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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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Mannington Mills to increase resilient prices

manningtonSalem, N.J.—To combat the rising costs of raw materials, transportation and manufacturing, Mannington is implementing a price increase. Effective with shipments on May 22, 2017, select residential vinyl sheet products will be affected by a 3% to 6% price increase. The increase will apply to all shipments in the U.S. and Canada.

“Continued increases in raw material prices are an unfortunate reality in today’s marketplace,” said Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington. “We continue to focus on maximizing efficiencies and reducing cost, however at some point an increase has to be passed through.”

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Vinyl Institute releases designer survey on vinyl

Washington, D.C.—The Vinyl Institute recently released the results of a designer survey on vinyl. According to a research study by Accountability Information Management satisfaction with vinyl and vinyl applications is up over 20% since 2010 amongst architects and interior designers. Architects said they are 15% more satisfied with vinyl today, and interior designers said they are 28% more satisfied.

Vinyl’s sustainability registered the greatest increase in satisfaction—up 30%. Architects and designers also said they are more satisfied with vinyl’s impact on the environment and its ability to meet their clients’ needs.

Architects and designers are using vinyl building products, including flooring, wallcovering and more, because:

  • It’s durable and performs well over time
  • It’s easy to maintain/clean
  • It’s less expensive than many alternatives
  • It does not rust or corrode

Below are other findings from the survey.

vinyl-designer-survey

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DINP in vinyl flooring gets safe determination

RFCI LogoLaGrange, Ga.—The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has issued a Safe Use Determination (SUD) under Prop 65 for diisononyl phthalate (DINP) in vinyl flooring products. The finding is based on OEHHA’s determination that vinyl flooring products containing 18.9% or less of DINP by weight do not expose occupants of residences and commercial buildings to DINP exceeding “safe harbor levels.” Therefore, a Prop 65 consumer warning for qualifying products is not required. DINP has been used as a plasticizer in many products, including vinyl floors, to make them flexible.

The Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) asked OEHHA in November 2014 to evaluate exposure to DINP in vinyl flooring and issue an SUD after the chemical was added to the state’s Prop 65 list in December 2013. The request was the first SUD sought since late 2007. OEHHA issued the SUD on June 21, 2016.

“We are pleased that OEHHA has reviewed exposure levels of DINP in virgin and recycled vinyl flooring and found that qualifying products do not require a Prop 65 warning,” said Dean Thompson, RFCI president. “OEHHA’s decision confirms that DINP in vinyl flooring not exceeding the 18.9% threshold is safe and appropriate for homes and commercial buildings. DINP is a thoroughly studied compound that enhances the flexibility, resiliency, and long-lasting performance of many vinyl products.”

For more information about RFCI, visit rfci.com.

 

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Next-gen felt products provide new sheet advantages

September 15/22, 2014; Volume 28/Number 7

AirStep, StrataMax lead the way in alternative options

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 2.45.07 PMWhile many flooring executives note the importance of fiberglass sheet vinyl in their product offering and its ongoing capture of market share, felt products still command a significant portion of the market. In fact, FCNews research reveals felt still represents 38.6% of residential sheet sales dollars and 45.5% residential sheet volume (FCNews, June 30).

Felt remains desirable in sheet vinyl because it allows for some movement of wood subfloors. When examined under a microscope, felt contains long fibers held together with latex resin. When glued to wood subfloors that expand or contract due to atmospheric moisture or drying from heat, the felt will move with the wood.

Felt is also beneficial on concrete subfloors as the residual moisture collected from the ground can lift into felt layers, move to the outside edges of a room and fade off.

Unlike felt, fiberglass stays its absolute size, so on wood subfloors it is unable to expand and contract in harmony with the subfloor, which can lead to buckling or gapping. On concrete, the problem becomes one of moisture. If moisture is trapped underneath the floor there is no place for it to go, making the floor susceptible to mold and mildew.

While some major industry players continue to make felt products, those offerings are not felt in the traditional sense. Rather, an increasing number of companies are developing alternative sheet products in which felt is utilized but not necessarily for backing.

A benefit of fiberglass is its ability to lay flat, a characteristic considered by felt producers. Congoleum’s AirStep product, which the company categorizes as “flexible flooring,” includes felt in its construction but with a polymer composite backing underneath the fiber layer. “Now you have a felt product that can handle some expansion and contraction that you get in seasonal change in size in wood subfloors without buckling, whether glued down or loose laid,” explained Mike Sansone, senior vice president of sales at Congoleum. “With this construction we can offer all the benefits of felt with all the benefits of fiberglass. Fiberglass does not have the ability to move with the seasonal changes in temperature and humidity of wood subfloors the way AirStep can.”

Similar to Congoleum, Armstrong created its StrataMax line as a felt product with an extra layer on the back of that fiber portion. “We’ve taken felt products as they exist today and added a layer on the backside of the felt to encapsulate it and receive adhesive that sticks to the floor and provides that loose lay benefit,” said Rachel Lombardo, general manager of residential vinyl sheet for Armstrong. “There is enough product on the back of the felt to balance the structure as we would in a fiberglass product. Glue is not needed because the product won’t curl.”Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 2.45.14 PM

Installation options are critical in determining the desirability of a flooring product. While most fiberglass sheet floors are glued down, both AirStep and StrataMax boast loose lay capabilities. AirStep can also be perimeter installed with no size or seam restrictions. “[AirStep] can go directly over a ¾-inch subfloor without the added expense of a ¼-inch underlayment,” Sansone explained. “A typical subfloor today costs about $1.50 per square foot installed. You can save $14.50 a square yard in underlayment expense, or on a 20-square-yard kitchen, for example, you save 4 cubic feet of wood, so it’s a greener installation. There are no chemicals involved, no adhesives or odors/fumes. With loose lay or staple around perimeter you have a better system.”

