An abundance of materials can make flooring selection seem almost overwhelming. Ceramic tile, porcelain tile, luxury vinyl tile, hardwood, laminate, engineered hardwood, bamboo floors, and carpet and all its variations are enough to give anyone pause to think about what they really want to tread on day after day. Usually, the decision comes down to comfort, price and aesthetics.
Michael Lang, senior marketing manager with Export, Pa.-based Karndean Designflooring asserts trends today in flooring are similar to overreaching societal trends. “These days everything is, ‘make it easy. Make it quick. Make it convenient,’” he says. “We see those trends occurring in flooring. People want flooring that is easy to maintain, easy to clean, yet at the same time is stylistic and durable.”
Crossville, Tenn.-based Crossville Inc.’s Mikeal Jensen, residential design director, notes sophistication, sleekness and versatility as driving forces. “It’s not just about how traditional stone looks anymore,” he says. “With advanced design and technology, we’re able to create subtle detailing, linear looks and a range of colors unlike ever before. We also have more capabilities to play with sizes, from large format to mosaics and everything in between. With the range of modern looks, we’re seeing tile installed more frequently in places beyond the kitchen and bath. It’s an xciting time for tile.”
Karndean Designflooring, which manufactures luxury vinyl tile, has built a business around making its LVT flooring resemble natural products such as tile and wood. “The physical result of the manufacture of vinyl tile is made possible by a print film that’s incorporated into the manufacturing of the tile or plank,” Lang explains. “Printing in the past five to seven years in terms of clarity and resolution has seen great improvements to the point we have to demonstrate to people the floor is manmade and not the real thing.”
Lang used to have a ceramic floor in his own kitchen, and he and his wife would have problems with tile cracking when large jars or cans were dropped on it. “One of the advantages of LVT is that it is much more durable than the natural materials; that same can of tomatoes could be dropped on an LVT floor, and it won’t crack,” he says. A polyurethane wear layer manufactured into the substrate also makes it resistant to scratches and scuffs.
Simulated grout strips made from the same vinyl material help the floor look more realistic. “Our flooring also can be cut with a hydro laser,” Lang says. “A commercial customer can incorporate their logo into the floor. With consumers, we don’t see it taken that far, but we do see them do a lot with our design accessories with strips and borders. It goes back to durability and ease of customization and installation.”
One of the most unique flooring installations Lang has seen is at a hospital in Florida. He compares the design to barbedwire-looking tattoos. “The architect who designed this took two styles from one of our product lines, sketched out a barbed-wire-looking design and used a hydro laser cutter to cut their flooring in this design using two different colors,” he explains. “It’s so encouraging to us to see architects get creative with the product. Our target market is beginning to pick up on this ability to customize and get a luxury look. The consumers that buy our flooring are emotionally engaged in their homes.”
Technology and Color
Technological advancements make tile a much more versatile material than in the past. “Today, we’re able to effectively replicate looks of other materials in tile thanks to advanced design and production capabilities,” Jensen says. “Technology is the tool kit that is empowering us to develop the fresh new looks you’re seeing in tile. High-resolution images, roller print technology, advanced glazes and textures — we use it all to create the style of today.”