Laminating Seminars Explore Industry Trends.
Leading off was a half-day session titled "The Fourth Annual Essentials of Laminate Flooring." The program was sponsored by the North American Laminate Flooring Assn., the Composite Panel Assn., the Laminating Materials Assn. and Wood & Wood Products. The second seminar, "Specifying & Fabricating Decorative Laminated Composite Panels," was held Nov. 18-19. It was sponsored by the CPA, LMA and W&WP.
The seminar, devoted to the fast-growing laminate flooring market, focused on commercial applications and opportunities. In introducing the program, NALFA's president, Bill Dearing, said that a new survey of the North American laminate flooring market indicates that sales reached $472 million in 1998, with all but a silver being generated by the residential market. Yet, he added that the growth potential of laminate flooring in office, retail and other commercial venues is "very exciting."
One of the highlights of the program was a panel discussion about commercial uses for laminate flooring made up of three industry representatives: Juan Flores, general manager of Faus Floor; Doug Rende, vice president and general manager of contract sales for Pergo; and Mark Kieckhafer, national commercial manager for Wilsonart.
All three panelists noted that laminate flooring manufacturers are developing specialized products for the commercial sector featuring greater wear resistance and other improved performance characteristics.
Kieckhafer cited a study by Mead/Intertek indicating that laminate flooring outperformed vinyl and wood in a slew of wearability tests, including those for resistance to abrasion, burn, scratch, scuff and stain.
"Maintaining a commercial-grade laminate floor will cost up to 85 percent less than hardwood flooring in a typical application because there is no buffing, wax stripping or refinishing ... You just mop up with a glass cleaner."
Flores said the quality of installation is critical. "Fifty percent of the value of flooring is tied to installation."
Addressing design trends, James Voss Jr., director of design for Suddekor, said, one of the hottest looks for laminate flooring emulates "vintage woods."
Laminated Panel Trends
The vast majority of decorative laminates are applied to particleboard or medium density fiberboard, two products that experienced a strong year in 1999, according to Rich Margosian, who was making his last official public address as president of the Composite Panel Assn.
Margosian noted that many "market gurus" believe that demand growth will slow in 2000-2001 at the same time that North American production capacity of particleboard and MDF "accelerates" because of new mill startups. That scenario could lead to continued price breaks for panel buyers, he added.
Some of the new agrifiber panels coming on the market, including those made with straw and other wood composite alternatives, have a potentially bright future, Margosian said. Their attributes include enhanced moisture resistance, lighter weight and good strength and machinability. However, he said some of the challenges these manufacturers must overcome include ironing out manufacturing bugs and costs associated with raw material procurement and the use of more expensive isocyanate resins.
George Carter, executive director of the Laminating Materials Assn., said while all classes of decorative overlays are increasing, the biggest share-of-market gains between 1988 and 1998 were registered by thermofused melamine and heat transfer foils.
Plans for the Fall 2000 laminating seminar are being drawn up.