowing everywhere,” Sheehan said.

Raskin

Raskin Industries is promoting its eight-layer rigid construction in which each layer is engineered to provide more stability. “It’s the best of both worlds—waterproof rigid with no air or foam, and no adhesives since we fuse the layers as we use heat and pressure,” said Michael Raskin, president. “It’s critical to have multiple layers.”

A new product, Solid Gencore, is made from Raskin’s proprietary acrylic composite structure used as its core layer to provide maximum stability and impact resistance. “Acrylx has no foam or air, making it denser than a WPC-type multilayer product. We use advanced technology-grade resins that are used specifically to provide stability against heat and cold temperatures.”

New to the market is Acrylx Select, available in five colors. The line is meant to be price competitive with the added benefits of soundproof backing and anti-mildew. It is 100% waterproof as well. Lumination Velocity, another new offering, will have 10 colors in a 4mm with a 1mm Gcore backing. This collection will include registered embossing and will be showcased in a new display with large boards. The line consists of stone, multi-plank looks and 60-inch planks. “It’s hard to differentiate, so it’s important to sell the latest and best technology that will stand up to the hype,” Raskin said. “We feel our product construction and ability to design the colors and styles that sell will offer customers the right products.”

Shaw

Shaw Industries is another major mill that has invested heavily in the rigid core business primarily with Floorte.

Floorte Pro, a new tile rigid core product, launched with 20 SKUs. The waterproof, click product features a lacquer bevel. “There is a trend toward smaller grout lines, which we can do with this product,” Francis said. “The response has been great. This opens it up to mud rooms and bathrooms.”

Overall, Floorte Pro offers a diverse portfolio of visuals ranging from hardwood to tile looks. Mineral Mix, for example, strikes a balance between contemporary concrete and linear metal looks for a chic aesthetic. Each tile has visual grout applied for a quick installation that does not require traditional grout. Blue Ridge Pine is a rich heart pine visual that captures the contrast, character and uniqueness found in natural hardwood.

Tarkett

Tarkett’s new ProGen collection is the next generation of rigid core luxury vinyl flooring that provides superior impact and indentation resistance. The product also demonstrates superior durability over traditional WPC, according to the company.

ProGen’s unique compact core design makes installation easy by providing the flexibility to adjust to tight spaces, while maintaining enough rigidity to allow for installation over imperfect subfloors. This new collection has a 20-mil, commercial-grade wear layer and enhanced polyurethane layer that allow ProGen to resist scratches and the rigors of modern life. In addition, its high-density foam backing reduces unwanted noise.

USFloors

Piet Dossche, founder and CEO, said there were 65 Chinese manufacturers exhibiting rigid core products at Domotex Hannover in January, a testament to the incredible momentum of the subcategory. “This is not a fad, this is just the beginning,” he said at a recent symposium. “Composite waterproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

To that end, USFloors is striving to keep its market-share-leading position among suppliers. The company launched COREtec Pro Plus in Q4 2017 and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced in January. Both are of SPC construction. USFloors will introduce COREtec Stone in the summer with upwards of 40 SKUs. “Attention to detail and design is what makes Pro Plus and Pro Plus Enhanced stand out from the crowd,” said Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management. COREtec Pro collections include a double extrusion process with a 1mm cork attached pad. Pro Plus Enhanced also incorporates a four-sided enhanced beveled edge for added realism. As for the forthcoming COREtec Stone, attention to detail will again be key. “The decors, including the tech and spec data that is employed in the Pro Plus collections, along with a proprietary protective coating to prevent scratching and abrasion, will set COREtec Stone apart from the rest,” Stepp said. “We see COREtec Stone as tile reinvented.”

Wellmade

Wellmade continues to expand its Nouveax en vogue HDPC vinyl plank collection. The rigid core features Wellmade’s co-extrusion technology and includes standard and wide/long plank options. Wear layers are available in 8-, 12-, and 20-mil options. Wellmade has added new design options for 2018, including character-driven muted gray and brown tones with enhanced texturing on the hardwood side, and contemporary travertine looks in stone. “Dealers have pleased with our competitive pricing, ease of installation and superior overall performance,” said Steve Wagner, director of marketing.

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American Biltrite rolls out Nfuse

New AB Pure technology creates ‘occupancy-ready’ rubber tiles

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Las Vegas—Surfaces 2018 showed the continuing proliferation of all things LVT and its subsegments WPC and rigid core—all touting their waterproof benefits. But there was another resilient segment garnering attention at booth #4537, where American Biltrite showcased a new technology known as Nfuse to go with its rubber tile and sheet flooring, AB Pure.

