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Emerging trends in commercial flooring

Rectangular tiles, digital graphic applications, the resurgence of terrazzo, and product transparency headline today’s commercial flooring trends. New product technologies and more extensive manufacturing information will expand choices for the Building Team in all types of projects, including healthcare, academic, hospitality, retail, and workplace.

Moving away from standard 12×12-inch tile, rectilinear plank shapes—often, 12×24-inch—are gaining popularity. Designers are also specifying hexagonal tiles for carpet and resilient flooring products. “The installation of these shapes and combining different color options can really activate the flooring in the designs we create,” says Lori James, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, Lead Interior Designer, Project Manager at SmithGroupJJR (www.smithgroupjjr.com), and a member of BD+C’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2012.

Color and texture continue to exert a strong influence on user perceptions. Some designers try to strike a balance between “unique” and “timeless,” but others are opting for lively, trendy shades such as hot pink, teal, and electric blue.

Lori Mukoyama, Principal, RTKL Commercial Practice Group (www.rtkl.com), says many Building Teams are trying to reinvent traditional patterns. “For example, you’ll see a traditional plaid with a new twist, such as a fun color or more modern look. You also might see a traditional houndstooth pattern but with a larger scale, making it appear more dramatic,” she says.

Caroline Robbie, Principal, BID, AOCA, ARIDO, IDC, NCIDQ, Quadrangle Architects Limited (www.quadrangle.ca), sees the popularity of fashion designer Paul Smith’s iconic stripes filtering down to flooring in the form of striped carpets and striated tiles. “Another ongoing trend is significant improvements in the photographic application of natural textures onto laminates and other substrates,” she adds. “People are still looking for a natural product appearance and are willing to use these photographic products to achieve that look.”

Advanced digital graphics on porcelain tile combine the natural look of materials such as marble, stone, and wood with the economy, durability, and maintenance advantages of porcelain. Kim Ferguson, Associate and Senior Interior Designer at LEO A DALY (www.leoadaly.com), points out that faux-wood-on-porcelain tiles are now available in saw-cut, smooth, and distressed textures in both traditional and modern color palettes.

RTKL’s Mukoyama notes the emergence of abstract patterns inspired by nature, as opposed to directly copying natural elements or scenes. “No longer are there ‘travertine-looking’ tiles, but rather a tile that has movement and tones abstracted from travertine,” she explains.

Building Teams seeking highly durable, attractive surfaces are also taking a second look at terrazzo. While terrazzo’s high first cost has traditionally discouraged owners, specifiers note that the material is making a comeback based on its longevity, low maintenance requirements, and ability to incorporate recycled materials.

Vinyl composite tiles measuring 12×12 inches cover the floor of this corridor at the Shawnee (Okla.) Early Childhood Center. PHOTO: JOSEPH MILLS PHOTOGRAPHY / COURTESY LWPB

In addition to morphing aesthetic demands, owners and Building Teams are looking for higher levels of sustainability—particularly with the recent release of LEED v4 and its new product transparency requirements. As more manufacturers begin listing environmental and health data for their products, sustainability claims will become more verifiable, and designers will no longer have to conduct such intensive independent research.

“From a designer’s perspective, this is extremely important and will help eliminate greenwashing and false sustainable advertisements,” says James.

The Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s FloorScore program and the Tile Council of North America’s Green Squared certification can provide useful guidance. In addition, specifiers can look to the Health Product Declaration Collaborative, www.hpdcollaborative.org, and Declare, www.declareproducts.com, for valuable information about healthy flooring products.

 VENDORS OFFER NEW CHOICES IN CONVENTIONAL MATERIALS

With sustainability as a backdrop, a significant increase in options, variety, and technological advances is making familiar flooring materials more appealing for Building Teams and their clients. Development is occurring in all the standard categories, including hardwood, carpet, resilient, terrazzo, and concrete.

Hardwood and its substitutes. Although more popular in the residential market, hardwood flooring still enjoys a legion of fans in the commercial AEC industry. Some commercial designers are taking cues from high-end residential architecture—a field whose practioners have long understood the value of natural wood for adding warmth and comfort.

“Wide-plank wood flooring is in high demand, and we are also specifying end-cut wood floors as well as very narrow planks depending on the environment,” reports LEO A DALY’s Ferguson, who is Past President of the American Society of Interior Designers Nebraska/Iowa chapter. RTKL’s Mukoyama is seeing a lot of distressed hardwood in funky new treatments, such as layouts that contrast dark and bleached tones, or varying wood tile prints in a single strip of flooring.

Reclaimed wood, available in a variety of species, remains popular as an attractive, sustainable option. “The idea of using reclaimed wood can help leverage the sustainable story and offer a second life for a material that once existed at the bottom of a lake, or as a barn, fencing, paneling, or siding,” says SmithGroupJJR’s James.

