Vinyl Flooring 2009 - February 2009

By Darius Helm

Following 12 years of losing share in the U.S. market, vinyl flooring gained marketshare in both the residential and commercial sectors in 2008 with $1.64 billion in sales, and it’s well positioned to continue to gain ground over the next year or two. Whether it can hang onto those gains when the economy turns around is another matter entirely.

Over the last couple of decades, vinyl flooring’s battle for share has largely been waged against public perception. Until recently, that perception had to do with vinyl’s appearance—the glare of plastic, outdated looks, and poor representations of wood and stone. And even as vinyl producers made tremendous progress with new designs, new constructions, and stunning technological advances, the problem remained getting people to take another look at vinyl.

New categories like luxury vinyl tile and fiberglass backed sheet vinyl helped energize the sector, and designers started to embrace the cutting edge designs of both niche producers like Centiva and Amtico and the big players like Armstrong and Mannington. Into this atmosphere floated a new perception for vinyl to contend with, that there was no room for PVC in the green movement.

This recession has been a welcome reprieve for the vinyl industry. The housing crisis and credit crunch have encouraged a lot of people to make decisions based more heavily on value, and many of them are choosing vinyl over hardwood or ceramic because of vinyl’s affordability, durability and long lifecycle.

On the commercial side, vinyl also caught a break. The top commercial sectors for vinyl are healthcare, retail and education, and while retail has understandably flagged, largely impacting VCT business, healthcare and education remain the two strongest markets. Education is expected to slow over the next couple of years, though there are still a lot of projects in the works. However, the impact of tighter state budgets will soon be felt. Even healthcare will slow somewhat.

Nevertheless, the great thing about the healthcare and education sectors is that they are driven by baby boomers and their children, boosting the population of those entering retirement and those entering adulthood. That’s good for the education market and it’s truly great for healthcare, which should continue to grow for the next 20 or 30 years (by 2040 the last of the baby boomers will be in their mid 70s).

According to the Resilient Floorcovering Institute, domestic vinyl business went down about 4% from 2006 to 2008 while the flooring market in general was down 18.7%. Back in 2002, 60% of vinyl consumption was in the residential market and 40% in the commercial market, closely mirroring the actual size of the markets (approximately 65% residential and 35% commercial). Today, the residential market accounts for only 42% of vinyl flooring sales, reflecting inroads in the commercial market, largely in healthcare and education.

While you could argue that vinyl is well positioned to come out of this recession with a new head of steam, once the economy turns the corner and starts to grow again the green movement will also accelerate and vinyl flooring may lose more than it has gained if by that time it hasn’t made a case for PVC as a green chemistry.

If the vinyl industry doesn’t take radical steps in the next one to two years (i.e. before the economy fully rebounds), consumers liberated from the constraints of debt, credit problems and job insecurity will likely follow their environmental consciences according to the choices available and the narrative that accompanies them. That may mean they’ll look at laminate because of its bio-based content and growing recycled content. They’ll look at linoleum and bamboo. They’ll even look at floorcoverings that don’t necessarily have positive green attributes because, in the absence of a large scale coordinated effort among vinyl producers, they’ll have already been convinced that the greener choice is always the one that’s PVC free.

So the question becomes: How green is vinyl? A thorough answer entails looking at both the criticism from the anti-PVC movement and the broader requirements for a green chemistry. Furthermore, any honest answer is necessarily conditional, because vinyl and the chemicals associated with its manufacture continue to be researched, and future scientific studies may reveal information that will throw new light on vinyl use.

PVC’s Environmental Challenges
In theory, vinyl flooring is well positioned to be a green product. For one thing, it’s thermoplastic, which means that it can be remelted, and it has the capacity to be reused without a loss of performance. However, there are substantial barriers to broad scale reclamation and reuse.

One of the keys to cradle to cradle chemistries is purity levels—ideally, that waste stream has to be as pure as the virgin material. The most obvious problem with vinyl flooring is adhesives. Most vinyl flooring is glued to the subfloor, so when it’s removed adhesive comes up with it, and so far there’s no easy way to separate the two.

