LVT Report 2023: LVT is evolving and transforming as rapidly as it is growing - February 2023
By Darius Helm
The LVT category, and in some sense the entire hard surface side of flooring, seems on the verge of multiple inflection points. Market saturation appears to be hitting a peak right as the residential market, which is where much of the growth has been, goes into a stall; wood looks across all hard surface categories in the residential market have drowned out most other visuals, priming the market for new design direction; and LVT constructions and chemistries are breaking the bounds of traditional product definitions and intersecting with other hard surface flooring categories.
On top of that, anticipated 2022 market results suggest that last year resilient flooring surpassed carpet as the largest flooring category in the U.S.-and the largest and fastest growing part of resilient is LVT, which is now dominated by rigid LVT, SPC specifically. In other words, SPC, the newest sub-sub-category, is taking rigid-core share from WPC, LVT share from flex products, resilient share from sheet goods and overall flooring share from every other category, except rugs.
RIGID’S RAPID RISE
The transformation of the LVT category began exactly ten years ago with US Floors’ introduction of Coretec Plus at Surfaces in Las Vegas. Back then, LVT was typically a flexible vinyl product topped with décor layers and protective wearlayers. Some were thicker, with specialized backings for looselay installation, and others were thinner and glued down. On the residential side, some came with click systems.
The original construction of Coretec’s first rigid LVT product, with a backing that included cork and wood dust, gave way to other constructions within a couple of years, and the innovation hasn’t slowed down-dense PVC cores for SPC constructions; magnesium oxide for light, rigid boards; enhanced wearlayers for laminate-like scratch resistance; direct digital printing and embossing; PVC-free constructions. The category is evolving so fast that it outpaces definition.
Also interesting is how the rigid core category and the laminate category seem to be edging toward each other. Laminates have focused on water resistance to capture some of the demand for waterproof flooring that has been so central to the traction of rigid LVT. And we’re seeing more rigid LVT producers come out with melamine wearlayers to compete with laminate’s superior scratch resistance. In some ways, the only hard line separating the rigid core category from the laminate category is laminate’s fiberboard core, an Achilles’ heel in terms of vulnerability to moisture but a home run when it comes to cost.
Just a few years ago, rigid LVT was decimating the laminate category, but some key events in the last few years have given laminates a boost, including Mohawk’s prominent marketing of RevWood Plus’ waterproof installation, the overall efforts by laminate producers to innovate and enhance their products, and the global supply chain issues of the pandemic coupled with the tariffs on products imported from China, which conferred an advantage to more reliable domestic supply chains-and when it comes to domestic production, laminate has a significant advantage over rigid LVT.
The commercial side is dominated by flex LVT, both gluedown and looselay, with gluedown in particular offering the high performance required of many commercial environments, particularly where there are rolling loads. There is some WPC and SPC in light commercial environments. Some producers report increased use of acoustic SPC and WPC in hotel rooms. And rigid LVT is making some inroads into retail, senior living, corporate and higher education.
On the residential side, WPC is strongest at the medium to high end of the residential remodel market. And with the wealth gap widening during the pandemic, the significantly stronger higher end of the market has helped drive WPC sales. Also, home centers-Home Depot in particular-have been doing well with affordable WPC.
SPC is growing fastest in the single-family builder and residential remodel markets. In the builder market, it is taking huge share from hardwood flooring. In multifamily, gluedown LVT still has a strong position, but both WPC and acoustic SPC are finding traction there, as well.
Residential flex LVT is the category that took the hardest hit from rigid LVT. It has all but vanished from the portfolios of many leading flooring producers, with few exceptions, the most notable being Mannington, which still has a robust flex LVT business on the residential side.
Over the last few years, there’s been a huge wave of investment in domestic LVT facility construction, from domestic firms like Shaw, Mohawk, Mannington, Engineered Floors, MSI, HMTX and FloorFolio to firms coming out of Asia, including CFL, Nox, Novalis, Huali and Wellmade. It’s almost all rigid LVT, except for Nox and FloorFolio. But even all this new domestic capacity, which by some accounts makes up 15% of domestic consumption, is having a hard time keeping pace with the overall growth of the category.
