Technology and versatility helps tile grow

Technology and versatility helps tile grow

Thursday, December 20, 2018 from Floor Covering Weekly

Tile is a sector in which aesthetic is as important as function. Hard surface sales continue to climb. During the third quarter of 2018, hard surface flooring may have accounted for 56.6 percent of total dollar sales — a 7.5 percent increase from 2017, according to Catalina.From improved printing techniques to innovative sizing and installation methods, the [tile] industry saw major advances that helped further interest and consumption, said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president of Dal-Tile, a Mohawk company.

And while luxury vinyl tile (LVT) may be leading the hard surface wave of success, ceramic tile and stone are making a hefty contribution to the sector’s growth as well. Industry leaders agreed: tile and stone saw a positive trajectory in 2018.

“Tile’s growth can be attributed to a variety of factors, including an increase of use in the residential replacement sectors and the builder market,” Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface at Shaw said, adding that accessibility and versatility also play to tile’s popularity.

And MSI’s co-president Raj Shah agreed, stating that the strong housing sector in 2018 supported tile’s growth. “As housing matures, we may see the growth rate reduce from prior years, but there is significant upside as tile and stone continue to take share from other flooring types,” he added.

Technology’s Touch
At the forefront of the sector’s success year after year, however, is technology. Digital printing has completely transformed the tile market, where aesthetic is as important as function.

“Tile is taking on many forms as technology evolves, from highly realistic wood looks to large-scale shapes on the wall,” said Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing for Emser Tile.

Popular tile trends in 2018 included stone look tile and wood look tile, both made possible — and believable — by high-definition printing. In regard to stone, Haaksma explained, “Stone is a classic material, providing lifetimes of beauty and durability. The mixed material trend also has staying power. Stone has been introduced to new applications, fusing into design-forward porcelain or glass mosaics.”

Versatile & Accessible
Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing, also revealed that increasingly larger sized tile continues — and will continue — to stay on trend. “Specifiers and consumers are now comfortable with larger field tile sizes, making dimensions upwards of 36-inches popular even in the residential market, although 12” × 24” porcelain tiles are still the leaders in our market,” she said.

And with larger formats on the rise, industry leaders reported that porcelain tile panels are now used more frequently on floors, walls and horizontal applications — both commercially and residentially — on shower stall walls, fireplace surroundings, backsplashes and even elevator banks.

The past year also saw a steady increase in gauged porcelain tile used for countertop application.

“Gauged porcelain tile has risen in popularity, particularly for use on countertops,” said Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface for Shaw Industries. “Manufactured through the Continua Plus process, gauged porcelain can be produced in excess of 5’ × 10’. With a larger slab, consumers get a cleaner visual, as there are fewer seams, making this specific type of tile a perfect fit for countertops.”

Tile’s accessibility is also playing a major part in the sector’s success. There are a greater number of ways to purchase tile. Consumers can go to specialty tile shops, home centers, flooring-centric mega retailers and even online.

In fact, Shaw’s Hash added, “More flooring retailers are expanding their tile and stone offerings, leading to higher sales.”

Installation Issues
But with the growth of tile and stone comes challenges, namely installation.

“The need for qualified labor to install all this tile that we’re selling is a major challenge and will continue to be going forward,” said Crossville’s Waldrep. “We plan to continue our expansive installer training and education programs — including industry partnerships and in-house workshops to train more members of the installation community to be ready to answer demand.”

Although challenges in the sector are present, 2018 overall has been another successful year. “The growth we’ve seen in this sector over the last year encourages us. Development of programs advocating training and educational opportunities for installers will benefit the industry,” said Shaw’s Hash.

The tile market is more vibrant and competitive than ever, added Crossville’s Waldrep. “There’s an increased number of tile manufacturers making products in the U.S. — over and above imported products to meet the steadily growing demand.”