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The Low-Down on Laminate

Today’s laminate has come a long way. Not only is it aesthetically appealing, but there are countless looks and textures to choose from. Whether you prefer the appearance of wood, stone, or tile, laminate makes any room pop for an affordable price. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about laminate flooring right here. So, if you’re considering flooring your home with laminate, you’ve come to the right place.

Laminate can be used anywhere in the home. It is extremely versatile and the perfect choice for any room. However, laminate is best in areas of your home that have a lot of traffic. Use it in hallways, entryways, or the family room. Laminate is also a great choice for flooring a basement where concrete slabs lack the level flooring needed for hardwood.

Great-looking floors are easy to maintain with laminate. They have tough exteriors that resist stains, moisture, scuffs, and scratches for years of unbeatable protection. It’s also a good choice for the kitchen because it cleans up so easily.

 

If you love entertaining, you’ll love laminate floors. They handle heavy traffic without showing wear and clean up easily after the occasional spill! Fortunately, laminate flooring is long lasting and affordable.

 

Plus, it’s easier than ever to find the style you need to set your room apart. There’s a huge range of types of laminate flooring, each with a style of its own. From the rugged beauty of slate to the natural warmth of hardwood to the clean look of ceramic tile, it’s all possible with laminate.

 

Care of laminate flooring is relatively easy. It brings the beauty of a natural wood or stone floor and the easy maintenance of a resilient floor for the style and carefree maintenance that you need. For general cleaning, use a dust mop. If heavier cleaning is needed, an occasional damp mopping with a mild cleaning product is suggested. Don’t flood your floor with water or use wax, detergent, or polish as they leave a filmy and dull residue. To eliminate particles of dirt and grit, vacuum or sweep daily. Make sure to use a vacuum with a brush.

 

If you choose to buy and install your flooring with Carpet One Floor & Home, you get advantages like the Beautiful Guarantee, where if you’re not perfectly satisfied with your flooring, they’ll replace it – free. You can also have warranties lasting up to 50 years and healthy installation to maintain the air quality in your home.

 

Keep laminate flooring in mind for the next time you want to balance the natural elegance of hardwood or stone with the versatility, durability, and affordability your lifestyle demands. With so many laminate options available, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect for your needs.

 

 

Original Post

Flooring Trends: New Year, New Floors

As we welcome a new year, we welcome new trends in home décor. Flooring, an aspect that we hold particularly close to our hearts, is no exception. Here are the flooring trends you can expect to see in 2016:

Warm Toned Grays

Gray’s popularity will remain strong in 2016, as a neutral staple in home décor. However, this year, will be begin to see grays take on some warmth with brown undertones. This creates a comforting and versatile base that coordinates with a number of different color palettes and personal styles.

Right-hand image: Via Ella Leoncio

Get this look with the following products available through Carpet One Floor & Home.

St. Lawrence by Earthscapes With beautiful designs and textures that so closely mimic hardwood and ceramic, this cushioned vinyl flooring is a long-lasting and comfortable option for your home. Get the warm toned gray look with color 501.

Lowden by Laminate for Life The beauty of this value flooring is that it’s engineered to withstand daily living while upholding the authentic look of hardwood. Go gray with this attractive, affordable option in the color Timber Wolf Oak.

White Washed

From white marble tile to white tinted hardwood styles, flooring will experience a white wash this year. Now, we know what you’re thinking… There’s no way white is feasible in my home. But don’t fret, today’s flooring, even white styles, are as stain-resistant as ever.

 

Brighten up your home with these products available through Carpet One Floor & Home.

Snowdrift by Carpet One Extremely versatile, there are endless décor possibilities with a beautifully textured white carpet as your home’s foundation. We recommend the color White Tail.

Northern White Oak by Invincible Utilizing the most advanced milling and finishing techniques, the Invincible™ Collection brings the authentic distinction of hardwood flooring to your home in a product designed to withstand years of use. Lighten up your floors with the color Ash Beige.

Basento by Bel Terra This beautiful ceramic tile, waterproof by nature, is a natural fit for your kitchen and bath. By why stop there? With its unmatched durability paired with easy care and cleaning, tile is a great option throughout the home. For your larger living spaces, simply throw on an area rug for added warmth. For a look similar to the photo above, try the color Pebble Gray.

Deep and Dark

For those who still aren’t convinced on white, you can take advantage of a different and darker trend in 2016. Black, dark chocolate and charcoal colored flooring will also be seen this year. Combine dark flooring with light elements of décor and you’ll create a striking look, yet grounded feel within your home.

 

Right-hand Image: Via Cote de Texas

Dive into dark with these products available through Carpet One Floor & Home.

Falcon Crest – Hickory by Rustic River The genuine warmth of hardwood is delivered in all its richness, through varying textures, styles and traditional colors. Get a similar look that that which appears in the right-hand image, with colors Rambler Brown or Antique Lantern.

Cordova Oak by Invincible H2O A breakthrough in flooring, Invincible H2O luxury vinyl plank flooring provides waterproof protection, outstanding durability, with a high-end handcrafted look. Create a nice contrast to your light décor elements with the color, Habben.

Chambord by Tigressa Carpet One Floor & Home’s premier all-nylon soft carpet brand, is an easy choice for any choice. To created a grounded feel, go with a charcoal color like Cadet.

Handmade & Handcrafted Elements

Inspired by traditional crafts such as weaving, knitting and carving, flooring will be taking a unique turn this year both in the products themselves and with creative installation techniques like mixed width planks.

 

Left-hand Image: Via Style Me Pretty.

Add some uniqueness to your home with these products available through Carpet One Floor & Home.

Time After Time by Evans Black This patterned carpet is sure to make a statement. Available in a variety of coordinating color combinations, you’re sure to find one (or more) that perfectly meet the design style of your home.

Hearth Stone by Rustic River This natural finish hickory flooring presents eye-catching color variation, naturally occurring knots, waves and grains. With strong piece-to-piece variation, this hardwood flooring is sure to deliver a handcrafted feel.

 

Distressed Rugs

Not looking to do a complete flooring overhaul? You can still stay on trend by accenting your current flooring with a distressed rug.

 

From Left: Rugs and décor by Surya.  Area rug by Zahara.

Original Post

Entryway Flooring

There’s no getting around tracking mother nature’s messiness into your entryway, especially this time of year. So with spring just a few days away, it’s the perfect time to talk about entryway flooring.

One thing we know for sure, is an entryway is bound to endure a lot of foot traffic, dirt, mud and moisture. For this reason, the well-used space requires a floor that is durable, easy-to-clean and naturally water-resistant. Tile, vinyl and laminate flooring are three great options for an entryway, fitting both the practicality bill and offering style. With today’s advances in technology, vinyl and laminate floors can mimic the look and even feel of natural hardwood, ceramic or stone. Throw tile in the mix, and you have an expansive and varied selection of entryway flooring guaranteed to fit nearly any design style.

