Flooring – watch out for price increases

Flooring of all kinds has been at historic lows for the past 12-18 months based on the dismal housing market. However, the costs of raw materials are souring, the costs of container shipping are out of control and the continued belief that the housing sector may be showing signs of life means 1 thing: Prices on Flooring will increase in the coming months.

So if you are considering buying flooring – be it laminate flooring, hardwood flooring, vinyl floors or even cork or bamboo floors your timing to get the very lowest prices is running out.

Vinyl Flooring – A Revolution?

Vinyl flooring was one of the most common floors used in Europe and North America during the 1950’s-2000. Alot of people may recall the term “no-wax” vinyl flooring which is what virtually all of today’s vinyl floors are made as. The reason the term “no-wax” was a marketing tool is because from the late 1800’s-1940’s linoleum was the most widely available resilient flooring option for most. Linoleum is cool in it’s own way, but requires waxing and or polishing on a regular basis. It is also easier to stain.

With advancements in PVC technology vinyl became a viable option that was much easier maintenance than linoleum.

Overtime the vinyl because more and more realistic and very durable. However, when Pergo was introduced in 1996 that was the “death” of vinyl flooring of the past. Pergo and other laminate flooring introductions later became dominate in the market especially for kitchens and larger areas. Laminate floors were so much easier to install and had the look of high end hardwood and yet had the easy maintenance like vinyl.

From 2000-2008 vinyl was a shrinking market. However starting in roughly 2009 a new category of vinyl flooring emerged to finally give laminate floors like Pergo a run for the money. This new generation of flooring has a more realistic look and is combined with easy installation.

In 2011 there is the most important emergence of vinyl flooring in the last 50 years. The newest generation of solid vinyl plank floors that have the look of wood, yet the click installation of laminate is truly a game changer. This product done correctly has the ability to revolutionize not just the vinyl market but also laminate.

Just as laminate beat vinyl with a knock out punch this could be the revenge of vinyl against laminate.

Although there are LOTS of positives to this product there are an equal about of potential GOTCHAS.

Some of the points of differentiation to be wary of including the quality of the product itself, the recycled content (Because it could be toxic – THIS IS NOT A POSITIVE ATTRIBUTE IN MOST CASES), the thickness as it related to the click joint integrity, the finish surface durability, scratch resistance, color changing, ease of maintenance and so much more.

As always it pays to be informed. In the near future a BRAND WARS: VINYL FLOORING article will be published showing the differences between click vinyl floors to join the series of BRAND WARS articles that have been read my millions looking at laminate and hardwood flooring.

Bamboo Flooring – Get with it people

Too often generalizations about products become the “fact” about those products. Bamboo flooring as a category has generally good characteristics like being fast growing and therefore sustainable as well as being flexible to apply colors and styles to the flooring like staining and hand scraping.

However, due to the overall market not being very knowledgeable about bamboo the general understand of bamboo floors are too often limited to the 4 basic skus. Horizontal Carbonized, Horizontal Natural, Vertical Carbonized and Vertical Natural. These 4 basic skus have their place, but they are often oversold and therefore expectations can be missed.

Having watched many complaints online about certain bamboo brands and styles there are clear reasons why some brands fail to deliver a positive experience. Some of it is overselling, but some of it is just clearly a poor specification. (in non-flooring geek terms that means the sales guy sold you something that would not work in your home or office installation and they should have known that.)

Those old styles of bamboo ARE NOT worth your time. Stop buying them. You should instead focus on the world of strand bamboo flooring. Strand now has a multitude of construction options including solid, solid click, engineered and hdf. Once again to take the floor geek out of the equation that means there is every possible type of strand available for ANY installation scenario therefore you shouldn’t waste your time worrying if strand can work for you.

In addition to the construction options there are tons of new styles. Stain colors, handscraping, freech bleed, wire brushing, oil finishes and much much more. These floors have all of the benefits of bamboo’s sustainability, but are literally 4x tougher when it comes to denting and overall durability. Yes 4x – that means 4 times better for you.

For those who need extra convincing just do what has been recommended by the best and brightest in the business. Order a sample of regular horizontal carbonized bamboo and then get a strand sample. Hit them both as hard as you can with a HAMMER. Then you can see the difference for yourself.

As always there are tons of differences in how different brands make their products. Not all floors are created equal and some folks are short term in their approach which can make their products dangerous in your home. Strand uses glue to make it therefore if a brand is not a long term strategic player then they are more likely to cheat and use cheap glue which will be packed with formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. That means the wrong floor could cause cancer. And if you don’t think it could happen does anyone remember the toxic toys that were recalled over the past few years or the chinese drywall that created so many problems? (just to be clear this can be a problem in regular bamboo, laminate, engineered hardwood and virtually any other flooring too – it is not just about strand bamboo.)

The fact is 95% of all bamboo comes from China which is not a bad thing. Another clear fact is that only 50% of the products are of proper quality for your home – the age old problem the buyers of strand bamboo flooring struggle with is which 50% is good and which 50% is bad.

In the coming months a BRAND WARS: STRAND BAMBOO article will compare top brands of strand bamboo joining the ranks of other BRAND WARS articles which have been read millions of times and been the foundation for people flooring choices hundreds of thousands of times across the world.

So as much as we may say get with it, we also say we’re with you and will guide you to what is right.

Area Rugs – why don’t you have one?

Studies about hard surface flooring like hardwood and laminate have shown that most people put a rug down on a new floor in the first 10 days following their purchase.

However after having the opportunity to study flooring purchases from hundred of thousands of shoppers covering hundreds of millions of feet of floors there is a stark reality: MORE THAN 40% of PEOPLE DO NOT GET A RUG DESPITE ALL OF THE BENEFITS.