What’s interesting is that most of the domestic volume is going to OEM or private label. In fact, many of the American firms that have started up domestic rigid LVT production also source other rigid products from domestic producers. As Dave Thoresen, Nox’s vice president of product innovation and business development, puts it, “Who’s making their own product 100% of the time? No one.”
Also, most of what’s made in the U.S. is SPC. Only Mannington and, soon, HMTX offer domestic WPC. And it hasn’t been easy for domestic producers to compete against the price points of products from emerging manufacturing markets like Vietnam and Cambodia, or the innovation and value-added features of product made in China-which is, after all, where rigid LVT manufacturing was born.
Also, labor comes at a higher cost in the U.S., if you can find it, and so do raw materials like PVC. To offset those differences, domestic producers focus on automation and efficient continuous production lines, which generally restricts them to narrower capabilities than what Asian manufacturers can offer. In addition, there have apparently been challenges, often Covid-based, in terms of getting Chinese expertise onsite to help set up production lines in the U.S.
All of these obstacles and challenges have made for a somewhat chaotic start to this domestic production movement. Most firms have faced delays in getting their facilities running. But now that supply chain issues have abated, Covid has eased, and people and products can move around more freely, domestic operations are starting to hum.
THE 2023 MARKET
The most important development in the U.S. market impacting LVT this year is the slowdown of demand in the residential sector. The lower end of the residential market is taking the brunt of the impact, and that’s where rigid LVT has been growing fastest, while the higher end is more buffered. On the positive side, this dynamic may give more prominence to higher-end LVT, boosting WPC products, but it will also generate more competition at the lower end, driving SPC toward commoditization. And it could also make producers cut costs by thinning their cores or using more limestone filler and thereby lower the performance characteristics of their products.
Another development-and one that will be a particular challenge for domestic producers-is that, as material and transportation costs fall, China regains an advantage in price, as does Asia in general, compared to American producers.
And lurking in the background is the 25% tariff on flooring products coming out of China. Some industry experts don’t expect the tariffs to be sustained. Their removal could have a huge impact on the fortunes of domestic producers, as well as on other producers in other Asian countries that have flourished thanks to those tariffs.
This year should also bring more LVT with advanced technologies into the market, including digitally printed products from firms like CFL, HMTX and Engineered Floors, more embossed-in-register products, new types of cores-some say the enthusiasm for MgO cores has waned due to issues with its brittleness-enhanced wearlayers, and high-performance backings for sound mitigation, comfort underfoot and moisture protection. A couple of producers, like CFL, are also coming out with lightweighted products.
Some of the most interesting innovations relate to environmental sustainability, including those lighter products with their lower carbon footprints, as well as PVC-free products, particularly those made from bio-based or recyclable ingredients. The bulk of those PVC-free products are in the commercial market, where demand is much higher.
GREENING THE CATEGORY
The LVT category, and the vinyl category in general, faces a monumental task when it comes to makings its products more sustainable to any significant degree. However, that’s not so much a consideration as it is a fact. There’s no way around the increasing volumes of LVT headed to U.S. landfills. Over the next few years, those volumes will surge, much like PET carpet surged in the carpet recycling and reclamation industry over the last several years. At some point down the road, resilient flooring will outpace carpet in its share of the landfill.
So, the monumental task is what the resilient industry must take ownership of. What choice is there? To do nothing is to bequeath to next generations vast fields of material that left to its own devices will eventually pollute environments with microplastics, devasting ecosystems, or perhaps burn up into deadly dioxin.
It’s a thankless task, as any carpet recyclers will attest. There’s bureaucracy, politics, logistical nightmares and perhaps most of all, cost.
Before the advent of rigid LVT, many vinyl producers were still using orthophthalates that were more than likely affecting human health, most notably in endocrine disruption. This made large-scale recycling, where the reclaimer captures waste LVT from a range of producers, just about impossible, since it would be essentially impossible to separate out the products with orthophthalates and heavy metals. And so, LVT producers began to tout their use of virgin PVC to reassure clients that none of these dangerous chemicals were in their products.