Pulling inspiration from two beautiful entryway interiors, we’ve produced flooring palettes that each include a tile, vinyl and laminate option. Continue reading for specifics on the products we’ve featured, as well as general information on the three flooring types. We have a feeling you’ll be learning something new!

Interiors By: Sims Hilditch;Studio McGee

FEATURED PRODUCTS – Are available through Carpet One Floor & Home.

TILE: Franciscan Slate Tile by Bel Terra in Coastal Azul & Continental Slate Floor Field Tile by Bel Terra in Asian Black

VINYL: Earthscapes Platinum Dahlia Vinyl in Color 997 & Vance Coburg Vinyl in Bobcat Tan

LAMINATE: Elkins Hall by Laminate For Life in Antique Brown & Tanglewood by Laminate For Life in Iron Gate

LEARN MORE –  Visit Carpet One Floor & Home’s, Flooring Simplified, your guide to tile, vinyl and laminate flooring.

Original Article

Art Inspires Home Decor

Beautiful artwork has long been an inspiration in creating striking interiors. From the subject matter to the myriad of color combinations, art can be the perfect inspirational element to get the creative process underway. In this post I share three color and design boards inspired by three of my favorite paintings that illustrate how art can influence home design.

Modern Romance

The muted pastels, smoldering grays and ethereal whites of Sir Henry Raeburn’s famed portraiture “Miss Eleanor Urquhart” along with  Raeburn’s masterful ability to capture the soft, feminine beauty of the subject convey a timeless romantic aesthetic. These features inspired the “Modern Romance” color and design scheme.

 

Painted River Cloud Pillow from Dransfield & Ross, Handpainted Charcoal and Indigo Pillow Cover from Delinda Boutique , ‘Curious’ Grey and Yellow Abstract Art Pillow from Zazzle, Eudora Chandelier from Currey & Company, Markham Sofa in Slate Gray from Home Decorators, Booneville Brushed Hardwood from Carpet One Floor & Home, Larkhall Granite Rectangle Rug from Karastan.

Palazzo Posh

Sir Peter Paul Rubens captured the splendor and opulence of aristocratic Italian life during the Renaissance in his renowned portrait of Marchesa Brigida Spinola Doria. The “Palazzo Posh” color and décor scheme was inspired by the shimmering silver, gold and bronze hues of the Marchesa’s gown and the sumptuous velvet ruby red, black onyx and rich mahogany of the interior décor.

 

Copper Decorative Pillow from John Robshaw, Zebra Pillow from Surya, Lana Wall Sconce from Currey & Company, Hand Embroidered Brocade Pillow Cover from Banarsi Designs, Copper Decorative Pillow from John Robshaw, Griffin Charcoal Sofa from Urban Home, Hawthorne Ottoman from Bernhardt, Bravado Mahir Rectangle Rug from Karastan, Chandler Point Hardwood from Carpet One Floor & Home.

Farm Chic

Intense earth-inspired colors express the idyllic, romanticized farm life that Winslow Homer captured in his painting “The Dinner Horn”. The rustic, autumnal colors, and verdant meadow punctuated by the horn-blowers aqua tinged white dress billowing in the wind inspired the color scheme used in the “Farm Chic” décor scheme.

 

Graphic Field Pillow from Dransfield & Ross, Primal Decorative Pillow from Surya, Lacefield Bombay Mist Throw Pillow from Layla Grayce, Finial Pendant in Gold from Barbara Cosgrove, Marseilles Hardwood from Carpet One Floor & Home, Garland Chair from Wesley Hall, Pescadero Teal Rectangle Rug from Karastan.

Contributed By: Carmen Maria Natschke

Original Article

Bathroom Design : Focus On Flooring

Inspired by the design of serene spas and luxury hotels, the bathroom has beautifully evolved from a purely functional space into a relaxing in-home sanctuary. From the ceiling to the floor, every interior detail combines to create an unforgettable experience. If you’re ready to design the bathroom of your dreams, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in the exquisite work of four top interior designers who’ve created stunning bathrooms (with striking floors) in a range of styles from traditional to contemporary.

Kandrac & Kole Interiors

The Atlanta-based designing duo of Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole design distinctive interiors like this transitional bath that effortlessly melds contemporary decorative elements with traditional features. Creating a sense of organic luxury starting from the floor up with a sublime, gray-toned basket weave patterned tile.

 

Transitional Bathroom Design via Kandrac & Kole Interior Designs

Feia Construction

Susie Feia of Feia Construction, an award-winning design and build firm, created a warm and welcoming bathroom retreat anchored by neutral-hued tiles on the bathtub surround and on the floor. This space has the feel of a Tuscan country villa with these rustic, earth-toned tiles.

 

Traditional Bathroom Design via Feia Construction

Pulp Design Studios

Posh, luxurious contemporary interiors filled with character and comfort are the hallmark of Carolina V. Gentry and Beth Dotolo, the designing divas behind Pulp Design Studios. This ultra-luxe bath with floor to ceiling stone tiles evokes a timeless sentiment and conveys the meditative tranquility one finds in the best spas.

 

Contemporary, European-Style Bathroom via Pulp Design Studios. Photo via Stephen Karlisch.

Patti Johnson Interiors

Cincinnati interior designer Patti Johnson – principal of her eponymous design firm Patti Johnson Interiors – brings the beautiful look of field stone into the bathroom space. This neutral-toned haven feels grounded and expresses a peaceful allure.

 

Earthy Bathroom Space via Patti Johnson Interiors

Original Article

Contributed By: Carmen M. Natschke

16 Wood Flooring Trends to Watch in 2017

Don’t make the outdated choice when you update your floors – use these 2017 wood flooring trends to choose something durable and stylish that will stay in style the lifetime of your floor.

Can you believe it’s already almost 2017?! It seems like just yesterday we were chatting about the 2016 flooring trends.

Well, it is (almost) a new year and we have some new styles. Many things have stayed the same, but we’ve got some fresh, new wood flooring trends heading your way that you may not have seen out in the world just yet.

Wood flooring is a classic choice and, even with the influx of wood-look flooring options, there will always be a market for wood flooring.

That doesn’t mean it has to be boring or the same old, same old! Wood flooring trends are still constantly developing, offering a new and stylish twist on an old classic.