Concerns about scratch and moisture resistance and higher maintenance requirements can discourage commercial building owners from embracing real wood. Faux wood products, such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), porcelain, or vinyl sheet goods laminated with wood prints, are becoming increasingly popular, especially as the level of perceived “authenticity” improves. Available in sheets and planks in varying widths to resemble the look of cut wood, faux wood is showing up more often in venues such as hospitals, medical office buildings, and residence halls.

At the Fashion Outlet of Chicago, RTKL created a universal floor design with warm, natural tones, forming a neutral backdrop for 100+ retail tenants. PHOTO: DAVID WHITCOMB / COURTESY RTKL 

Wood-look resilient material has its tradeoffs, says Angie Clarkson, LEED AP BD+C, a registered interior designer at architecture and interiors firm LWPB (www.lwpb.com). “On one hand, LVT is never going to feel the same underfoot as a natural hardwood floor. Any imperfections in the substrate will certainly transfer to the surface, just like any 1/8-inch-thick product. On the other hand, it gives designers a whole world of exotic wood species at their fingertips. You want the look of an endangered African rosewood? You’ve got it without the long lead times or the ecological guilt.”

Carpeting. Carpet tiles continue to dominate the commercial carpeting marketplace, and are estimated to account for 55 to 60% of carpeting contract sales. Tile products offer extensive design flexibility, and it’s much easier to replace worn or damaged tiles than to fix a problem with broadloom carpet. Initial installation produces less waste, and some tile products no longer require adhesives.

With vendors offering an ever-shifting mix of styles, colors, shapes, and patterns, designers have free rein. Beyond the traditional squares, manufacturers have introduced rectangular planks of 24×48 inches, skinny tiles of 25 centimeters x one meter, mega tiles of 36 inches square, and hexagon-shaped tiles.

“For many of our projects, we look at mixing product styles and color to create an intentional design experience when the users and guests move throughout the space,” says James. “This approach also gives designers an opportunity to change the experience from space to space by modifying the products we specify.”

Broadloom still has a place in budget-driven projects, says Ana Pinto-Alexander, RID, IIDA, EDAC, Principal and Senior VP and Director of Healthcare Interior Architecture at HKS (www.hks.com). In addition, coordinating broadloom with modular carpeting can enable designers to maintain a consistent design, yet save some cash by specifying broadloom in lower-traffic areas such as conference rooms and private offices.

Another notable development in carpet products has been the emergence of new fiber formulas—some of them involving recycled waste—that offer increased softness or better stain protection and durability. In the broadloom market, for instance, a newer silk-like weave lends a luxurious feel and luster. Other products incorporate Nylon 6,6, a commercial polymer with a chemical structure that conveys additional strength and stain resistance, or Nylon 6, once considered a “value” product but the subject of recent technological improvements. Manufacturers are creatively using post-consumer waste such as fishing nets, textiles, and fluff from the tops of old carpets and rugs.

Resilient flooring. In this category, commercial-project designers generally lean toward vinyl composition tile (VCT), LVT, linoleum, and rubber. “The qualities that make resilient flooring choices stand out are the color and texture offerings, sustainable properties, and ease of maintenance requirements,” says SmithGroupJJR’s James.

If initial cost is the overriding factor, VCT often trumps other options. No longer limited to 12×12-inch tiles, VCT is now available in a variety of sizes and patterns.

Linoleum offers renewable, natural properties and textural warmth. “The design possibilities are almost limitless given a great installer and some imagination,” says Quadrangle’s Robbie, who teaches design courses as an adjunct professor at Ryerson University and Ontario College of Art and Design.

The same can be said for LVT, especially since wood and stone patterns are becoming more and more realistic. Vendors are also coming up with appealing options for installation, according to LWPB’s Clarkson. “Multiple LVT manufacturers are unveiling floating floors, which are planks or tiles that interlock and do not need to be glued to the substrate. One notable advantage of these floating floors is the option to install planks directly over existing VCT or ceramic. In a renovation project, the material cost of LVT may be higher than that of VCT, but by foregoing demolition and floor prep costs, the total installed cost of LVT can be brought a lot closer to that of VCT.”

Using 500,000 sf of terrazzo to help capture the whimsical nature of Corus Entertainment’s brand, Quadrangle Architects also specified custom wool carpets, access floors, teak hardwood, linoleum, and cork resilient flooring for the company’s eight-story Corus Quay project in Toronto. PHOTO: COURTESY QUADRANGLE ARCHITECTS

Clarkson also notes that bio-based tile (BBT), sometimes called “VCT’s younger brother,” is gaining interest. Made from rapidly renewable material such as corn husks, and often PVC-free, BBT can handle static and rolling loads, whereas VCT cannot. Even in more traditional resilient flooring categories, manufacturers are finding ways to avoid phthalates, which have been proven to cause reproductive problems in lab animals. Through the use of more natural plasticizers, products are still able to offer good levels of flexibility and durability.