“We love the fact that while the entire flooring industry is chasing LVT, we are focusing on rubber tile and sheet solutions,” said John Kronemeyer, vice president of sales.

According to Kronemeyer, Nfuse was developed specifically for AB Pure, American Biltrite’s top flooring product. During the manufacturing process, this patent-pending treatment enables the floor to be ready for use immediately following installation. What’s more, the “occupancy-ready” rubber flooring tiles are extremely durable and withstand staining, soiling and scuffing, the company said.

In addition, more vibrant colors are achieved during the Nfuse process as the pores from the rubber tile open up and the finish seeps into the pores to create colors that pop. AB Pure rubber tile and sheet with Nfuse carries a 10-year colorfast warranty. “The color palette (36 offerings) draws designers in,” Kronemeyer said.

This all-commercial line does not require initial setup, which is an obvious benefit for flooring contractors who can save on maintenance and costs. “Our customers—contractors and distributors—believe it will take us to another level,” said Mark Tickle, director of marketing. “It is just a major leap forward.”

AB Pure with Nfuse is specified for the healthcare market and education settings including classrooms and corridors. The company is also finding success in areas that heretofore were strictly for VCT applications.

While there are rubber sheet products that are occupancy ready, American Biltrite believes it is the first to develop an occupancy-ready pressed rubber tile.

This technology will be applied to all AB Pure products (sheet and tile). Also, with Nfuse treatment, no special maintenance procedures are required.

AB Pure received the Red List Free designation of the International Living Future Institute. This declaration is for products that do not contain harmful chemicals.

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Surfaces Resilient Coverage: Innovations aim to add simplicity to the buying and selling process

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Lindsay Baillie

 

There’s a common thread among the plethora of new resilient flooring products introduced at Surfaces: They all aim to make it easier for retailers to sell and consumers to understand.

A majority of the manufacturers at the event noted that the resilient market is saturated with products—a phenomenon that can cause confusion for distributors, retailers and consumers alike. To address this issue, manufacturers are providing retailers and distributors with updated styles and newer product constructions in conjunction with greater education, explicit branding and unique product stories.

Education and innovation was a focal point of Karndean Designflooring’s 2018 introductions, which entailed new SKUs across three formats: glue down, loose lay and rigid core. The ultimate goal, the company said, is to encourage retailers to rethink flooring. “We’re trying to get retailers to see flooring differently, design flooring differently and specify flooring differently so that they have a way of making more margin and really beating out the competition,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations.

Part of rethinking flooring involves a complete understanding of how Karndean’s products work together to create designflooring. “With our new SKUs, we’re trying to push design differently,” Mellow explained. “For example, with Korlok, we tell retailers you can blend SKUs.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl lineup is bringing awareness to a product category that has consistently been losing market share to LVT, WPC and SPC. According to Angela Duke, senior brand manager, Mohawk, the company still sees a market for sheet vinyl and so should retailers. “This is one of the most durable floors. It is one of our highest margin products because of its lower price.”

Mohawk’s new sheet vinyl features a new technology called ClearGuard, which aims to show consumers how easy it is to clean the product. Duke explained dealers should also take advantage of the product’s waterproof qualities. “We’re seeing a lot of push for this product in different areas such as laundry rooms, basements and bathrooms.”

Educating dealers on product features is also a key point for Forbo. The manufacturer’s Marmoleum with click cinch lock is available in a wide array of colors, allowing retailers to offer consumers something out of the ordinary. What’s more, dealers can mix and match the square and plank formats to create unique flooring designs. “What if you could get a click product that is easy to install and with more vibrant colors?” asked Tim Donahue, residential national sales manager. “You’re not going to get these colors in an LVT.”

Forbo has also added FlowTex to its product portfolio. To create the texture of FlowTex the product is “flocked,” a manufacturing process that combines a PVC backing, a layer in between and an adhesive on top, followed by a magnetic charge that activates the product. Once the product is dried, it becomes  impenetrable to water, Donahue said. “FlowTex is a textile version of a resilient and is actually closer to a hard surface than a carpet.”

Fusion, the distribution division of USFloors, is focused on educating its customers on the positives of doing business with the company. “We offer completely different colors and SKUs than USFloors,” said Jim Nielsen, vice president of sales. “We cover all of the bases with this category, and we’ll stay at the very forefront of technology and give our distributors service and compassion.”