Other flooring trends –> 2016 Flooring Trends: Wood, Vinyl & More, 2017 Tile Flooring Trends, 2017 Vinyl Flooring Trends, 2017 Laminate Flooring Trends, 2017 Carpet Trends

What Other Experts Are Saying

When it comes to trends and style, we want to make sure you’re getting a well-rounded opinion. Here’s a look at what other industry experts are anticipating in 2017:

“For 2017, we don’t see any slowdown of the current preferences for wide plank in gray tones with extremely low-sheen finishes.” – Kim Wahlgren, Hardwood Floors Mag, Editor

“I anticipate an increase in the demand for affordable, local, sustainable flooring products. Local wood reclamation, whether that wood is being salvaged from old barns or rescued from underneath old and outdated carpeting, is going to be popular across the country. I also imagine we will see an increase in popularity of lighter wood flooring, even softer wood like pine and cork, and lighter stains on wood flooring, as lighter color floors pair well with trendy bright and bold paint and wallpaper colors.” – Cindy Weinstock, The Flooring Lady

“For 2017 we’re seeing a continued desire for wider and longer hardwood planks, and also a more informal layout using different width planks.  Wider planks have the advantage of creating a more unified look – with fewer joint lines – which also highlights the inherent aesthetic of the wood, that is to say the knots and grain.
Because texture is going to be important this year, we are expecting to see increased popularity for hardwoods that have distinct hand-crafted finishes, such as hand scrapped and wire-brushed finishes.
Whilst gray tones are still going to be hugely popular, we might also see a growing return back to more natural and dark wood tones.  And one key trend that is certain to hit consumers in 2017 is herringbone and chevron parquet designs which are being heavily featured on trend-setting home décor and renovation shows and websites this year.” – Jamie, Home Flooring Pros

2017 Wood Flooring Color Trends

Typical, predictable and neutral wood flooring is out this year. Instead, homeowners are looking for bold looks that make their home stand out above the rest.

Expect to see colors at each end of the spectrum with much less of the traditional wood coloring.

Dark Stained Wood Floors

Talk about making a statement! These dark stained wood floors are (often) contrasting bright whites, particularly with the huge white cabinet trend going on right now.

While these dark floors are beautiful, they can tend to make your room look small and show dirt/dust more easily.

Will they stick around for the long haul?

Eh, I’m not so sure.  The more “extreme” color trends tend to come and go on their own cycle. However, you can certainly expect to see espresso brown, almost black floors throughout 2017 and probably for a solid 5 years beyond.

Blonde Wood Floors

 

Extremes. Super dark and super light, and not much in between.

Light, blonde wood, often found in bamboo flooring, is gaining steam. Light colors make your space look bigger, brighter and more open. They also hide the fact that you haven’t cleaned your floor in 2 weeks a whole lot better than their darker counterpart.

I have to admit, I used to turn my nose up at these lighter varieties. I was a total dark wood gal, but recently, I’ve seen the light. <– see what I did there?

In all seriousness, seeing the new gorgeous blonde woods coming onto the market has completely changed my mind. You’ll see how the lighter flooring brightens up the entire space. It’s even better with natural light!

If you ask me, this new, unique wood look will become a trend-turned-classic before you’re even thinking about switching it up to something new.

Gray Wood Floors

Yes, still.

A few years ago I might have claimed that this was a fad; a trend that would soon be on its way out. However, these gray floors are still going strong, and we don’t expect that to change anytime in the next decade.

I know, I know., I told just you 2017 is all about extremes and gray is anything but. Gray is the exception. Gray is special.

This neutral, calming color has been picking up steam for years and is quickly becoming a staple in the modern household.

Gray appears to be here for the long haul, and it is even accompanied by trendy new gray cabinets and other decor. In fact, in my home, the baseboards and interior doors are all gray and we are constantly getting compliments on our color choice.

I say, if you like it, go for it – it’s not going anywhere soon! In fact, gray will probably stay in style at least until it’s time for you to purchase new floors anyway.

Related post –> 2017 Tile Flooring Trends

2017 Wood Flooring Texture Trends

There are so many factors that make up the look of a gorgeous wood floor. Color is often the first thing people think of, but texture can make even more of a statement. Both good and bad.

You’ll notice that, in 2017, flooring is all about texture. In fact, companies are going through so much trouble to add texture to smoother surfaces to give homeowners the rustic, earthy feel that is so in right now.

There are many options when it comes to flooring texture – all those scrapes and marks are not always the same. Here’s an idea of what to look for.

Hand Scraped Wood Floors

Rustic, natural and unique hand scraped hardwood floors are making a statement in a big way!

Hand scraping makes each plank appear to be handcrafted and one of a kind. Long, ingrained scrapes show in the finish, leaving the floor looking finished, classic and rare. This is quite the process, and the sticker price shows!

This unique, individual, handcrafted look will absolutely stand the test of time. It looks expensive, and people love expensive.

**Note: Be careful purchasing hand scraped wood floors. Many companies will call their floors hand scraped, but they really use a machine making each plank look similar and more uniform. It is less expensive for them, but it does not offer the same effect.

Wire Brushed Wood Floors

Often mistaken with hand scraped wood, wire brushing gives floors an aged, distressed look. These intentional scratches not only give the wood a unique style but also hide new scratches, dirt and dust, making them a popular choice for families and homeowners with pets.

Remember when those distressed, holey, ripped jeans were the thing? Like, actually spending extra money to have someone damage your jeans?

It’s like that trend, but for wood flooring. And actually cool.

I mean, it’s the same idea – you are literally paying extra to achieve that distinct rustic look. But, it looks beautiful. And (often times) it’s worth it.

How will this trend survive? I believe there will always be a market for this type of flooring. However, it will likely only be a hot and trendy choice for the next 5-7 years.

Related post –> Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood: What’s the difference?

2017 Wood Floor Finishing Trends

 

Gone are the days of ultra glossy finishes. Homeowners are now choosing understated, flat finishes with less shine.

Just like photos, glossy is just that – glossy; reflecting light, shiny, lustrous and practically unignorable. Matte finish is that flat finish that your fingers don’t stick to. It can look dull, but it looks much more natural and is often a stylistic choice for both flooring and photos.

Satin Finished Wood Floors

A perfect compromise in between glossy and matte, satin finishes are (typically) about 40% lustrous (i.e., shiny). As the trends change and homeowners are beginning to prefer less polished flooring, satin is not such a drastic step. It’s a practical step back and was the most popular flooring finish in 2016.

The great thing about this middle-of-the-road option is you can be (almost) certain that this finish will never go out of style. I believe trends will go more and more towards matte finishes as the years go on, but eventually, that trend will change and we will be moving back towards the glossier looks.

This means satin finishes will stay current through all of that, making them the safest choice for the longest life of your floor.

Matte Finished Wood Floors

Previously thought of as dull and boring, matte finished wood floors are stepping into the spotlight. While people are still leaning towards satin finishes, this trend is in the very early stages and hasn’t yet reached its prime.

Personally, I am all about the matte look. Just a personal preference, but I do not like my floors shiny. Unless it’s bathroom tile.

While I don’t predict matte finish will be the thing forever, it will likely continue to grow in popularity over the next 5-10 years.

2017 Wood Floor Layout & Pattern Trends

People are getting ultra creative when it comes to the layout of their floor. Patterns, angles, you name it. Of course, not all patterns are created equal.

There are plenty of dated pattern looks or patterns that only work in specific situations. However, there are plenty of hot looks going on right now that anyone can rock with the right modern decor.