According to Lombardo, installation—not construction—is what separates StrataMax from other sheet products on the market. “We don’t look at it through that lens [of fiberglass vs. felt]. We look at loose lay vs. glue down. Felt is insignificant to the story for our customers; the attribute they seek is loose lay, or products that can be easily removed when replacing. We will mention features and benefits of our construction, but it’s not our story.”

In terms of price, while StrataMax and AirStep are some of the more expensive products on the market (namely because of the additional layer in the product), the cost ends up being less to the end user due to a lower-price installation.

Armstrong has plans to launch a value-end product line from StrataMax to aggressively enter lower points where the larger piece of the market is flat. “That value product is more expensive than felt but less than glass,” Lombardo said. “It’s a better product for a cheaper price. We have an advantage as the cost of manufacturing is not as high as glass.”

Sansone anticipates improved technology relating to printing and design for products that include felt, particularly in creating more texture. “It’s very difficult to get in-depth embossing with fiberglass products because of the way they are constructed. There is a technical limitation to the manufacturing process of fiberglass.”

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Armstrong opens vinyl R&D center in China

Armstrong newScreen Shot 2014-02-20 at 3.21.01 PMLancaster, Pa. — Armstrong said it has opened a new commercial sheet flooring research and development center in Jiangsu Province, China.

The center is located adjacent to the new Armstrong heterogeneous and homogenous commercial flooring plants and includes a new showroom that features products sold in the region.
 
Armstrong said the manufacturing plants and research center supports the company’s strategy to grow its business in the region by improving service; initiating a make-to-order business; and developing product lines specifically tailored for the China market.

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“We have all of the business components — the product development, the manufacturing, the brand strength and recognition and the sales force– to accelerate our growth in this market, which benefits our customers, our shareholders and our business,”  said Tom Ellis, vice president of marketing for– Armstrong Flooring. 

The two plants and warehouse cover approximately 387,500 square feet.

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Vinyl’s value proposition

Durability, sustainability, versatility are highlighted characteristics

By Jenna Lippin

Volume 26/Number 24; April 15/22, 2013

Aspire, Metroflor’s latest LVT product, is a floating, groutable tile that ‘gives the sensation of walking on a thick, solid, warm floor,’ according to Russ Rogg, president and CEO.

As flooring products evolve and undergo technologic advances, many consumers are turning to vinyl for both first-time installation and remodel because of the value proposition compared to other surfaces. Organizations such as the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) recommend the product for a number of reasons, while flooring manufacturers are making significant strides with both design and performance.

Allen Cubell, vice present of residential product management at Armstrong, summed up all the benefits resilient offers. “Vinyl today provides the best combination of beauty, performance and installation options—the ‘big three’ features in flooring [all at a value price point]. From a beauty standpoint, design execution has leap-frogged other categories like laminate and ceramic. Those other categories are all playing catch-up with design. From a performance standpoint, vinyl has always won. Now add on all the installation options with glue-down, floating, loose lay, etc., and there’s every reason in the world to install a vinyl floor.” Continue reading Vinyl’s value proposition

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Resilient: The hottest category brings the heat to this year’s Surfaces show

From left: Lofty Expectations, one of IVC’s latest introductions, features a floor display with a city skyline, seen here with co-CEOs Xavier Steyaert and Paul Murfin. Metroflor’s Aspire line helped the company’s booth gain a large amount of traffic at Surfaces according to Russ Rogg, president and CEO. Right: Michael Raskin and Dorit Sauer-Raskin show off both their T-shirts with the ‘tuff’ Raskin gorilla and the new Elevations5 line.

By Jenna Lippin

Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013

As the industry’s fastest growing category, resilent suppliers had to bring their A game to Surfaces given the vast amount of competition. With revamped or expanded LVT and sheet vinyl offerings and fresh merchandising displays, all sought to impress existing and potential customers and garner attention not only at the show, but most importantly, for the rest of 2013.

Some of the industry’s biggest players met with FCNews at Surfaces for a detailed look at their latest offerings. Continue reading Resilient: The hottest category brings the heat to this year’s Surfaces show

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Led by LVT, category still flourishing

By Ken Ryan

Vinyl is in vogue. So said Allen Cubell, vice president, residential product manager, Armstrong World Industries, who echoed many of the sentiments shared by industry leaders as the resilient category continued to grow in 2012 amid still sluggish conditions in housing and weakness in the general economy.

Marketing executives say the total resilient market will be about $2 billion in 2012, with LVT accounting for nearly 35% of the market, or roughly $700 million. According to a consensus of manufacturing executives, LVT’s growth will be in the 15% to 20% range in 2012, and even higher among top-tier manufacturers such as Mannington and Armstrong. Continue reading Led by LVT, category still flourishing

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Resilient sales rise, but do not tell whole story

by K.J. Quinn

Understanding the state of resilient flooring is similar to peeling an onion. By carefully removing each layer, one is able to uncover underlying causes impacting the business on many different levels.

“The industry still has a significant amount of unfilled capacity,” observed Dennis Jarosz, Congoleum’s senior vice president sales and marketing. “Combine that with available import products, and the biggest challenge becomes margin, as more producers compete for a market that has shown only slight overall growth.” Excess manufacturing capacity contributed to driving down prices in the mid to lower price points, suppliers say. Continue reading Resilient sales rise, but do not tell whole story