Resilient Floor Coverings
Resilient Floor Coverings
NAICS: 32-6192 Resilient Floor Covering Manufacturing
SIC: 3069 Fabricated Rubber Products, not elsewhere classified, 3996 Linoleum, Asphalted-Felt-Base, and Other Hard Surface Floor Coverings, not elsewhere classified
NAICS-Based Product Codes: 32-61920, 32-61921 through 32-619102
Resilient flooring materials include linoleum, rubber, and vinyl. Among these, vinyl is the most commonly used. These resilient materials are referred to loosely as floor coverings to distinguish them from flooring. Flooring is the term that denotes permanent building materials such as tile and wood. Resilient floor coverings are not permanent, making them easier to replace for an updated interior design. Resilient floor coverings are sold in an extensive palette of colors, patterns, and textures at an affordable price. The hard to classify laminate is sometimes included in discussions of this category of flooring materials.
When used in the home, resilient flooring is usually found in kitchens, bathrooms, recreation or family rooms, laundry and utility rooms, and entryways. It is used more prevalently outside the home in settings that include commercial buildings, healthcare facilities, schools, hospitality, government buildings, and other public establishments. Besides its comparatively low price, resilient flooring is resistant to flames, slipping, and water damage. Rubber flooring, for instance, is promoted by the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for accessibility due to its slip resist characteristics which are especially helpful for people using walkers and/or wheel chairs.
Known for its durability, resilient flooring is easy to care for. It can be mopped or swept with any cleansing product, unlike tile and wood, which may require special cleaners. Resilient flooring is a top choice for installations where noise abatement is desired or required. It is especially quiet when compared to tile and wood. This comparison and others like it highlight one of the problems faced by the resilient flooring market. While it is a product with many benefits including affordability, it is rarely sold on its own merits but rather as an alternative to other flooring. For instance, no other flooring choice has its cushioning quality. Resilient flooring tends to have a little give in it, making it easy on the feet when long periods of standing are required, such as by nurses in hospitals and clerks in shops. A teacup or glass dropped on it will not shatter like it might, again, on tile or wood, its constant competitor.
Linoleum, rubber, and vinyl are sometimes referred to as sheet flooring. They are sold in sheets that are generally 3, 6, and 9 feet wide rolls; true linoleum is sold in rolls that are 6 feet, 7 inches wide and up to 150 feet long. Sheet flooring can be installed with minimal seams (sometimes none at all), making it impervious to damage from water that can seep between the joins of some flooring materials. Many linoleum, rubber, and vinyl floorings are also available in square tiles that are well-suited to do-it-yourself installation. Some come in a self-stick format with adhesive pre-applied at the factory. Linoleum, rubber, and vinyl come in various thicknesses; linoleum is generally 1.8 to 2.5 millimeters (mm) thick, vinyl is assigned a mils thickness rating from 40 to 100; rubber is typically a much thicker product. Due to their many similarities, linoleum and vinyl are sometimes referred to interchangeably. Despite their similarities, linoleum, rubber, and vinyl are distinct from each other and separate from laminate.
Linoleum was invented in England in 1863 and gets its name from the Latin words linum, which means flax, and oleum, which means oil. To make it, the oil that is derived from flax known as linseed oil is oxidized to form a thick mixture called linoleum cement. The cooled cement is mixed with a variety of materials like natural resins such as pine, wood flour or powder, ground cork, and ground limestone. Pigments both organic and inorganic are added to the mixture to create the color. The mixture is compressed to form sheets on a jute backing. Linoleum lasts for decades. Wear is barely noticeable because the pigments are mixed throughout the material, that is they are not printed on top as is the case with vinyl. Linoleum fell out of favor after vinyl was invented, but is increasing in popularity concurrent with other natural building products. Armstrong sells linoleum under its Marmorette line and Tarkett makes linoleum in collections called Veneto, Toscano, and Etrusco.