The company’s two investments for 2018 are its enhance bevel WPC and SPC. “These are higher end, design-focused products,” Nielsen explained. “They’re very realistic looking compared to what we’ve had in the past. We’ve also attached a pad, which provides more comfort and is sound deadening. Distributors will be able to get more premium price on these products than what is out there.”

Happy Feet also emphasized the importance of educating the retailer on the benefits of partnering with the right manufacturer, going beyond product specs. In addition to the company’s new products such as Blockbuster and Gladiator, Happy Feet boasts competitive pricing, shipping within 24 hours and unmatchable inventory. “We want to help retailers make money,” said CJ Johnson, sales.

What’s in a brand?

Some manufacturers introduced new products at Surfaces that aim to help strengthen brand recognition in consumers and make it easier for dealers to better identify products in a saturated market. Case in point is Armstrong, which is looking to leverage its Diamond 10 technology to create brand awareness with consumers. “We’re pushing our Diamond 10 technology, which is a differentiating factor,  to bring consumers into retailers’ stores,” said Morgan Hafer, product manager for Alterna. “It’s being used in shows on HGTV and throughout social media to [drive] brand awareness.”

EarthWerks is also using its branding to make it easier for retailers to distinguish between different sizes of products. The company showed Noble Classic Plus and Plus XL as well as Parkhill and Plus XXL. Plus XL and Plus XXL represent thicker, longer versions of their respective lines.

“At EarthWerks we say style, availability and service you can trust,” said Lindsey Nisbet, strategic marketing and product development. “Our style is getting better every year; with respect to service, we have some of the best distribution.”

Quick-Step and IVC are also making it easier to identify their resilient products. Quick-Step has updated the products it sells to focus less on the product lines and more on its attributes. The company is now using the term “EnduraTEK” for its resilient products. “We consider resilient as the entry into hard surface,” said Jason Sims, senior brand manager, Mohawk Industries. “All of our flexible product is called EnduraTEK. As you trade up, the rigid offerings are called EnduraTEK Ultra.”

Quick-Step is doing its best to provide distributors with better and best offerings within the resilient category. “What we’re featuring this year is the ability for them to trade up within the category from flexible to rigid,” Sims said. “We are also offering for the first time flexible LVT tile that has a hidden grout line. You can mix them and it quickly installs. These are all available on one display as well.”

IVC is updating its brand to reflect the resilient category. The company showed its new Artera and Millright lines, both sheet vinyl, as well as Urbanne, its new flexible tiles. Sims explained that the word “resilient” not only describes the category, but also highlights what the segment can ultimately provide consumers. “We have positioned our brand as uncompromised design for life. We bring a different design element to everything we do.”

While some companies are promoting various product names to drive brand recognition, others are looking to better leverage their own corporate identities. DuChâteau, primarily known for its innovations in hardwood for flooring and wall applications, has expanded its reach to include luxury vinyl plank products. “We conducted extensive research with designers, architects, contractors and homeowners to see where they wanted to go with more luxurious and distinctive flooring designs,” said Misael Tagle, CEO and co-founder of DuChâteau. “The craftsmanship and fashion-forward designs of our new collections meet their needs.”

The manufacturer’s new Atelier Series’ Sovereign edition features the sought-after signature aesthetic of European-style exclusive designs in a glue-down vinyl plank. Then there’s the Vinyl Deluxe Grand collection with LuxCor technology, followed by the Vinyl Deluxe Classic collection. Rounding out the offering is the American Guild collection, which features classic colors and a contemporary American design aesthetic with the realistic look and feel of wood and stone.

Congoleum is looking to take branding a step further with the creation of CLEO Home—a separate, standalone brand that features healthy and environmentally conscious flooring. According to Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, CLEO Home is intended to help consumers who might be struggling with design confidence.

“We wanted to create something from a designer standpoint that really appealed to the consumer. We have great brand recognition with Congoleum, with our legacy products. This new foray into the marketplace is a great way to connect with the next generation.”

CLEO breaks down into three different layers. The base is 85% limestone and the other 15% is a binder that is not made with PVC. The top layer is digital imaging with a high-performance coating. “When you get rid of PVC you get rid of plasticizers, phthalates and all the things that are perceived as negative words in the industry,” Denman explained. (Incidentally, Congoleum was honored for a Best of Surfaces award in sustainability for CLEO Home.) “This product is 100% manufactured in the U.S., so we’re not relying on print films shipped from China.”

