LVT Market Profile: An overview of the dynamic floorcovering category - Feb 2019

By Darius Helm

With the advent of rigid products in 2013, the already ascendant LVT category entered a period of relentless growth that has generated huge opportunities and lots of enthusiasm-and a $3 billion domestic market-along with a hefty dose of chaos and uncertainty. Beyond the acronyms themselves, which struggle to define the endlessly shifting product constructions, there’s the sheer diversity of products and price points; and there’s also the issue of which markets to target with which products. And over the last few months, new 10% tariffs on Chinese goods have sent a shudder through the market. The threat of an increase to 25% continues to hang over the industry.

A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP
The LVT category, including rigid and flexible, is right now edging past ceramic tile and hardwood as the largest hard surface flooring category. It’s about half the size of the carpet market, and it’s still picking up steam. It relies on a massive superhighway of product moving from China to U.S. ports, the biggest import stream of a single flooring category. Ever.

China’s prominence in LVT production is not likely to change significantly in the coming years, though domestic production will become a bigger part of the overall picture. According to Market Insights LLC, only 10% of the LVT consumed in the U.S. is produced domestically, and virtually all rigid LVT (WPC and SPC) is made overseas. Currently, rigid LVT accounts for 62% of U.S. sales, says Market Insights’ Santo Torcivia-36% WPC and 26% SPC-and the remaining 38% is traditional flexible LVT. China not only makes almost all of the world’s supply of rigid LVT, but it also makes the bulk of flexible LVT. And if there’s an LVT, rigid or otherwise, with a click system coming from an Asian manufacturer, it’s probably coming from China.

China is also significant for its intellectual capital. The first rigid LVT, Coretec WPC by US Floors, was made in China in 2013, inspired by a Chinese outdoor decking product that captured the attention of US Floors’ Piet Dossche. And most of the WPC and SPC product developments in the intervening years have also come out of China.

Dossche patented the product technology, and later amended the patent to broaden its scope. Currently, the patent is licensed through either Unilin or Välinge, which also license the bulk of the click systems used for floating floor installations. However, not all of the SPC and WPC products on the market are licensed, with some producers claiming their product constructions go beyond the scope of the patent. And the category itself is still in the early stages of even being defined, with producers experimenting with new materials and constructions at an accelerating rate.

When it comes to trade with China and the potential for more tariffs, the biggest issue is arguably the uncertainty. Will there be higher tariffs? Many industry experts think that’s unlikely, but then again, it’s no easy task predicting this administration’s next moves. In mid-December, following a meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping that resulted in a temporary truce, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office pushed the tariff rate increase date from January 1 to March 2, and it’s quite feasible that this date could also shift, further extending this period of uncertainty.

The impact so far has been limited. By and large, most of the big U.S. flooring firms report that their Chinese partners have been flexible, though everyone is exploring options, and some players have shifted their sourcing to other Asian countries, like Taiwan and South Korea-and to some extent Vietnam. It’s also worth noting that the 10% tariff at FOB shipping point only equates to an approximate 7.5% increase in landed cost.

In the lead-up to the tariffs imposed in September 2018, there was a flurry of activity as importers, distributors and flooring firms raced to beat the tariffs and bought up available inventories, but it soon became apparent that there is enough elasticity in the market to absorb the increase. In general, LVT retail prices have not gone up anywhere near 10%, sometimes not at all.


PVC-FREE MODULAR FLOORING
Demand for sustainable flooring mostly comes from the commercial market, and that includes demand for alternatives to PVC. While PVC is a stable polymer in its final form, issues associated with the material include the use of phthalate plasticizers and hazards on the production side. However, over the last few years, phthalates have largely vanished from vinyl flooring, replaced by a growing range of chemistries, including bio-based plasticizers and terephthalates like DOTP. And even though PVC production has advanced hugely, largely eliminating risks, many commercial end-users are still on the hunt for replacement polymers that offer equivalent performance characteristics.

