Homeowners used to have three options for laminate flooring: oak, light oak, or dark oak. But current top-selling products allow your clients to get rare, in-demand, or high-priced looks within their budget, says Milton Goodwin, Armstrong's general manager of laminate. Armstrong's Grand Illusions collection features true wood looks in four exotic species, including Melbourne Acacia, pictured.


The ability to mimic exotic or hard-to-find wood species is just one reason why laminate flooring is gaining market share and, until the housing slowdown, was showing double-digit annual growth.

Technological innovations and format changes that make laminate look and feel more realistic are also driving growth, manufacturers say.

“Realism is where it's at,” says Don Cybalski, creative director for Pergo. In direct-pressure or low-pressure laminate — used most in residential flooring applications — one of the most important advances is in texture. A process called embossed-in-register, in which a metal plate stamps and presses a pattern into the floorboard, allows the texture of the product to match its woodgrain or stone pattern.

The evolution of the individual plank format has been even more important, says Al Boulogne, product manager for laminate business at Mannington Mills. Whereas traditional laminate flooring came in 8-inch-wide planks made to look like two or three strips of wood, some modern laminate, such as Mannington's Revolutions plank line, comes in the same 5-inch-wide format as hardwood flooring. “It brought the category so much closer to realism,” Boulogne says.

—Jeffrey Lee. This article first appeared in BUILDING PRODUCTS.