However, this means that virtually all of the rigid LVT entering the U.S. market has a cleaner chemistry, making it more suitable for recycling. And of course, it’s fairly straightforward to distinguish and separate flex LVT from rigid. And rigid products are almost entirely click products, meaning they’re not adhered to the floor like most flex LVT, and so they’re not covered in glue when they’re pulled off the floor. Separating adhesive from flooring is one of the biggest challenges in resilient post-consumer recycling. However, so far, there are no signs of the development of an infrastructure for large-scale recycling of rigid LVT.
Also, even though the vinyl in rigid LVT is cleaner than flex LVT of old, the products themselves have complicated laminated constructions that can make separation of materials extremely difficult. The problem is compounded by the new constructions in the market, like MgO cores with PVC caps, or products that fuse PVC cores to backings made from different polymers. Until manufacturers design products for easy end-of-life separation, or design products made from a single polymer, like HMTX is pursing with its SRP flooring, an effective large-scale reclamation and recycling program will likely be unviable.
The other problem is that the demand for green products typically comes from the commercial market, but the bulk of the growth is in rigid LVT coming from the residential side, where sustainability still seems to be taking a back seat in consumer priorities. And while that may change, there’s little to suggest that it’s on the verge of happening.
However, there are many dedicated leaders in the flooring business that are doing their best to make some progress, and that includes the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI), which has helped create multiple environmental certifications in the last few years and is actively working with resilient manufacturers. Many of the flooring firms we spoke with praised RFCI’s efforts.
According to Bill Blackstock, RFCI’s president and CEO, “The entire industry infrastructure is focused on continuing to expand recycling.” And he contends that the wave of domestic resilient plants is an essential development in vinyl recycling, providing “the basis for post-industrial and post-consumer recycling.” And to manage the recycling challenges presented by the geography of North America, RFCI has also engaged with other industries “to identify broader streams that will further enhance local solutions.”
It’s also worth noting that several LVT producers, generally those with a substantial commercial business, offer products with recycled content, generally post-industrial, including Mannington, Gerflor, Tarkett and several others.
Just last month, the Vinyl Institute announced the formation of Viability, an industry-wide recycling grant program designed to accelerate the development of post-consumer PVC recycling across the country. The program will provide $1 million annually for the next three years, with funding from four PVC resin manufacturers: Formosa, Oxy, Shintech and Westlake. A seven-member grand committee will choose the recipients, with the first round of grant applications due on March 1.
The domestic manufacturer with the biggest share of the market is Shaw Industries, whose offering includes the first and most prominent rigid LVT brand in the market, Coretec. US Floors, under the leadership of Piet Dossche, invented WPC flooring in 2013, so Coretec essentially birthed the whole rigid core category, which expanded within a couple of years to include SPC-and a range of innovative constructions since then-and Shaw acquired US Floors in December 2016.
Shaw goes to both the residential and commercial markets with its LVT. On the commercial side, it’s largely gluedown and looselay flex LVT, along with some rigid LVTs and a couple of PVC-free floorcoverings: MineralFloor, a rigid product that is largely composed of magnesium oxide (MgO) and wood dust; and Innate, a product with bio-based content that is also available in sheet. On the residential side, flex LVT’s share has been swallowed by rigid LVT, going to market under the Floorté and Coretec brands, including WPC, SPC and MgO cores in both vinyl (Coretec Stone) and non-vinyl (Coretec Advanced) constructions.
Domestic production of flex LVT and SPC is in Ringgold, Georgia. Since 2019, the firm has invested nearly $25 million, increasing its domestic LVT capacity by about 50% and creating more than 100 new jobs. The current expansion project, which includes vertical integration of wearlayer production, is expected to continue throughout 2023. It’s the largest single-site LVT plant (SPC and flex LVT) in North America, according to the firm. Shaw’s WPC continues to be sourced from Asia, and it also sources rigid LVT domestically.