A similar problem arises with the stabilizers and plasticizers. There’s no standard formula for these additives and there are differences between manufacturers, so there’s no uniformity to reclaimed vinyl—and once again there’s no easy or cost effective way of extracting these chemicals. The same is true for limestone, the standard filler for vinyl. Limestone, which is calcium carbonate, makes up about 80% of vinyl composition tile (VCT) and VCT accounts for about 63% by volume of all commercial hard surface flooring, so its composition presents considerable barriers for reclamation.

Furthermore, there is no infrastructure for vinyl flooring reclamation. Creating such an infrastructure requires a lot of effort and coordination, and even the most focused efforts cannot shield it from market pressures—the carpet industry can attest to that.

When it comes to lifecycle analysis, vinyl flooring has two significant advantages over most flooring—low maintenance and a long life. A vinyl floor can last decades, far beyond the life of, for example, soft surface floors, thus reducing the environmental impact of replacement flooring.

Even though PVC requires less petroleum in its formulation than other plastics, the chlorine extraction process is energy intensive, which somewhat moderates that advantage. In general, though, PVC creates a smaller environmental footprint than most plastics—and a far smaller one than, for instance, nylon. However, it’s still a petroleum based plastic, and that means that its production from virgin materials comes at a substantial environmental price.

The good news is that the carpet industry has faced similar hurdles and has made measurable strides toward creating a greener product. Carpet is a heavily structured floorcovering, often with several laminated layers, and the industry has still found ways to recycle just about all of it into new carpet, though not yet on a large scale. It started with chopping up the entire carpet and using it in the carpet backing, and more recently techniques have been developed to separate the components and feed them back through the manufacturing process for direct reuse (like reclaimed nylon face fiber being reused as face fiber).

In fact, vinyl manufacturers have already started on a similar path, using post consumer recycled content in the bottom layer of their vinyl products, where less purity is required. A handful of manufacturers, including Mannington, Centiva and Toli, currently use post consumer recycled PVC on the back of their products, though generally not from a vinyl flooring waste stream. LG Floors reclaims vinyl flooring from South Korea, where the firm is headquartered and where vinyl is not fully glued down.

PVC from a range of products, including flooring, is recycled through a facility in Germany. An initiative called Vinyl 2010, which is similar in ways to the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), was launched at the turn of the century, with the goal of annually recycling 200,000 tons of non-regulated post consumer PVC by 2010—and it looks like it will meet its goal.

There’s more good news. Many of the problems with vinyl reuse can be addressed by designing products for reclamation, like the carpet industry has been doing. Already, several manufacturers have come out with new adhesive systems that both use less adhesive and allow for easy reclamation. However, designing the vinyl flooring itself for reclamation is far more complicated.

An infrastructure for taking back vinyl faces one additional hurdle that will slow development, and that is the long life of vinyl flooring. Carpet turns over much faster and it can take less than a decade for a product designed for reclamation, like Shaw’s EcoWorx, to actually get reclaimed. For vinyl, it could be decades.

VINYL'S COMPOSITION: A CLOSER LOOK

Vinyl is the only plastic made largely from a non-petroleum source. The raw materials for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are 43% petroleum and 57% salt (sodium chloride). The salt, derived from seawater, goes through electrolysis to release its chlorine, which is combined with ethylene, a petroleum derivative, to create ethylene dichloride. This chemical is converted at high temperatures to vinyl chloride, the monomer that is polymerized into polyvinyl chloride.

Vinyl is brittle by nature so for use in flooring and other applications, plasticizers and stabilizers are added. These days, stabilizers tend to be made of zinc, calcium and tin, as opposed to a couple of decades ago, when heavy metals like lead and cadmium were common. The vinyl flooring industry uses two placticizers from the phthalate family, DINP and BBP, while in the past DEHP was used.

No plastic is used more widely than vinyl, and none has been more studied. Vinyl owes its dominant position to qualities like inertness, durability, flame resistance, ease of sterilization, fire prevention, chemical stability, resistance to oil and chemicals, and its compatibility with other additives to achieve properties like flexibility and transparency. Pipes account for the largest single use of PVC and experts say they should last thousands upon thousands of years with no reduction in performance due to the stability of the polymeeric molecule. For decades, the healthcare industry has been dependent on vinyl for a vast range of essential life-saving applications.



