Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every sector throughout the U.S., there are bright spots for builders. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) released in July, builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes rose by 14 points to 72. “Builders are seeing strong traffic and lots of interest in new construction as existing inventory remains lean. Low interest rates are also fueling demand, and we expect housing to lead an overall economic recovery,” said NAHB chairman Chuck Fowke.

Indeed, consumers are willing to spend for the right home, even with economic uncertainty and pandemic concerns at the forefront. “Interest rates are so low, and buyers are taking advantage of that. We had a bit of a slowdown when everything hit, but now we’re catching up. I am actually seeing an increase in spend per home right now,” said Kristi Kennedy, design center manager for David Weekley Homes.

As business picks up, flooring manufacturers are also confident that they’ll end the year on a high note. “I’m very optimistic, especially considering where we were a few months ago. When the pandemic hit, the flooring industry saw a 35 percent dip right away, and that was a shock to a lot of people. Now, each side of the business has figured out how to deal with this dip, and is making it work,” said Brent Bagwell, senior vice president of Mohawk Group’s builder/multifamily division. 

As people continue to spend more time indoors because of lockdowns, there’s a renewed focus on versatility. “There’s a desire to have multipurpose items and fixtures in the home,” said Jenne Ross, director of marketing at Karndean Designflooring. Even flooring is doing double duty, as home owners look to maximize the style found in each interior.

“Flooring is just not on floors. I’m really seeing a lot of creativity, particularly with patterned tiles on the front of a kitchen Island, for example, or using a herringbone wood on a study wall. That’s where it gets really interesting,” said Kennedy.

Playing with surfaces and adding more color is something we’ll continue to see going forward. “We’re shifting from minimalism to maximalism, which is allowing people to show personality through their flooring. Hard surface really allows you to do that,” explained Bagwell.

Shades from each end of the spectrum are enlivening each room, allowing people to create a high-end look without having to spend a lot of money. “We’re seeing a lot of color in flooring. People are making bolder moves, they aren’t so afraid of color like they were five years ago. We’re seeing a lot of the blues, greens, and the terracottas. Adding a pop of color is a really nice way to transition into that more modern look that we’re expecting to see. It’s easy to do when you have a neutral base,” noted Megan Foster, interior design manager for home builder Clayton.

Colors and textures are organic, as consumers look for ways to connect with nature even when they are inside. ”Biophilia, the idea of bringing nature into the home, has become even more important. We are seeing earthy terracottas, and warmer whites as well,” noted Julie Thomas, retail marketing channel manager, Karndean Designflooring.

“We’re seeing an interest in products that bring the outdoors in or are inspired by nature, especially as we all spend even more time indoors. There’s a role for flooring to play there as we set the mood for a space,” Scott Baker, Shaw’s vice president of national accounts, single family, added.

Even with talk throughout the industry about completely moving away from carpet, those in the builder sector still believe it has a place. “With carpet, it’s about the experience. And part of that experience is it feels really good. It lasts a long time, and it has a beautiful look. I think that’s what the carpet story is going to be, not necessarily about heavy traffic again. It’s going to be used very intentionally,” Foster said.

Kennedy agreed, and noted that we still want some softness to create an intimate feeling throughout the residence. “The personal space, the bedrooms, or anywhere you might want to cocoon, that’s where I see carpet being implemented. It typically has a lower pile, and more of a tight loop. People are selecting carpet with soft, high-performance fibers.” 

Whether hard or soft flooring is specified, builders know it’s about providing choice to suit a range of tastes and styles, not just offering up fleeting trends. “You’re dealing with a much more educated buyer now. They’re doing their research, they understand the products and the colors in the market. They are using their own instincts, and they are much more comfortable doing that,” Bagwell said.