New innovations include Coretec Soft Step, a WPC with a proprietary attached backing that makes the flooring much quieter, softer and warmer, made by an Asian partner. The backing is made from 100% PET recycled from drink bottles. According to the firm, WPC has been growing at the higher end of the residential remodel market, and also in senior living.
CFL, the world’s biggest SPC producer, also has the most domestic capacity through its 700,000-square-foot facility on 63 acres of land in Calhoun, Georgia, which started producing SPC early last year. CFL goes to market under the FirmFit and NovoCore brands. Thomas Baert, president and co-founder of the firm, reports that its FirmFit Made in USA lines are in high demand, and by the end of this year, he anticipates that CFL will be the first firm to manufacture digitally printed SPC in the U.S.
With production facilities in Asia and the U.S., CFL produces SPC, acoustic SPC, WPC and gluedown flex LVT, as well as Engineered Mineral Flooring under the Tenacity line and a waterproof laminate line. In terms of production strategies, Baert says that it focuses its Vietnamese facility on lower cost products, its Chinese facility on innovation and its U.S. facility on fast service and localized designs.
It’s the breadth of its portfolio that makes CFL unique, Baert contends, offering “the full deal from promotional products to the most innovative products on the market.” That includes NaturTrend, a matte finish that is “by far the closest a vinyl floor has ever come to a real oiled hardwood look,” as well as its NovoCore Q rigid floor and Atroguard Q laminate with enhanced acoustical mitigation.
When it comes to greener products, the firm touts its Be-Lite thermoforming SPC panel technology that reduces raw material use by up to 20% without sacrificing performance, as well as its Tenacity mineral core product, which is PVC-free and features an attached pad made of recycled PET bottles. And its direct digital print technology will reduce the product’s carbon footprint by eliminating décor films.
Last year, CFL posted strong growth, though it tailed off in the second half. And Baert adds the firm expects solid growth for 2023, in part because reduced shipping costs will make home renovation more affordable.
Mohawk Industries is another major player that has been investing in production in North America. First, it added an SPC facility to its Dalton manufacturing campus, which includes the sheet facility built by IVC prior to its 2015 acquisition by Mohawk and the flex LVT facility Mohawk built two years later. The SPC facility started producing about three years ago. And last year, the firm started up its new SPC facility in Mexicali, Mexico, with a production capacity of an estimated 120 million square feet. The facility is close to other Mohawk operations, so the firm has an infrastructure in place. The SPC facility will create about 400 new jobs in its first phase.
With its focus on SPC production, Mohawk has moved away from WPC entirely over the last couple of years. Its residential SPC products go to market under the Mohawk SolidTech and Pergo brands. The Mohawk Group also sells some SPC on the commercial side, largely into the hospitality market, but most of its commercial LVT is gluedown or looselay flex.
Like most of the flooring firms, Mohawk still relies on Asia for much of its LVT supply, though it doesn’t source from China anymore, instead relying on South Korea and Vietnam-the specialized products come from Korea, while the more affordable lines are produced in Vietnam. However, Mohawk does source its homogeneous commercial sheet from China through an agreement last year with the former Armstrong plant in Jiangsu province. The firm reports that LVT grew on both the residential and commercial sides last year.
Mannington, a global leader in flex LVT production for many years (in large part due to its 2012 acquisition of Amtico), has developed major SPC and WPC programs in recent years, and it built a rigid core facility in Calhoun, Georgia that has been producing flooring for going on three years. The facility manufactures WPC but can be converted to SPC, although for now the firm is focusing its production on the higher-end WPC market under its Duramax and Apex lines.
Currently, SPC is mostly sourced from Asia, including China-though the firm has shifted most of its sourcing to Asian neighbors-and it also sources domestically. The firm’s Crafted Edge beveling technology, introduced last year, which presses the décor layer over the edges of the planks in a hand-chiseled pattern, is manufactured through an Asian partner.
