Builder trends on track
Wednesday, March 06, 2019 from Floor Covering Weekly daily
With a strong builder market, it’s no wonder companies are looking to meet demand. This is true across builder segments — from new homes to multifamily properties. “There are areas of opportunity across the spectrum, including everything from manufactured housing to builder, property management and multifamily,” said Tom Cole vice president of sales, residential division for Armstrong Flooring.
“Builders continue to grow more savvy towards the trends the consumer is looking for,” said Jeremy Whipple, vice president of sales and marketing for commercial products for Novalis Innovative Flooring. “As consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about what product s they want in their homes, builders that are meeting these demands in terms of style and performance are seeing tremendous interest in their work.”
Flooring trends in the builder market strongly reflect retail trends. In a recent report by Home Innovation Research Labs, new home buyers overwhelmingly want hardwood options — both solid and engineered. “It’s no secret that wood flooring has become very popular in new homes and can be found in nearly every room in the house, particularly in the main living and entertaining areas of homes,” said Ed Hudson, director of research.
Indeed, hardwood flooring suppliers say the builder market is as strong as ever for the category
“[The National Association of Home Builder’s] own surveys indicate that homebuyers overwhelmingly want hardwood flooring,” Wendy Booker, vice president, marketing and product development for AHF Products. “This is true at every level of home buying.” She said the continued strong economy will help keep the category strong in both new construction and remodeling.
“While we also see hardwood opportunities in the commercial marketplace, single-family construction and residential replacement continue to be core drivers of demand for hardwood. Millennials want wood, and at the same time, empty nesters are downsizing and also want hardwood flooring,” continued Booker.
Hudson noted that the appeal of hardwood extends to the popularity of engineered products which has fueled its continued strong growth.
“Over the past several years, new technologies have made many wood and wood look-alikes less expensive, more resistant to scratching and impact, able to withstand wet environments, easy-to-install, and very attractive,” he said. “Engineered wood flooring has now surpassed solid wood flooring in new homes, and the LVT category continues to push the wood look into moisture-sensitive and higher functioning areas of the home. The most gain have been in engineered hardwood was due to its acceptance by production and semi-custom builders.”
No surprising, flooring suppliers continue to focus on engineered lines for their builder segment.
“We are the largest manufacturer of engineered hardwood in the business,” said Scott Baker, vice president of single-family national accounts in the builder division for Shaw. As such, the company is able to work through various factors that are challenging the industry, such as tariffs, building costs and regulations. “We have the most options.”
Of course, vinyl and other resilient options continue to gain strength in the builder segment as suppliers produce more affordable yet technologically advanced and aesthetically pleasing products. “Floorté has really taken off for us,” Baker of Shaw said. “There’s a lot of value in it and it’s a huge growth opportunity due to ease of installation, its waterproof [qualities] and superior visuals.”
David Holt, senior vice president builder and multifamily for Mohawk Industries, asserted, “Our hard surface brands TecWood, RevWood, SolidTech and sheet vinyl are all gaining share inside the high traffic areas of the living spaces,”
Added Armstrong’s Cole, “We have seen explosive rigid LVT growth in new home construction. These products have taken a significant share from both other hard surface flooring as well as carpet.” He cited the company’s PRYZM waterproof planks as top sellers in the builder segment, as well as the company’s builder-dedicated lines.
“We are seeing tremendous growth in the WPC/SPC category as well as some lose lay formats in LVT,” Novalis’ Whipple said.
“Our Everlife LVT is growing incredibly fast with the builder market because not only is it high-quality, low-cost, it is also beautiful and matches the desired wood looks homeowners want,” said Jason Chafez, head of national builder sales for MSI.
While hard surfaces have been growing at a faster rate — and chipping away at the carpet segment — there are still strong segments in the builder market for carpet. Hudson noted that carpet is still overwhelmingly the number one choice for bedrooms and basements. “Since 2004, carpeting has declined from about 60 percent of all flooring installed in new homes to about 40 percent today, primarily losing ground to wood finishes. However, in new home basements and bedrooms, carpeting accounts for 80 percent of flooring installations.
Chris Johnson, senior vice president of sale for Phenix Flooring, noted, “The builder segment within the carpet industry is a very large portion of the overall business and as such, commands a great deal of attention from all manufacturers. The opportunity in this segment rises and falls with the new construction housing market and is therefore bolstered by the health of the economy.”
Baker of Shaw said that carpet is particularly strong for first-time home buyers and the company has focused on its Endurance line for this segment. “It’s a very affordable carpet and hits every bucket, wearing well, easy to clean and high design.” Still, he noted that the company’s premium carpet line, Tuftex, is growing across all markets including in new homes.