Let’s look at what’s hot right now.

Herringbone Wood Floors

We’re not talking the 1970s short plank parquet flooring. New, trendy herringbone flooring layouts typically use longer planks and add interest and depth to the eye.

This trend isn’t likely to last forever, but it sure looks pretty while it’s here.

Diagonal / Angled Wood Floors

My favorite. Homeowners are changing things up by laying their wood flooring at an angle rather than straight on. This gives your floor (and home) a unique, modern and expensive look.

It does cost more in materials (and often installation), but the outcome is dreamy, yet still uncommon enough to maintain its luster.

Can it still be a trend if it’s uncommon? I think so.

Yes, expect to see these angled wood floors every once in awhile for decades to come. The rareness, in my opinion, means this trend won’t quickly grow old like others – I expect it to have a longer shelf life.

Wide Plank Wood Floors

 

It’s no secret that larger planks make your room look bigger. These large planks look modern, elegant and expensive in any room in the home.

Are you thinking about jumping on board? Well, you should!

Manufacturers are only trending towards even wider and longer planks. This trend will soon become a classic staple and will likely last the test of time.

Mixed Width Wood Floors

**Note: The above photos are vinyl and tile, not wood. They are there as a reference to give you an idea of the mixed width look.

Our eyes love detail and the unexpected. That is why it is no surprise that mixed width wood floors are in demand.

Mixed width hardwood floors (unsurprisingly) combine multiple width planks to make the flooring pop. This can be done in a pattern or randomly for more variety.

As far as longevity, we predict this trend will be around for a while, but it is unlikely that it will become a flooring staple.

2017 Trending Wood Flooring Types

You have so many options these days when it comes to wood flooring. Traditional, “new” wood flooring is out, and some new characters have joined the party.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re steering away from the sleek and shiny and trending towards warm, inviting looks with plenty of character. These types of wood flooring are less Hollywood glamor and more your grandmother’s home cooking if you get what I mean.

Reclaimed Wood

Unique, durable and green, with each plank telling a story, it’s no wonder reclaimed wood has taken off so quickly.

Reclaimed wood simply means taking old building materials and re-using them. Essentially, recycling. We all want something different that doesn’t look just like our neighbor’s house and reclaimed wood offers just that unique look.

As reclaimed wood gains popularity, it becomes increasingly more rare and difficult to find, only making it that much more popular. My guess is that this will be a trend that sticks around for a decade or so until something different comes along.

Want to learn more about reclaimed wood? We love this post from Bob Vila.

Bamboo

Bamboo has been working its way into homes for years, and it’s not going anywhere.

One of the strongest floors on the market with unique looks and colors including the aforementioned blonde wood look, bamboo continues to be a staple for homeowners looking for something a little different in their home.

There is no other flooring option that can quite replicate the natural, organic look of bamboo. Although it can be temperamental to weather, it will surely be a conversation starter in your home – something guests look at and say “where did you get that?!”. And that’s why it’s here for the long haul.

Related post –> Vertical vs. Horizontal Bamboo Flooring

Cork

 

Eco-friendly, joint-friendly and resilient with a totally unique look, cork has been trending for years and, in 2017, we only expect to see more of it on the market and in the home.

That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, cork is one of the oldest flooring options on the market. Its current surge in popularity likely explains why you may be hearing about it for the first time.

People are becoming increasingly interested in eco-friendly flooring, making both cork and bamboo flooring take off. These environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional hardwood will be around for years to come.

Related post –> Get Creative with Cork Flooring

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is the closest thing you can get to natural, solid hardwood. You know, other than actual solid hardwood. It has a thin hardwood veneer layer on top of plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF).

Families and pet owners are leaning towards engineered wood flooring because it’s less finicky than traditional solid hardwood. Engineered wood is easier to maintain and can hold up to kids and pets.

Just like laminate and other solid hardwood alternatives continue to thrive, engineered wood flooring is no different! Expect to see engineered wood in homes for decades to come.

American Grown / American Made

 

Without getting too political here, American Made is a hot and controversial topic right now. The desire for homegrown and American manufactured products extends beyond traditional items to flooring and home decor.

In fact, some homeowners will pay top dollar for that title. My brother is one of them. He searched high and low until he found a flooring that was wholly manufactured in the United States. And he’s not alone.

Political trends do not disappear the way style trends do, and you can bet that the people who believe strongly in this movement will not be changing their minds anytime soon. We predict that the demand for American Made (and grown) flooring will only increase with time.

Original Article

Getting the Underlayment Right for Successful Installations

With multiple floor covering types on the market, a one-size-fits-all underlayment system is just not possible. From carpet to tile, laminate to stone and hardwood to ceramic, each floor covering and installation has its own underlayment specifications and needs, and knowing exactly what those are can determine whether an installation is a success or failure.

A Solid Foundation

“Underlayments can be viewed in the same way as foundations are viewed in a building—they are never seen, but they play an essential role in the performance of the floorcovering they support and they must last for the life of the building/floor,” said Duonne Erasmus, director of InstaFloor NA. “Always install the best-performing underlayment possible (do not skimp on the foundation). It’s all about functionality, durability and performance.”

According to Steve Taylor, director of technical and architectural marketing for Custom Building Products, there is not one overarching solution when looking for an effective floor underlayment. “With so many floor covering types and so many membrane and underlayment options, it’s critical that the installer understands the challenges of the project, the requirements of the floor covering product and the expectations of the design professional and end user.”

Before selecting an underlayment, installers and contractors must first prep the surface and start with a proper foundation, and when it comes to flooring, that foundation is the substrate.

“Surface prep, surface prep, surface prep—I cannot overemphasize how important proper surface prep is to the successful installation of the entire flooring system,” said Christopher Brana, product manager, Laticrete.

According to Taylor, when evaluating the substrate, questions that should be asked at the jobsite include: “Is the substrate flat? Does it require waterproofing? Is weight a consideration? Is sound reduction a goal? Does it require a fast return to service? Is a heavy-duty service rating required? Are there cracks in the subfloor and is crack isolation a consideration when installing ceramic tile?”

Based on the answers to these and any other questions contractors and installers may ask regarding the substrate, the type of underlayment that’s best for the job can then be determined.

According to Seth Pevarnik, director of technical service for Ardex, installers and contractors should base whether they’re going to use a trowel-grade or a self-leveling underlayment on what the substrate actually needs. “You’re looking at what the substrate is and what is needed to make that substrate smooth for finished flooring,” he said.

Another reason to consider the substrate first is not all substrates can accept all underlayment and not all flooring is compatible with all underlayment products. With this in mind, narrowing down the specific type of self-leveling or trowel-grade underlayment is the next important step to creating a proper foundation for a successful flooring installation.