A Look at PVC Criticism
The perception that PVC is bad for the environment has regrettably outpaced the reasoning behind it, leaving many people with firm convictions about vinyl but no clear sense of how they arrived there. That’s not to say there are no grounds for debate. The problem is that there’s no room in the fragile march toward sustainability for judgments based on the clamor of the crowd rather than sound scientific data.

It wasn’t sound science that launched the ill-fated ethanol industry. It was political expediency, misdirected patriotism, simplistic and shortsighted thinking and even special interest lobbying. Ultimately, it was the clamor of the crowd.

However, many sustainability activists do come to the table with a long list of objections to vinyl. Fundamental to the arguments against PVC are the toxins associated with it, particularly surrounding its chlorine content, and there is no debate about PVC’s association with dioxins, a class of carcinogenic chemicals. However, for a balanced understanding, it’s important to realize that dioxins are also associated with every bit of flora and fauna in the world, since they’re released by the combustion of sodium chloride. Sodium chloride exists in solution in every cell in every life form, functioning as the vehicle for osmosis.

Chlorine is also an essential ingredient in 70% of our medicines, according to Greenspirit Strategies, a consultancy group founded by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. Its function as a highly reactive toxin enables it to perform roles like oxidizing bacteria.

Nevertheless, dioxins are certainly released when PVC is burned, both in backyard barrel burning and in landfill fires. However, emissions from incineration have dropped significantly with the advent of new incinerators that burn at temperatures that destroy dioxins. Emissions from production have also been vastly reduced through the development of closed loop production processes back in the 1970s, a technological leap in reaction to an increased risk of liver angiosarcoma to those exposed to the vinyl monomer stage. The scientific consensus is that the risk was successfully eliminated.

The biggest global source of dioxin emissions is from forest fires. The largest manmade contribution comes from backyard and open burning. And while dioxin levels in human tissue have plummeted 90% since the 1970s, PVC production has soared.

There’s an environmental camp that objects to the approach of anti PVC advocates, claiming that absolutist principles are being applied to a context that is anything but absolute. Humanity swims in a sea of toxins—a very dilute solution of toxins, but they’re toxins nonetheless. It’s impossible to live a life free of these chemicals, since they are in fact part of the process of life. It’s no different from formaldehyde, another toxin that occurs most abundantly in nature.

The Precautionary Principle is the philosophy used to make the case against PVC, and some sustainability experts argue that it’s not a viable principle and it is fundamentally at odds with the concept of sustainability. The Precautionary Principle essentially states that if an action or process that may cause harm to the environment or to people cannot be established by scientific consensus to be safe, the onus is on those who want to perform that action or process.

The argument is that it is a falsely applied principle, because dioxins are part of the package deal of life on earth, and it can’t ever be proven with certainty that exposure to dioxin isn’t causing a sickness in a single person or that the implicated dioxin did not come from someone burning a vinyl floor or, for that matter, from a volcanic eruption on the other side of the globe.

Another issue with vinyl is the phthalates that can leach from it. Some studies have shown that animals exposed to high levels of DEHP, a phthalate that is widely used, but no longer used in flooring, have developmental abnormalities, while other studies have not shown the same correlation. BBP, one of the phthalates used in flooring, has not been implicated. However, according to the Healthy Building Network, DINP, also widely used in flooring, has been implicated in at least one study.

As of now, there doesn’t appear to be scientific consensus about the dangers of even DEHP, though the Precautionary Principle has been applied in some cases to restrict the use of a range of phthalates in, for instance, toys that babies can chew, though scientific data is not yet available.

Some vinyl advocates see the Precautionary Principle as a wolf in sheep’s clothing—reckless behavior disguised as caution. They argue that PVC is such a core ingredient in our civilization that the focus should not be on eliminating it but on making it greener.

What’s interesting is that only the slightest shift is required to align the interests of both sides of the PVC debate. Putting aside for a moment the phthalate issue, those against PVC are concerned about toxic emissions in vinyl production and incineration. While it’s true that one solution would be to eliminate PVC, there’s another solution that addresses all three prongs of sustainability—ecological, social and economic—and that’s vinyl reclamation. A large scale effort to build a vinyl reclamation infrastructure would return recycled vinyl into the production process, reducing both the volume of used vinyl in landfills and the production of new vinyl—and in both cases reducing possible dioxin emissions.