Rubber is typically used in healthcare facilities, educational institutions, sports arenas, health clubs, industrial settings, and other high traffic public spaces. It is becoming more fashionable for residential uses in children's bedrooms, playrooms, recreation and family rooms, home gyms, and home offices. Rubber flooring is manufactured with used tires that are ground up and mixed with plasticizers and pigments. Basic colors tend to prevail, but a two-tone color scheme is common consisting of a base color with flecks or specks of a contrasting or complimentary color. Rubber flooring has outstanding anti-fatigue properties, high levels of noise abatement, exceptional slip-resistance, along with excellent fire and smoke emission ratings. Dodge-Regupol manufacturers a line of 100 percent recycled rubber flooring called ECO-surfaces. The black body of the flooring is made with the styrene butadiene rubber from used tires, while the colored flecks or specks come from ethylene propylene diene monomer from the auto industry.
Vinyl was introduced in the 1930s and became popular during the post World War II (WWII) housing boom. It is made from a mixture of polyvinyl chloride, a type of plastic that comes from petroleum, and plasticizers, making it both flexible and water resistant, qualities not often found in one material. The mixture is compressed to form sheets on a felt backing. The pattern is printed on top of the vinyl sheet using a flexographic process. Then a wear layer of between 20 to 22 mils is fused on top. The wear layer is polyvinyl chloride on the low end and polyurethane on the high end. Vinyl has changed since it first became popular. New manufacturing processes can replicate the colors, patterns, and textures of real tile and wood. Two well-known vinyl products are Armstrong's Natural Fusions and Mannington's Naturals.
Laminate flooring is relatively new. It was introduced in the United States in 1994 by Pergo, a Swedish company. Laminate looks exactly like stone, tile, or wood because it is a multilayered product that includes a picture. The design layer—the layer visible after installation—is a high quality photograph printed using a flexographic process to apply pigmented inks over thick kraft paper. The design layer is covered with a strong wear layer of melamine impregnated plastic resins so it is scratch and fade resistant. The core layer is a next generation particle board called high density fiberboard made from recycled sawmill waste such as sawdust and wood shavings, which is compressed under pressure. Laminate layers are assembled, heated, and pressed to form a bond. The finished product is generally 70 percent recycled content by weight. Laminate flooring is installed on top of a 2-in-1 product that is both a moisture barrier and a cushioning pad—the cushioning element moves laminate closer to the resilient category.
Laminate is a top choice in homes with active kids or dogs with scratchy nails. It is durable and affordable. When Pergo introduced it in 1994, it cost $5 to $6 square foot, uninstalled. While the premium product still sells for just under $5, the price of laminate has declined steadily since its 1994 introduction. The average uninstalled square foot price had fallen to $1.29 in 2004. Laminate flooring is less than two-thirds the cost of the material it is designed to imitate visually. Laminate flooring is sold both in tiles and in thin tongue-and-groove strips. Initially designed to be glued down, newer products are designed to snap together along interlocking edges. Besides Pergo, popular laminates are offered by Armstrong (Nature's Gallery) and Mannington (Revolution Plank).
The U.S. Census Bureau report titled "Resilient Floor Covering Manufacturing: 2002" reported the sum of the value of products shipped from American factories. American factories shipped $1.526 billion worth of resilient flooring products in 2002, down 7 percent from the $1.647 billion shipped in 1997. The main Census product categories are sheet flooring, vinyl composite tile, and other. Sheet flooring product shipments were up 6 percent in 2002 over 1997, from $811 to $866 million. Vinyl composite tile product shipments were down between 1997 and 2002, from $799 million to $627 million, or 21 percent. The other category dropped 13 percent, from $38 million to $33 million. The Census Bureau report on resilient flooring does not cover laminate.
Since the 2002 Economic Census, industry trade publications reported more current data on the size of the resilient flooring market, and on the size of the laminate flooring market. Publications report slight, but steady, increases in resilient and large increases in laminate. Between 2003 and 2004, resilient flooring sales increased in sales from $1.735 billion in 2003 to $1.767 billion in 2004. Figure 184 depicts the 7 percent, $24 million increase in shipments over the period. One category within resilient flooring that showed robust signs of growth was luxury vinyl tile, which rose 15 percent in 2004 on sales of $135 million.
Since Pergo introduced laminate to the United States in 1994 the sector has grown at up to 20 percent per annum at the expense of other floor types, mainly resilient flooring. Between 2003 and 2004, the laminate sector grew 24 percent, from sales in 2003 of $877 million to sales in 2004 of $1.087 billion. The year 2004 was the first time the sector topped the billion dollar mark. While laminate made to look like wood has not cut into wood flooring product shipments, which doubled between 1997 and 2006, it has affected the resilient flooring marketplace.