At last year’s NeoCon, many of the leading commercial flooring producers unveiled PVC-free resilient flooring for the first time. Mohawk came out with Pivot Point, replacing PVC content with a fully recyclable polyolefin-the product is manufactured in South Korea. Shaw introduced its PET Resilient program, represented by Shaw Contract’s Palette and Patcraft’s Woodtone. The products use PET instead of PVC, with 40% of the material coming from recycled drink bottles. Mannington introduced Cirro, which uses an acrylic polymeric material. Congoleum came out with Cleo, a large program of PVC-free tile made of 15% EVA (a type of synthetic rubber) and 85% calcium carbonate. And Upofloor, which is part of the Kährs Group, came out with a tile version of its Zero polyolefin sheet.

Upofloor, a Finnish producer, has actually had a PVC-free tile called Xpression for about a dozen years-it’s made from limestone and polyolefin. And under its Teknoflor brand, sold through Shannon Specialty Floors, Metroflor developed a heterogenous sheet flooring called Naturescapes, made of a polyurethane with bio-based content and manufactured by Germany’s Windmöller. Metroflor hopes to transfer the technology to modular products.

Some of these products will likely fail, for a variety of reasons-some will cost too much to be viable, while others will fall short in terms of performance characteristics-but the concerted effort of these manufacturers suggests that we’re seeing the birth of a new resilient flooring category. The best-performing, most cost-effective polymers and composites will find their way into the market, not just for LVT, but also for rigid LVT and other constructions.

It’s likely that these products will fill a niche in the market, specified for end users (like Kaiser Permanente) that have taken a formal stand against PVC. However, if the new materials can really compete on performance and also hit the right price points, it could significantly impact the future of PVC flooring.

PRODUCT OVERVIEW
The term LVT is already inadequate as an umbrella category, considering not just the SPC constructions that do away with the (luxurious) vinyl top layer, but also the recent launches of PVC-free resilient tile in the commercial market by most of the prominent manufacturers. To be accurate, the category is really modular polymer flooring, though that’ll get confusing all over again when products start appearing capped with hardwood veneers or thin porcelain tile-or, who knows, maybe even carpet.

For the purposes of this report, the category covers tile or plank from 2mm to 12mm thick, with constructions ranging from a traditional LVT cap adhered to an LVT base to rigid cores of foamed or solid vinyl (with varying amounts of calcium carbonate filler) with LVT caps or direct lamination of top layers. Some are installed with full spread adhesive, like most flexible LVT, and others have floating installations, including click systems, like the vast majority of rigid LVT, while others are held in place by a textured backings or simply the weight of the product. Some products include fiberglass layers for dimensional stability and others have backings for acoustical abatement and comfort underfoot, ranging from cork to IXPE (a cross-linked polyethylene foam) to other polymeric constructions.

Before the advent of rigid LVT, traditional flexible LVT was already the fastest-growing product category in both the residential and commercial markets. It’s been growing so fast, gaining marketshare as carpet’s share continues to shrink, that the big carpet mills, in order to stay competitive, have all launched LVT programs in the last few years.

On the commercial side, LVT is a gluedown product, used in a wide range of commercial sectors. In recent years, it has shown major gains in hospitality, retail and multifamily new construction. There are some click and floating floor installations on the commercial side, though it’s not a huge volume and is generally limited to light commercial applications without rolling loads or heavy traffic.

On the residential side, where it’s taking share in all four segments-multifamily renovation, builder, mainstreet and residential remodel-flexible LVT is also usually glued down, but there have been some very successful click LVT programs in recent years as well. However, with the surging demand for SPC and WPC, most manufacturers are moving away from and even discontinuing their click flex LVT programs. In general, click systems in LVT have had more performance and installation problems than click systems for laminates or engineered hardwood because of the flexibility of the product.

While much is made of the waterproof characteristics of WPC and SPC, it’s worth noting that flexible LVT is just as waterproof. And it’s also notable that these are waterproof products, not waterproof installations-unlike, say, ceramic tile. There’s nothing to prevent water from slipping through LVT to saturate and destroy subfloors.