A compelling story
Manufacturers are not only developing unique product stories to help differentiate offerings, they are ultimately providing retailers with product education and strong brands. Mohawk, for example, has updated its campaign for SolidTech to play up the product’s resistance to hurricanes. As Duke explained: “We have a good story from a builder in Dallas who put SolidTech in one of his model homes; after the hurricane hit the dealer was able to salvage the floor in the model home, clean it up and reinstall it without any problems.”

Armstrong has developed its own story for its Alterna plank product—an engineered tile now available in a 6 x 36 plank format. “We call it Alterna because it is an alternative to ceramic and tile,” Hafer explained. “The story behind engineered tile is its more durable and comfortable to live on and easier to install than real tile. Alterna plank also features our Diamond 10 technology.”

Product story is also key to Beauflor’s new introductions, Blacktex and Boardwalk. The former is a roll product that can also be merchandised with boards and marketed as either a sheet vinyl or LVT product. The textile backing provides users with some of the benefits and features of LVT. Meanwhile, Boardwalk is a rigid click, loose-lay product with an attached pad.

“Our Blacktex sheet product is really the original waterproof product,” said Johnny Barnes, general manager. “If you look at the top layer, you can achieve some of the visuals with this line that you can’t necessarily achieve with the WPC products.”

Boardwalk, initially available in 14 SKUs, is equally rich in terms of aesthetics. “We have several dimensions and three SKUs that are random width,” said Nick Brown, vice president of sales North America. “There are all these different products within the collection, but they’re all at the same price point.”

Raskin Industries’ Ceramix, the company’s built-in-grout, loose-lay LVT, has its own story—one built on ease of installation. According to the manufacturer, the offering allows retailers to sell a grouted tile look without the headache of a typical tile installation. What’s more, Ceramix, which made its official debut at Surfaces 2017, earned a Best of Surfaces award for innovation at this year’s event.

Michael Raskin, founder and president, said the realistic look of the grout is a difference maker. “You can’t tell it is not ceramic, and with labor as a big issue in the market—the labor is sometimes two to three times more than the product—this can be put in with a perimeter install. It’s also warmer, slip resistant and doesn’t shatter.”

Novalis continues to push its environmentally friendly products with the development of Serenbe, a SPC product boasting high-density core technology, NovaShield coating and an attached pad. “Serenbe is ultra-realistic,” said Steven Erlich, vice president of sales and marketing. “There are ceramic planks and herringbone patterns to name a few. In addition, all of our products are pressed with a rolled edge, or groutable edge.”

Nox U.S. highlighted its new Genesis technology at Surfaces. The new line, the company said, creates a bridge between WPC and SPC products. ““WPC is growing for everyone but there are challenges with indentation and brittleness,” said Eric Erickson, senior vice president sales and marketing North America. “Also, everyone is chasing SPC but it’s really heavy and stiff. What we’ve been able to do is develop new technology in our core so that it is a little less dense and as you move up layers it becomes denser like a rigid product. This is an 8mm product and it feels the same weight of WPC but has the performance of rigid.”

Mills flood the arena
Engineered Floors, previously a carpet-only company, officially debuted Revotec, a high-density, rigid-core floating floor featuring tile visuals with a realistic grout line embedded; and Triumph, a click floating floor that employs high-density core technology for improved dimensional stability and better indentation resistance. “Our plan is to be a player in this segment,” said Brandon Kersey, brand manager for Main Street commercial and hard surface. “We are transitioning to the new version of rigid core, and we think Revotec can take us to another level.”

The acquisition of Beaulieu’s assets helped EF enter hard surfaces since the former company was already in the WPC space. Ana Torrence, product manager, hard surfaces for EF, said Revotec looks like real grouted tile. She cited other advantages: “It’s a really fast install. It is a better alternative than stone or ceramic in terms of installation time.”

A year after entering the LVT category, Phenix Flooring is doubling its assortment of PetProtect LVT, rigid core, click and loose lay offerings. In 2018, Phenix will market two display fixtures that blend hard and soft surfaces. The fixtures were consolidated into smaller footprints to provide design flexibility and allow every SKU to be merchandised differently. “We’re a year into hard surfaces, and I can tell you we are committed to it,” said Mark Clayton, president and CEO.