“Once you decide whether you need a self-leveling or a trowel grade, there are different levels of each of those materials,” explained Pevarnik. “You may have self-leveling that can go over any substrate, go up to any thickness and you can put floor covering on it in 16 hours. You’re going to pay a premium price for that self-leveling because it can do pretty much anything—but you may not need all those bells and whistles. At that point, the contractor will fine-tune what type of self-leveling they need and go to a scaled-down technology [that fits the project] and spend a little less money.”

Jeff Johnson, MAPEI’s business manager for floor covering installation systems, noted, “There are no specific requirements for which type of self-leveler a contractor should use with different types of flooring. The real drivers are the amount of money available to do the project, how quickly the job needs to be completed, whether structural issues are in play and how much traffic will pass over the floor. Price, speed, density and compression strength are the four attributes that drive leveler prices.”

Additionally, when selecting an underlayment, it is important that the underlayment is not only compatible with the substrate but with the floor covering material and the environment where it is being placed.

“Contractors should consider the needs of the finished space and ultimate use,” said Rich Willett, USG’s director, tile and flooring substrates and specialties division. “For example, if the area is susceptible to moisture both the finished flooring and underlayment should be able to withstand it, such as ceramic tile and cement board.”

Avoiding Errors

Failure to properly prepare the substrate or selecting the wrong underlayment can lead to disastrous consequences. “Selecting the wrong underlayment for the project can lead to lippage, cracks, efflorescence and water intrusion issues in the ceramic or natural stone tile assembly,” said Taylor.

He added, “Without the proper preparation of a substrate through the use of the right membrane or underlayment, floor covering products such as tile and natural stone are subject to increasing opportunities for stress and ultimately failure. The proper underlayment makes a significant difference in the aesthetic appearance and longevity of the floor covering material.”

Johnson echoed those sentiments. “When it comes to self-leveling underlayments, proper subfloor preparation is essential. Contractors need to make sure the substrate is clean and meets the required surface profile for the product. The substrate must be primed in virtually all cases before a self-leveling underlayment is applied. The SLU must be mixed properly and applied within the parameters of the product’s technical data sheet (i.e., proper powder-to-water ratio, proper mixing temperature and proper mixing time).”

User error often plays a large role in the improper installation of underlayment products, according to manufacturers. However, by simply following instructions, not cutting corners, using recommended tools, consulting the manufacturer of the system when needed, and undergoing essential education and training, contractors and installers can potentially avoid these issues.

“Follow the instructions,” said Brian Petit, vice president of operations for NAC Products. “Too often, time requirements trump installation instructions. Time is money and shortcuts can save time and money upfront; however, shortcuts can be very costly down the road if the installation fails and it is determined the instructions were not followed properly.”

Jack Boesch of MP Global Products shared an example. Although some underlayments install with the vapor barrier side down, MP Global Products’ QuietWalk underlayment for floating laminate and wood floors is designed to install vapor barrier side up to be most effective with the company’s built-in Moisture Management System.

Further, Brana suggests contractors and installers always work with well-established underlayment companies who provide contractor training, offer reliable and knowledgeable technical support (onsite, online and by phone) and can demonstrate proven results with their products. “Build relationships with sales and technical representatives that can assist with onsite needs and demonstrations. Also, continue ongoing education and training to keep up with the latest trends, techniques and developments in underlayments.”

Pevarnik echoed those sentiments. “Taking advantage of manufacturer training would be a big tip of mine. We’ve been big on training for 40 years, so that everyone knows how to use the products and be successful.”

The Latest Underlayment Systems

Contractors and installers’ demands for products that boast improved performance and benefits have led to the evolution of underlayment systems.

“Contractors and installers demand products that meet their requirements, such as workability, flowability, adhesion, coverage, cure time, ease of use and installation, longevity and warranty, time and cost savings, and overall performance,” said Brana. “There are varieties of underlayment products in a very competitive market that address key features and benefits for contractors and installers to choose and purchase to address their needs. It is important for underlayment product manufacturers to keep up with contractor or installer needs and requirements as part of their product development and improvements.”

According to Johnson, “MAPEI has four new products that address special needs for self-leveling underlayments. Novoplan SP (standard performance) is an economical solution, Ultraplan QuickTraffic is the speed-set solution, Ultraplan Lite addresses the density issues and Ultraplan LSC is a different way of doing skim coating, providing greater compression strength than traditional skim coating. (Visit www.mapei.com to view details about these products.)”

  1. Alex Keene, product manager for Dependable, added, “Underlayment technology largely evolved due to our greater understanding of flooring failures.”

Products available in the underlayment market include USG’s lightweight foam panels that can offer water resistance and exceptional tile bond while shortening installation time, along with the company’s cement boards, fiber-reinforced panels and cement coated glass-mat panels, according to Willett.

To lessen the possibility of user-error that can occur when contractors and installers have to mix products themselves—and potentially alter their chemistry—manufacturers are also creating more ready-to-use kits.

“We have a self-leveling product that features a latex additive, so you’re not mixing in any water,” said Pevarnik. “It’s a gallon of latex and one bag of material. It’s increasing that forgiveness factor because the contractor doesn’t have to measure water.”

For MP Global Products, a push for stainability has led to the evolution of its underlayment portfolio, Boesch stated. “Our most popular underlayments are manufactured primarily with recycled content, and are also certified by a third party as Indoor Advantage Gold, meaning they are a contributor to clean air with no off-gassing or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This is huge with so many allergies that are often attributed to building materials in your home.”

Original Article

Flooring Material Matters – New ideas for kitchen flooring design

Kitchen design has experienced a gradual metamorphosis over the last few years. It has transitioned from a space filled with dark, heavy cabinetry with more traditional styling to a light, airy space dressed in a range of whites and accented with pops of color. The kitchen has become a room that embraces a luxe, modern design aesthetic with hints of Mid-Century Modern – it’s full of beautiful style without sacrificing its hardworking functionality. And nowhere in the kitchen space is there a harder working design feature than the one underfoot.

Flooring is a critical surface to be considered in the kitchen design project, so we reached out to three top interior designers to get their advice on kitchen flooring.

FLOORING MATERIAL MATTERS

With so many flooring materials available: ceramic, stone, wood, laminate and more, it can feel overwhelming trying to determine which material will be the best fit for your home and lifestyle. We asked the design experts and it seems they are unanimous on their favorite flooring material.

Renowned for her sophisticated, luxe designs, interior designer Meredith Heron shares that she prefers, “…wood [flooring] in kitchens. It’s more forgiving than stone or tile. I’m a wee bit of a klutz and things that drop on wood floors are more likely to bounce than shatter. I’ve tested it myself and tell clients the same. It’s more comfortable to stand on as well and you’re less likely to notice spills and such which is great if I’m cooking.”

Warm, richly colored wood floors create divine contrast with the beautiful white cabinetry in this luxury kitchen design by Meredith Heron of Meredith Heron Designs.

Designer, Jeffrey Johnson – principal at Jeffrey Design, LLC, a Texas-based design firm – explains, “Hardwood floors are timeless in design, easy to take care of, safe for all ages and pets, and require less maintenance and that’s why I love them in the kitchen.”