The development of a vinyl reclamation infrastructure faces significant barriers, most notably its financial viability. It requires a balanced, reasoned approach and an organized, coordinated effort—much like what the carpet industry has been developing. There’s no reason it can’t work; that’s what human ingenuity is here for. But if it’s going to happen, it has to happen soon.

The Leading Manufacturers
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of developments among vinyl producers, including innovations that reduce vinyl’s environmental impact and improve its performance. At the same time, vinyl construction and design has evolved far beyond where the industry stood just a decade ago.

Armstrong is by far the biggest domestic vinyl producer with a 40% marketshare and sales of about $700 million, split 50-50 between the commercial and residential markets. The firm offers a wide portfolio of resilient products for both the commercial and residential markets, including luxury vinyl tile, VCT, vinyl safety flooring, sheet goods and non vinyl resilient flooring like linoleum. In 2007, Armstrong added to its range with Migrations, a PVC free tile with bio-based content targeting the higher end VCT market and offering better performance.

The firm has a lot of prominent commercial vinyl flooring brands, like Excelon VCT, Medintech sheet vinyl and Natural Creations vinyl tile, introduced in 2005. One brand, Imperial Texture, has been on the market for 50 years. The primary commercial segments for Armstrong’s vinyl are education, healthcare and retail, though its products go into all the commercial segments.

Luxury vinyl tile (LVT) has been a growth category for Armstrong, and it has enabled vinyl to take share from floorcoverings like ceramic, carpet and VCT. The firm’s National Creations line, which includes both intricate faux looks and design for design’s sake, continues to be the fastest growing line.

Armstrong has reduced the maintenance of its resilient products by coating all its linoleum, LVT and sheet goods, except for its slip retardant sheet flooring, with a UV cured urethane. It’s also developed a new seaming system for both sheet vinyl and linoleum that’s faster, simpler and less expensive than traditional heat welding. The system also offers a design advantage because it hides the seam better, allowing for more monolithic looks. A few years ago, all of the firm’s commercial sheet vinyl was converted from felt backed to fiberglass backed, making it more flexible and dimensionally stable, and easier to install.

On the residential side, Armstrong produces traditional felt backed sheet vinyl under the ToughGuard brand, CushionStep fiberglass backed sheet vinyl, StrataMax sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile and plank, and self adhesive DIY tiles.

The firm estimates that about 80% of its fiberglass backed vinyl is glued down, though DIY sales are largely loose lay. However, the real success in loose lay is StrataMax, which doesn’t have fiberglass but instead uses a felt layer in the middle, so it expands and contracts with the seasons just like the wood subfloors it is generally installed on top of, eliminating buckling. Fiberglass backed floors don’t expand and contract, making many loose lay installations difficult.

StrataMax has been with builders and contractors for a couple of years and it was released to retailers last August. The firm estimates that 90% or more of its StrataMax is being loose laid. Another advantage of StrataMax is that it doesn’t telegraph easily, so it doesn’t require an underlayment and it can even be installed over OSB.

Over the last year, the strongest categories have been StrataMax, LVT and CushionStep. Felt backed sheet vinyl and self adhesive tile have been slowest. The firm’s residential LVT offering includes the Mode line of 16”x16” tiles as well as luxury vinyl plank.

Armstrong is shifting its fiberglass backed flooring production from its facility in the U.K. to its headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at a cost of about $25 million. Production in Lancaster will start around the beginning of 2010. The firm’s StrataMax is made in Oklahoma.

Mannington Mills, which produces just about every category of flooring on the market, is the second largest vinyl player with a 17% marketshare and vinyl sales closing in on $300 million. Last summer, the firm added to its floorcovering range with its first major acquisition in well over a decade. The purchase of Burke Industries, a major rubber manufacturer based in San Jose, California with a second facility in Florida, makes Mannington the only American flooring producer offering vinyl, hardwood, laminate, ceramic, carpet and rubber. The firm is already working at coordinating its new rubber offering with its other commercial products.