Rigid LVT accounts for an estimated 55% to 60% of Mannington’s total LVT sales. On the commercial side, flex LVT accounts for close to 90% of business with SPC making up the difference. And on the residential side, it’s 70% rigid and 30% flex, making Mannington the only major LVT player with such a high proportion of residential flex LVT. And the firm reports that the category grew last year. Flex LVT is likely driven by the firm’s Adura Selling Solution, which offers all styles across all three constructions-flex, WPC and SPC-so flex is an option for every consumer. Also, with the supply chain issues of the last couple of years, its domestic flex LVT capacity in Madison, Georgia has been a differentiator. The Madison facility offers a lot of flexibility on the commercial side, with a wide range of sizes, textures, bevels and thicknesses, and a high level of customization. It offers about 110 running line SKUs.
Another of the LVT giants in the U.S. market is HMTX, which goes to the commercial market with the Teknoflor and Aspecta brands-now consolidated under HMTX Commercial-and on the residential side with the Metroflor brand, although a big chunk of Metroflor still goes for commercial applications. Overall, about 80% of HMTX’s U.S. sales come from the residential market.
Teknoflor offers both flex LVT and sheet goods, largely to healthcare and institutional businesses, while Aspecta is mostly flex LVT, but it also offers rigid LVT products. Teknoflor also has a couple of PVC-free lines, including Nature’s Tile and Naturescapes. At last year’s NeoCon, the firm previewed SRP, an environmentally friendly rigid core flooring made of polyurethane derived in part from recycled PET, and the entire product is recyclable in a single polymer construction. The firm hopes to launch the product next year.
The firm has extensive manufacturing partnerships around the world, expanding in recent years beyond its long-term Chinese partners to producers in South Korea for flex LVT and Cambodia for rigid LVT, as well as Vietnam, and on the commercial side, product is also sourced from Finland, Germany and a handful of other countries. The firm also has two commercial quick-ship products, Rare Plank and Icon tile, that are sourced domestically.
Over the last few years, Metroflor has been building up its OEM and private label business, which has led to a surge in growth and has also expanded its manufacturing partnerships. The firm increasingly sells private label products to a range of distributors, and it also serves manufacturers of ceramic tile, wood and carpet that don’t have core competencies in LVT. The firm’s ability to offer a turnkey package, including design, product development, testing and validation, has helped drive demand.
HMTX has invested in a rigid LVT operation in Pittston, Pennsylvania, the firm’s first foray into domestic manufacturing. Its WPC products will largely serve its Home Depot channel, where WPC has maintained strong momentum compared to the independent retail channel.
The firm has also been investing in its inventory capacity in Georgia and California, and in digital printing capabilities. Its new headquarters in Connecticut, a state-of-the-art Living Building Challenge green facility, features digital printing and embossing machines for developing prototypes that can then be massed produced through its manufacturing partners.
Engineered Floors is also getting into domestic LVT production with its conversion of part of the Seretean facility in Dalton, Georgia that it acquired from Beaulieu. The goal is to start producing SPC by the end of the year, utilizing Hymmen technology for digital printing. Ultimately, the firm would like to be producing all of its SPC in-house, and it has room to expand its capacity at another of its facilities.
The firm already has established LVT business on both the residential and commercial sides. Most of its residential products are SPC, and the firm reports that it has shifted a lot of its sourcing from China to Vietnam and South Korea.
On the commercial side, Engineered Floors serves the market with gluedown flex LVT, as well as looselay LVT that can be installed alongside carpet tile without a transition.
The firm reports that it posted modest growth in both residential and commercial LVT last year. And it also brought in Emily Morrow Finkell to lead product design for residential carpet and hard surface programs. Finkell spent over a decade as director of styling for Shaw before launching Emily Morrow Home in 2015, which was acquired by AHF Products with its 2021 purchase of American OEM.