WPC is a robust product, with an extruded vinyl core attached to an LVT cap, generally backed with an acoustical pad. These products tend to be fairly hefty and thick, ranging from 6mm to as much as 10mm in the case of Metroflor’s Aspecta 10-that’s about the thickness of a standard porcelain tile.

WPC cores are foamed PVC, which adds comfort underfoot and some sound insulation, but leaves the product vulnerable to indentation. Most but not all come with click systems.

SPC is less expensive to manufacture, since it’s a one-step process, and it’s generally thinner, so it uses less material. With SPC, the extruded core is directly laminated with the print film and wearlayer. Consequently, the market is being flooded with SPC from China. Many Chinese laminate manufacturers have modified their equipment to produce SPC.

In recent years, manufacturers have invested hugely in domestic production. Mannington did a massive expansion of its Madison, Georgia facility, and now it’s completing a rigid LVT facility. Shaw and Mohawk have both built LVT and rigid LVT production facilities. Nox and Floor Folio started making LVT, and now Nox is making rigid LVT. Tarkett and Armstrong have both invested in their domestic capacity. And yet, the LVT market is growing so fast that Chinese imports are still increasing, and it’s unlikely that domestic capacity will ever rival China’s manufacturing volume.

When it comes to rigid LVTs, the scales are even more tilted. Chinese manufacturers have turned out to be very nimble, adapting easily to new technologies and quickly scaling up. Even with the 10% tariff, China still has a cost advantage over domestic product, albeit greatly reduced. A 25% tariff would be a different matter. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

PRODUCER PROFILES
With its acquisition of US Floors about two years ago, Shaw Industries became the largest resilient flooring producer in the U.S. market. Currently, it takes its resilient tile products-flex LVT, SPC and WPC-to the residential market under the Shaw (Floorté for rigid LVT) and Coretec brands, and on the commercial side US Floors has been absorbed into the Shaw Contract and Patcraft brands.

The firm was the first to produce rigid LVT domestically, starting up a WPC line at the firm’s Ringgold, Georgia facility in late 2017, having launched flexible LVT from the same facility a year earlier. Much of 2018 was spent fine tuning the WPC line and ramping up production. According to the firm, it’s now running at close to capacity. Domestic WPC will likely account for 10% to 15% of sales, though Shaw is looking at how to modify equipment to increase capacity and move closer to 20%. Shaw’s domestic flexible LVT also accounts for 10% to 15% of sales.

Last month the firm launched a WPC in a square format with a ceramic tile décor. The plan is to merchandise the products in retailers’ ceramic tile sections as a ceramic alternative that’s warmer and softer underfoot and far easier to install. And it also came out with a rigid product with a real wood veneer. It’s worth noting that the firm has the thickest rigid core product on the market, a 12mm WPC.

Shaw’s WPC mostly goes to the residential market, while its SPC is stronger in commercial, including mainstreet. The firm intends to come out with a gluedown SPC later this year, and that should do well in the specified commercial market, where products like flexible LVT are already glued down. It’s moving toward producing SPC domestically.

Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest floorcovering manufacturer, has become a giant in LVT production in recent years-largely through its acquisition of IVC-including a facility in Georgia and three in Belgium. It’s also the first to domestically produce an SPC product, or at least a version of SPC. Mohawk’s SolidTech, which is 5.5mm, or 6.5mm with an attached pad, has a blown dense PVC core that has greater indentation resistance than foamed WPC cores, and a fiberglass layer adds dimensional stability, and it also has a vinyl cap atop the core, which is more like WPC. SolidTech production for the last couple of years has come from an Asian manufacturing partnership.

According to the firm, SolidTech has started rolling off its Dalton production line, and later this month it will start shipping product, including its new higher-end SolidTech Marquee. However, it will continue to source the bulk of its rigid LVT, including both SPC and WPC constructions, from its Asian partners. The firm anticipates that the market will increasingly turn to solid core products as opposed to the softer WPC foamed cores, driven by performance and market demands.