“In addition, we are seeing no-wax resilient flooring, which is a response to the environmental concerns as well as the maintenance issues of stripping and re-waxing, especially within buildings that operate 24/7,” says LEO A DALY’s Ferguson. “Certainly, the availability of regional and recycled-content materials continues to improve, and the market is much more aware of indoor air quality concerns. A resource such as The Living Building Challenge’s Red List of hazardous chemicals is very helpful.” (For more, see the “Materials” section at https://ilbi.org/lbc/LBC%20Documents/LBC2-0.pdf.)

Terrazzo. For those who can get past the first cost of terrazzo, HKS’s Pinto-Alexander assures that a great long-term ROI is in store. She reports seeing more terrazzo in large entrance lobbies and primary public circulation areas for corporate, healthcare, sports, and higher education venues.

“Seamlessly smooth transitions are respectful to wheelchair users and others with challenges in physical mobility, while accommodating dynamic patterns. Manufacturers offer an array of transition strip options,” she says.

Polished concrete. Although polished concrete isn’t appropriate for every site, these floors are continuing to find a place in retail, corporate, sports, and specialty healthcare settings. “We are taking advantage of increased options and control in polished concrete dyes and scribed patterns,” says Pinto-Alexander. “New advances in pigment chemistry are more sustainable and better at covering flooring substrate imperfections. They offer specialty effects that are more predictable than traditional acid stains.”

Because concrete is so customizable, Ferguson says, it can be appropriate for a variety of environments. “Whether the desire is a monolithic natural concrete color or colored ground with stainless strips to create a terrazzo-patterned effect, concrete can achieve this. In addition, it is durable, easy to clean, and environmentally sustainable.”

While Robbie is also a big fan, she is currently experiencing some resistance in clients’ willingness to use concrete as a finished floor. The “brick and beam” warehouse workplace is trending toward grittier finishes, she says.

 HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT MATERIAL FOR EVERY COMMERCIAL PROJECT TYPE

With such a broad range of choices available, product specification can be quite a challenge. Experienced designers offer some general rules of thumb for various applications.

Healthcare. No-wax resilient sheet and tile products—including rubber, linoleum, sheet vinyl, and vinyl tile—dominate in healthcare. Some designers select carpet tile or terrazzo to meet healthcare facilities’ needs for “rollability,” smooth transitions, and slip resistance.

Infection control and biological containment are crucial factors for many clients in this sector. “Over the next five to 10 years, it will be interesting to see makers of products that are nontraditional for healthcare, such as carpet and modular products, attempt to produce metrics showing that ‘hard and shiny’ is just as capable of supporting biohazards as ‘soft and matte,’” says Quadrangle’s Robbie.

K-12 and higher education. The need to provide rugged surfaces for an economical price drives most decisions in this market, according to Robbie. “Education, like healthcare, has the burden of maintenance and durability as the primary deciding factors. Combine that requirement with severe cost constraints, and the choices for flooring in educational environments become very limited.”

VCT, porcelain, linoleum, broadloom, and carpet tiles are often specified for school and college projects. Terrazzo and polished concrete are often used in main-floor public spaces, and natural wood and rubber are typicially specified in gyms and other recreational areas.

Retail. Retail and restaurant projects are largely governed by aesthetics and branding, which gives designers more latitude and a greater selection of product choices. “The primary drivers in retail settings are company brand, regionally influenced high-impact aesthetics, ease of maintenance, first cost, and recognition that retail entities are often required to update interiors frequently to keep up with market completion,” says HKS’s Pinto-Alexander. The sector’s most popular product types are carpet tile, natural stone tile, and wood. Polished concrete, LVT, and porcelain tile can be found as well.

Workplace. As with retail projects, flooring choices for offices must tie into the organization’s brand and regional aesthetics. Durability requirements will vary based on each space’s purpose within the larger project. “The way a boardroom is finished tells the visitor about the company, but the copy room only needs to be durable,” says Robbie. “The choices for flooring products change with these functional needs, along with the constant balance of cost, quality, durability, installation, and ease of maintenance.”

Topping the list of go-to products for offices are carpet tile, broadloom carpet, and no-wax vinyl resilient sheet goods and tile, according to Pinto-Alexander. Ferguson is seeing stone, porcelain, wood, and cork flooring making inroads in this sector.

A common choice in healthcare settings, rubber was specified for the corridors and support spaces at Riley. PHOTO COURTESY HKS

Hospitality and sports venues. Similar to retail sites, hotels must be prepared to frequently update their interiors. Broadloom, carpet tile, and large-sized natural stone tiles are frequently selected, according to Pinto-Alexander. For sports facilities, dealing with heavy traffic and long-term durability are important, and designers often choose polished concrete, rubber, hardwood, and carpet tile, depending on the use of each area.

Space type also governs choices of color and pattern, with each market sector showing some distinct trends. Says Pinto-Alexander, “Classic, modern, monochromatic neutrals and subtle tailored patterns still play a large role in corporate and hospitality settings and are on the rise for healthcare. Large-scale geometric and organic patterns, as well as sculpturally textured carpets, continue to play a strong role in hospitality settings. Brighter, more vibrant palettes that are fresh and transparent are now more prevalent, and are especially popular in pediatrics and high-energy corporate and sports settings.”