MSI Surfaces, which is best known for its vast ceramic tile program, jumped into the LVT arena in late 2021 when it acquired the RokPlank facility in Cartersville, Georgia. The facility produces Everlife SPC. MSI also offers a gluedown flex LVT and its Hybrid Rigid Core program of PVC-free flooring, both from manufacturing partnerships. The California-based firm goes mostly to the residential market, but also goes to a range of commercial market segments. Its products feature its CrystaLux protective wearlayer-CrystaLux Ultra for the hybrid product-and for moisture mitigation it offers its AbaTec waterproof pad.
The firm reports that stone looks are trending, and it creates a range of stone and encaustic designs through its PietraTech technology.
MSI’s recent investments have focused on logistics, including new distribution centers. Last month, the firm announced the retirement of Manu Shah, founder and CEO, after 47 years at the helm of the $2.8 billion flooring supplier. His sons, Raj and Rup Shah, have been promoted from co-presidents to co-CEOs.
In the U.S., Novalis, founded in China nearly 40 years ago, serves both the residential and commercial markets in the U.S. On the commercial side is the Ava brand, which is notable for its bold styling, in gluedown and looselay LVT, as well as rigid LVT constructions with click systems. And it goes to the residential market with its NovaFloor brand in both gluedown flex LVT and rigid click LVT constructions, along with a large private-label home center program.
Novalis built an SPC factory in Dalton, Georgia that started manufacturing product a couple of years ago, but the bulk of its products are still manufactured at its Chinese facilities. CEO John Wu notes that the firm has expanded its Chinese operations and is optimistic that the 25% tariffs on Chinese flooring products will be removed sooner rather than later.
This year, Novalis is rolling out its Digital Product Passport program on its commercial lines, with QR codes on the back of products that will link to product-specific information, including sustainability data and certifications.
With AHF Products’ purchase of Armstrong assets last summer, AHF is now a major hardwood and vinyl player, much like the Armstrong of old before AHF split off at the end of 2018. AHF now offers LVT in several of its well-established residential hardwood brands, like Bruce and Hartco, including SPC and flex LVT for builder and multifamily markets. On the commercial side, the firm offers a range of flex LVT products, including gluedown and looselay, and it recently launched a quick-ship program.
In terms of domestic production, AHF makes flex LVT at its facilities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Kankakee, Illinois (where it also makes VCT), and while it makes most of the flex LVT it sells, its rigid LVT, the fastest-growing portion of its LVT business, is all sourced.
The firm reports that LVT business was strong last year, led by residential gains, with more moderate growth forecasted for this year, though commercial business should be healthy.
AHF is introducing several new products this year, including American Charm 12, which is a new residential flex LVT made in Lancaster, and Lutea, a new SPC. And under its Parterre commercial brand, it’s coming out with two new 2.5mm flex LVT products, Connectivity and Instinct.
One of the biggest OEM and private label domestic producers is Nox Corporation, a South Korean firm that has been manufacturing in Ohio for several years, specializing in flex LVT. In addition to its Korean and American facilities, the firm started up a facility in Vietnam in 2021. Its domestic facility is running at full tilt, driven in part by demand for domestically made product from commercial specifiers, and the firm continues to invest in technology and automation.
About 80% of Nox’s U.S. business is in the commercial market, and it offers gluedown, looselay and click flex LVT products, supplying some of the leading domestic flooring producers. On the residential side, it serves the builder and multifamily markets. The firm has no plans to sell under its own brand in the U.S.
Nox is also partnering with South Korea’s LG Chem on a “bio-balanced recycle PVC initiative” targeting carbon emission reduction and resource circulation, with LG Chem supplying Nox with PVC derived from renewable plant-based raw materials, like used vegetable oil. According to Nox’s Dave Thoresen, the firm will start using the green PVC this quarter, and by midyear, its Korean facility, which makes the bulk of its products, will have entirely converted to the new supply.
Karndean Designflooring, which was founded in the U.K. 50 years ago, has been one of the leading flex LVT firms for decades, both globally and in the U.S., targeting both the commercial and residential markets with its gluedown and looselay products, and in recent years, it has also added Korlok rigid LVT lines to the mix. Its products are manufactured through a network of Asian partnerships, enabling Karndean to offer a range of product technologies. In addition to the U.K. and U.S., Karndean also does a lot of business in Australia and New Zealand.