Marquis Industries made its mark 10 years ago as a mid-sized mill that ventured into LVT.  The company did not enter the category for the sake of it; its executives traveled the globe extensively to source the right raw materials and ensure quality control was followed along the way. “When you spend half a million bucks on an opening order you better be right,” said Larry Heckman, CEO. “If you don’t anticipate it correctly, you can be out of stock three to four months and you never get caught up. We took it seriously.”

Marquis’ 2018 offerings include two 5-foot-long x 9-inch wide rigid core lines—Whispering Pines and Biltmore Classic—with a 20-mil wear layer. The Dalton-based company opened a new building in Georgia devoted entirely to hard surfaces. It also has an existing West Coast distribution center to service customers. The mill still maintains a two-thirds to one-thirds split in favor of carpet.

The Dixie Group began as a yarn company that transitioned into a carpet manufacturer that is transforming into an all-surface supplier—all the while doing it in a way that best represents the Dixie, Masland and Fabrica brands. In 2017, Dixie was one of two companies (Phenix was the other) licensed to sell Stainmaster PetProtect LVT products. The launch exceeded expectations and now Dixie and Masland are coming out with eight new styles each for high performance core, including wood planks with a painted beveled edge.

“A lot of our good customers were moving with the market into hard surface categories like luxury vinyl and we felt like we had an opportunity to enter that market and could be relevant,” said T.M. Nuckols, president of the residential division, the Dixie Group. “We tried to take the right approach from a distribution standpoint to create a profit opportunity for our partners.”

Southwind is another traditional carpet company that made the leap when LVT got hot. The company unveiled Authentic Tile, an SPC core product that has the feel of ceramic tile along with the heft (each 8-piece carton weighs 40 lbs). “It has been very well received at the show,” said Tim Gilmore, Southeast regional vice president. “Several big dealers are taking it on.”

Wellmade Flooring is pushing its Opti-Wood Flooring line with Hydri-HDPC technology and the PowerShield moisture protection system, which company officials say is the difference maker. Wellmade showed 16 SKUs in poplar, eucalyptus, hickory, oak and bamboo. Steve Wagner, director of sales and marketing, does not believe the LVT/WPC/ SPC market is saturated just yet. “I think there is a home for everybody who can come to market with different formulas.”

 

COREtec Stone: The next big thing?

By Ken Ryan

Piet Dossche knows a winner when he creates one. Five years ago, despite serious doubts from some well-respected retail executives, the USFloors’ founder and president launched COREtec and predicted success. He got it—in spades, helping to launch a category that has surpassed $1 billion in sales.

“People said it wasn’t going to work,” he recalled of COREtec. “I was saying, ‘Good, keep thinking like that.’” COREtec was a runaway hit and helped launch the breakout success of the LVT sub-segment.

Dossche has similar expectations for COREtec Stone, which the company showed at Surfaces 2018 as an alternative to ceramic and porcelain tile. The product—a composite/SPC engineered tile—is expected to be ready for market in the second half of 2018. “This is going to be huge,” Dossche said. “It is going to bring solutions to the ceramic tile category.”

Ceramic tile is a growing business, but it has issues. For starters, ceramic tile is heavy and may not be appropriate for certain installations; it is cold and can crack or break easily; it is a time-consuming installation process, and it is also an expensive installation with special tools needed, critics say. Sometimes the cost of the installation is more than the materials. It is also messy and expensive to remove ceramic or porcelain tile.

Enter COREtec Stone, which is lighter, warmer, cheaper and easier to install with no grout needed, easier to remove and more comfortable to walk on because of its attached cork backing. Plus, it doesn’t break.

Dossche, who believes this segment could grow to be a $500 million business in a few years, is optimistic. “If you bring to market a good-looking product that solves issues you have a winner. Composite weatherproof flooring will be the high double-digit growth engine in hard surfaces for the next five years.”

 

 

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Novalis introduces NovaShield at Surfaces 2018

Toronto, Canada—Novalis Innovative Flooring is introducing its new patent-pending NovaShield enhanced protective coating at Surfaces 2018 (booth 629) as part of its Serenbe collection launch.

“In the competitive race to create a more enhanced protective coating for LVT, we took our time to get it right,” said Jim Kups, technical manager for Novalis North America. “We believe that with NovaShield, we’ve done just that.”

NovaShield has an enhanced anti-microbial agent, is fade-resistant and promises to be the most scuff- and scratch-resistant coating ever made. Novalis also said NovaShield is not brittle and will not warp under extreme heat.

