New from Metroflor is Konecto’s Mediterranean collection, a series of 16” by 32” tiles in registered embossed LVT.

When manufacturers talk about luxury vinyl tile and plank products, they focus on design. Durability and ease of maintenance are important, but they turn back to design as the product’s most important feature. As one flooring maker puts it, this view is in line with the segment’s most popular customer: the residential consumer.

Pictured is Rustic Stone, a pattern in Congoleum’s DuraCeramic Plus line. According to the company, grouted visuals are becoming more popular in LVT.

“Vinyl is unlimited from a visual perspective,” said Michael Raskin, president and CEO of Metroflor. “With a creative mind and vision, one can run circles around other categories.”

LVT is also finding success in a range of commercial jobs, including military housing, schools and other learning facilities, assisted living homes, and apartment complexes. Raskin noted that LVT offers benefits for both segments. “[It] appeals to both markets due to ease-of-maintenance, realistic looks, high performance, and most importantly, tremendous value,” he said.

The ability of LVT to realistically mimic the look of popular hardwood, stone and ceramic flooring is what makes it a relative bargain, according to manufacturers. “The best-selling designs in LVT generally are those that replicate natural materials,” explained Dennis Jarosz, Congoleum sr. vp sales and marketing. He added that recent printing technology advances are allowing for even more realistic looks than before.

“The color palette has trended deeper and richer over the past two years,” he said. “Those colorations that [feature] multiple colors are receiving the widest acceptance since they can fit in a wider variety of decors.”

Jarosz also said that manufacturers are working on enhancing the visualization technology in LVT, but the results of those efforts won’t be seen for a couple more years. However, LVT is currently gaining momentum in the marketplace through enhancements that allow it to be installed as a floating floor.

Timber Ridge, part of Mannington’s Adura LVT collection, offers a weathered rustic hickory look.

According to Erica Hubbard, Nafco’s marketing director, LVT is finding new success in two areas: groutable products and wider width wood-look planks.

“Groutable LVT is hot right now,” she noted. “We just introduced our groutable offering ... we will offer 10 colors of grout specifically designed to work with our flexible product design.”

“Floating floors and groutable LVT tiles are big areas for us and for the segment,” added Don Evans, vp sales for EarthWerks. “There is so much you can do in LVT designs. You can take our wood-look product, for example, and combine it with our groutable product.”

Evans noted the future of LVT is bright, because consumers will always be interested in design. “There are so many things you can do with the tile, design-wise,” Evans said.

Dave Thoresen, exec vp for LG Hausys Floors, said that while wood visuals make up “80 percent of the business,” stone and organic patterns are gaining ground. Along with new visuals, consumers are also starting to ask about environmentally sustainable options.

“Higher and higher recycled content options will arrive on the scene as well as alternative chemistries,” Thoresen predicted.

David Sheehan, Mannington Mills’ director of resilient and laminate business, noted manufacturers are continuing to look for ways to improve their products. “Ease of installation continues to be an area that the whole category can improve,” he said. He noted that Mannington offers a range of features in its LVT, including V2 technology, designed for extra realism, and “realistic edge treatments.” (The Tumbled Edge technology in Mannington’s Corsica LVT pattern netted the company a Best New Product nod at Surfaces 2009.)