Wilsonart’s Red Label Hand Scraped collection is an example of the laminate flooring segment’s trend toward hand-scraped and rustic-looking products. Available in five species of Native American hardwood, Red Label Hand Scraped flooring uses four- and five-color print paper for extreme clarity of design, and comes with a lifetime wear, fade, stain and topical moisture residential warranty.

Quick-Step Eligna Country collection
Laminate flooring continues to be a fashion-forward option as evidenced by the number of Surfaces 2005 exhibitors showcasing hand-scraped, exotic and other high-end looks. Laminate floor manufacturers reported that customers are trading up to luxury in their selections. While mainstream wood looks in laminate continue to bring in sales, imported laminates are drastically expanding the low end of the market. Higher priced, rustic- and weathered-looking floors mark a new trend in the segment demonstrating that more customers want not just durability in their laminate floors, but elegance as well.

Hand-scraped and exotic looks are in

"People are looking to sell up," says William Byrne, vp of sales & marketing for BHK of America, a company which debuted several hand-scraped floor looks at this year's Surfaces. "They (dealers) are starting to realize that the low end of the market is not going to take them very far. Laminate flooring is a viable product that's here to stay. They're recognizing that this flooring should be sold as a value-added product, and that's where the hand-scraped look comes in."

New and existing technologies in laminate production have also increased consumers' receptivity to quality laminate, says Byrne. These innovations include micro-beveled edges, registered-embossed texturing and more durable construction and finishes. Exotic looks and darker grains have also captured the high-end of the market.

Byrne adds that this trend for hand-scraped looks and darker, more exotic colors did not happen overnight. He says that the hardwood flooring segment - which is currently enjoying higher sales in exotics and hand-scraped wood - is a bellwether to what will be coming out in laminate looks.

Marguerite Deutsch, director of laminate business for Mannington Mills, echoes Byrne's statement. "If there's a big trend in wood or in home design, it follows a natural progression to laminate. The dark, rustic look is what people are looking for in hardwood, and it's what they're looking for in laminate, as well," she says. Mannington unveiled several new laminate looks this year, including darker wood looks and a hand-scraped hickory.

Claes Wennerth, president of Alloc Inc., also sees "darker colors with greater clarity and definition," and "a clear upswing to more exotic species" as trends in the laminate segment.

David Wilkerson, Shaw Hard Surfaces vp of marketing, believes these higher-end laminates can only be good for the industry. "It's important to offer logical step-up progressions that consumers can see the value of and hopefully purchase. It will just make the industry healthier," he says. "If we, as an industry, just sold commodity products at the lowest prices, that wouldn't be ideal. We want the consumer to really appreciate why they're paying more for higher-end products, to see and feel a tangible difference."

According to Tim Tipton, marketing director for Quick-Step, hand-scraped looks continue to be a boon for laminate flooring producers, but slate and stone looks are also beginning to find a niche. As such, Quick-Step launched hand-scraped plank looks, as well as a slate look with seven different depths, this year.

Wilsonart Flooring debuted a new hand-scraped, high-pressure laminate collection. According to Rob Tarver, national marketing manager for Wilsonart, the company took 18 months working on its new texture.

However, not all manufacturers are quick to embrace hand-scraped looks. Kronotex showcased 15 new hybrid and exotic decors, along with a new engineered flooring look, but no hand-scraped offerings. Says Director of U.S. Sales, Laminate Flooring Sam Green, "We didn't want to follow a ‘me-too' approach. We're not really convinced hand-scraped looks are the route to go."

Bob Weseman, Mohawk vp of Hard Surfaces has a different opinion. "We are looking at adding hand-scraped styles at the present time and see the design possibilities with laminates as endless. Our goal is to find ways to sell better quality laminate floors and raise the level of the category." New faces in laminate flooring

In a bid to capitalize on laminate flooring's increased consumer demand, several new companies have started bringing laminates to the United States and formally opened Surfaces booths at this year's show to mark the launch of their brands.

Berry Floor Group, of which Alloc Inc. is a member, launched its own brand at Surfaces this year, called Berry Floor. The brand was incorporated into the Alloc booth last year, but had its own exhibit at this year's show. Comprising laminate, parquet and carpet offerings, the new brand is positioned as offering "ranges complementary to Alloc's," says Philippe Harinck, marketing manager of Berry Floor Group.

