In case you haven’t noticed, consumers have been brainwashed. From now on, floors must be waterproof.

“Waterproof—this is a buzzword,” said Piet Dossche, executive vice president of hard surface of Shaw Industries and president of USFloors. “Everything needs to be waterproof right now. Outstanding performance for active lifestyles.”

Dossche says the secret is out, and what was once just an idea has become a requirement. 

“Waterproof was novel. Waterproof was new. Five years from now, everything will have to be waterproof. Any hard surface floor will have to be waterproof, because that’s what the consumer wants. The genie is out of the bottle and you can’t put it back in there and it’s going to create a tremendous amount of excitement.”

Driving the growth of the category is stone plastic composite (SPC) vinyl flooring, due to its outstanding waterproof properties, says Thomas Baert, president of CFL Flooring, a manufacturer of waterproof flooring worldwide. 

“We’re hoping for a 20-25% growth of the overall category,” Baert said. “We expect SPC and other rigid products will continue to be the category’s main driver for growth as there are already many players, though new engineered stone products will make their way into product offerings and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.”

In response to this projected growth, CFL has opened three fully-integrated production facilities, allowing for the significant expansion of CFL’s production and overall capacity.

“We have always been at the forefront of the waterproof flooring categories,” Baert said. “Being ourselves one of the largest manufacturers of waterproof flooring—and the largest of SPC—worldwide, we have had the expertise to internally develop, perfect and manufacture all components.”

Focusing solely on its SPC business, Engineered Floors is ramping up its technology and capabilities to produce wider planks, deeper visuals and even more durability.

“SPC is the most advanced technology for floating floors,” said Ana Torrence, hard surfaces category manager, Engineered Floors. One-hundred percent of what we do is SPC.”

With click-and-lock installation, and the ability to be installed over existing floors, Engineered Floors’ Revotec and Triumph are waterproof flooring options made easy.

“Consumers are really gravitating toward waterproof flooring,” Torrence said. “I think all of us have had problems with flooring that is not waterproof. Consumers are looking for something that’s easy to maintain and worry free.”

Mohawk’s Pergo Extreme Rigid LVT launches exclusively through Mohawk Edge retailers this spring. The four-collection launch of 60 higher-end wood and stone visuals are marketed as 100% kid-proof, pet-proof and waterproof, and come with a lifetime residential warranty and a 10-year medium commercial warranty. The company hopes to capitalize on Pergo’s unaided brand awareness. “Pergo” is currently the third most searched flooring term.

“Consumers are really gravitating toward waterproof flooring. ... [They] are looking for something that’s easy to maintain and worry free.”

– Ana Torrence

“We looked at the power of that brand and knew that another step to making it healthier and stronger in the future is to expand it and to do it the right way, so the move to expand the brand into our specialty retail channel was one that we really thought through and wanted to make sure could live up to the ‘Pergo Promise’,” said Jason Sims, brand marketing director at Mohawk. Entering the rigid core luxury vinyl tile category two years ago with the introduction of SolidTech, Mohawk has updated the product range and increased its product offering with introductions that match the refined rustic design trends.

“We’re adding 42 new SKUs to SolidTech,” said David Sheehan, Mohawk. “We’re adding tile visuals, which may be 10 to 15% of the retailer’s sales; it’s important that you have some options for them.”

Mohawk has begun U.S. production of its rigid core with the new SolidTech Marquee product. 

“We’re the first totally vertically integrated manufacturer of rigid,” Sheehan said. “We’re not importing any materials; we make our own print film, we make our own wear layer, we make our own core material.

Sheehan says producing domestically will help retailers sell more flooring. 

“Lead times from China never have the right amount of inventory or the right SKU at the right time, so speed to market. And then there is a preference among the community to buy American and to that end we’ve got the capability.”

Taking technology one step further, USFloors unveiled COREtec Stone, a new rigid core floor that features a mineral core, free of PVC and plasticizers. The rigid mineral core offers indentation resistance with dimensional stability, allowing the product to offer 18-inch x 36-inch sizes for commercial or residential use. The company says the rigid mineral core offers even greater dimensional stability than waterproof composite core [WPC] and SPC, making COREtec stone ideal for large spaces without using transition pieces, rooms with high temperatures—such as sunrooms and foyers—and areas where cabinets, appliances and islands will be set upon the floor. The collection debuts with 40 SKUs featuring stone visuals such as granite, travertine and marble in polished and matte options. 

Tarkett has responded with waterproof luxury vinyl tile, ProGen. The center-to-surface engineering of ProGen allow it stand up to water, temperature change, scratches and dents, and to perform under the rigors of daily wear and tear in any room of the home. And with seven new West Coast-inspired wood designs added to the product line, ProGen is the flooring solution for the modern-day family.

“Consumers want waterproof wood and we are looking to develop products along those lines,” said John Heckman, senior marketing manager for Tarkett. “We are always looking to what’s coming next. The new ProGen with the embossed and registered graphics are getting more realistic, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between real wood.”

With a favorable response to Dixie Group’s 2018 SPC offering, the company is unveiling 47 new SPC SKUs in 2019.

New surfacing techniques, mixed width styles, on-trend visuals and even more waterproof protection have been added to Shaw’s Floorté PRO line of LVT.

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“Floorté PRO is one of Shaw Floors’ most-desired product lines,” said Drew Hash, Shaw’s vice president of hard surface. Added to the offering of “worry-free” flooring are additions to Floorté PRO’s Paragon Plus and Pantheon HD Plus lines. Paragon Plus is the newest SPC style, built for demanding environments and Pantheon HD Plus’ planks offer six new colors and updated wire brushed oak visuals with high color variation.