 FIRST COST VS. LIFE CYCLE: HOW TO STRIKE AN APPROPRIATE BALANCE

First cost has traditionally driven flooring decisions—often inhibiting the specification of better quality, more expensive systems. Particularly in facilities such as K-12 schools, decision makers have frequently been very restricted by initial budgets, hoping that O+M funds would be sufficient to sustain their buildings over time, according to Clarkson.

This scenario has begun to change. Many facility owners, even school districts, are taking a more long-term view. Low-maintenance and durable choices such as rubber, LVT, porcelain, and polished concrete are being given a fairer analysis, despite their higher first cost.

Essentially, says Robbie, it’s all about balance. Because every product entails strong points and tradeoffs, life cycle performance should logically be given the most emphasis. In Quadrangle’s experience, many clients appreciate that reduced operational costs over the floor’s lifetime do ultimately improve their facility and their bottom line.

Nevertheless, budget frequently continues to win out. “I try to choose a product that will stand up to wear and tear, but if it’s not in budget, there’s no point in even considering it,” Mukoyama says.

When there is an opportunity to encourage clients to take the long view, it can be helpful to get the facilities maintenance director and staff involved. “If a new flooring product is being introduced into a facility, create a mockup area where foot and cart traffic is comparable to anticipated traffic and have the facility staff test it out,” suggests Ferguson.

Architects at Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (www.qka.com) conduct initial research using manufacturers’ literature, and seek feedback from current and past clients on product performance. They then request multiple 2×2-foot samples to give end-users a better idea of the look and feel of the flooring, particularly with regard to color and large-scale patterns, explains Mark Quattrocchi, AIA, Principal and Founder of the firm.

In addition, end-users need to be educated about maintenance requirements, particularly if these will be different than what the staff has been accustomed to. Even in situations where a new product means less maintenance, such as rubber flooring replacing VCT, end-users still need to be made aware that rubber is naturally less shiny than VCT, which sparkles after every polish.

The Choosing By Advantages Decisionmaking System, a book by Jim Suhr, can help Building Teams weigh first costs and long-term expenses. Often abbreviated as CBA, the Choosing By Advantages system has been adopted by numerous government agencies, notably the Forest Service, and by some AEC firms.

For example, a resilient floor will typically last 20 to 30 years, if properly maintained. Once owners are made aware of this information, they can more easily see the benefit of increasing the project budget, using contingency funds, or evaluating another part of the design to afford options with a long life, says Pinto-Alexander. “In most cases, a facility can see a return on investment in as little as three to five years.”

Adopting the principles of CBA into their own analytic spreadsheet, HKS helps clients make evidence-informed decisions based on an understanding of each project’s hierarchy of priorities. In the recent design of Simon Family Tower at Indiana University Health’s Riley Hospital for Children, in Indianapolis, sheet vinyl, VCT, and bio-based tile emerged as the most “advantageous” flooring options after CBA analysis. (See page 72.)

Pinto-Alexander also recommends a guide developed by the Center for Health Design, which details product performance characteristics and the physical composition of various flooring materials. In addition, CHD’s Evidence-Based Design checklist, available at www.healthdesign.org/sites/bdc/files/tandusflooringreport_final.pdf, can be very helpful.

Specifiers can also avail themselves of life cycle analysis tools offered by the Carpet and Rug Institute and the Tile Council of America, in addition to a number of resilient flooring manufacturers. However, Robbie points out that using such tools can be rather time consuming, and that personal experience is often the best indicator of a product’s life cycle cost. “There is nothing like a failure to remind us of the balance that must be struck between cheap initial cost and the durability of a product,” she says. Robbie also recommends reaching out to facilities management companies for solid information on costs for flooring maintenance and replacement.

Of particular interest to those who do healthcare projects, a 15-year study by Florida Hospital’s Office of Design tracked the total average cost of maintaining 1,000 sf of VCT, sheet vinyl, rubber, and carpet. Rubber, by far, offered the best life cycle value. Similarly, in a study conducted by an interior designer at Burt Hill before that firm merged with Stantec, rubber, bamboo, and hardwood were found to be the most cost-effective choices for healthcare installations over the course of 15 years. VCT came in at triple the cost of these options once maintenance expenses were factored in.

Regardless of the flooring type or application, one thing is certain: Building Teams have more product choices than ever before, lending unprecedented levels of design freedom. As industry knowledge of product health, performance, and life cycle costs becomes more prevalent, specifiers will be able to make even more informed recommendations on the best flooring for every project.