"Alloc has been a great brand for us," Harinck says. "They have their own distributors, and their own customers. We've went through a lot of preparation to bring this brand to the U.S., and you can only make a first impression once. This year we're coming into the market full force."

Along with stone tile looks, Berry Floor has launched 12 new laminate designs in wood, including extra-long and extra-wide planks, parquet looks, extra-thick constructions and tar as a finishing agent in some SKUs.

Luxfloor introduced several hand-scraped laminate and oil finish looks at its Surfaces debut this year. Says Hans Gustav Heintel, Luxfloor president, "Distressed, rustics and wide plank designs seem to have grown the high-end of laminate sales, and will continue to do so. As long as laminate designs stay affordable to the consumer, they will sell."

Robina Inc., based in Kennesaw, Ga., debuted at Surfaces this year, introducing products to six collections, including a bevy of exotic looks with a 12 mil thickness, beveled-edge options and textured wood grain surfaces, says Matthew Burger, Robina technical/marketing manager.

A member of the Swiss Krono Group, Kronopol has established new distribution facilities in Minneapolis and Tampa to serve the United States and Canada. They showcased a laminate floor with increased sound absorption and moisture resistance capabilities.

Tarkett has launched its laminate flooring brand with multiple new classic, contemporary, specialty and exotic introductions. According to Lise LeBreton, director of laminate products for Tarkett, "Consumers are not looking to buy just any cheap product. There will always be a place in the market for commodity products - as we're seeing from an influx of laminates from Asian manufacturers - but we're also seeing a place for higher-quality products.

"From this point on, laminate is going to become more and more unique, with lots more specialty designs, overall effects and different finishes," she says. Lnft

Quick-Step launches hand-scraped plank collection

Quick-Step introduces the Eligna Country Collection, a hand-scraped plank collection with an artisan-inspired finish. Each plank has recessed edges, and offers a 9.5 mil thickness. The Eligna Country Collection comprises Scraped Oak Dark, Scraped Hickory Natural and Scraped Hickory Amber.

Kronopol Sonic Floor
Kronopol releases Sonic Floor laminate with felted rubber underpad

The Sonic Floor, from Kronopol's Perfect Floor collection integrates an underpad of felted rubber to buffer noisy footsteps and help provide increased moisture resistance. The Sonic Floor comes in 54-inch lengths and a 7.8 mil thickness.

BHK Moderna Vision in Legacy Oak
BHK rolls out hand-scraped patterns in Moderna Vision line

BHK of America introduces hand-scraped patterns to its Moderna Vision line, incorporating four-sided microbevel technology. The hand-scraped flooring is available in Jatoba and Pecan exotic colors. In addition, Atlantic Oak and Legacy Oak patterns within the line now feature the company's microbevel technology.

Mannington Revolutions with NatureForm Optix technology
Mannington brings out new laminate decors with NatureForm Optix

Mannington introduces the next generation of its Revolutions laminate line, using NatureForm Optix technology, allowing for precise matching of embossing and visual design. Planks have foiled beveled edges, for exacting pattern matching between the bevel and surface. New introductions include Louisville Hickory, a hand-scraped look; Spalted Walnut, a natural look; and South Island Burlwood, rounding out the exotics.

Luxfloor introduces Silk Oiled laminate flooring

Luxfloor premiers Silk Oiled, a laminate flooring product using exclusive Silk Oiled technology designed to give laminate an authentic oiled surface. Silk Oiled laminate is available in several decors in a 7 mil thickness.

Tarkett Laminate introduces Tropical laminate collection with textured finish

Tarkett Laminate has released its Tropical collection of exotic laminates, geared toward the design conscious consumer. The collection includes Sydney Blue, Pacific Coconut, Florida Seagrass and Japanese Seagrass decors. Tarkett Laminate's Tropical collection features a textured wood finish and comes with a 25-year warranty against wear, fading and staining.

