We operate in a marketplace that changes from day to day – even from moment to moment – and it’s hard to know exactly what motivates consumers to buy, even though we’re all working very hard to figure that out.

One thing I’m fairly certain of is that modern communications and technology – in the form of the Internet, smart phones and tablet computers – are making consumers more discerning and, in many ways, more demanding. There are numerous websites and applications available that allow people to comparison-buy and evaluate products. Partially because of all this accessible information, I think there’s a growing expectation that hardwood floors should carry warranties – although some in the industry contend that warranties are misleading or gimmicky and should be banned altogether.

The reality is that while some consumers doseek out warranties, just as many make decisions based purely on aesthetics and how the floors will look in their homes. I sometimes hear dealers comment that consumers don’t even bother reading hardwood flooring warranties until there is a clear reason to do so. On the other hand, there is also a misconception that if the word “warranty” is applied, the product will be protected against any type of damage – even dents and scratches that come with normal wear and tear.

With that said, why should manufacturers consider offering a product warranty? The reason is simple: Offering warranted products gives a company a competitive edge in the marketplace. More importantly, striving to establish viable warranties spurs research and development (R&D), which leads to continual improvement for the industry as a whole.

In most cases, a warranty on a prefinished hardwood floor refers to the finish. If a customer has narrowed his/her choice to two products and one carries a 25-year warranty while the other offers a lifetime warranty, I’m confident the customer will more likely purchase the product with the longer warranty – even if the term “lifetime” isn’t clearly defined.

Standing behind the guarantee. So can a flooring manufacturer really offer a product with a finish that is strong enough to last a lifetime? The answer is “yes,” if that company has worked hard to achieve such a goal. For example, in 2010 we partnered with PPG Industries to launch CLARITAGE Extra by PPG, a finish which we apply to several of our collections. Thanks to PPG’s acumen for R&D, these solid products are not only scratch and stain resistant, but offer superior durability and gloss longevity.

Although these products may carry a higher price point than floors with a more standard warranty, we’re comfortable guaranteeing that they will last a lifetime. We’ve also invested in a range of other R&D projects as well – even offering the flooring industry’s first lifetime moisture warranty on a solid product if it’s installed using our two-part Aqua Shield system. Here again, the word “warranty” isn’t loosely applied but based on a determined and sincere effort to address a major issue that has long affected the industry. The technology took more than five years to develop, and involved working closely with researchers at a major university’s wood products department, but we achieved our goal.

The warranty was driven based on a desire to improve our products. We believe it’s incumbent upon hardwood flooring manufacturers to respond to consumers’ needs in terms of continually improving hardwood flooring products and closing consumer confidence gaps in the industry. Being able to offer a strong warranty is a valuable, ancillary benefit for consumers – one that can help bring some peace of mind to an ever-growing and changing marketplace.