Most of the firm’s flexible LVT for the U.S. market is produced in Dalton, though there’s still a flow of legacy products from overseas suppliers.

Armstrong Flooring, which last year sold its hardwood flooring to an affiliate of American Industrial Partners, a private equity firm, has now become a resilient flooring specialist, having already moved away from the laminate business. The firm makes sheet vinyl, VCT and a range of LVT products, including several unique constructions.

On the commercial side, it has its Natural Creations flexible LVT, which includes its domestically produced Natural Creations with Diamond 10 finish, and its Classics line, supplied for several years by its Asian manufacturing partner. Natural Creations is a 3.2mm product with a 20 mil wearlayer. At lower price points is Parallel, 2mm and 12 mil. And the firm recently introduced a 5mm looselay LVT called Unleashed.

Armstrong also came out with a commercial SPC last year, called Rigid Core Vantage, and it can be glued down or floated with a locking system. Vantage also goes to the residential market.

The firm’s residential LVT programs include Alterna, which is manufactured domestically and is notable for its solidity and heft, conveyed through high limestone content. It also has more traditional LVTs in Luxe Plank and Vivero-Vivero is made in Pennsylvania and also features Diamond 10 technology.

When it comes to residential rigid LVT, the firm sources WPC for its Luxe Plank with Rigid Core line. And Rigid Core Elements, an entry-level SPC introduced a couple of years ago, has been growing hugely in multifamily, new home construction and residential remodel. And at the higher end is Pryzm, which has an SPC core and a cork back, but the top is protected by an application of liquid melamine, which offers great scratch resistance.

While Armstrong produces the bulk of its flexible LVT domestically, particularly on the commercial side, its rigid LVT is all outsourced.

Another resilient powerhouse is New Jersey-based Mannington, which has a huge LVT operation in Madison, Georgia. Almost all of its commercial LVT is made in Madison, and now that the firm has shifted all of its gluedown production to Madison and is moving away from residential Adura with click systems, it also makes all of its Adura flexible LVT, a 2.5mm product with a 20 mil wearlayer, in Madison.

Adura Max, Mannington’s WPC, has been on the market for about three years, and it’s sourced through an Asian partnership. It’s a 8mm product with a 20 mil wearlayer and a 1.5mm IXPE backing. And last year, through a new manufacturing partner, the firm came out with an SPC. Adura Rigid is a 5.5mm product with a 12 mil wearlayer and a 1mm IXPE pad.

The big news at Mannington is that it has completed construction of its rigid LVT line in Georgia. It’s currently in the scale-up process and is manufacturing product. The firm plans to start selling product during the first half of this year.

Tarkett North America, a division of France’s Tarkett, makes a range of resilient flooring for the residential and commercial markets, along with commercial and residential carpet. In terms of LVT, it’s bigger commercially than it is residentially, but its rigid LVT is generating strong growth residentially.

At the end of last year, Tarkett collapsed all of its commercial brands-Johnsonite, Tandus Centiva, Desso and Lexmark (its latest acquisition)-into Tarkett Commercial. So its commercial LVT, which before came from the Johnsonite and Tandus Centiva brands, will now go to market as Tarkett Commercial. From the Johnsonite side comes ID Inspirations, ID Freedom, ID Principle, Transcend Click and Transcend Sureset, among others. Transcend Sureset uses a releasable factory-applied adhesive for installation. And from Tandus Centiva comes products like Contour, Event, Venue and Victory.

On the residential side, Tarkett offers flexible LVT for both gluedown and Sureset looselay installation, as well as ProGen, a sourced SPC product that has been out for about a year.

Globally, Tarkett has invested in rigid LVT production with the installation of pilot lines in Poland and Russia, and it has also announced plans to build a rigid LVT facility in the U.S. Currently, while Tarkett NA’s flexible LVT is balanced between domestic production and overseas supply, including product sourced from Tarkett’s European operations, its rigid LVT for now is supplied through manufacturing partnerships.

