Looking to explore all the global and local trends in Resilient flooring?
The resilient flooring market seems to continue making significant inroads in the South African flooring industry as the demand for a durable product with an array of design options that is easy to maintain and environmentally friendly, continues to increase at a rapid rate. In the US alone, resilient flooring has grown from 13% to over 20% of the flooring market on a square footage basis over the last decade.
Although vinyl is a popular material found in resilient flooring, these floors can also be composed of materials such as linoleum, cork and rubber. According to floorsource.com, resilient flooring is known for being inexpensive and a unique option for work areas requiring a hygienic or slip-resistant floorcovering. Another attraction is its surface layer which is extremely resistant to scratching, fading and wear.
The rapid global uptake of Luxury Vinyl Tiles (LVTs) or Planks due to significant technological advances has ensured that this resilient floor type will continue to make its mark, not only internationally, but also in South Africa. According to Nay Tawile, Regional Manager M.E.A. at Gerflor, LVTs have exploded in the European market with 30% growth each year.
“This is due to its various advantages over other materials in use, such as laminates that are noisy, not water-resistant, with a short lifespan and a surface area that is easily scratched,” she says. “Added to this is the realism of design and embossing in LVTs. Vinyl also offers different wear level layers, and let’s not forget the vast number of design options and patterns available.”
Peter Geyer, Divisional Manager at FloorworX, adds that LVTs are also easy and quick to install using a good click or lock system as well as dry-back LVTs. “They are soft underfoot, warm in winter and their protective polyurethane coating aids in preventing dirt and stains,” he highlights.
Vinyl flooring’s safety and longevity attributes have also contributed significantly to the growth in demand of this floor type. According to Tandy Coleman-Spolander, Marketing and Sales Support Director at Polyflor, the healthcare market has traditionally been the largest consumer of vinyl floor products, specifically sheeting products as they offer critical hygiene benefits. The private healthcare sector is also taking advantage of the benefits of wood-look sheeting in creating a more homely, comforting environment for patients. In terms of longevity, vinyl products, due to their durability can last up to 25 years if properly maintained.
From an environmental perspective, SAVA’s Product Stewardship Programme (PSP), ensures that its members will only be able to supply LVT and traditional vinyl floor products that comply with the agreed standards. As explained by Delanie Bezuidenhout, CEO of SAVA (the South African Vinyl Association), the South African market is still very price-driven and often decisions on products will be made based on the cheapest price and not on the quality and safety of a product. “While environmental products are becoming more important, they are not necessarily the driving force in decision making,” she continues. “We rarely get asked about our ratings and standards, such as slip resistance or fire ratings, as legislation does not always drive these decisions.”
Delanie advises the industry to stick to environmentally safe products, to know the VOP (volatile organic pollutants) and responsible raw material usage of the product and to buy it from a reputable supplier. “To be innovative is great, but responsible innovation is crucial,” she aptly states.
When talking about sustainability of products, there are numerous subjects and certifications to look at, namely: Safety of the product (composition and raw materials); Indoor Air Quality; VOC emissions; contribution to LEED certification; recyclability; and recycling content, etc.
In contrast to the South African industry, the European products raw materials have to be REACH-compliant, which is set by the European Union and imposed on all manufacturing in terms of heavy metal, lead and dangerous restricted chemicals that are harmful for “users”. In terms of indoor air quality and VOC emissions, the norms state that VOCs have to measure at 1 000mc per mᵌ.
With regards to recycling, there are two types, namely manufacturing and post-consumer recycling. LVTs need to be between 50% and 100% recyclable. This also relates to the LEED certification (an environmental building certification): recycling content in the product, among other parameters, results in the acquirement of LEED points that contribute to the LEED certification of a building.
“A lot of things go hand in hand with being green, such as safety, the environment, composition, maintenance and recyclability,” Nay reinforces. “One mustn’t only look at the product itself but at the full lifecycle of the product.”
International and local trends On speaking to numerous experts in the flooring, and more specifically LVT, industry, a definite international trend continues to be authentic reproductions of natural materials. According to Nay, the following three design trends are to be expected in 2014, namely:
1. Authentic and natural designs or rustic designs with a wood-like look that is natural and vintage. 2. Urban designs that are more modern such as brush concrete and silver printing with a metallic look. 3. Vintage designs such as a washed-out vintage jeans look, i.e. very white with washed, vintage colours with red or blue impressions that look like they have been around for a long time.
Nay goes on to say that 2014 will also see unique innovations involving design and technical aspects. Design trends will go one step further in terms of realism and aesthetics, for example, different dye batches and different size planks in one single box. From a technical perspective, innovations to ease installation will be introduced such as a completely loose-lay system. “It’s not just about colour and design but also innovations in technicality and installation that make it easier and quicker to install,” she notes.
Peter reiterates the above by adding that the trend is certainly leaning towards wider Luxury Vinyl Planks and not the narrow ones. Designs include the trendy wood-grain look, as wood still remains the favourite flooring finish in Europe and America. According to Tandy, South Africa sticks to warm, red designs whereas Europe tends to lean towards grey options. “However, we are seeing changes in design options,” she says.
“Wide and long planks continue to be specified based on both the aesthetic and the ease of installation both internationally and locally,” says Tandy. “Thinner strip woods have been affected by this but these will be requested more and more as customers seek something a little different to what everyone is offering. Parquet and more natural and intricately cut designs will certainly grow in popularity as these are seen as more timeless and classic. LVTs can produce this effect, and it will come down to who is more creative in their thinking.”
She goes on to explain that stone and natural designs have not been as popular in South Africa, however, in terms of non-woods, the more classic stones such as Limestone, Travertine and Slate will always see a large demand. The clarity of natural appearance will always be key, especially as printing technology improves. “Tile size has also seen larger formats become more popular, replicating such materials as concrete and other ‘slab’ materials,” she continues. “Creative or ‘fantasy’ tile decorations will continue to grab the eye of the customer with a view to being able to offer something completely different.”
Challenges facing LVTs As with any industry and product, LVTs are no exception to experiencing unique challenges. However, the resilient flooring sector has responded by offering practical solutions that can be easily implemented. A key challenge is how to stay competitive and keep the competitive advantage with the influx of cheaper products from Asia and China.
“First and foremost, we need to keep ahead in terms of trends, sustainability, innovation and production capacity,” highlights Nay. For this reason, technological advances play a crucial role in ensuring an ongoing competitive advantage. According to Peter these advances include good-quality UV protection, fibre glass scrims within the product, textures, strong click systems, scratch resistance, high quality synthetic materials with good thermal conduction properties, a thin and flexible LVT ensuring easy laying onto existing floors.
As already noted by Delanie, manufacturers in China and Asia amongst others do not follow European standards and it is unknown what their products contain, so one should take note of where the product comes from and who the supplier is.
In the opinion of Tandy, the challenge to create more authentic-looking products has been the driving force in innovation and improvement of LVTs. Specialised inks, unique film design and surface embossing has helped to overcome this challenge.
Resilient flooring and LVTs are on the increase globally, with South Africa following the design trends while at the same time encouraging its younger generation of ‘designer architects’ to continue embracing innovative designs that compete in the international market. In so doing, resilient flooring is set to continue making positive contributions to the flooring industry in South Africa.
Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following sources for the information contained in this article: www.floorworx.co.za; www.property24.com/articles/resilient-floor-for-heavy-traffic; www.floorsource.com/vinyl-FAQ; and www.floortrendsmag.com