Metroflor’s Engage Select Plank, part of its new Engage line of locking lvt.

Loose-lay resilient flooring is evolving at a rapid pace, with fiberglass-backed products growing quickly on the residential side and more commercial manufacturers looking at floating lvt products. Manufacturers say consumers and commercial customers are drawn to the category for its ease of installation, versatility and aesthetics.

Centiva’s Victory Series (Coral Reef in Champagne and Sandcastle, along with Magics in Florentine Brass) installed near an ER check-in desk at a healthcare facility.

Fiberglass- and felt-backed flooring

Gary Finseth, Tarkett marketing dir., is seeing a range of designs striking a chord with consumers in the company’s FiberFloor line. “We’re seeing a strong push toward more wood tones and modular looks. Relative to construction, we’ve noticed a great acceptance of our Magnitude product, a 150 mil thick product.”

He added that the company’s Ambiente collection of non-traditional designs has also hit it big with consumers and designers. “That’s one of the beautiful things about fiber. People are more apt to pick something a little less traditional because they know it will be easy to change, and stay on top of the current styles and trends.”

Finseth believes the market for fiberglass-backed resilient will grow relative to felt-backed products, until the products share a 50-50 mix in the loose lay category in 2013-2014. “We see fiber continuing to grow at a very substantial rate,” Finseth noted.

Mannington Sobella, in Avignon Café.

Jim Chepalis, IVC US distribution sales dir., also sees fiberglass-backed flooring poised for long-term growth. “I do feel that fiberglass will overtake felt as the dominant player in [the] residential replacement [segment].” IVC recently unveiled Flexitec V, its newest generation of fiberglass-backed resilient flooring.

Chris Walters, IVC US retail sales dir., said people are looking for thick products with designs inspired by natural materials like wood and stone. Kaye Gosline, IVC US creative dir., added these looks evoke feelings of a simpler time for consumers. “Natural, handmade and imperfect are qualities we seek in these stressful, techno-driven times.”

According to Allen Cubell, Armstrong’s vp residential product mgmt., fiberglass-backed flooring, such as the company’s Duality collection, can offer several advantages. “Glass-backed floors offer installation flexibility. It’s easy in, easy out … Also, these floors enable consumers to express their style with no long-term commitment.”

EarthWerk’s LinkWerks AccuClic lvt tile look

However, not all manufacturers are convinced that fiberglass-backed products need to part of their lineup yet. Pat Buckley, Congoleum’s vp product mgmt., said his company is very pleased with its AirStep felt-backed resilient business and Dura line of floating floor products.

He agreed that fiberglass-backed flooring is gaining in popularity, but is comfortable with the long-term prospects of higher-end felt products. “Right now fiberglass is maybe 30 to 40 percent of the sheet category. That leaves 60 to 70 percent that is still felt. That’s a huge volume of felt, and we are happy to service that market.”

Halo Beaten Metal Tile in Pewter color.

Terry Fitzpatrick, Mannington’s installation services mgr., noted the layout for a fiberglass-backed flooring project should be kept relatively simple and not include more than one seam. He also acknowledged that some retailers are recommending to their customers that the fiberglass-backed flooring should be glued down for additional stability.

However, he said that loose-lay flooring, including Mannington’s Sobella line, will continue to grow in popularity. “One of the absolute biggest advantages of loose-lay flooring is the ease of removing it at the end of its lifecycle.”

Wonderwood Highland, from IVC US’ Flexitec V collection

LVT floors

Amy Sadler, EarthWerks national sales mgr., said that tile formats in floating lvt are coming. One of the challenges is getting the product to strongly lock on each side in a square tile format. The company is developing a 12” by 24” AccuClic tile format, which can be brick-laid to achieve a 12” by 12” tile look.

“Using a Unilin click system is a lot easier in a plank format, and it’s taking a lot of research and development to get a successful tile format,” she said.

The company offers LinkWerks floating lvt. According to Sadler, floating lvt will continue to grow in both commercial and residential applications. However, she doubts that floating lvt will ever fully eclipse entry-level glue-down flooring, because of the price point.

“I think similar to laminate, over time the price points are going to become more and more competitive. However, I don’t think floating lvt will ever achieve that glue-down price point at the entry level for residential. I think a lot of the growth will be from commercial.”

An Aged Walnut pattern from FreeFit’s Intaglio collection

Jeremy Whipple, Roppe marketing mgr., is very proud of Roppe’s new Northern Timbers floating lvt line. He said the company, primarily known for high-end rubber flooring, decided it was time to enter the floating lvt category when Roppe saw the huge number of exhibitors showing off the product at the recent Domotex show in Germany.

“Out of 100 lvt people at the show, I would say about 75 of them were showing some sort of glueless application. When you start looking internationally, you see that loose lay and click and lock products have been in the commercial market for five to 10 years overseas,” Whipple said.

This realization came at the perfect time, as Roppe was redeveloping its entire vinyl program. “It was too good of an opportunity because the market [for floating lvt] is young on the commercial side. We worked with designers and felt we had some winners as far as the looks go, and wanted to marry that with loose lay.”

He noted that aside from aesthetics, architects and designers have really responded to the versatility of the product, which can be floated over old adhesive, existing floors “and even concrete that’s a little immature. We feel that because of its problem-solving nature, it’s a great opportunity for healthcare and retail applications,” Whipple noted.

Keith Lacognata, vp sales and marketing for GTP International, which makes the FreeFit brand of floating lvt, said his company’s product offers great dimensional stability, making it suitable for commercial use.

“You can install heavy fixtures, kitchen cabinets and pool tables directly on top of the floor. We’ve seen churches that have screwed their pews right down into the floor, and the floor will remain stationary, with no buckling.”

Precise milling of the microbevel creates a joint that makes the floor water-resistant and allows for multidirectional installations, according to Lacognata.

“Since the products are milled the same way, you can incorporate adjacent tiles, planks, borders, diamonds, accents and inlays. It gives people a lot of different design options.”

FreeFit recently unveiled its Intaglio line featuring textures created from laser-engraved press plates. “It adds an extremely realistic sculpted face to the flooring, so it resembles a sculpted wood.” He said these types of strides in printing and press technologies are creating a product category offering extreme realism and three-dimensionality in texturing and depth.

Technology is also continuing to expand in other areas. Valinge introduced ZipLoc, a new locking system for thin lvt floors, at its Valinge Expo in September. Valinge said the system will allow installation of lvt of about 3 mil. With these types of advances, lvt is sure to remain a strong, innovative category in the months and years ahead.