The world of flooring all came together at The International Surface Event (TISE, formerly known as Surfaces), the annual trade show held Jan. 17-20 in Las Vegas. Based on my perspective as the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Floor Covering Weekly magazine, here's what I believe are the most important opportunities for today’s remodeler and the trends that are driving them.
How Do You Spell Success? LVT/WPC
The darlings of the show were LVT (luxury vinyl tile) and WPC (wood plastic composite).
First, LVT: While not new, its fashion and performance characteristics continue to advance due to its vinyl construction along with new styling, high-definition printing, and engineered-in-register embossing techniques that make it a real standout. Not to be confused with old-fashioned linoleum, LVT is easy to install and can be used without sealants (unlike linoleum).
WPC is the new kid on the block and features a rigid, waterproof core and shares many of LVT’s primary benefits but also offers superior moisture resistance. WPC can live below grade, on a concrete slab, or even in wet areas. WPC is available in a variety of looks, from ceramic tile and natural stone to hardwood.
Upsell Carpet? Yes!
Yes, carpet is moving up-market with enhanced styling and texture, along with new, superior performance features.
Soft carpet fibers continue to attract consumers. Mohawk’s recently introduced Silk Reserve line of high-end SmartStrand carpets was a prime example of an innovation that is driving consumers back to carpet.
But there’s more. New treatments provide moisture and odor resistance that prevent pet accidents from seeping into the fiber. Added treatments against mold and allergens have made pet-friendly carpet the newest consumer-driven benefit that is having a strong impact on the market.
Ceramic Tile: Size Matters
We’ve all seen the ceramic tile market move to larger format tiles: 2-, 3-, even 4-foot-wide tile is no longer uncommon.
But what is uncommon are 10-by-5-foot tile slabs that break out beyond flooring and move easily up the walls and into feature areas of the home like fireplaces, entrances, kitchen backsplashes, outdoors and more. Both distinctive and versatile, these slab products create a sophisticated, industrial look and can be used to bridge large spaces as well as used outdoors as cladding for buildings. They are a great alternative for those seeking a concrete look for their floor but who still want the enhanced performance of real porcelain.
Wood Goes Natural
Hardwood flooring is moving away from the darker shades and back to lighter colors that bring out the natural beauty and depth of the wood. These lighter shades allow the wood graining and knots to take center stage for a distinctive, all-natural look that resonates with today’s consumer.
When we do see color, mostly shades of gray, they present as accents rather than as the focal point of the floor. Those grays are now washed out or whitewashed, and we’re even seeing pickled looks that give hardwood floors an aged appearance that looks and feels natural, yet sophisticated.
Hardwood flooring planks continue to get longer and wider, thanks to advances in manufacturing and strong consumer demand.
Laminate Gets Tough on Water
Laminate faces several challenges from competitive flooring categories, but it is not giving up the fight. The features that made it attractive in the first place--wear layer performance, fantastic visuals, low prices, ease of installation--continue to drive laminate sales.
Its one weak spot has always been water (moisture). While most laminate floors offer water-resistant surfaces, they were always susceptible to moisture wicking into the HDF core and causing swelling.
Laminate manufacturers seem to be saying “enough,” with a slew of moisture- and water-resistant products that go beyond the wear layer and down into the core, covering exposed edges that were normally laminate’s weak spots. Look for new treatments that give laminate flooring a fighting chance against moisture.