For more information, call Julie Foster at 704.799.1111.

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T&L Distributing partners with Tarkett

Houston—T&L Distributing has entered a distribution partnership with Tarkett. Through this collaboration, T&L Distributing will immediately begin offering Tarkett’s resilient residential and commercial products, including Tarkett’s Johnsonite brand, to its customers throughout its distribution footprint, including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and parts of Tennessee.

T&L Distributing will carry Tarkett’s residential sheet, laminate and LVT flooring, as well as adhesives. Commercial Tarkett products will include Johnsonite resilient flooring, including rubber, linoleum, vinyl flooring and composition tile, and Johnsonite finishing borders, wall base, stairwell accessories and adhesives. Many of these products carry a variety of certifications, including Cradle to Cradle, Floor Score, as well as asthma and allergy friendly.

“This partnership allows us to provide our customers a full range of Tarkett flooring,” said Bob Eady, president of T&L Distributing. “We will be able to provide environmentally friendly products that are produced by Tarkett in a responsible way and feature high design. Our customers want highly designed flooring that performs over time, so we’re thrilled to offer Tarkett’s resilient lines. We’re looking forward to a successful and long-term partnership.”

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Resilient: Felt finds its place within key market sectors

December 18/25, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 14

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Anecdotal research shows fiberglass sheet vinyl continues to capture market share from felt products. But that’s not deterring manufacturers from supporting the sub-category. Many resilient flooring executives believe the product is still finding favor in various markets. What’s more, executives say felt’s unique characteristics will help it stay afloat in the sea of resilient products.

While felt is part of a mature market, executive say it still provides greater durability over similar fiberglass backed vinyl sheet products. As Bill Furman, product marketing manager, Armstrong, explained: “Segments such as property management and builder still put a high value on rip, tear and gouge performance, and felt products continue to do well with these customers.”

Beyond the product’s use in those key end-use markets, felt also appeals to consumers looking for overall value. “Price, design and performance all come together to make it one of the best values in flooring,” said Kurt Denman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales, Congoleum. “It is incredibly durable and is the original child-proof, pet-proof, waterproof flooring.”

Installation is another key factor driving felt growth, experts say. Unlike other types of flooring, felt can be installed with a perimeter fasten. Suppliers say this type of installation is ideal for consumers looking to do a full kitchen remodel or install flooring before cabinets or an island. “Many other types of flooring—fiberglass-backed sheet included—cannot have a perimeter installation,” said Mary Katherine Dyczko-Riglin, product manager for resilient sheet vinyl, Mannington. “This feature can make an installation job much simpler.”

By utilizing felt’s well-known installation benefits and value proposition, manufacturers are able to provide flooring solutions for any budget.

The fate of felt
FCNews research shows felt fell 6% in 2016. Despite this market-share loss, suppliers say felt will continue to hold its own. This is a result of felt’s continued use in particular flooring markets as well as the product’s construction.

“The move from felt to fiberglass is definitely continuing,” Mannington’s Dyczko-Riglin said. “As a large supporter of the felt-backed products, we have experienced a slower switch. However, we are continuing to see increasing demand for fiberglass. We believe there will continue to be a place for felt-backed products in the market.”

Armstrong has also taken note of the slight shift and is taking steps to provide enticing solutions for both product types. “There is a place for felt, just as there is a place for fiberglass, LVT, VCT, etc., as long as it delivers on true value and innovation,” Furman explained. “Not only do certain segments—such as property management or builders—continue to use felt-backed products, but some regions of the country prefer the price and durability benefits they offer.”

Some executives believe the basic elements of construction for felt and fiberglass are relatively similar. For example, both products contain a base or carrier layer, a gel and print layer and a wear layer. However, the real differences between these two constructions can be found in what goes into each layer. “Congoleum uses natural limestone as the base,” Denman explained. “As the name implies, limestone makes for a very dense foundation that does an incredible job of resisting indentation. When we add our UltraTec backing as in our AirStep products, you now have [more] versatility—fully adhered, perimeter install and loose lay. Unlike fiberglass, the limestone base eliminates any restrictions on seaming.”

Even though fiberglass continues to capture market share, its limitations in construction will allow for felt to recapture a certain percentage of market share. As Denman explained: “We have enjoyed significant growth in manufactured housing and the recreational vehicle markets and modest growth in the builder and multi-family segments. Our retail business has remained flat while others have seen significant declines. All told, that means we’re taking back market share.”