Jeffrey’s mastery of space and color are in display in this contemporary high-end kitchen he designed. The dark floor anchors the room and lends a warmth to the overall aesthetic.

Award-winning designer, Cheryl Clendenon of In Detail Interiors expresses her feelings for her favorite flooring material, “I love hardwoods, aged woods.” And her preference for the look of wood transcends material. She is also very fond of ceramic tiles that look like wood because they are “very hardy and look great.”

FITTING YOUR KITCHEN FLOORING TO YOUR LIFESTYLE

Cheryl believes that flooring “sets the tone for the entire project.” She likes to “build a project colorway from the ground up.” Her firm takes into account each client’s lifestyle and then provides them with the best flooring options. One of those considerations is the home’s location. In Florida and coastal regions Cheryl’s projects have made use of tile and “wood-look” tile instead of wood because of concerns “for potential flooding” that can occur from storms and hurricanes which may lead to damage of porous materials like wood.

Cheryl’s design firm, In Detail Interiors, used tile with the look of wood in this attention-grabbing kitchen design that was recognized as the winner of the 2016 National Kitchen and Bath Association in the budget kitchen design category.

When designing the kitchen and considering materials including flooring, Jeffrey recommends studying the behavior that occurs in that space. For instance, when he is planning a kitchen design project for a client he “extensively covers their daily routine lifestyle around the kitchen.”

Asking questions such as:

  • How much cooking do they do themselves?
  • Do they do light or heavy entertaining in the space?
  • Are pets a consideration?
  • Where is the kitchen located relative to the other rooms?
  • Is the kitchen in the center, front, or back of the home?
  • Are the flooring requirements for the look of the material or for level of maintenance associated with the material?

These questions may be helpful to you as you explore your kitchen design or to present to your designer to augment what they are already studying for your specific design project.

 

Both Meredith and Jeffrey agree that it is important to consider maintaining visual flow with the flooring material for rooms that share thresholds with the kitchen. “I like the transitions to be seamless and the site lines continuous. If you break up flooring from room to room the home feels choppy and broken up,” states Meredith.

Jeffrey recommends that his clients “incorporate consistent flooring throughout other adjacent rooms to the kitchen.” Keeping the flooring materials consistent from rooms that flow into the kitchen will, “minimize the chopped up look” that can occur when “too many floor elements” are in play. He adds that by keeping the flooring the same, it, “maximizes the perception of the size of the space.”

By Carmen Maria Natschke

Bio-Based Flooring Alternatives: From linoleum to cork and bamboo

Cork, bamboo and linoleum are recognized mainly for their compelling green stories—all made mostly of natural, rapidly renewable resources—but unfortunately, green stories do not generate sales. Less recognized but even more compelling are the unique performance attributes that further differentiate them from their competitors. Sales in recent years, however, do not reflect the distinct benefits these products bring to the market. The shared hurdle in the battle for marketshare is a surprising one: each suffers from perception issues.

Despite the longevity of these green flooring options in the U.S., ranging from bamboo’s 25 years to cork and linoleum’s 100 years or more, surveys show that consumers, for the most part, are unaware of the benefits—and in some cases even the existence—of these specialty products. Myths stemming from substandard commodity goods, improper installation techniques and consumer confusion have unfairly hurt the categories as well. For all three flooring types, suppliers agree that education in the marketplace provides the clearest path to growth.

CORK, THE SOFTEST HARD SURFACE
Cork flooring has been around for more than a century, and the U.S. supply is wholly imported, mainly from Portugal and Spain, where cork oak trees grow in abundance. The world’s largest consumer of cork flooring per capita is Germany, where it’s considered a traditional flooring material. The European cork flooring market in general is much stronger than in the U.S., partially due to proximity to the raw material. Also, Europeans tend to be more ecologically minded, often searching out greener alternatives.

Prior to the plastics era, cork flooring was mainly popular in U.S. kitchens and playrooms, preferred for its comfort underfoot. In the institutional sector it was often specified for libraries and museums, where it was prized for its acoustical properties.

No-wax sheet vinyl and wall-to-wall carpet became popular mid century, especially in the U.S., and cork flooring, which required regular waxing, fell out of favor in the residential market. Today’s cork flooring offers the option of a polyurethane coating, greatly minimizing maintenance, and it can once again be found in both residential and commercial settings.

With the addition of polyurethane, cork made its biggest strides in the U.S. market before the Great Recession, reaching a high of $32.3 million in 2008, according to Market Insights. “Those were the heydays of cork flooring because everybody was talking about the eco movement at the time,” the COO of US Floors, Philippe Erramuzpe, recalls. “And consumers were reluctantly willing to pay a small premium for greener products.”

An $8 million dollar drop for the category the following year prompted the Portuguese Cork Association to lead a coordinated marketing blitz that helped mitigate the effects of the recession, but sales have continued to gradually slide, with significant drops for the past two years. Adding to the category’s difficulties, the new darling of resilient, LVT, has become a fierce competitor that continues to gain ground, used for many of the same applications as cork.

Cork, however, offers many benefits to end users. With 200 million closed air pockets per cubic inch, cork is often chosen for its ability to absorb sound. It is especially suitable in multi-story homes and in multi-family buildings or commercial settings where noise or sound transference is a concern.

Its air pockets also lend a natural elasticity and resilience to the product. “Kitchens traditionally have been the most popular places for cork,” explains Ann Wicander, president of WE Cork. “You’re literally walking on air when you walk on a cork floor, giving you comfort underfoot. And when you’re in a kitchen, you’re going to be standing most of the time.”

The trapped air also gives cork thermal insulating properties, making it a good choice for basements, bedrooms and anywhere else cold floors pose a problem. In fact, the thermal properties are so strong, cork is also used as wall insulation.

All three attributes—acoustical, resilient and thermal—have made cork a common choice for flooring underlayments as well. Produced with a special binder to better withstand moisture, cork underlayments can be installed under hardwood and other resilients. It can even be utilized under ceramic tile to mitigate cracking. Cork underlayment is also a third lighter than rubber, important in installations where weight is an issue.

As if all these benefits were not enough, cork contains a substance called suberin, a waxy cell coating that acts as a natural insect repellent. It is also a natural fire inhibitor and is naturally antimicrobial. Much like a hardwood floor, a cork floor can be stained and refinished, and if maintained properly, can last a lifetime.

Among all these benefits lurk a few drawbacks to cork. The polyurethane finish is similar to that for hardwood, so it can be scratched and gouged. Also cork is sensitive to moisture, performing best in spaces where the humidity is controlled. Light affects cork, too, fading the color in direct sunlight. And like most resilients, cork is prone to indentation from heavy loads.

In addition to these legitimate issues, instances have occurred when cork with improper binders and too low density ratings has been used as an underlayment and ultimately failed. The competition capitalized, damaging cork’s reputation.