The firm has been more successful than most at steering clear of the lower end of the market. “We specialize in high-end LVT, filling the need for attainable luxury, while retaining the authenticity that homeowners crave,” says CEO Bill Anderson, adding that it gives dealers a competitive edge against big box stores.
Karndean recently started rolling out point-of-sale updates to its Korlok rigid LVT and Knight Tile gluedown flex LVT. And last month, its new Opus commercial gluedown LVT visuals received a Platinum Adex award.
The Dixie Group, traditionally a higher-end carpet specialist, started selling residential LVT through its Dixie Home and Masland brands in 2017, and over the following years, developed a robust set of rigid LVT products, both WPC and SPC, under the TruCor brand.
Today, most of the SPC goes through Dixie Home, while WPC and TruCor Tymbr, the firm’s first foray into laminate, introduced last year, go through the Masland brand.
TruCor is notable for the size of some of its planks, including its latest and greatest, TruCor Prime Pinnacle, which is 12”x90”. Also new is TruCor Refined, a PVC-free product with a melamine face and a mineral core that uses copper but not magnesium.
Dixie sources both domestically and from Asia, including China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Tarkett NA (North America), which is part of France’s Tarkett S.A., a global, publicly traded firm, is one of the most diverse flooring manufacturers in the U.S., with extensive portfolios of hard and soft surface products, particularly on the commercial side, where it offers a lot of rubber and vinyl options, as well as linoleum, along with a wide array of carpet constructions.
In terms of LVT, according to Ben Elliott, Tarkett NA’s director of LVT product management, “Tarkett globally produces gluedown, SPC click, looselay, acoustical looselay, and non-PVC planks and tiles,” and it plans to launch non-PVC tile in the U.S. later this year. Tarkett NA also sources through Asian partners. On the Tarkett Home residential side, its products are mostly SPC (ProGen and NuGen) and gluedown flex.
In terms of domestic production (Florence, Alabama), it’s all gluedown flex LVT for now, but Elliott notes that the firm does plan to get into the production rigid LVT products in the near future. The Alabama facility makes the bulk of the flex products it sells.
According to Elliott, the firm’s commercial LVT products contain an average of 35% recycled content, and it reclaims product through nine recycling centers worldwide.
France’s Gerflor serves the U.S. market with a range of commercial and sports products. Its commercial LVT includes gluedown flex products with wearlayers ranging from 12 to 28 mils, along with different types of floating LVT products-Creation Clic, for instance, uses a vertical locking system designed for commercial rolling traffic, while Creation Connect is installed with interlocking tiles, puzzle-piece style.
Product for the U.S. market is mostly manufactured in Gerflor’s facilities in France, with additional product from its facilities in Asia, and it also sources from Asian partnerships.
This year, Gerflor will come out with a PVC-free LVT made of a patented polymer blend developed by the firm. Many of its commercial LVT products have recycled content, up to 55%, and it is also shifting to adhesive-free solutions, in part to drive viable reclamation strategies. In 2020, 25% of its global sales came from adhesive-free solutions, and the goal is to hit 35% by 2025.
Wellmade, a Portland, Oregon-headquartered firm with roots in China, built a large plant in Cartersville, Georgia that started shipping SPC products about a year ago. The firm also has production in China. Most of its business is in the U.S. market is OEM. In addition to SPC, the firm produces composite engineered woods, using bamboo and hardwood veneers on top of its SPC core. And it has also built a facility in China for making products with MgO cores, enabling the production of PVC-free products with melamine wearlayers.
According to Dick Quinlan, the firm’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, Wellmade was the first producer of SPC flooring, which it calls HDPC (high density plastic composite), inventing and patenting the product in China in 2015. It was awarded a U.S. patent last year.