In terms of vinyl, Mannington makes sheet goods, VCT and LVT for the commercial market, as well as LVT and both felt backed and fiberglass backed sheet vinyl for the residential market. Its hottest category on the residential side is its Adura LVT, though Sobella, the firm’s three year old fiberglass backed offering, showed the most growth. Mannington estimates that as much as 40% of its Sobella flooring ends up in loose lay installations.

The firm has a broad offering of felt backed vinyl priced from $3 to $26 a yard. Sobella ranges from $5 to $15.

Late last year Mannington debuted its first residential vinyl with recycled content, a felt backed product called Jumpstart that goes to the retail, builder and multifamily markets. Jumpstart features post consumer and post industrial recycled content from waste paper recycled into the felt layer.

Mannington is working on replacing the felt in its entire residential felt line to post consumer waste—that’ll mean a minimum 5% post consumer content across the entire line.

Mannington’s commercial vinyl had a strong growth year, largely from the strength of its healthcare and education business, though signs of softening are appearing. The firm’s three premium VCT collections—Solidpoint, Colorpoint and Brushworks—all use recycled drywall in the filler, replacing some of the limestone content, diverting from landfills over a ton of drywall a week. The firm is working on establishing a consistent waste stream supply in order to increase the recycled content.

The firm also makes both homogeneous and heterogeneous commercial sheet, including its BioSpec healthcare product and Assurance II, its slip resistant offering. Its LVT, Nature’s Path, goes into healthcare, retail, hospitality, education and assisted living. LVT has been the firm’s strongest commercial vinyl offering, while VCT and inlaid felt backed sheet vinyl have been underperforming.

In terms of sectors, the corporate market has been the weakest, while healthcare and education have shown the most activity. Mainstreet business has also been growing.

The firm’s Relay RE heterogeneous sheet uses carpet reclaimed through Mannington’s LOOP program on the back of the product for 20% post consumer and 15% post industrial recycled content. The reclaimed carpet is also used on the firm’s carpet tile backings. Mannington was the first firm to have vinyl flooring certified to the draft NSF 332 Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Coverings. Both vinyl sheet and tile have been certified.

Tarkett Commercial has two main divisions, Azrock and Johnsonite, along with Expressions by Tarkett, which offers VCT. On the residential side, the firm’s vinyl offerings include felt backed sheet vinyl, FiberFloor fiberglass backed sheet vinyl, and Nafco LVT.

Azrock includes Asset VCT, Advance vinyl enhanced tile (VET) and Achieve solid vinyl tile. All three lines work with the firm’s SpraySmart Adhesive, introduced in mid 2007. SpraySmart replaces four pails of adhesive with a single canister of spray adhesive, making for easier and quicker installation, less downtime, easier removal for takeback and recycling, and a smaller environmental footprint.

Asset is made up of about 100 SKUs including standard and premium VCT. Advance offers a smaller collection of VET (12 SKUs) which features a permanent polyurethane finish, more flexibility than VCT, and post industrial recycled content of almost 15%. Achieve solid vinyl tiles come in 80 SKUs, including 12 slip resistant tiles. The dry buffable tiles come in a 16”x16” format with a PSI of 800, compared to 400 for Advance and 150 for Asset, and the collection includes some of the division’s most fashion forward colors and shapes, like the Karim Kolors line designed by Karim Rashid.

Johnsonite, a fashion forward rubber company acquired by Tarkett three years ago, also offers Tarkett’s commercial vinyl sheet, homogeneous tile and LVT, along with vinyl wall base, transitions and nosings. Brands include Optima, Granit and Melodia.

Healthcare and education are the biggest sectors for Johnsonite’s vinyl offerings, though its LVT also makes its way into the hospitality and retail markets, and even corporate, for places like lunchrooms. While healthcare and education business remains strong, hospitality and retail slowed significantly in 2008.

Johnsonite’s Granit and Optima sheet vinyl lines are made using the firm’s IQ process, which eliminates the need for wax or finish for the life of the product. The firm offers releasable adhesives for tile products, which works particularly well with a modular tile program called Square, featuring heavier gauge tiles that can be reused—the system is ideal for use with raised access flooring.

On the residential side, Tarkett’s FiberFloor, introduced in 2003, is already as big as the firm’s felt backed business, with an offering of 210 SKUs. It’s the firm’s best performing residential flooring category, though Nafco LVT has also shown strong growth. The felt business has been soft, and the firm is updating that collection—it’ll end up with about 240 SKUs—and simplifying its merchandizing into good, better and best categories.