The market has been impacted by two bankruptcies. Top ranked Armstrong and fourth ranked Congoleum were both in federal bankruptcy court as of the middle of 2007. Each filed for bankruptcy protection to avoid litigation over asbestos claims dating back many years. Armstrong filed for Chapter 11 in late 2000 and Congoleum in late 2003.
Congoleum is the subject of more than 100,000 asbestos-related personal injury claims. After it sued its insurers for failing to provide coverage on the asbestos claims, a court ruled the insurers were not liable for approximately $500 million in claims. Armstrong suffered a similar setback when a federal judge ruled it cannot provide warrants to some creditor classes to the harm of other classes.
The top three U.S. manufacturers of resilient flooring are Armstrong World Industries Inc., Mannington Mills, Inc., and Tarkett Inc., in that order. Armstrong dominated the 2004 resilient floor market with sales of $713 million and a 40 percent market share. Mannington was second having around $371 million in sales and a 21 percent market share. Tarkett was third with $237 million in sales and a 13 percent market share. In the laminate flooring market, Pergo is the perennial market leader. Pergo remained number one with $207 million in sales and a 19 percent market share. Sales estimates and market share figures are based on data published in Floor Focus Magazine in May 2005.
Armstrong World Industries, Inc.
Headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Armstrong makes floors, ceilings, and cabinets. Its total 2006 worldwide sales were $3.4 billion and it had 13,000 employees. With its three floor business brands—Armstrong, Bruce, and Robbins—Armstrong controls an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. resilient market. The company began as a small cork-cutting shop in 1860 in Pittsburgh under its founder, Thomas Armstrong, the son of ordinary Scotch-Irish immigrants. It stuck to cork until 1906 when it built a linoleum factory at its current location, capitalizing on the 1863 English invention. Cork and linoleum led to vinyl flooring. By 2007 Armstrong had 16 U.S. floor manufacturing facilities located in Beech Creek and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Beverly, West Virginia; Center, Texas; Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi; Jackson and Oneida, Tennessee; Kankakee, Illinois; Somerset, Kentucky; South Gate, California; Statesville, North Carolina; Stillwater, Oklahoma; Warren, Arkansas; and West Plains, Missouri. Armstrong also had plants in Australia (2), Canada, England, and Sweden. Armstrong makes floorings from laminate, linoleum, and vinyl, but not rubber.
In 2006 Armstrong introduced two new laminate collections called Park Avenue and Grand Illusions. Arm-strong's laminate products are differentiated from others by their ArmaLock and SwiftLock connecting systems that can be installed without glue. Its linoleum flooring is called Marmorette, and it comes in more than 50 colors. Consumer Reports ranked Marmorette best in linoleum in August 2007. In that issue, Consumer Reports ranked laminate, linoleum, and vinyl based on an overall score of resistance to wears, scratches, dents, stains, and fading due to sunlight. Nature's Gallery was the top ranked laminate among nine tested. Armstrong also had three products from its vinyl offerings in the Consumer Reports' top ten vinyl listing. The vinyl collections were Natural Fusions, Destinations, and Memories.
Mannington Mills, Inc.
In business since 1915 and privately owned for four generations, Mannington Mills is based in Salem, New Jersey. Its original vinyl floor business eventually grew to include carpet, laminate, and wood. Besides its corporate headquarters, Mannington makes floors in Calhoun, Georgia; Highpoint, North Carolina; and Epes, Alabama. In 2005 Mannington spent $35 million to increase manufacturing capacity at its High Point, North Carolina, and Epes, Alabama, facilities. In the U.S. resilient flooring market, Mannington controls 21 percent of the market, second only to Armstrong. It is growing its reputation and its market share. In 2006 Floor Covering News named Mannington the first place resilient flooring manufacturer for the ninth consecutive year. In 2006 it won first place in the Floor Covering Weekly dealers' choice awards for its Adura Plank collection of vinyl products and its Revolutions Tile collection of laminate products. Consumer Reports, in August 2007, recognized the sister laminate product called Revolutions Plank, a laminate made to look like wood plank flooring. Mannington does not manufacture linoleum or rubber.