Capacity at the Cartersville facility has already been expanded beyond its original capacity of 120 million square feet, and when it does its phase two expansion, it should top out at about 300 million square feet. Most of the SPC it sells in the U.S. market is now produced at this facility, with the more price-sensitive products coming out of its Chinese operations. The firm also offers gluedown SPC with thicker wearlayers for commercial applications.
Cali Floors, headquartered in San Diego, California, started off as a bamboo specialist and, over the years, has added hardwood and cork, and more recently, laminate and LVT. The firm offers both SPC and WPC across eight lines, sourced through several Asian manufacturing partnerships, mostly from Vietnam. It currently has only a single WPC offering, a robust 1/2” product with coastal color lines, the signature look of the firm.
Cali, which was acquired by Victoria PLC, a global flooring firm headquartered in the U.K., in June 2021, reports that LVT business was robust last year, from its entry-level price points all the way to the upper end-the firm focuses on the medium to high end of the market. Most of its business is residential remodel, along with some builder and multifamily.
Cali goes direct to retail partners, with its strongest business in California, Florida and the Northeast. It has distribution centers in California and South Carolina.
Stanton, another carpet specialist targeting the high end of the market, got into the rigid LVT business in early 2020 with its Stanton Waterproof Flooring line, originally in 24 SKUs. The SPC product features an ultra-quiet attached pad. And for heavier commercial applications through its Stanton Street mainstreet commercial brand, it offers a gluedown flex LVT.
Last year, the firm introduced 36 new visuals, a larger format tile, a herringbone and a narrow 4” plank offering. In all, it offers 84 designs featuring a range of aesthetics, from high-gloss marble looks to black and white collections to decorative hickory styles.
Huali Floors USA sells a range of resilient products to the U.S. market, including gluedown and looselay flex LVT, self-stick tiles, WPC, SPC and PVC-free MgO core products, manufactured at Huali Floors’ facilities in China’s Jiangsu province. And about a year ago, its new SPC facility in Chatsworth, Georgia started manufacturing and shipping products.
According to Summer Turner, vice president of sales for Huali USA, the firm has continued to invest in its domestic operations. “We are already in the process of growing our production capabilities here in the U.S. (longer, wider, in-register embossing, etc.) and looking into other geopolitically diverse manufacturing locations for the very near future to further expand our customer opportunities,” says Turner.
When it comes to innovation, the firm has recently developed a Lite Core SPC option, lightweighting the product by 20%, which not only reduces its environmental impact but also lowers shipping costs. Turner adds, “We have also perfected the extruded Pressed Bevel feature, which is a very difficult process, but the end result creates a gorgeous, unique up-sell visual.”
FloorFolio, which manufactures the firm’s EnviroQuiet flexible LVT from its facility in Edison, New Jersey, and sources its Rigid Hybrid SPC through a partnership with a manufacturer in Georgia, focuses its products on the commercial market, though it does sell some product to the residential builder and multifamily markets. The firm also sources from overseas.
FloorFolio reports that it has been investing heavily in its domestic production, as well as raw material inventory, in order to avoid supply chain issues, and its goal is to continue expanding its U.S. capacity.
The firm reports a record year in 2022, driven in part by the consummation of substantial backlogs, along with a surge in multifamily business in the second half of the year.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act, signed into law at the end of 2021, prohibits U.S. firms from purchasing materials and products made from forced labor, as is the case for millions of Muslim Uyghurs in China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang, where a lot of PVC resin is produced.
The law went into effect last summer, giving companies six months to clean up their supply chains, and toward the end of December, U.S. Customs began holding shipments from China, including containers headed to some of the biggest U.S. flooring manufacturers. These manufacturers have 30 days to submit information verifying PVC was not sourced from the province. Most manufacturers have been preparing for this, getting their documents in order, but it still slows shipments and adds costs, and it’s not yet clear how widespread these U.S. Customs interdictions will be or how disruptive.
And it’s worth pointing out that PVC in China is sold on the open market as a commodity, which means that some of that supply likely goes to neighboring countries for use in, for instance, their rigid core products. It’s not yet clear how U.S. Customs will identify and manage those streams of products.
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