Decision methods produce choices tailored to healthcare

Offering both aesthetic advantages and durability, terrazzo was selected as the lobby flooring for Riley Hospital for Children’s Simon Family Tower, Indianapolis, part of Indiana University Health. PHOTO COURTESY HKS

Tasked with designing the new 10-story Simon Family Tower for Indiana University Health’s Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, HKS decided to take a step back between the project’s two phases in order to thoroughly evaluate assorted flooring options. Vinyl composition tile had been specified for the med/surg patient floor corridors and support spaces that were completed in 2011.

For the second phase, the design team took a hard look at using rubber vs. sheet vinyl in the corridors and support spaces. The same analysis was done for the remainder of the Phase 2 flooring systems.

“Exploration of the decision-making process related to an array of flooring materials with analytics on first costs and long-term ROI, including comparison of maintenance costs, reasons for design team recommendation, and reasons for final client selections,” says Ana Pinto-Alexander, RID, IIDA, EDAC, Principal and Senior VP, Director of Healthcare Interior Architecture at HKS.

By applying Choosing by Advantages methodology through their own proprietary worksheet, designers evaluated attributes, or “Factors,” of each flooring product. The “Factors” were assigned “Advantages.”

“The client then gave the most important Factors and Advantages the highest scores,” explains Pinto-Alexander. “The least important Factor and Advantage was given the lowest score. At the end of the exercise, the preferred product had the highest score. This score can then be compared to initial product cost, helping the client make an educated decision on initial cost and ROI.”

Ultimately, the hospital went with the majority of the design team’s recommendations, which included the following:

•  Main lobby: terrazzo. “Terrazzo has been a standard in the hospital for all of their first-floor corridors and public entrances. It is a great product for aesthetics, cleanability, and durability,” reports Pinto-Alexander.

•  Patient floor corridors and support spaces: rubber. The environmental services team toured several comparable hospital facilities, helping them overcome initial thoughts that the floor had to be waxed to be considered clean. In addition, the owner came to the realization that rubber offered a better long-term ROI than VCT, plus ease of maintenance, infection control, and sustainability.

•  Patient rooms: sheet vinyl. The flooring type was chosen based on its faux-wood warmth, no-wax cleanability, durability, and seamless finish.

•  Waiting areas: carpet tiles. The tiles were selected for pattern, durability, and ease of changing out stained tiles.

•  Offices and conference spaces: broadloom carpet. As a low-cost alternative to carpet tile, broadloom was able to maintain the desired aesthetic with a coordinating pattern.

Original Article

8 Flooring Trends to Try

Don’t forget about the floors when designing a room. Experts share different flooring trends that bring style and function to any space.

Bamboo

“Bamboo has been around for a long time, but what we are seeing lately is an explosion of colors and styles,” says Dean Howell, president of Atlanta-based MODA Floors & Interiors. While technically a fast-growing grass, bamboo is as hard or harder than most hardwoods when dried. Newer products called strand-woven bamboo, a highly engineered product using the inner fibers, are twice as hard as traditional bamboo flooring. Dean says that in addition to the common thin-banded styles shoppers have become accustomed to, bamboo is offered in wide-plank styles that mimic the look of classic hardwoods. As with all wood flooring, it’s best to keep bamboo out of moisture-prone rooms like kitchens and baths.

Reclaimed Wood

“What I’m seeing more and more of in flooring is classic looks using new technology,” says Gabriel Shaw, owner of That Finishing Touch Design in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A perfect example of that, he notes, is reclaimed hardwood. New factory-finished hardwood flooring offers all the charm of reclaimed timber — right down to that timeless hand-hewn look — but without the high costs associated with true salvaged lumber. “Factory-finished wood will stand up to moisture fluctuations better than any wood flooring that is finished onsite.”

Large-Format Tile

“In the world of tile we are seeing an explosion of sizes, shapes, materials and patterns,” notes Dean. Particularly popular these days, he adds, are large-format tiles — tiles that come 12″ x 24″ and even 36″ x 36″ — as opposed to the tried-and-true 12″ x 12″ tiles. In addition to looking great, larger sizes mean more tile surface and less grout lines to clean. Dean cautions that large-format tiles are heavy, requiring a perfectly level substrate and a professional installer for the job to come out right.

Cork

“I recently installed a cork product at the KROQ radio station in Los Angeles,” notes Gabriel. Selected primarily for its amazing acoustic-insulating qualities, cork flooring also is much more comfortable to walk on than traditional hardwood and most certainly tile. Long gone are the days when cork was available in any color so long as it was blonde — today’s options span the color palette. Thanks to new factory finishes, cork is far more durable than it was just a few decades prior. But it is susceptible to moisture damage and will fade when exposed to sunlight.

Luxury Vinyl

“When you hear the term ‘luxury vinyl,’ don’t think about that peel-and-stick stuff people used to install,” explains Dean. Luxury vinyl is a new category of flooring that combines the high-end look of hardwood (or stone) with the durability of vinyl. “It is so realistic looking,” Dean says of the wood-look variety, “that I literally had to get on my hands and knees to see that it wasn’t real.” Because it stands up to moisture, wood-look vinyl is a natural fit in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Today’s vinyl does share one common trait with that old peel-and-stick stuff: It is still a joy to walk on.