Two of Mannington's well-respected vinyl products were top ten Consumer Reports choices in August 2007: Adura and Naturals. The issue ranked laminate, linoleum, and vinyl based on an overall score of resistance to wears, scratches, dents, stains, and sunlight fading. The Naturals collection features 52 products and 14 patterns—six new styles with eight returning bestsellers. The Naturals collection was rolled out to highlight three trends: back to nature, natural elegance, and urban chic. Back to nature features Indian Slate, a nine inch square rustic slate vinyl tile featuring irregular edges. Natural elegance features Siena, a 12 inch square vinyl tile made to look like meta-morphic sandstone. Urban chic trend featured Carolina Oak, a vinyl tile that has rich character graining and comes in long planks in random widths and lengths instead of the typical square tile. Adura incorporates many of these trends, but is a luxury vinyl tile.
Mannington's southern New Jersey headquarters and its manufacturing facility are located within a large tidal wetland ecosystem. Wetland ecosystems are a natural habitat for large varieties of insects, and the insects in such geographies were often trapped in wood floor finishes, resulting in product defects. Mannington tried screened double-door airlocks and overhead door air curtains to keep insects out. To limit pesticide use, Mannington installed a more natural answer: houses for purple martins. Purple martins are small birds that migrate from Brazil in the spring and return to Brazil in the fall. Each martin eats a massive amount of insects. Mannington maintains seven martin condos and gourd systems adjacent to its mill. Due to human encroachment on their indigenous areas, east of the Rockies purple martins are entirely dependent on houses provided by humans.
Pergo is to laminate flooring as Kleenex is to facial tissues. In laminate flooring, Pergo is the perennial market leader. Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, Pergo spent $36 million in 2005 on a 45,000 square foot laminate plant, adding 86 jobs, setting its total employment in North Carolina at more than 300. In 2007 Pfleiderer Sweden purchased Pergo. Pfleiderer Sweden also owns Uniboard, a Canadian laminate flooring producer, one of just two North American firms integrated into high-density fiberboard. Uniboard is investing $21 million to double its capacity to produce laminate in Laval, Quebec.
After its early innovation in laminate, Pergo was slow to switch from the glue down flooring design while other manufacturers started to introduce click install floors like ArmaLock and SwiftLock by Armstrong. It was also slow to eliminate particle board as the basis for its core material when its competitors were switching to the next generation of high density fiberboard. Its newest product is called Paradigm. Paradigm is a hybrid click and a glue where water activates the factory applied glue. Pergo is popular. Its products captured three of nine available top spots in Consumer Reports' August 2007 flooring report. The products were Pergo Vintage Home Planks, Signature American Cottage, and Pergo Presto. Products were ranked on an overall score of resistance to wears, scratches, dents, stains, and fading due to sunlight.
With its North American headquarters in Florence, Alabama, Tarkett is ranked third in resilient floorings with a 13 percent market share. Tarkett dates back to 1872 when Domco, Dominion Oil Cloth, started producing linoleum. Over a period of more than 100 years, it acquired or became alternately: Azrock, Domco, Harris Tarkett, Sintelon, Sommer, and Tarkett. In 1999 Domco acquired Tarkett and Harris Tarkett and became Domco Tarkett, Inc. Since 2003 the group has operated under the Tarkett name. Tarkett has a joint venture with Aconcagua Timber where it produces laminate in Pennsylvania. It does not make rubber.
Tarkett makes linoleum in collections called Veneto, Toscano, and Etrusco, which use waste or scrap from other manufacturing processes such as cork powder from the cork industry. Its NAFCO Better Living Collection was number four in Consumer Reports' August 2007 ranking. In 2005 Tarkett updated NAFCO with the addition of three new collections called Java, Aged Marble, and Canyon Rock, all designed to look like weathered stone and wood.
