Fast growing LVT (luxurvy vinyl tile) offers performance  and style. This is from Armstrong's new waterproof Pryzm collection.
Armstrong Fast growing LVT (luxurvy vinyl tile) offers performance and style. This is from Armstrong's new waterproof Pryzm collection.

There’s quite a lot going on in the world of flooring, and it was all on display at The International Surface Event (TISE, formerly known as Surfaces) held in Las Vegas on Jan. 17-20. Here are the five things you need to know about flooring from someone who has covered the flooring industry for nearly 30 years as the publisher and editor of Floor Covering Weekly magazine.

Hardwood Goes Long and Wide
Real wood flooring is facing stiff competition, as virtually every other hard surface flooring emulates the look of hardwood while offering better performance features than ever.

Hardwood manufacturers have responded with new, longer formats that go way beyond the traditional 6- to 7-foot lengths; products are now available in 10-foot lengths, and many longer still, giving new meaning to the term "longstrip."

Those same technical advances that make longstrip possible have led to wider boards for a more vintage look that continues to resonate with consumers. These new formats, because they are engineered wood, are also helping to keep the category price competitive. It’s no surprise then that consumers still prefer the real thing over many of the alternative flooring products on the market today.

LVT/WPC Alphabet Soup
LVT (luxury vinyl tile) has led the vinyl category with distinctive styling and easy-to-install formats that deliver enhanced performance. But the real story may be in its tremendous growth as new suppliers continue to hop on board. Projected to be the fastest growing flooring category for years to come--some expect 15% annual growth--many are now worried that the price pressures will result in a race to the bottom.

At the same time, there’s a new kid on the block: WPC. Short for wood plastic composite, it is winning consumers over with its impregnated water proof cores. This still-emerging technology is catching on for several reasons: WPC offers superior moisture resistance but also shares the same advantages as LVT in printing and embossing for more realistic looks than ever before.

Texture in ceramic tile is coming to walls. Shown here is DalTile’s Materika
Daltile Texture in ceramic tile is coming to walls. Shown here is DalTile’s Materika.

Large Formats in Ceramic Tile
Technology has made its presence felt in the ceramic tile industry. First is the move to porcelain, which not only dominates category sales but is poised for further growth as it can work in both indoor and outdoor environments. Add high-definition printing and you have porcelain tiles that are virtually indistinguishable from the wood and stone looks they mimic so convincingly.

But there’s more: Larger formats are catching on with today’s consumer, and ceramic tile manufacturers are leading the way with new sizes upwards of 3 feet for squares with rectangles as large as 4 feet long. Wall tile is growing in popularity as texture and pattern are making their presence felt.

Carpet Staging a Comeback?
Recently, we saw the increased use of polyester (PET) carpet products as an inexpensive solution for the growing multifamily sector. Today, manufacturers have responded to consumer demand for better styling, new fiber systems and pet protection treatments that add value beyond lower price points.

Mohawk unveiled its newest version of its successful SmartStrand Silk line of soft carpet--Silk Reserve--which sits at the very top of the market even as other manufacturers have enhanced their soft nylon programs.

Gaining the most momentum with carpet consumers, however, are the advances in pet protection featuring enhanced constructions--from fiber and backings to treatments against mold and allergens--that prevent problems from pet stains and odors. Pet owners are loving it.

Wood? Laminate? LVT? Embossed-in-register technology from IVC makes it difficult to tell. Shown here: LVT (luxury vinyl tile)
IVC Wood? Laminate? LVT? Embossed-in-register technology from IVC makes it difficult to tell. Shown here: LVT (luxury vinyl tile)

Laminates Moves Upscale, Gets Tough on Moisture
Even as the low end of the laminate market continues to drive much of category sales, manufacturers are looking to the high end to restore laminate to its former glory.

To do that, laminate is building on the strength of its visuals with high-definition printing and engineered-in-register embossing that give it a new level of realism. At the same time, it’s taking on its Achilles' heel: moisture.

Today’s better laminate floors feature water-resistant surfaces and special edge and core treatments that combat swelling due to moisture. And it is winning that fight, so you can expect laminate flooring to make a comeback, especially at the high end.