The benchmark of a good laminate floor used to be "How closely does this resemble oak?" But as the technology has become more advanced, the segment has kept pace, showcasing products with greater visual depths and more complexity. Aided by embossed textures, stone and ceramic looks have made inroads in the segment, though in a relatively small way: with only about a fifth of new laminate designs now devoted to tile. The most popular styles right now, according to Zack Zehner, Mannington's director of laminate business, continue to be exotic hardwoods and, to a lesser extent, rustic, hand-scraped textures.
"If I see one overall trend for the laminate segment, it's the race toward realism," he says. "We are really able to play with the visuals now, especially in our exotic and hand-scraped looks. Through this technology, we not only have clearer looks, but also the feel of the product that the laminate flooring is emulating."