U.S. suppliers have worked to combat cork’s market objections through product positioning and innovation. To help the category compete with modular flooring programs, manufacturers created engineered cork planks with click systems for floating floors. An HDF core is sandwiched between two layers of cork, and the top layer provides the cork visual along with the comfort under foot, while the bottom layer helps absorb sound and minimizes the effects from subfloor imperfections.

More recently, digital printing has been adopted in cork production. Previously, cork visuals were limited, but with digital printing, just like ceramic tile, cork can now take on the appearance of any other material while preserving all of its inherent benefits.

Wicander reports that printed cork has found new favor with designers who value customization. They can utilize the new technology to create one-of-a-kind floors for their clients in areas where ceramic tile might not be appropriate. Printed cork is especially well suited to retail and other commercial spaces where branding is an important design element. In addition to infinite visual options, printed cork will not fade in direct sunlight, eliminating yet another objection to cork.

New coatings for cork flooring have been developed as well. WE Cork, for example, now promotes a finish on its printed line that has an abrasion rating of AC5, outperforming most LVT products, which typically rate at AC3 or AC4. “If you combine that wearlayer with cork’s performance benefits and the green story, it’s a very attractive package,” says Wicander. And, she points out, the cost is only slightly higher than commercial LVT.

The new wearlayer, coupled with the digital printing, has opened up new business for cork in the commercial market, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors. “It becomes a serious contender for commercial applications, especially if the designers need LEED points,” Wicander says.

On the residential front, US Floors is positioning its cork as an alternative to hardwood or carpet for bedroom floors. Consumers are moving to hard surfaces throughout the house, but bedrooms have remained carpet holdouts, since many people prefer the warmth and comfort underfoot that carpet provides.

Erramuzpe says that cork floors can give consumers the ease of maintenance and style of a hard surface with the warmth and softness of cork. “It makes sense for the bedroom,” he explains. “Cork is a soft resilient that is warm to the touch as well. It has acoustic insulating capacity, which is important since bedrooms are generally upstairs.”

With so many of its weaknesses addressed, cork’s final hurdle lies in raising awareness. “The mainstream residential customer still doesn’t know that cork is a flooring product, not just something you pull out of your wine bottle,” says Wicander.

Wicander and Erramuzpe view education as the main mission both for their individual companies and the cork industry as a whole. They see great potential for cork to take marketshare, but distributors and salespeople need to be trained to offer it as an option rather than waiting for consumers to ask for it. And consumers need to be educated about the many benefits that cork flooring has to offer.

BAMBOO, A HARDWOOD ALTERNATIVE
Bamboo is a relative newcomer to the market, introduced internationally in the early 1990s and common in the U.S. market by the end of the decade. The product is manufactured almost exclusively in China, where Moso bamboo is an indigenous species. Today the U.S. is the largest outlet for the bamboo industry by volume, although per capita, the Australian market is actually larger.

Along with the overall industry, bamboo flooring sales took a hit in the recession, but the biggest blow actually came from mass retail. Traditional bamboo flooring, with its telltale slats and knuckles readily visible, was once a thriving product in the U.S. market, but a pricing war among major mass retailers commoditized the product so severely that now there is little to no profit to be made from it. “You can buy it cheaper than a manmade laminate, which doesn’t make any sense at all,” says Erramuzpe. “And that’s why retail leaders today do not even want to try to compete any more.”

In 2006, strand-woven bamboo, also called strand bamboo, was introduced to the market and helped rejuvenate the category. Akin to wood oriented strand board (OSB), the bamboo slats are sliced into smaller pieces and a binder is used to adhere the strands together. Unlike OSB, however, the strands are adhered in a single direction. The resulting visuals are similar to hardwood.

“Strand-woven has the advantage of a very exotic look, almost like a tigerwood,” explains Erramuzpe. “It takes stain very well, so it makes a beautiful floor.” The new visuals were a major departure from the traditional look, and consumers responded positively, willing to pay more for the premium products, which on average are still lower than hardwood price points.

Strand bamboo is also harder than traditional bamboo, because the strips are compressed at a very high pressure, creating a much denser material. High-quality strand-woven bamboo, whether solid or engineered, ranks high on the Janka hardness scale, in some cases outperforming even Brazilian cherry. High quality traditional bamboo is less hard, but can still outrank oak, ash or maple.

The vast majority of bamboo flooring sold in the U.S. is strand bamboo, although a small commodity market still exists for traditional bamboo, mainly sold through mass retailers. Home centers have garnered much of the marketshare for strand bamboo as well, to the detriment of independent dealers who, suppliers report, are beginning to shy away from the category.

Bamboo is installed mainly in residential settings, although much like hardwood, it finds niche use in lighter commercial settings such as boutique retail, higher end restaurants and statement spaces in hotels and corporate offices.

Suppliers offer both solid and engineered bamboo, so the flooring can be floated, nailed or glued down. Most bamboo comes with a polyurethane finish, but some manufacturers also offer an aluminum oxide option for additional scratch resistance.

Bamboo suppliers position their products in the market as a greener, less expensive alternative to hardwood with unique visuals. US Floors, for example, displays both its bamboo and cork in a single display titled Sustainable Living, and like with cork, the company is focusing efforts on educating salespeople to offer bamboo as an alternate hard surface option. The company is also putting more energy into promotion of its engineered bamboo, since the product is more dimensionally stable and less prone to failures than solid strand.

With the popularity of hardwood, it would stand to reason that bamboo might be even more popular, since it performs as well or better than hardwood in the same environments for a substantially lower price point and with a stronger green story. However, the bamboo industry has hit a few snags along the path to marketshare growth. Like the cork industry, it has developed a perception issue.

Bamboo flooring has suffered setbacks with performance problems that stem mainly from a lack of quality control across the industry and secondarily from installation issues. There are numerous bamboo mills in China, producing everything from high quality product that may last a lifetime down to low grade product with serious performance issues that may fail soon after it is laid.

Pricing pressures, especially from mass retailers, have motivated some mills to take shortcuts in the manufacturing process, shortening the drying period, the time needed to absorb the binder or the time for the planks to stabilize at the end of the process. Shortening any one of these steps can cause a bamboo floor to fail, and some commodity manufacturers are speeding up the process to bring down costs. In addition, they may

substitute a low-grade binder, causing potential performance issues, as well as possible problems with toxic emissions.

Even high quality bamboo flooring must be installed properly to perform successfully. More so than hardwood, bamboo is affected by humid and dry conditions. It must be acclimated properly, and it must be installed in appropriate areas of a home or business where humidity and moisture can be controlled. It also must be given proper expansion joints, since, like hardwood, bamboo expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity.

Because many bamboo floors have failed due to poor manufacturing or installation practices, the material’s reputation has been tarnished. Many American suppliers source from reputable manufacturers, and some even dictate and oversee every step of the operation, beginning with when the plants are harvested. However, the average consumer is likely unaware of the disparity in products from one manufacturer to the next.