Tarkett is also working on a PVC-free resilient product for the commercial market. More on that later this year.

Metroflor, which is largely supplied through long-standing manufacturing partnerships with two producers in Zhangjiagang City, China, serves the residential market through a wide range of branded product lines, and it serves the commercial market with its Aspecta brand. Metroflor’s sister company, Halstead, serves the DIY market, mostly through Home Depot.

At 10mm, there are few products with as much heft as Metroflor’s Aspecta 10, a WPC product with a 5mm foamed core of extruded PVC with calcium carbonate. It has a 2mm attached IXPE pad, a 3mm LVT cap with a 28 mil wearlayer and a DropLock 100 click system from I4F. While Aspecta 10 is growing well in the commercial market, mostly in retail and hospitality, Aspecta’s dryback flexible LVT products are growing faster .

On the residential side, its top-selling product is Engage Genesis, a WPC with a thickness of 6.5mm to 8.5mm. The firm also has a residential SPC, Engage Inception, introduced last year. One of Metroflor’s most unique products-one that has attracted a dedicated following over the years-is Konecto, a flexible LVT that uses its patented Grip-Strip to adhere boards to each other for a floating installation. Konecto is particularly strong in the multifamily market.

Last October, Metroflor announced a partnership with Magnetic Building Solutions to develop LVT that uses a ferrite powder in its backing to attach to magnetic vinyl underlayment. The system will be coming to the market later this year.

Novalis serves the global market from its huge LVT production facility in Zhenjiang, China-a million square feet under one roof-and its U.S. products go to market under the commercial Ava brand and NovaFloor, which is largely residential and currently the bigger part of its branded business. However, the bulk of Novalis’ sales in the U.S., at least for now, are through its private label programs, like the Stainmaster program at Lowe’s.

The U.S. is Novalis’ biggest market, but its European business is also substantial. In Europe, flexible LVT with click systems are still strong, while in the U.S. the market is shifting toward gluedown LVT and click SPC and WPC. Novalis makes everything from gluedown, looselay, click and peel-and-stick LVT to WPC and SPC. Its SPC goes from 3mm to 6.5mm and its WPC goes from 5mm to 7.5mm. Wearlayers range from 4 mil to 28 mil. It’s worth noting that those entry-level products aren’t sold through the Ava and NovaFloor brands, nor is the flexible LVT with the click system.

Last year, Novalis moved its North American headquarters from Toronto, Ontario to Dalton, Georgia. The Dalton location also includes warehousing and an R&D center. Part of it is still in the construction phase.

As part of Swiff-Train, Earthwerks has over 40 years of experience in the LVT market, having imported its first LVT container in 1978. The firm has always been notable for its vast offering, but recently the firm has been narrowing down that selection, though there are still hundreds of SKUs of flexible LVT, along with its Core collection of 36 WPC SKUs and 24 SPC SKUs, which includes 12 new SKUs this year.

Like most LVT firms, Earthwerks is phasing out click LVT products; most of its flexible LVT is gluedown. Those products range from 2mm to 4mm, with wearlayers from 12 mil to 20 mil. The firm sells its products to the residential market, including mainstreet. Its biggest market is multifamily.

Earthwerks’ WPC products range from 5.5mm and 12 mil to 6mm and 20 mil. Interestingly, the firm’s SPC is fairly high end, with a dense, rigid core sandwiched by LVT layers, backed with a 1mm IXPE pad for a total thickness of 6mm, and topped with a 20 mil wearlayer. The SPC line also features in-register embossing, and new additions to the line have painted bevels.

The Dixie Group, best known for its Masland, Fabrica and Dixie Home carpet brands, first introduced LVT a couple of years ago under the Stainmaster PetProtect brand, offering both flexible and rigid LVT. This year, the firm has discontinued its Masland flexible LVT line, and now it only offers WPC, with 28 SKUs each in the Masland and Dixie Home brands. Going forward, all of the WPC products are 7.5mm with 20 mil wearlayers.