In 2005 floor covering giant Mohawk acquired Belgium-based laminate maker Unilin Holding NV for $2.6 billion cash, an amount that included Unilin's U.S. subsidiary, Quick-Step. The move made Mohawk a significant player in every area of floor covering, besides carpeting where Mohawk has long been a leader, it was anticipated that it would continue to grow as a player in the laminate flooring market. Fifth-ranked laminate maker Quick-Step began construction in July 2007 on its new 1.1 million square foot facility in Thomasville, North Carolina. When finished, the plant will produce 100 million square feet of laminate annually.
Kronospan, Ltd., a U.K. company, is building a $500 million laminate manufacturing facility in Eastaboga, Alabama, with production expected to commence in early 2008. The German company Kronotex built a 360,000 square foot plant in Barnwell County, South Carolina, to produce 200 million square feet of laminate annually. The Spanish producer Faus opened its U.S. laminate manufacturing facility in Calhoun, Georgia, in October 2006.
MATERIALS & SUPPLY CHAIN LOGISTICS
The U.S. Census Bureau in "Resilient Floor Covering Manufacturing: 2002," part of its Manufacturing Industry Series, reported on the materials needed to make resilient flooring. The resilient industry as a whole implemented cost saving measures when purchasing materials needed to make its product. Total materials spending was down between the 1997 and 2002 Census years, from $684 million to $639 million, or approximately 6 percent. In 2002 most of the $639 million spent on materials was for plastics, felt, plasticizers, and pigments:
- Plastic resins spending was down $245 million to $186 million, almost one-quarter. Plastic resins are moldable viscous substances.
- Floor felt spending was up $67 million to $84 million, or 20 percent. Felt is an important backing material for sheet flooring.
- Plasticizers spending was down $71 million to $58 million, or 18 percent. Plasticizers are added to plastics to make them more pliable, softer, and moldable.
- Pigment (organic and inorganic) spending was $35 million in 2002; The Census Bureau withheld the quantity and value of pigment purchasing in 1997 in order to prevent the disclosure of data that would reveal the operations of individual operations or establishments. Organic pigments are made from salts of nitrogen-containing compounds that produce colors such as yellow lake and peacock blue.
The distribution channel for resilient floors is characterized by specialty/independent flooring stores, home centers/building materials center, and builder contractors. In early 2007 Floor Focus Magazine reported in detail on the distribution channel for over $54 billion of retail flooring—carpet, wood, tile, and vinyl—sold in the United States in 2006. The word vinyl is loosely used to denote the entire range of resilient floor products.
Specialty/independent flooring stores led the distribution channel with 35 percent. Home centers/building materials centers accounted for 24 percent of retail sales. Reflecting the growing influence of the big box stores, Home Depot and Lowe's accounted for 16 percent of that 24 percent.
Floor Focus Magazine examined the $54 billion retail flooring distribution channel in 2006 by breaking out statistics for three distinct segments which it defined as the consumer residential replacement segment, the builder new residential segment and the commercial mainstreet segment. A fourth segment called commercial-specified is a unique distribution channel handled by special distributors known as contract dealers.
In the consumer residential replacement segment, specialty/independent flooring stores led the distribution channel with 45 percent. Home centers/building materials centers accounted for 36 percent of retail sales. Reflecting the growing influence of the big box stores, Home Depot and Lowe's alone accounted for 26 percent of that 36 percent.
In the builder new residential segment, specialty/independent flooring stores accounted for 38 percent of all flooring dollar sales, while building flooring contractors led the channel with 47 percent. Within the builder new residential segment, home centers/building materials centers accounted for 12 percent of retail sales. A shakeup in this segment occurred in July 2007 when Home Depot sold HD Supply, the largest builder flooring contractor in the country. In 2006 that firm alone accounted for 7 percent of all flooring sold to U.S. builders.
In the commercial main street segment, specialty/independent flooring stores once again led the channel with 38 percent of all flooring dollar sales, while home centers/building materials centers accounted for 20 percent.
The commercial-specified segment is somewhat different. Firms called contractors or contract dealers control 87 percent of flooring dollar sales.
While the big box stores have a growing influence on the market—Home Depot and Lowe's had a combined 3,325 U.S. stores in 2006—specialty/independent flooring stores led the distribution channel overall, controlling 35 percent of all retail flooring. Specialty/independent flooring stores also led the consumer residential replacement segment distribution channel with 45 percent of the important high volume, high margin segment.