Nafco’s luxury vinyl, made in Florence, Alabama, comes in tile and plank formats for stone and wood looks in a total of 35 designs and 181 SKUs. The products are used in the residential market and in light commercial mainstreet applications.

Congoleum does most of its business in the residential market, though it sells commercially both to mainstreet and the contract market. Its products include residential sheet vinyl, the Dura lines of hard vinyl tiles, with the thickness, look and feel of ceramic tile, commercial VCT, and DIY tile that is mostly self adhesive.

Congoleum has a strong position in the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle markets, both of which have been tanking. Manufactured housing has been declining for over a decade, and the recreational vehicle market is down 70% from where it stood two years ago, so it’s not surprising that Congoleum’s business was down last year. Nevertheless, because of the comparative strength of the vinyl category compared to other flooring categories, Congoleum still managed to take a point or two in marketshare.

The firm’s DuraCeramic tile has been a hit since its introduction in 2003. The tile has a higher calcium carbonate content than other residential vinyls, kind of like VCT, but a different binder system gives it a much tougher and more stone like feel, and in fact it’s installed with grout 60% of the time.

Last year Congoleum came out with DuraPlank, a wood look product of the same gauge.

The Dura products mostly go through independent retailers, as well as through the Mohawk network of dealers. The DIY tile goes mainly to home centers like Menards and Sutherland’s. Tile without adhesive backs go through contractors and retailers supplying the new home and multifamily markets.

Congoleum also has a large sheet offering, including felt backed products ranging from the entry level Prelude to its Ultima and Xclusive lines. The best performing categories have been base grade and entry level products that would generally go into new home construction but are now being sold for residential remodeling. Many retailers are stocking more affordable flooring to attract customers.

Also doing well is Flor-Ever Plus, which marries residential designs with commercial specifications. It works well in residential environments with commercial standards like assisted living and military housing.

A year ago the firm introduced AirStep, its line of fiberglass backed sheet vinyl. Late last year, it unveiled AirStep Plus, which is felt backed but with a polymer on the back to give it the flexibility of fiberglass backed products. AirStep Plus has all the positive properties of AirStep—it’s dimensionally stable, cushioned and lies flat—and in addition the felt layer gives it the expansion and contraction it needs to move with wooden subfloors, so it can go down as loose lay, fully adhered or perimeter adhered.

Alabama based Flexco serves the commercial market with both rubber and vinyl products. About 40% of its business is vinyl and its program includes solid vinyl tiles in large formats like 24”x24” and 36”x36” for sectors like healthcare, where it is heat welded for seamless installation, as well as static dissipative (ESD) tiles for specialized applications. In addition the firm offers wood look vinyl planks, which are also strong in healthcare, like in labor delivery rooms, vinyl cove base, stair treads and accessories.

Flexco had double digit growth last year, driven by the strength of the healthcare and education markets. The firm is busy with a lot of renovation in education, and since lead times are long in that sector, 2009 should also be a good year.

Flexco’s products typically feature 10% post industrial content. In addition, the firm has shifted to using a renewable resource as part of its binder content, replacing plasticizer. It started the program with its ESD tiles and then with its other offerings. The soybean oil, which is used at the beginning of the mix operation with PVC chips and acts as a gum, started off as 2% of the formulation and it’s now close to 10%.

Ohio based Roppe also produces rubber and vinyl products. Flexco and Roppe are owned by the same parent company, Roppe Holding, but they both have exclusive manufacturing facilities, along with one in common, they have different product lines, and they have different sales, marketing and customer service departments, as well as different distributors.

Roppe’s vinyl offerings include wood look vinyl planks, ESD tile, and SafeTCork, a solid vinyl tile blended with 10% cork. Not only is the cork a renewable resource but it increases the vinyl’s coefficient of friction by over 20%. It’s a popular product in both acute healthcare and assisted living.

The firm also offers vinyl accessories, stair treads and wall base. Its vinyl plank features 10% post industrial recycled content from a vinyl sheeting company—it’s used as regrind in the 40 mil wearlayer. All of the firm’s vinyl products feature at least 10% post industrial content.