The firm also has a 5.5mm gluedown LVT for its Masland Energy mainstreet line, with a 22 mil wearlayer. The thickness of the product is about the same as its carpet tile, allowing for mixed installations without transitions.

Dixie Home has also just come out with a stocking dealer program of ten SKUs of SPC, called TruCor, a 5.5mm product with a 12 mil wearlayer.

France’s Gerflor focuses its U.S. operations on the commercial market-the firm also has a sizeable sports floor business in the U.S., including hardwood flooring and polypropylene tile. The firm’s offering includes its Creation dryback LVT, a 2.5mm product with a robust 28 mil wearlayer and Creation Living, a 2mm version with a 12 mil wearlayer. And there’s also Creation Clic, 6mm with a 28 mil wearlayer, with a 12 mil version on the way. In addition, Saga is a unique LVT with a recycled vinyl and cork backing, installed with tackifier adhesive that allows for easy removal and replacement of tiles.

Because of Gerflor’s commercial focus, rigid LVT is not a critical category. In Europe, Gerflor’s biggest market, rigid LVT isn’t finding the same degree of traction as in the U.S., largely because the “waterproof” marketing strategy, which mostly goes against hardwood, doesn’t resonate as well in Europe’s vinyl savvy marketplace.

Gerflor is also now in the linoleum business, having acquired Germany’s DLW in April 2018. And the firm also completed construction of its click LVT facility in France in September.

Carpet tile specialist Interface launched its first LVT in February 2017. Out of the gate, the firm’s LVT has been designed to match the thickness of its carpet tile, with 4.5mm products. Wearlayers are 22 mil and its proprietary Sound Choice backing helps with acoustical abatement. Not only does Interface’s LVT install with carpet tile without transitions, but it can also be floated using TacTiles-for larger areas, adhesive is recommended.

Interface’s LVT is produced by a South Korean manufacturing partner. So far, the LVT line is strongest in the corporate sector, and it’s also making good gains in education and hospitality.

One of the more interesting stories is Congoleum, one of the oldest resilient flooring producers in the U.S., dating back to 1886. It’s a firm that knows better than most how to make use of limestone. Residentially, Congoleum is probably best known for its Duraceramic line, launched more than 15 years ago, a thick and dense PVC tile with about 80% limestone content. And a year ago the firm came out with a new brand, Cleo, that uses 85% limestone with EVA instead of PVC. Cleo is a flexible gluedown product. Both Cleo and Duraceramic are produced at the firm’s New Jersey facilities. At NeoCon last year, the firm introduced Cleo Contract.

The firm also sells sourced LVT, mostly targeting the lower end, including the builder and multifamily sectors, under the Timeless by Congoleum program. Its 8mm Triversa WPC, on the market for going on three years, has a 20 mil wearlayer and a cork acoustic backing. Triversa, which is produced through an Asian partnership, is strongest in the residential remodel market. The firm is considering launching an SPC line.

Parterre has been supplying the commercial market with LVT since 1991. The Wilmington, Massachusetts-based firm has expanded its offering this year, adding both SPC click products as well as looselay flexible LVT. The looselay is a 5mm product that only requires perimeter gluing, designed to match most carpet tile heights. Its SPC is also 5mm, with a 20 mil wearlayer and a 1mm IXPE backing. Its gluedown LVT, which accounts for the bulk of its sales, comes in 2mm, 2.5mm and 3mm, with the thicker product making up most of its business.

Parterre’s products are manufactured through two partnerships in China and one in Taiwan.

Phenix Flooring, which started as a carpet manufacturer in 2006, introduced LVT three years ago, and rapidly expanded from one product line to seven. Its offering includes looselay LVT, its Rigid Core collection of SPC and a rigid LVT that’s a hybrid of WPC and SPC. It features a core with high vinyl content-it’s 70% PVC and 30% limestone-so it’s more flexible than SPC.

