Be it wood plastic core (WPC), luxury vinyl tile, rigid core or composite core, multilayer flooring (MLF) is being referred to as the future of flooring for both residential and commercial applications. We checked in with those who produce and sell MLF to learn more about these resilient products on the rise, and to find out what they mean for residential spaces.

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Multilayer Flooring

Consisting of two or more layers, MLF traditionally has a top layer or layers that provide both decorative and performance functions that would then be laminated onto a rigid core board of some sort. Further, with MLF, underlays may or may not be attached.

“The key features of MLF are the combination of waterproof, rigidity, thickness, and dimensional stability. These features allows for the floors to be installed easier, faster with minimal sub floor prep,” said Peter Barretto, president and CEO of Torlys, and marketing chairperson for the Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA). “MLF can be installed on any grade and in most areas up including areas with moderate sunlight/heat without transition moldings in most cases.”

Falling under the resilient flooring portfolio, technologically advanced MLF is a category standout due to its design capabilities, durability, waterproof properties and ease of installation.

“The resilient category, currently being led by WPC/rigid composite core products are a smart and practical choice for today’s home or commercial installation,” Jamann Stepp, director of marketing and product management for USFloors. “The products perform, are inherently waterproof and the visuals are amazing. The ease of installation, no acclimation required, along with practically no maintenance make these products a ‘go to’ category.”

Multilayer in Residential

For residential spaces, MLF’s design capabilities are offering end users endless design options to enhance their living spaces.

“There’s a number of reasons why resilient is so popular in residential and continuing to grow in popularity,” said Jonathan Klinger, chief marketing officer for Tarkett North America. “First of all, from a style and design perspective, it’s a format that provides tremendous flexibility for consumers. In essence, anything that you can print on a resilient product, you can make available to consumers.”

With these qualities and more, MLF is not limited to just one type of space or room in a house. “Given the beauty, durability and quietness, [multilayer flooring] can be utilized in any room in the house, on any hard surface sub floor, on any grade,” said Barretto.

Tarkett has developed a MLF product that works well for the consumer who is looking for something eye-catching and trendy, yet simple. Drawing inspiration from trends across the country, Tarkett’s in-house design team has taken away the guess work for the consumers to design amazing floors with its new ProGen product.

“Tarkett, being a major manufacturer of resilient flooring, we kept our eye on all these categories and options and the technologies that are occurring, how that technology is changing so quickly,” said Jon Gittrich, Tarkett’s residential marketing director. “We looked at wood plastic composites and we had some concerns around the quality and durability of those pieces, which we continued to then look for solutions that would meet our expectations and standards. That’s really where the ProGen product came in for us.”

With ProGen, Tarkett utilized unique technology within the product’s layers to increase its durability and impact resistance, as well as impacting the installation significantly. “Getting the layers down while maintaining that rigid core was extremely important to us,” said Gittrich. “We are very excited about the ProGen product and what it brings within durability and dimensional stability based on its core technology that’s been put together, and limiting the layers.”

For Retailers

As the demand for MLF continues, retailers are making more room for these and other MLF products in their showrooms, and utilizing manufacturer’s education opportunities to best market and sell the category.

“We sell a lot of solid hardwood, but WPC has grown drastically in the last couple of years,” said AJ Boyajian, owner of AJ Rose Carpets & Flooring in Weston, Mass. “It’s the real deal. USFloors got us into it first and we took off with them.”

Introducing its COREtec in January 2013, USFloors is undoubtedly a pioneer in the MLF category. “Some refer to it as multi-layer composite flooring, some refer to it as WPC and some refer to it as rigid core board,” said Stepp. Whichever acronym you prefer, at the end of the day what USFloors has pioneered and patented is the waterproof, composite, rigid core technology branded as COREtec.”

According to Stepp, retailers should be aware of the overall value COREtec and rigid core products offer the homeowner/end-user. “No acclimation, easy/fast to install, installs over most any hard surface flooring, extremely durable, waterproof, kidproof, petproof and the looks/visuals rival any hardwood on the market today. For these few reason, COREtec and rigid composite core flooring is an exceptional value,” he said.

To better educate and assist retailers, USFloors is creating a chart that clarifies the differences among the various kinds of MLF to make it easier for sales people to understand and sell. According to Piet Dossche, CEO of the company, he feels it is USFloors’ duty to take a leadership role in education since it is a pioneer in the category.

Tarkett continues to assist retailers with sales and marketing education for consumers, even before they enter the showroom. “We’ve redesigned displays to provide information simply and easily in one place,” Gittrich said. “We’ve been talking to retailers and distributors to understand the information they need to simplify the selling process. We’ve also taken into consideration the consumer around our merchandising displays. We try to make sure the core benefits of the product are easy for the consumer to see as well as making sure it’s an easy display to shop from the consumers’ standpoint. We’ve also engaged with consumer videos that can be used to get drive that interest and get them into the store.”

Jim Kups, North America technical manager for Novalis, said that retail sales associates play an important role in matching the perfect floor to a homeowner’s lifestyle. “Their goal is a satisfied customer — one that will return when they do their next flooring project and even brag to their friends about it,” Kups said.

Since there are so many varieties of styles, colors and installation processes, it’s important that the associate have a clear understanding of the features and benefits of each type of floor.

“Big box retail shopping will lead to a different experience,” Kups said. “As a rule, you will generally be looking at flooring products on display and making your own decisions based on what they have on hand or can special order for you. Depending on the flooring you choose, you may or may not have the option of getting a professional installation in this type of store. Store associates will be on hand to assist during the process and guide you in some aspects of the flooring they carry, but the assumption in most cases is that you already know what you are looking for in a product for your home.”

Quick-Step supported its new line of luxury vinyl flooring this year with a comprehensive merchandising program. “Merchandising for Quick-Step’s new luxury vinyl flooring line has been carefully designed to effectively communicate the superior performance features, showcase the beauty of the product, and walk consumers through the selection process,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Mohawk Flooring North America.

The Future of MLF

Companies continue to work on higher density core boards; thicker LVT top layers, new top coats for high scratch/wear resistance, better joint designs, and improved underlays for more sound absorption.

“The MLF category is a fast growth and fast change businesses,” Barretto said. “With its first introduction in 2012 to over a half billion in sales in 2016, this category will not be slowing down any time soon.