Suppliers are working to encourage consumers to search out bamboo products from reputable producers to ensure performance rather than shop for the lowest price and risk disappointment. They are also working to educate installers on proper installation techniques to minimize failures.

LINOLEUM, THE ORIGINAL RESILIENT
With his invention of linoleum in 1860, Londoner Frederick Walton became the founding father of the resilient category. The product became popular in Europe and eventually the U.S., especially for kitchens and baths, where it repelled water and provided comfort underfoot, performance attributes no previous flooring offered. Healthcare environments were particularly suited to linoleum due to its inherent antimicrobial properties, so its use in the commercial market spread as well.

As with cork, marketshare loss for linoleum began after WWII with the advent of no-wax sheet vinyl. At the time, the colors for vinyl were more vivid than linoleum and maintenance was minimized. But even stronger than consumer preferences were the manufacturers’ drive for profits.

The manufacture of linoleum is a slow process compared to vinyl production. Forbo North America’s general manager Denis Darragh explains, “If you give me raw PVC pellets, four to six hours later I can give you finished vinyl flooring product. If you give me linseed oil and pine rosin, ten to 12 weeks later I can give you a linoleum product. So to a manufacturer, that’s all working capital, tied up, sitting around doing nothing.”

In addition, the factories are huge. Production lines are five to nine linear miles compared to one or two for vinyl. The oversized facilities are more expensive to run, and the start-up costs can be six-fold that for a vinyl plant. “That’s why no other linoleum facilities have popped up; there’s a huge barrier to entry, ” he says. Vinyl plants, however, continue to proliferate, especially with the increasing popularity of LVT.

In the mid 1990s, linoleum began a slow and steady comeback, especially in the commercial market, reaching a high of $55.7 million in 2011, according to Market Insights, although sales have slid since, following the slowdown in the healthcare sector.

The only truly global market for linoleum is in the healthcare sector. “You’ll find it in healthcare everywhere around the world,” Darragh says, “whether it’s developing markets or mature markets.” Education is the second largest sector for linoleum, and may even be the largest by volume.

Linoleum’s resurgence was jumpstarted by its sustainability story and then bolstered by the rediscovery of inherent attributes by designers and consumers and by a few modern innovations. Most recently, conversations about health concerns have been helping to strengthen linoleum sales.

One of linoleum’s forgotten benefits is durability. Even in commercial environments like hospitals, linoleum floors can last for 30 years when properly maintained. Unlike heterogenous vinyl sheet flooring, linoleum’s color goes all the way through the material, minimizing scuffs and minor scratches. A finish coat should be reapplied one to four times a year, depending on the amount of foot traffic, but otherwise linoleum is easy to maintain with regular damp mopping and a mild cleaner for stubborn soil.

Darragh says that a flooring’s green story, while important, is more of a qualifier in the marketplace than a differentiator. “Health, however,” he says, “is a differentiator.”

Linoleum is among the healthiest flooring categories. It’s made of organic materials, so it emits no toxins into the air. It is, and has always been, phthalate free. And its inherent antimicrobial properties make it a particularly good fit for the healthcare and education markets. To fight staph and other infections, vinyl flooring in healthcare settings is often treated with antimicrobial additives, which contain either pesticides or heavy metals and may pose a health threat to employees who experience long-term exposure.

To help the category better compete with VCT, LVT and rubber, suppliers like Forbo and Armstrong have developed modular linoleum tiles. The systems offer a variety of formats that can be arranged in a myriad of patterns and have been well received by designers, who appreciate the expanded design options. Today’s linoleum also sports vivid colors and curling, flowing patterns, a step up from the subdued tones of linoleum’s early days.

Linoleum’s main hurdle to growth is to delineate the multiple differences between linoleum and vinyl in the minds of consumers. So strong is the conflation of the two categories that some consumers—and even some industry professionals—use the names interchangeably, as if they were synonymous.

Suppliers of linoleum are working to reeducate flooring professionals, specifiers and consumers about the unique attributes of linoleum, especially its health benefits. At the same time, they must dispel outdated notions about the product, mainly that the once drab colorways and oldfashioned designs have been replaced with vibrant colors and more sophisticated modern visuals.

GREEN BEGINNINGS

Cork is one of the greenest flooring options available. It begins with the hand harvesting of renewable bark every nine to 11 years from cork oak trees. The trees live an average of 250 years in Mediterranean countries, especially Portugal.

The bark is first used to produce cork stoppers, mainly for wine bottles, and then the waste is ground and sent to flooring manufacturers to produce cork flooring.

Even the cork dust is collected to become an ingredient in linoleum, among other applications. The outer layer of the bark is not suitable for flooring, but it is often burned as fuel for the manufacturing process, so even it doesn’t go to waste.

Bamboo, technically a grass, is indigenous to and most prevalent in China. The Moso variety is typically used for flooring, and a plant can reach 80 feet tall and 6” in diameter in just four to six years. After harvesting, new shoots spring up from the original roots, negating the need for replanting.

Only the first eight feet of the hollow bamboo stalk is hard enough for flooring production. The remainder is utilized to make rugs, furniture and other items. Any unused portion is ground into a pulp to make fiber for clothing, blankets and other textiles, similar to the process for making rayon.

Industry leaders like US Floors specify non-toxic binders to ensure low VOC emissions in their flooring. However, not all bamboo products are created equal. Some of the less reputable Chinese mills use low quality binders that may contain toxic substances for unhealthy levels of VOC emissions.

For 150 years, linoleum has been made from a concoction of renewable, organic materials: linseed oil, pine rosin, wood flour and cork dust, some of which come from post-manufacturing waste. This natural ingredient list results in flooring that boasts extremely low VOC emissions and negligible toxicity.

Linoleum is also naturally antimicrobial. The oxidation process of the linseed oil and pine rosin continues throughout the life of the flooring, consuming oxygen at the flooring’s surface. Without oxygen, microbes cannot survive.

The largest ecological impact from these green products comes from the fuels burned in transport from overseas. However, cork’s extremely low density helps minimize its footprint compared to heavier materials.

By Calista Sprague

Waterproof Laminate Hybrid

New revolutions in vinyl flooring

COREtec Plus represents the next revolution in luxury vinyl flooring. COREtec Plus is a great alternative to glue down LVT, solid locking LVT, or laminate flooring. The patent-pending construction of COREtec Plus features our innovative COREtec core structure, which is an extruded core made from recycled wood and bamboo dust, limestone, and virgin PVC. Since COREtec Plus is 100% waterproof, COREtec Plus floors can be installed in wet areas and will never swell when exposed to water. COREtec Plus is inert and dimensionally stable; it will not expand or contract under normal conditions. Further, COREtec Plus never needs expansion strips in large rooms. Each COREtec Plus plank has an attached cork underlayment for a quieter, warmer vinyl floor that is naturally resistant to odor causing mold and mildew.

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