The hybrid, Momentum, is a 5mm product with a 12 mil wearlayer. Velocity is a 5mm SPC with a 22 mil wearlayer, and the top of the line is Impulse, 5.5mm with a 28 mil wearlayer. The products are sourced through a Chinese manufacturing partnership. The firm also has partners in Taiwan and Vietnam.

Phenix’s Design Mix flexible LVT program, a 4mm looselay with a 20 mil wearlayer, is produced by a domestic manufacturing partner. Though it only requires perimeter glue, it can be installed with full spread adhesive. In addition, Phenix offers SPC and looselay under the Stainmaster PetProtect brand. The firm’s best-selling product is Momentum, and fastest growing is Velocity.

Karndean, a British firm, sells LVT in the U.S. to both the commercial and residential markets. Right now, they’re about the same size, but commercial is growing faster. In addition to flexible LVT, Karndean offers Korlok, which has a solid extruded PVC core with no limestone in it. Korlok is produced through a Chinese partnership. Overall, the firm offers over 150 flex LVT products and 24 rigid LVTs in the U.S. market.

Its LVT line includes 2mm product with a 12 mil wearlayer and 3mm product with a 30 mil wearlayer. The thicker product is strong in senior living, healthcare and hospitality. Korlok, a 6.5mm product with a 20 mil wearlayer, goes mostly to the residential market, and commercially it’s strongest in multifamily, followed by retail. The firm also offers a 4.5mm looselay product that works well with carpet tile.

Nox, which has six facilities in South Korea, began manufacturing flexible LVT in Ohio in 2015. The firm started as a component producer and then moved into floorcovering production in 1994, so it has some vertical integration. The firm reports that it’s the second biggest print film producer in Asia, but it uses all of its product internally. Its biggest market is the U.S., followed by Europe, then Asia.

Its domestically produced LVT ranges from 2mm to 5mm, and its capacity has just been doubled with a second production line. The firm, which has a rigid LVT facility in South Korea, is now building one in Ohio as well, which will produce Nox Genesis, an SPC with an LVT cap. The product will range from 4mm to 8mm, and the facility is scheduled to start producing flooring later this quarter.

Most of Nox’s product is OEM, but the firm is steadily building its own brand as well. Its flexible LVT mostly goes to commercial and light commercial applications, including multifamily. Its rigid LVT program in the U.S. is still fairly modest, and it’s also finding good traction in multifamily.

In 2012, Happy Feet was launched in Chattanooga, Tennessee, sourcing LVT from five suppliers in China, South Korea and Vietnam. Its offering includes looselay, gluedown and click products, both flex and rigid LVT, covering a wide range of price points. Its flexible LVT ranges from 2mm to 5mm, with wearlayers going from 6 mil to 30 mil.

The firm’s best-selling product is an entry level SPC called Blockbuster, a thin 3.5mm with a 12 mil wearlayer, retailing for less than $1/foot. SPC makes up 40% of the firm’s revenues. At the high end is Built-Rite, with a 5mm core, a 1.5mm cork back, a 30 mil wearlayer and painted bevels. Its SPC products are growing faster than WPC, which range from 6.5mm to 8.5mm.

MFA UPDATE
The Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA), formed in August 2016, led the establishment of a new standard, ASTM F3261-17 for “resilient flooring in modular format with rigid polymeric core.” The standard was published last summer, and MFA has already teamed up with SCS Global on a pilot certification for that standard. The third-party certification should be finalized in the next couple of months.
According to Metroflor’s Rochelle Routman, chair of the transparency and sustainability committee of MFA, “The standard is very progressive because it includes sustainability attributes along with performance.”
The group is headed up by Harlan Stone, group CEO of Metroflor and Halstead, and member companies include Shaw’s US Floors, Mohawk’s IVC Group, Shaw Floors, CFL, Mannington, Karndean, Torlys, Novalis, Metroflor and Earthwerks.
Considering that the members account for the bulk of rigid LVT sold in the U.S., it’s likely that the standard will quickly gain traction and that certifications will be pursued by producers with a stake in the U.S. market.

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