Centiva, based in Florence Alabama, is a vinyl tile and plank specialist known for its captivating designs. The firm offers three vinyl programs—Event, Contour and Victory. Event is the more traditional line, with wood and stone looks, Contour has more modern and exotic designs, and the Victory line showcases Centiva’s most daring designs.

Other than some high end residential applications, Centiva’s products go to the commercial contract market—mostly to the healthcare, retail, corporate and education sectors. The firm’s business grew last year, due in part to its position in the growing healthcare and education markets.

Centiva has launched an aggressive sustainability program, converting to high efficiency fluorescent lighting, adding a closed loop water filtration system, installing skylights, and re-engineering its manufacturing process for improved efficiencies. The firm is also in the early stages of setting up a broad scale take back program with a network of recyclers—the firm already has a program for collecting used vinyl for any jobs over 8,000 square feet in the continental U.S., regardless of the manufacturer, as long as the replacement flooring is made by Centiva.

All of Centiva’s products include both post consumer and post industrial recycled content. The highest post consumer content is in Victory—currently its 8%—and Event has the highest post industrial content at 28%. The firm has 24-month goals for increasing the recycled content in all three lines. At Surfaces earlier this month, Centiva debuted Stria, another green product, this one with high recycled content in the backing (46.5% post industrial and 4.5% post consumer recycled content).

Another vinyl producer focused on going green is South Korea’s LG Floors, which offers a wide range of commercial vinyl flooring options in the U.S. market, including LVT, heterogeneous sheet vinyl, homogeneous tile, ESD tile and a multipurpose cushion backed sports floor. A distinguishing characteristic of LG’s flooring is the realism of some of its designs, particularly in the heterogeneous offerings.

LG’s vinyl products sold in South Korea are generally adhered with double sided tape or they are loose laid, making it easier to reclaim than vinyl flooring in the U.S., which generally goes down with a full spread adhesive. Consequently, the firm has been able to generate a waste stream for reclaimed vinyl flooring, and it is ground up and reused in the backing. LG’s Naturelife heterogeneous sheet vinyl has a 22% post consumer recycled content, and its Deco LVT line includes 4% post consumer content and 12% post industrial content. Interestingly, Deco and Naturelife were the firm’s best performers last year.

LG is also developing releasable spray technologies for not only tile but also sheet products. Beta testing is ongoing and the firm expects to launch the program soon.

Amtico has two vinyl lines, Spacia and Amtico, and one called Stratica is made of thermoplastic polyolefin with a Surlyn top layer—DuPont’s Surlyn is also used to coat golf balls. All three lines feature faux looks in tile and plank formats. The two year old Spacia line, the firm’s most affordable offering, is the smallest segment of the business while the well established Amtico line is the biggest.

In 2008 the company saw revenues grow, despite a slowdown in the fourth quarter. The stylish Amtico line, which has a 40 mil wearlayer, goes into several commercial sectors, the biggest of which are healthcare and retail. Stratica, a high performance product, is also strong in healthcare, particularly in facilities that are looking for PVC substitutes, as well as education. Spacia, with a 20 mil wearlayer, meets the budgets of a broader range of clients, and that helps it penetrate a number of commercial sectors.

Last year Amtico came out with a new Spacia product called Access installed with pressure sensitive adhesive that is sprayed or rolled on. The system reduces adhesive use, makes installation easier, reduces downtime and also makes reclamation easier. Amtico makes its products in Madison, Georgia and in the U.K., and both facilities are ISO 9001 and 14001 certified.

Gerflor, headquartered in Lyon, France, has facilities in Germany, Ireland and China, as well as two facilities in France. The firm’s core business is vinyl flooring, though it recently acquired a wallcovering facility in France. Gerflor has four divisions—commercial, sports, residential and transportation—and globally its commercial contract business is the biggest, though in the U.S. the firm’s sports flooring division, Taraflex, is bigger. Gerflor also sells its branded products to the U.S. commercial market and it private labels a substantial residential offering.

Gerflor, the third biggest vinyl flooring producer in the world (after Tarkett and Armstrong), offers the widest range of vinyl flooring available, including sheet goods, vinyl tile with low filler content, LVT, safety flooring, ESD tile, and the Taralay brand of comfort backed products. One of the firm’s most significant brands is its Mipolam homogeneous sheet and tile.