Cut-and-Loop Carpet

In the world of carpet, explains Dean, we are seeing far fewer shags and friezes and more patterned carpets. By using a technique that combines both loops and cut loops — hence the name “cut-and-loop carpet” — manufacturers can create a carpet with patterns that range from subtle to bold. “New technology also is producing carpet with incredibly soft fibers,” he adds. Huge improvements have been made in the world of carpet pads, too, with high-quality dense rubber replacing the more commonplace loose fiber.

American Hardwood

For homeowners who truly want a sustainable wood flooring product, Dean suggests good-old American hardwoods. Unlike cork and bamboo, which are shipped in from the other side of the world, “We can buy hardwoods from forests that are a few hundred miles away,” he says. “And North America does a good job replenishing our forests as we cut them down.” Oak, hickory, maple, heart pine: These classic American hardwoods all are making a comeback.

Concrete

Trendy, sleek and durable as time itself, concrete flooring jumped from bare-bones utilitarian to chic in a New York minute. Thanks to a multitude of available colors, textures and finishes, concrete can adapt to almost any decor. Of course, it helps to already have the concrete in place. “Concrete works great in an old building that has very old subfloors,” explains Dean. “It’s very cost effective to use what’s already there versus installing a new flooring product.” Fashion often comes at a cost, and in the case of concrete, it’s comfort. “Think through the comfort factor,” he cautions. “It’s a very hard surface that is not friendly to walk on all day.”

Original Article

Choosing the Right Hardwood Floors for Your Home

FlooringArticlesFamily RoomHardwoodInvincible HardwoodKitchenLiving RoomRustic RiverTransitional

Generally, there two types of hardwood flooring— solid and engineered. Whether it’s a strip or plank, solid hardwood flooring is a single piece of wood, which can easily be customized and can be re-sanded to change finishes. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is made of 3 to 5 layers laminated together with grains running at different angles.

There are different advantages for each type of floor. They will both give you a beautiful, natural look for your floors. In fact, once installed, you may have a hard time telling the difference at all. This can make choosing difficult. Here are the important facts you need to consider before you choose between solid and engineered hardwood floors.

 

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Location, Location, Location

Where your hardwood floors will be installed is a very important factor in choosing what is right for your home. Solid wood floors are only appropriate for above ground installation, so if you’re looking for flooring for a basement, engineered floors are clearly the appropriate choice. Solid wood floors are also more sensitive to moisture. Even seasonal changes in moisture can affect solid hardwood floors. You may notice that floors contract during drier months and expand when humidity is high. If you manage the humidity levels in your home well, this may not be an issue but it is something to be aware of.  Solid wood floors may also not be appropriate for extremely moist areas of the home like a bathroom or even a kitchen.

While engineered hardwood looks like solid hardwood, it is actually more structurally stable and can be used anywhere, even places like basements where moisture may be an issue.

 

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The Look (or Looks) You Love

While both engineered and solid hardwoods come in many different species and styles, once you choose your engineered floor, you are committed to the stain color of your floors. Solid floors, however, can be sanded and re-stained many times over the lifetime of the floor. Refinishing floors is not an easy process by any means but it can be a more cost-effective way to change your look then buying new floors.

 

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Although most styles of hardwood floors – both solid and engineered – are timeless and classic, you may find yourself drawn to trendier stains and a desire to change your look more frequently. Remember, hardwood floors are very long-lasting. If this is the case, you may benefit from the versatility that solid wood floors offer.

Enjoying Your Floors

No matter which type of flooring you choose, properly installed and sealed hardwood flooring requires minimal care to maintain its good looks. Simply vacuum regularly and wipe weekly with a damp mop. And, since it’s sealed it can’t absorb spills, so it won’t stain.

Original Article

Hardwood Flooring Trends 2017

With the recent real estate market surge (as of this writing December 2017) new wood floors will help boost selling prices opposed to ones that still have carpeting. Today’s trends show brownish to darker stained products selling quite well in northern states, reds and browns in the prarie states (Texas, Oklahoma and others) and mountain regions. The popularity of greys, off whites and beige are seeing good demand along coastal areas or warmer regions that include Florida, Southern California and Arizona.

Natural Finished Hardwoods Making A Comeback

It was only a matter of time before savvy homeowners began turning back to traditional hardwoods without trendy colors and other effects. 2016 saw a renewed interest for reasons of becoming neutral and ‘thinking ahead.’ Better explained from some of our buying customers with comments like; “I don’t want to regret my decision when it comes to selling my home” or “I’m not sure I want to go through the hassle of changing everything when grey goes out of style.”

Distressed?

Heavier hand scraped or contoured products, the rage that started around 2005 has taken a back seat in most areas, while a softer wire brushed ceruse effect seen mostly on White Oak (below) has been remarkably strong showing no effects of becoming “dated” like the others mentioned. Reclaimed hardwoods will always be welcomed but it’s popularity has never taken a front row seat.