To help felt gain market share in a heavily saturated market, manufacturers are developing new products as well as new designs for existing flooring. “2018 is a year of felt revitalization for Mannington,” Dyczko-Riglin said. “We are overhauling the Mannington felt offering to allow retail salespeople to better focus their selling efforts on what consumers want—the most popular patterns. We started this effort this year by offering the Revive collection in base-grade felt lines to allow these high-fashion looks to be accessible to as many budgets as possible. In 2018, we will continue this commitment to style leadership by introducing new patterns into these lines to keep them fresh.”

Armstrong, for its part, continues to see success with its StrataMax flooring, which is the company’s proprietary, limestone-encapsulated, felt-backed product. “StrataMax offers enhanced durability over traditional felt products, and it can be loose laid like a fiberglass-based product, offering the best of both worlds,” Furman noted.

In developing new products for the category Congoleum is taking into account all of felt’s appealing attributes. “In addition to our relentless pursuit of design leadership, we are careful to control costs to ensure our products are competitively priced and deliver exceptional value without any compromise to our long-standing commitment to quality and performance,” Denman stated.

 

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Spotlight: Karndean Designflooring makes it easier to sell more

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.31.47 PMFor retailers navigating the sea of LVT products, diversity is the key to success, experts say. This differentiation can be found in product design and development as well as experiences with a particular manufacturer. Karndean Designflooring aims to provide retailers with opportunities to increase their business via exclusive designs, top-notch customer service and creative marketing materials.

“At Karndean, we see flooring differently,” said Emil Mellow, director of public relations and communications. “We seek out expressive and intriguing forms in the natural world to influence our unique floor designs and combine these original features with cutting-edge design.”

Karndean Designflooring prides itself on its components-based flooring system, which was created to give consumers total control over the look and feel of their floors. Using this system, homeowners can choose the pattern of their floor with the option to blend products together or incorporate certain designs as inlays.

“Designflooring is a protected way for retailers to grow their business and prevents Karndean dealers from being out-shopped by competitors down the street,” Mellow explained. “As luxury vinyl specialists, we offer more than 200 products featuring internally developed designs and produce premium luxury vinyl across glue down, loose lay and rigid core formats so there is a Karndean-quality floor to fit any installation scenario.”

Retailers like Brenda Barber, president, Barbers Floors & More, Saint Johns, Mich., gets the concept. “Karndean outsells everything in our store—even carpet, which has always taken the lead. The close ratio for Karndean is 100% with people coming back at a later date for additional rooms. It is an easy sell for young, active families with children and pets; older couples want it because it takes the place of hardwood without the expense. I believe in it so much that [several of my family members] have Karndean and love it.”

Dealers say Karndean’s in-house designs coupled with selective distribution help the manufacturer provide its retailer partners with an edge over other flooring stores. As John Wright, vice president, Wright Furniture & Flooring, Hannibal, Mo., puts it: “Karndean’s vast selection in products, colors and different installation options—as well as the fact that its products are hassle free with no claims—make it easier to do business.”

Selling tools
To help retailers sell its products, Karndean provides dealers with various merchandising vehicles and marketing materials. This includes retail displays that showcase products on large-format boards to demonstrate detailed designs and color variation within the individual pieces, as well as ways to enhance a layout by incorporating design strips and inlays.

“Our platinum-level dealers are also equipped with our design table, which not only houses full-size product samples but allows designers and homeowners the opportunity to lay products on top of the table to experiment with different design options,” Mellow explained. “Retailers can also expect to frequently see their dedicated sales representative to provide the latest product knowledge and best practices.”

In addition to design-focused products and marketing materials, Karndean retailers can take advantage of qualified leads driven to their store through the “Find A Retailer” (FAR) tool found on the manufacturer’s website. Consumers can find their nearest Karndean Designflooring retailer, ranked by tier, by entering in a city, state or zip code, and filling out a form to have the retailer get in touch.

Another advantage to partnering with Karndean Designflooring is the company’s customer service team, which is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. According to the company, it’s not uncommon for Karndean’s retailers and customer service representatives to be on a first-name basis.

For Richard Akel, manager, Akel’s Carpet One, Little Rock, Ark., Karndean’s customer service and employees help make the difference. “[As a corporation] Karndean has great people. They take your calls and answer your questions and are on top of any requests instantly.”