Last year the firm introduced Tarafit, a more sanitary and durable alternative to standard flash coving that targets the healthcare market. Healthcare is the firm’s biggest market in the U.S. The firm is also test marketing its fiberglass backed vinyl in the U.S.

Two years ago Gerflor parted ways with Chicago based AFS, its U.S. distributor, and set up its own operations in Atlanta, Georgia. Last year the firm acquired AFS to give it better control of the distribution channel.

For over 20 years, Gerflor’s products have featured a permanent no wax, no polish treatment, requiring only spray buffing or damp mopping. The firm is a founding member of the Association of Recycling PVC Flooring (AgPR), which operates a recycling facility in Germany. Gerflor offers products with high post industrial recycled content (up to 70%) and post consumer content of 5% to 10%. The firm’s sample program, which uses high resolution printed samples for the first stages of the specification process, also takes back vinyl samples and reuses them.

IVC, headquartered in Belgium, makes fiberglass backed sheet vinyl for the U.S. market, selling through groups like Carpet One as well as through distribution with its Flexitec brand, covering about a third of the U.S. and portions of Canada. Last month the firm was recognized as Carpet One’s Vendor of the Year.

IVC’s products can be installed with full spread adhesive or loose lay, and the firm has a pressure sensitive adhesive for full spread installations. Most of its North American business is in the residential market, as well as some light commercial products for the mainstreet market. Last year the firm saw moderate growth in the U.S. This year the firm will focus more on the commercial contract market.

The firm works with Germany’s AgPR to provide it with a stream of post consumer vinyl. The firm recycles its water and waste product and sends zero waste to landfills.

At Surfaces earlier this month IVC launched its first line of peel and stick plank designs. Coming next is LVT.

Halo Floors served the commercial market with LVT made in Taiwan and warehoused in Atlanta. The firm’s biggest sectors are hospitality, healthcare and retail with both faux wood and stone looks and its Something Different collection of cutting edge designs. New to Something Different is the Twisted Plains line of plain color tiles designed to match healthcare colors and available with an overlay of clear print film for subtle patterning.

The four year old firm, headed by Mary Docker, is growing fastest in the healthcare market, which uses its products in places like reception areas and patient rooms.

This year Toli, which is distributed in the U.S. through CBC America, is celebrating 20 years of doing business in the U.S. In that time the firm has developed some prominent brands, including Linotesta, Lightwood and Lightstone. Its original product in the U.S., a wood look sheet vinyl called Mature, is still selling well two decades later, though it’s been enhanced and improved over the years.

Healthcare and education are Toli’s biggest markets, and though the firm expects them to soften somewhat, they’re projected to perform better than the other commercial sectors over the next couple of years.

The firm offers two vinyl enhanced tile lines, Linotesta and Fasol Plus. Fasol Plus is the entry level product. They’re both 18’x18” tiles and both have 50% post industrial recycled content. Last year Toli launched LL300, a very thick vinyl tile designed to work with access flooring. LL300, which has 10% post consumer recycled content and 55% post industrial content, is designed to transition smoothly with carpet tile.

Metroflor, based in Darien, Connecticut, offers vinyl products for both the commercial and residential markets in a handful of brands. Teknoflor is the firm’s commercial sheet brand, and it goes mostly to the healthcare market. Its glue down LVT products are Metroflor and Artistek, and its hottest product is Konnecto, a floating luxury vinyl plank that attaches through notches with contact adhesive. Most of the firm’s products have post industrial recycled content.

Konnecto, which is two years old, has been upgraded with piano finishes and new looks including exotic patterns like the handcrafted look of Patina Woods as well as metallic and terracotta looks.

The firm also sells entry level vinyl planks under the Country and Casa lines. Casa also comes in a tile format. Earlier this month the firm unveiled its new children’s line.

Last year was a big growth year for Metroflor and Konnecto had a lot to do with it. The line goes to both the residential and commercial markets—it’s bigger in residential but growing faster in commercial.

Copyright 2009 Floor Focus 


Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, Roppe, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Tarkett, Carpet One, Coverings, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Mannington Mills, Armstrong Flooring