Firstly new flooring is beautiful, but rugs enhance that beauty they don’t detract.

Secondly rugs offer some protection to some of those new floors and can be a perfect accent.

And third – rugs are really affordable! This is the dirty little secret that people don’t fully realize. Rugs are much more affordable than you think.

In a blind study when 5 rugs are put in front of consumers the prices that consumer guess for the rugs is often 2 times more than they really are in some cases 20x more. That’s right they guess the rug retail is $4,000 and it is closer to $200.

Part of the reason is because high quality rugs are available online for lower and lower costs. In the old days if you walk into Macy’s for a rug you could expect to pay $2,000 – $4,000. However, today those exact same rugs which are still priced like that in Macys and other retail stores can be found online at discounters like ONLINE AREA RUGS at a fraction of the price because they have low overhead and direct ship from rug warehouses to homes, offices, hotels or wherever the customer requires.

Because of this massive shift toward consumer choice you have the ability to change rugs every few years instead of thinking of them as heirlooms.

We do want to be clear that there are still heirloom quality rugs and a very high end niche available in the market, but it is such a tiny fraction of the market it isn’t worth wasting time talking about. That segment is basically crazy rich people who want something totally unique and part of the story is that they paid $150,000 for this rug. That same rug could be custom made with the same exact specification for 90% less if someone wanted to.

So the question is why haven’t you found a perfect rug or replaced that ratty rug from a couple years ago. It’s easier than you think. By the way, rugs are great to give as gifts. Your friends or family will appreciate the lasting beauty and immediate impact of adding a rug to their home. And you don’t have to tell them the rug they think cost you $2000.00 – was only $400 – with Free Shipping and No tax.  😉

Hardwood Flooring – under your carpet – why?

Alot of people are surprised when they buy an older home and consider replacing that old 70’s shag carpet and then when the carpet comes up they see they have beautiful hardwood flooring beneath that carpet. Alot of people don’t know why this is. But here is the answer:

From 1960-present day Hardwood flooring has been viewed as a upgrade flooring for decades when compared to carpeting.

But alot of people don’t know that hardwood floors were commonly installed in the 40’s and 50’s to meet minimum FHA requirements for home interiors in order to allow homeowners to qualify for most mortgages. Back during that time carpeting was not widely available and therefore red oak was the most common hardwood flooring used all over the United States.

During the 60’s the carpet industry became more more highly automated with automatic tufting machines which allowed higher quality and lower priced carpets to be produced. This flooring option ultimately replaced hardwood as the minimum requirement for mortgages and it was less expensive.

But for those lucky homeowners who pull back carpeting and realize they can refinish these beautiful hardwood floors that are quietly waiting under the carpeting to become free!

Carpeting – what’s the deal?

Carpet was around 75% of the flooring market from 1965-1995 but has steadily fallen since that time. Part of the reason is that there have been more and more flooring options introduced over time such as laminate, newer vinyl floors, bamboo flooring, tile and stone becoming more affordable and many more new items.

However, carpet wasn’t just a victim of more selection some of the problems with carpet market share are linked to carpet manufacturing itself. There became so many choices. Choices that flooring dudes call “me too” items that consumers were more or less not impressed with carpet options in general.

Additionally brands like stainmaster and others promised incredible things about durability which started out to be mostly true, but they allowed their brand to be put on cheaper and cheaper products overtime which didn’t really deliver what the customers expected from those brand names over time. In many ways this failure to deliver on consumer expectations caused the consumer to stop caring about these benefits because they were less and less believable.

Today carpeting has had a bit of a renaissance due in part to the global economy. Carpet in terms of total cost is still one of the most affordable options as compared to hard surface flooring choices like hardwood floors or laminate flooring. So by default carpet has jumped a bit because people can’t afford what they really want: Hardwood, Laminate, Cork or Bamboo Flooring.

But we have to give credit where credit is due – there have been some innovations in carpet that are more exciting. Some of the new softer fibers, which are STILL durable are themselves a paradox. You get a soft touch on your carpeting, but long lasting as well. This is a REAL tangible value to consumers. How long will it be before the brands start over promising and allowing the technology on cheap products which can’t deliver on the promise?

Back on the upside patterned tufting techniques combined with advancements in fiber technology have created new and unique looks that may lead consumers, designers, architects and builders back to the category after all.

Overall it is hard to imagine carpet becoming aspirational, but there are niches like wool carpet, patterned carpet, carpet tiles and others that could become something that is really important going forward.

This could be a ray of optimism for the carpet business, but there is reason now for optimism.  Carpet guys can start to think about the possibility reclaim their past glory and more importantly the past market share.

Posting…Daily Again…

After a long hiatus FloorDuJour will be putting the DuJour back into action. The concept of FloorDuJour has always been about driving daily doses of flooring knowledge directed at end users of flooring.

To help in that quest we have asked Steve Simonson to contribute again regularly for this blog because it was mostly Steve’s material from the original “It’s About Flooring” blog that created this blog in the first place.

So starting next week on Feb 21st you can again find daily doses of flooring wisdom on FloorDuJour some of which will be from Steve who is expected to impart his own brand of flooring expertise, criticism and humor.

Given the popularity of the articles Steve has written in the past like BRAND WARS: LAMINATE and PERGO Vs. THE WORLD which combined have been read millions of times there is no doubt the content will be compelling; if not controversial.

Additionally we have asked Steve to share some of his factory tours and inspections with us to help us learn about different kinds of flooring and most importantly what separates the good guys from the bad guys.

Thanks for following the blog and look for daily posts starting Monday the 21st of February with a full week of Steve’s writing about different flooring categories and what to expect in 2011. Now would be a great time to subscribe to the RSS feed to keep you on the leading tip of the information stream!