See Grey & Beige Hardwoods
Darker stained hand scraped

Most Popular Types of Hardwood?

What hardwoods are people buying? Red oak remains strong in the sand and finish market. White Oak has taken on a renaissance with a large number of character graded prefinished hardwoods. Hickory remains strong, while being used more for distressed type floors or offering the rustic choice. Lighter toned hardwoods in the likes of Maple and Birch have lost favor in their natural finished form, but are still desired for those seeking a cleaner contemporary look.

Exotics have taken a sizable hit as has bamboo. Brazilian Cherry, the rage of 10 and 15 years past, is seen less and now replaced by the trendier character grade hardwoods and a return to less pronounced natural colors without the heavy character.

Factory prefinished wood flooring remains the selection of choice over actual on site installation and finishing. Reasons include faster completion schedules as the flooring is ready to be used immediately instead of waiting for finishes to cure. Additionally, prefinished warranties are very difficult to top traditional on site ones. The majority of manufacturers are now offering 25 and 50 year warranties. Looked at closely, they only cover the actual wear of the finish itself.

Longer Length Hardwoods

Wider plank flooring has seen a dramatic increase in use since the turn of the century. Some prefer their appearance as it can open up rooms that may otherwise feel or look smaller. Along with wider plank hardwoods, longer length material is becoming more the norm. By way of explanation, I’ll offer an example.

In the late 90’s Anderson was king of the hand scraped market; the innovator really. Others followed suit going into the new century, along with a tidal wave of Chinese knockoffs, but nearly all consisted of short length engineered hardwoods that weren’t any longer than 42 or 48 inches. Most didn’t notice it until we took notice thinking…”if we can produce a solid hardwood with longer lengths, why can’t we do the same for engineered?”

Why Longer Lengths?

For one, they’re more traditional. Along with that the desire for wider plank appearances didn’t make sense with short pieces. I like to call it the checkerboard look (shown). An installed 7 inch wide plank for example, looks exceptional with longer boards opposed to shorter ones due to the bevel or micro bevel all prefinished manufacture.

Plank Size?

Plank width size has been increasing since five inch wide planks came on stream with Anderson and other prefinished manufacturers at the turn of the century. Over the most recent five years or going back to 2011 we’re seeing more 7 ½” planks, practically all imported from China. 7 ½” width is a dead giveaway as it is simply not made in the USA. USA made uses a 7 or 7 1/4″ dimension.

Issues With Wide Plank Solid Hardwoods

View the video below.

Unique Prefinished Custom Colors

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Random or Mixed Width

Random or mixed width is becoming more noticed and used. However, most manufacturers limit the consumer to their own specifications, namely 3 and five inch width. Our own engineered hardwoods offer any combination from 3 ¼ up to 8 ¼” width on Hickory, White & Red Oak, along with Walnut.

Types Of Finishes

Today low matte finishes (10-20%) are the norm with mid to higher end floors, but satin (30-40 % gloss level) remains constant with others.

Natural Oil Finishes? Good or Bad?

On the higher end and those seeking environmentally friendly choices, natural oil finishes have been making significant inroads with manufacturers in the likes of Hallmark, WD Flooring and DuChateau and a seemingly forever list.

Reasons are obvious as these finishes contain little if any VOC’s and are much easier to repair. However, they can be a maintenance headache for some and premature color wear in high traffic areas can be a reality. Ideally, these finishes are suited more for those that have professionals maintain their floors. Or if you have plenty of time to look after them yourself; not always an easy task.

For unfinished flooring or those sanded on site, some of the more established finishing products used by flooring contractors are Basic Coatings, Bona, Rubio Monocoat, Poloplaz, and Synteko.

Durable Appearances

It’s not always about hardness. The video below explains what many do not realize and may never know until it’s too late.

What Areas Of The Home Are Hardwoods Being Installed?

Of the many floors installed today, areas of use have expanded over the years. More common areas used for new flooring today include; foyers, great, and dining rooms, dens, libraries, home offices, and hallways leading to bedrooms. Kitchens and powder rooms fall right behind while bedrooms are often preferred for carpeting.

Kitchens? Yes. Maintained properly, wood flooring in kitchens play a significant role. However, sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, or stone lead by a large margin as the floor covering of choice.

What Hardwood Floor Types Should We Choose?

I will have to leave this one up to you. If you haven’t noticed, there are a myriad of choices and options these days, but solid 3/4″ products are still the leading choice if you have a wood sub floor. Keep in mind, the popularity of wide plank floors limits solid products as they do not perform well in most environments. This is why you’re probably hearing many salespeople today recommending engineered hardwoods.

For those with concrete subfloors, engineered hardwoods should be considered in either a glue down application or floating installation. However, this does not rule out genuine solid wood flooring on concrete, but uses have fallen off dramatically in the last five years with the advent of thick veneer engineered floors including all of our Uptown hardwoods.

When Should They Be Installed?