Berry Floor Chateau
Berry Floor Group unveils Chateau laminate pattern

Berry Floor Group presents the Chateau ship-deck pattern to its Berry Floor laminate line. Chateau comprises short and long boards which are laid in the same direction and randomly alternated, a configuration designed to provide an authentic-looking floor, accentuating the visual aspect of continuous decors, Berry Floor says. Chateau laminate features WoodStructure+ Exact Wood Embossment, and the Micro WoodView micro V-groove between boards.

Faus LongStrip in Hickory
Faus launches its LongStrip technology

Faus rolls out its LongStrip laminate flooring technology. Based on Faus' existing InterPlank design technology, LongStrip combines more than two planks to complete one, long, continuous wood grain strip. Featuring the company's Self Alignment System, LongStrip allows for an automatic continuation of the pattern between planks.

Faus will also introduce its Masterpieces Collection, consisting of a wide range of wood grain and ceramic designs in various textures and colorways. The Masterpieces Collection will be marketed under Faus Floor, a brand exclusive to specialty retailers.

Mohawk Country Cottage
Country Cottage is Mohawk's latest laminate floor offering

Mohawk presents Country Cottage laminate flooring. The product is both embossed-in-register and random-embossed, with a special four-sided bevel for a realistic wood look, according to Mohawk.

Alloc Classics in Santos Mahogany
Alloc includes new exotic and rustic patterns in its Classics category

Alloc Inc. introduces six new finishes to its Classics product category. These options are designed to replicate exotic and rustic wood looks. They include Carbonized Bamboo, Santos Mahogany, Rustic Pear, Walnut Allure, Country Maple and Tavern Oak. The Tavern Oak plank also offers the fine beveling of Alloc's Microbevel planks.

Witex debuts new looks in Laura Ashley laminate line

Witex has introduced several new looks to its Laura Ashley laminate line. These additions feature a 12 mil thickness, an attached sound-reduction backing, registered-embossed texturing, an antimicrobial wearlayer and a lifetime warranty.

Exotics collection new from Robina

Robina Inc. introduces the Exotics collection, a 12 mil laminate floor inspired by rare woods from around the world. Available colors include Honduran Teak, Brazilian Walnut, New Zealand Fir, Peruvian Gingerwood, Patagonian Cherry and Caribbean Rosewood.

Pergo laminate in Riversdale Beech
Pergo updates two lines with nearly 30 decors

Pergo has updated two of its product lines with nearly 30 new decors. The additions to the Pergo Paradigm and Pergo Accolade lines feature sharp, crisp patterns, high-gloss finishes and enhanced wood looks. Pergo Paradigm will be expanded to include 17 new decors, including two slate decors and updated wood looks. Pergo Accolade will feature 12 new decors that include realistic textures and gloss finishes.

Shaw Hard Surfaces offers new laminate collections

Shaw Hard Surfaces will be debuting six 8 mil SKUs in the company's new collection of Exotics Species TouchableTexture registered embossed laminates. The Coastal Collection is a new 3-Star product offering with six colors including cherry, maple and birch. Additional introductions include eight new TouchableTexture tiles with granite, travertine and Spanish tile looks.

Kronotex unveils Engineered Flooring laminate flooring collection

Kronotex debuts its Engineered Flooring collection of laminate floors. Featuring a registered-embossed surface with micro-bevel edging on all four sides, the result is an authentic finish that looks similar to solid wood, but with a back side which displays a wood grain in an unstained décor, according to Kronotex. The Engineered Flooring collection is available in three different plank lengths.

Quality Craft debuts Urbanwood flooring with micro bevel edges

Quality Craft introduces Urbanwood, a laminate flooring product available in 8.3 and 12.3 mil thicknesses. Featuring microbeveled edges, a narrow width, random lengths and a flat finish, Urbanwood laminate flooring is rated for heavy residential and light commercial usage. It is available in nine colors.

Armstrong launches Nature's Gallery Exotics collection laminate line

Armstrong presents its latest introduction to the company's Nature's Gallery line, with the new Exotics collection. Four SKUs are available: Tiger Maple; Jatoba Select; the dark, fine-grained Iroko Tawny; and the medium-shade, fine-grained Iroko Naturale. The 5-inch planks in this collection feature a hand-scraped, distressed look, according to Armstrong, and incorporate embossing as well as microbeveled edges.