Easy to install and easy to maintain, laminate floors are offering consumers affordable options that provide both performance and style. The $1 billion category, as valued by Catalina Research for 2017, is being influenced by consumer preferences for scratch-proof, waterproof and health-conscious floors that deliver a great experience for kids and pets.

“Laminate flooring has carved out a nice position in the floor covering market,” said Travis Bass, executive vice president sales and marketing at Swiss Krono. “Laminate has the look and feel of solid hardwood flooring, yet is much more affordable, requires lower maintenance and is more durable.  With the development of moisture-resistant options and deeper, richer surface textures and designs, laminate offers a much more environmentally friendly, sturdy and beautiful option to the plastic looks of LVT [luxury vinyl tile] and WPC [wood plastic composite].”

Many homeowners are finding laminate to be a practical choice for living spaces, and manufacturers continue to look at laminate technologies, as well as advancements in other categories, to develop products that will exceed expectations.

“In the coming years, there will be a lot of pressure to develop laminate products that are truly waterproof – this is especially true now that laminate is competing against a range of other product categories, including LVT, WPC, rigid core and other hybrid constructions,” said Katie Szabo, product manager, Tarkett.

Mohawk kicked off its move into the waterproof laminate category earlier this year with the launch of RevWood plus. Its initiative is a rebranding that aims to help retailers and consumers look at the category in a new light—a flooring option that provides a high-style, dent, stain and scratch-resistant surface that is also waterproof.

“We’ve had great consumer reaction and sales have trended up with that,” said Adam Ward, Mohawk senior product director for laminate and wood. “Waterproof features in flooring is a really big trend. Consumers are responding, and sales reps are enthused by the market and how waterproof features have reenergized the category.”

Mohawk began rolling out the new displays to dealers this spring and the company is already working on new visuals to expand the collection in 2019 to help grow penetration in the category.

Shaw closed its laminate manufacturing last year as part of the changes it was seeing in the category—a demand for quickly changing visuals and constant advances in technologies.

“Even though our equipment was less than two years old, it was part of our strategy to see how we could come out with the latest and greatest technologies as it becomes available,” said Drew Hash, Shaw’s vice president of hard surfaces.

In response, the company has opted to source its laminate product from other manufacturers, mostly domestic, that could provide new styles, technologies and meet demand fluctuations as they happen.  Hash said while the balance of Shaw’s laminate sales for the company are coming from home centers, the company is seeing a big opportunity in single-family builder business, which has been growing steadily for the last 18 months.

Some of this demand is coming from a shift in customer thinking in regard to health and wellness. “More than 50% of those remodeling are seeking healthier choices for their homes and families,” Szabo said. “With 90% of our time spent indoors, low emissions play a key role in good air quality.”

Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America set up certifications that help consumers figure out which flooring products really help control allergens. Tarkett offers laminate flooring certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America. In order for flooring to meet the standards, the flooring must be easily cleaned, and as a result of cleaning, reduce allergens; as a result of cleaning, airborne allergens levels must remain low; and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) must remain below safe levels after installation.

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Visuals in laminates continue to improve. This year, cool tones and rustic designs are still trending. In addition, multi-width and multi-length options give the customer the ability to create personalized style.

“We are continuing to see oak and more natural colors to be popular,” Ward said. “Grays are really big and are lightening up. Darker browns and blacks are lighting up as well, and consumers want to see the detail in the wood.”

Hash noted that while White Oak is a major seller among Shaw laminates, there is still some demand for traditional hickory and walnut visuals and a touch of red is coming back into demand. 

“During uncertain times like these, people look for familiarity in their decor, whether hanging old family photos or picking furniture and flooring,” says Joe Amato, Mannington’s vice president of residential styling. “By blending classic and fashion forward looks, we’ve created laminate floors with a certain familiarity—quiet, steady confidence and…lots of style.”