So often, consumers entrust us with finding them a unicorn: “We would like a product that is easy maintenance, waterproof, will withstand our active family with kids and pets, and—oh yeah—we want it to look great like this picture!”

If you are a salesperson or designer, you know this quandary. How can we achieve function and style? Fortunately, in recent years, more and more amazing products have been introduced to the market that achieve both. In the past, less appealing options, such as laminate or sheet goods were our only choice for a highly durable floor, and still there were consistent issues. Then came the “waterproof” floor. Was it really waterproof? And great, it’s waterproof, but let’s be honest, it was not stylish. Next came the category of WPC and SPC’s with the advancement of registered embossing, new high-quality films, and unique sizes and mixed widths. 

While attending NeoCon 2019, I often had to squint, get really close, and touch many vinyl planking products to realize that they were not real wood or tile. Along with the realism is the amazing styling offered. We now have Carrera marbles and exotic stone looks, barn board and reclaimed wood, mixed-width stone, and if you want it, even a picture of your face with digital printing. The market is projecting that the advancement of digital printing is going to enhance the realism even more in coming months. In addition, the impression of vinyl floors is quickly changing. 

In years past, the word vinyl equated to cheap. This stigma is quickly changing. I recently submitted a proposal for a million-dollar lake home filled with nothing but luxury vinyl plank and porcelain plank wood tile. The customer wanted a rustic wood floor but knew in their active, often wet, lake home, they would never survive. When I suggested porcelain wood plank or—gasp— LVP, they were not impressed at the idea. After showing them all the beautiful wood-look options they had, they never looked back. The home will still be the luxurious home they envisioned. Only the products we chose will last with very little thought on upkeep.

Along with the advancement of waterproof floors is the ceramic and porcelain wood planks. The boxes are now deep with color and pattern variation, mixed lengths and widths, and embossed texture. All of this lending itself to the look of real wood. These tile planks offer solutions to many potential hurdles when designing a functioning home. 

Of course, there are the obvious durability solutions, but then there are the less obvious solutions. When clients are debating between real wood and tile wood plank, often we hear the clients say that they want a consistent look. With many wood species, that is very hard to attain. Wood is not consistent, and you can often have a surprise when opening the box. The sample may look very different than what we discover upon unboxing. This is even more evident in wood with high variation. With wood tile, the client knows exactly what they are getting, and to some, that is a comfort. Another great solution the wood tile solves is in floor heat. Most wood floors are not designed to have radiant heat laid below it. That’s no problem with wood-plank tile. 

So, as salespeople, what do we do with all these options? How do we ensure that we feel good about what is going out the door, and that our valued clientele will be happy with the function of their products? First and foremost, we need to qualify the client. What are their needs and wants? Second, part of our job is to educate our buyers. Yes, consumers have access to more information than ever before, but it is not always quality information. Sometimes we have to reteach with accuracy. All great design starts with utility. The outcome can’t be just visually appealing nor can it only be functional. It has to be both to be great. Remember that an individual’s home is usually their largest investment. Suggesting stylish, quality-driven products that will stand the test of time will net the greatest result.