To maintain their lead, specialty/independent flooring stores develop close relationships with sales representatives of major manufacturers. In order for stores to dedicate floor space to display a manufacturer's products, it expects more than just competitive pricing, product guarantees and warranties, and on-time delivery. Manufacturers must provide retail outlets with access to knowledgeable sales representatives who can handle complaints and service issues. Manufacturers often provide training and product displays assistance to the retail outlet's staff members as well. Mannington excels at providing service, for both its resilient product line and its laminate product line. In 2006 a Floor Focus Magazine retail survey awarded Mannington's entire resilient product line first place in all three categories of design, quality and service for the fourth consecutive year. The same survey awarded Mannington's laminate business first place in design and service, and third place in quality. The award made 2006 the third consecutive year Mannington won first place for its laminate design, and the first time Mannington won first place for its laminate service.
In 2007 Armstrong set up a company-owned distribution business in the Pacific Northwest. Armstrong NW LLC will provide sales and distribution services for its residential flooring products in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming with a team of eight customer service representatives working exclusively for Armstrong. Armstrong CEO, Frank Ready, reiterated that flooring remains a relationship business. He told Floor Covering Weekly in May 2007, "If we get up every day feeling that we have to earn a customer's business, we'll win every time. The way you do that is by having great products. Sell the best product you can. There's a tendency in tough times to sell on price. That shortchanges the customer and their ability to make a fair assessment of value, and in the long run it destroys your business."
The distribution channel also includes the Internet, if not for the purpose of sales which tend to be local, then to educate consumers. Mannington received the 2006 Internet Advertising Competition award for "Best Manufacturing Rich Media Online Ad." Sponsored by the Web Marketing Association, entrants are judged on creativity, innovation, design, copywriting, use of medium, and impact. Mannington's ad allowed users to try out its virtual decorator, and change floor and wall options within a room scene, right inside the ad itself.
Key user groups of flooring products are builders, interior designers, and home owners who undertake remodeling or redecorating projects. The manufacturers of resilient floor coverings produce some products that appeal to any of these consumer groups and other products designed especially to appeal to one or another of these groups. Their marketing efforts are also segmented to most efficiently appeal to members of each of these groups.
The markets for remodeling and home improvements are adjacent to the market for resiliant floor coverings as they are to flooring generally. The market for residential remodeling is driven by home values. As the value of a home increases, the owner's ability to obtain financing for home improvements generally increases as well. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median home value in the United States rose 32 percent from 2000 to 2005. This boom fueled consumer spending and much of that spending was on home improvements, including remodeling projects. In 2006 and 2007 home prices dropped for the first time in years. Moody's Investors Service estimated that median existing home prices fell on average by 3.6 percent in the first half of 2007, and as much as 20 percent in some markets, notably the Detroit, Michigan market.
New construction is another adjacent market to the flooring market. The housing market in the United States has been at record levels during the period 2002 through 2005, buoyed by low interest rates and flexible lending practices. Housing starts as well as sales of existing housing stock have both set records during this period. Housing starts, as measured by building permits issued, grew every year from 2000 to 2005.
Sales of existing homes peaked in 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors, reaching just under 6 million homes sold. The pattern of strong growth in the housing market came to an end in 2006 when sales began to slow and the inventory of housing stock on the market grew.
The market for carpets is another market adjacent to the resilient flooring market. The value of manufacturers' shipments of resilient flooring in the United States annually runs slightly more than 10 percent of the value of manufacturers shipments of rugs and carpets. In 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total value of manufacturer shipments of wood flooring was $1.53 billion compared to $11.75 billion worth of rugs and carpets shipped by U.S. manufacturers.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
Research and development conducted by Mannington resulted in a proprietary technology they call NatureForm Optix. It combines the latest advances in high-definition printing, precision texturing, and high-clarity finishing to create a realistic look and feel on either vinyl or laminate. First, digitally mastered imaging is used to capture the original source material with exceptional crispness and color depth. Then an embossed-in-register production process is used to add texture that mimics natural stone or wood. Finally, finish coatings are applied to produce not only durability, but more realism.