Any hardwood flooring project should be scheduled very near the end of other work. The only other trades we would expect after the installation would be carpet installers, punch out trim, painting touch up guys, or wall paper hangers. It’s highly suggested to cover all completed areas to protect against damage. For limited trade traffic, gray craft paper available at the big box stores can be used to cover. Tape? 3M quality the painter dudes use are safe on wood floors, but should not be left on for extended periods of time. Nor should they be exposed to direct sunlight. It’s best not to tape to the floor but to the baseboards.

But! Our Remodeler/Builder Says It Has To Go Next Week

Haven’t we heard that before? Builders are notorious for not understanding when floors should be installed. Some reasons for their hurriedness include having the painting and trim subcontractors finish everything at once instead of having to come back. There are other reasons I will never figure out. If your new hardwood floor is installed with other major work not completed, make it clear to them you want the flooring protected.

Far too many times new floors get damaged so badly they need to be refinished before the remodeling work is completed. The best protection, besides having the work done at the proper time, is covering with 1/8″ masonite board, while duct taping the seams or joints. Duct tape should not be affixed to the floor itself. These efforts will be meaningless if the masonite board and finished floor¹ itself is not squeaky clean.

It doesn’t stop there. Depending on how much other work is needed to complete the remodel and the amount of debris created, it may be necessary to remove the masonite every so often making sure nothing has traveled underneath that will damage the finished floor. Common sense dictates the areas should be swept often and debris cleaned up at least once per day.

We’re Near the Beach. Sand?

Living near the beach, or in the desert, sand will always affect the performance of any flooring. Attention to care and maintenance should be given priority. Newer high tech finishes will help handle the everyday wear, but not the inevitable scratching. Lighter grays, beige and off white brushed hardwoods that help camouflage minor issues when it comes to sand are extremely popular in this scenario.

See our Imagination product videos for ideas.

Many Say Not To Use Wide Planks Near Water

Solid wide plank products will be more susceptible to adverse reactions relating to high moisture levels, but some types are less prone than others. Engineered or quarter sawn hardwood will offer a safer alternative if in doubt.

¹ Site finished floors need time to cure. Covering may not be an option. Consult a qualified professional with this one.

Original Post

6 Beautiful Luxury Vinyl Tile Floors

For some reason, most people have an adverse reaction to the thought of vinyl floors. Ok, maybe they’re ok for the bathroom, but for the rest of your home? The fact is, vinyl products have come a long way. There’s even a new category of vinyl floors – Luxury Vinyl Tile (sometimes called LVT).

 

vinyl tile (or vinyl plank) floor like this one from Carpet One’s Invincible Vinyl Tile collection could be just the floor you’ve been dreaming of.

WHY LUXURY VINYL TILE?

LVT is a great option for rooms that have moistures, spaces that need a durable flooring option and it can save you money too. Depending on the style you choose, you could save as much as 4 dollars a square foot compared to a similar hardwood style. That really adds up considering the average kitchen size is around 300 square feet.

We also love that luxury vinyl flooring is softer and warmer underfoot. Great if you spend a lot of time standing on your floors.

Perhaps the best feature of Luxury Vinyl Tile is getting the look you really want. Manufacturers have even gone the extra mile in creating tiles that are the shape and size of wood planks (sometimes referred to as Luxury Vinyl Plank) so that when they’re installed, you get even closer to the look a wood floor.  Luxury Vinyl Tile and Luxury Vinyl Plank can have beveled edges and even the texture you would expect in a hardwood or tile floor. You might even forget it’s not the real thing.

Here are some of our favorite rooms featuring Luxury Vinyl Tile. Which is your favorite?

 

Great wood look for a living room. Durable enough to stand up to the whole family.

 

Something  durable and beautiful for a dinging room, yes please!

 

A sleek look in the living room.

 

Perfect for a kitchen. Holds up to moisture and it’s easy to stand on.

 

 

Eat in kitchens get a lot of traffic. Invincible Vinyl Tile can stand up to that.

Where would you put a beautiful luxury vinyl tile floor in your home?

Original post

Why Choose Engineered Stone?

Flooring technology has taken a big step and created an engineered stone floor that is amazingly realistic. But, why would you want stone floors that aren’t stone? There are many benefits of having this type of floor in your home.

 

3 Reasons to Go with Engineered

First, if you want the look of stone, but you’re on a budget, engineered stone gives you more options to find the perfect look without blowing your budget. The floor is installed and grouted in a very similar manner to real stone so you’ll have the same look.

 

If you live in a colder climate – or just hate having cold feet – engineered stone could be your dream come true. It is warmer and softer underfoot. These floors are also much more resistant to scratches and cracks.

 

When it comes time to install your new floors, engineered stone requires less floor preparation making the installation easier, quicker and less expensive.

 

If you think engineered stone could be just the floor you’re looking for, check out this inspiration from VEROSTONE available at Carpet One Floor & Home.

Original Post

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

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

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