Mohawk’s Holt agreed carpet is strong in some builder segments. “Carpet is still very popular in family areas and bedrooms. Our soft SmartStrand products have outstanding spill protection, permanent stain resistance and long-lasting durability. The line is expanding with more patterns in 2019.
“Carpet is still the majority of the floor in the production home builder segment and is used across the country,” said Tracy Wyrick, national director of builder and multifamily for Engineered Floors. He said many builders partner carpet with the company’s line of SCP and LVP floor for a unified look.
The multifamily builder market is seeing strong gains as more consumers find that as a viable alternative to home buying.
“As home pricing and interest rates continue to escalate, along with student debt, more affordable housing for U.S. residents will be needed,” said Layne Dugger, vice president of national accounts, multifamily for Shaw Floors. He cited a statistic that the United States has a national shortage of more than 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes.
Flooring in multifamily construction presents unique challenges and requirements. “It’s important for multifamily builders to consider cost-saving measures and products needing less replacement, while property managers should select a flooring manufacturing partner dedicating to helping them protect the investment they’ve made in their floors with maintenance and upkeep programs,” Dugger said.
“The multifamily channel is significant for the company,” said Tracy Wyrick, national director of builder and multifamily for engineered floors. He added that the company has been expanding its multifamily line every year to meet demand.
Multifamily flooring products need to be long-lasting, durable and easy to install. “LVP is still very desirable but the issue of sound transfer is now an area of focus for Shaw Floors,” Dugger said. “In an effort to bring some legitimacy to the IIC/STC numbers being floated in the market and help multifamily decision makers understand the impact flooring selection has on the residents’ environment and wellbeing, Shaw Floors unveiled its new patent pending, award winning Sound Advisor tool. The platform has been very well received by the market and will continue to evolve as flooring and construction trends do.” He added that due to labor shortages and time constraints, Shaw’s Floorté LVP also has been a top product for multifamily construction.
Carpets are key in the multifamily segment too. He said the company’s Floorigami modular flooring is becoming increasingly popular for its flexibility and design options.
“Carpet is still the majority of the floor for current apartment replacement, but LVP products are growing fast and taking share from all flooring products,” Engineered Floors’ Wyrick said.
“Labor shortages have been a challenge in spanning many industries of late, so much of our effort in product development is focused on ‘installation friendly’ products that require less acumen and time to install.” — Layne Dugger, Shaw Floors
Flooring suppliers said working in the builder market requires diligence and relationships, particularly as other factors such as material costs, labor woes, tariffs and regulatory issues put pressure on everyone throughout the supply chain. Here, flooring manufacturers share their best practices for working in the builder industry.
“Armstrong Flooring understands the unique challenges that builders and property managers face when choosing flooring for their homes and communities. We recognize the importance of quick turnaround times, product availability and dependability. That’s why we offer an impressive array of readily available, stylish, durable and easy-to-install options at every price point.” — Tom Cole, Armstrong Flooring
“Builders like choices. We provide those choices with a complete product line focused directly on builder and consumer needs. As a domestic manufacturer of every flooring category, Mohawk offers unmatched product flexibility to builders who are trying to keep up with increasingly knowledgeable consumers.” — David Holt, Mohawk Industries
“Our approach has not changed; it’s all about valuing relationships. And from a product standpoint, it’s about innovations and solutions we offer.” — Scott Baker, vice president of single-family national accounts in the builder division for Shaw Floors
“We have a dedicated team focused on the builder channel. Our 25-plus distribution centers are able to quickly and efficiently manage the needs of the builders.” — Jason Chafez, MSI.
“This business is constantly evolving and developing as we continue to cultivate relationships, broaden our product selection and train our sales organization, we certainly are excited about 2019.” — Mike Sanderson, Engineered Floors
“The homeowners product selections have considerably changed with more and more hard surface being utilized along with patterned carpet which allows for uniquely designed flooring in the home environment which is not relegated to one singular product category. At Phenix, we have added several builder quality hard surface products as well as introduced a new line called this year specifically to address this market place shift. We are looking forward to this business category growing along with the rest of our business.” — Chris Johnson, Phenix Flooring
“We are engaging more with the builders and showing them how our products can bring added value to their finished builds. We are also looking at our supply chain to provide readily available supply for quick and economical access for the builders. Finally, with attributes like water-proof performance, increased durability and even better aesthetics, we are meeting and exceeding the expectations of the consumer.” — Jeremy Whipple, Novalis Innovative Flooring