An example of the use of this new technology to add realistic texture to vinyl is Mannington's Sobella line. While the line includes a Classic collection of twelve products and a Supreme collection of twenty-three products, it features the first handscraped wood visual ever created in vinyl flooring. The handscraped look is the hottest trend in wood flooring, a segment that doubled in size between 1997 and 2006.
An example of the use of this new technology to add realistic texture to laminate is embodied in Mannington's Heritage Cherry and Harvard Cherry lines. The laminate floors not only have the realistic texture of hand-scraped wood, but also a more realistic look with differential gloss levels added to help bring out the true character and depth of the wood photograph. Mannington also uses differential gloss levels to make laminate tile photographs look more real. In its NatureForm laminate tile collection, Mannington uses two different gloss levels that help replicate a 12 inch square ceramic tile; the laminated tile is produced in a slightly higher gloss level than the grout line to closely replicate the look of installed natural tile.
Manufacturers have also invested in research and development to produce greener products with less impact on the environment. Research conducted by Floor Covering Weekly in the form of an online poll in the spring of 2007 showed that 44 percent of flooring dealer respondents have customers who ask for environmentally friendly products. Linoleum and rubber are natural candidates for this category and both are eligible for LEEDS points.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program was introduced in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council. The voluntary program encourages builders to use renewable and sustainable products. LEED awards points for building materials that comply with strict environmental standards.
Linoleum scores LEEDS points because it is made with both recycled and renewable ingredients. The renewable ingredients include linseed oil extracted from flax plants and its jute backing. Jute is a natural grass. The recycled content is post-industrial wood and cork dust. Rubber floors made from reclaimed tires are eligible for LEED points in the materials and resources category and the indoor environmental quality category.
The current trend in resilient flooring is luxury vinyl tile. Luxury vinyl tile is a hybrid that emerged from a marriage of vinyl composite tile, a commercial product known for its durability, and vinyl sheet flooring, a residential product known for its range of fashionable, trendy surface design choices. Luxury vinyl tile has beautiful printed designs protected by a durable urethane wear layer, much like sheet vinyl.
Luxury vinyl tile is different than sheet vinyl in that it is always thicker than sheet vinyl, and it is sold only in tile squares that simulate marble, stone, or tile, or in planks that simulate wood. It is never sold as rolls of sheet flooring because it has a rigid back not a felt or jute back. Luxury vinyl tiles are embossed to make them look like ceramic tile, while luxury vinyl planks have beveled edges to make them look like wood planks.
Due to its increased thickness and its rigid back, luxury vinyl square tiles are increasingly installed just like true ceramic tile. Tiles are laid using spacers, and real grout is spread between them. While luxury vinyl tile products are easy to install because they are sold in tiles of manageable sizes, they do require full spread adhesive and the proper sized trowel for installation.
TARGET MARKETS & SEGMENTATION
There are a large number of types of resilient floorings available on the market and the different characteristics that each type of resilient flooring offers the end user has a great deal to do with the consumers to whom they are marketed. For example, because of their slip resistant qualities and consequent high safety rating, rubber floorings are marketed heavily to health care institutions and facilities designed to work with the disabled and elderly.
Another target market for manufacturers of laminate and resilient floor coverings is the community of inte-rior designers as their influence on fashion trends has an important impact on decisions regarding flooring materials. Interior designers set trends that influence flooring decisions in both residential settings as well as institutional installations.
Large home builders are also a target market for flooring manufacturers as potential buyers of their products. The square footage of new homes has been increasing in the United States for several decades and along with that increased size has come home gyms, larger laundry rooms, shops, and finished garages, all settings ideal for the use of resilient floorings.
RELATED ASSOCIATIONS & ORGANIZATIONS
Contract Flooring Association, http://www.cfa.org.uk
World Floor Covering Association, http://www.wfca.org
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Chmielecki, Michael. "From Trees and Grasses: Environmental Sustainability in Wood Flooring: Hardwood, Bamboo and Cork." National Floor Trends. April 2003, 14.
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Torcivia, Santo. "The Home Center Challenge." Floor Focus Magazine. April 2007.
"Triangle: Pergo to Expand Plant in Garner NC." Business North Carolina. August 2004, 12.
"What 'Going Green' Means To Us." Contract Flooring Journal. February 2007, 8.
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see also Wood Flooring