Of late, the resilient flooring market has seen a bit of a transformation, in large part due to growth in luxury vinyl tile (LVT), but additionally spurred by advancements in a lesser-known product group: multilayer flooring (MLF). MLF is – as the name suggests – a multilayer, hybrid resilient flooring product. It’s also relatively new to the market and equipped with a set of high-value features and benefits that give it a leg up against comparative flooring materials.
MLF: A Quick Overview
The two main types of MLF are wood-plastic composite (WPC) and solid polymer core (SPC). Compared to SPC, WPC has a lighter, softer texture and is recognized for its comfort. In contrast, SPC’s main benefit is its dense polymer core, which makes for indent-resistant durability. SPC is particularly suitable for venues that experience high traffic and heavy loads.
Other hallmarks of MLF products include:
- Ease of installation: MLF products can be placed on subfloors with imperfections, cutting down on installation prep time.
- Waterproof properties: Because MLF is waterproof, it can be installed in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as other residential and commercial environments where water exposure might be a concern.
Recent product technologies and innovations have also enhanced MLF’s existing benefits. Advancements in extrusion, pressing, and coring processes have significantly improved product composition, and as MLF continues to evolve, available products may expand beyond SPC and WPC to incorporate other materials.
Rapid Industry Growth & Product Evolution Spurs Rush to Set MLF Standards
In reaction to MLF’s speedy rise in popularity, manufacturers noted a need to set standards. In early January 2017, seven European flooring producers formed the Multilayer Modular Flooring Association (MMFA), as MLF products are quickly gaining popularity in Europe. MMFA currently has 24 ordinary members, in addition to associate and supporting research institute members.
“The sales of the different product categories covered by the MMFA in Europe are ever increasing,” says Peter H. Meyer, Managing Director at MMFA. “The MMFA supports this development by standardization activities granting a clear view of qualities and capabilities of the categories to all parties involved in the specific market, plus Europe-wide media activities and support.”
MMFA’s class structure, specifically class 3, reflects the ongoing evolution of these products.
Shortly after MMFA was established, market leaders across the pond – including Metroflor, USFloors, Novalis, Mannington, Torlys, Armstrong, and CFL – spearheaded the Multilayer Flooring Association (MFA) in North America. To avoid ongoing confusion on performance and safety among adopters of MLF, MFA quickly established its ASTM standard in just one years’ time. The specifications are geared toward the full supply chain – e.g., raw material suppliers, end-use product manufacturers, distributors, contractors, and consumers – enabling each participant to ensure compliance with current standards.
Because this resilient subcategory is still so new and unfamiliar to many potential buyers, MMFA and MLF are working to promote consumer confidence by certifying products. This has resulted in strong manufacturer membership growth – for example, MFA’s membership base doubled during 2017.
As more companies enter the global MLF market, manufacturers whose products have been certified will have a competitive advantage over other suppliers.
The Industry Push to Educate Contractors on MLF Benefits
In addition to upholding product standards, contractors must also have a clear understanding of how to work with MLF products. While benefits of installing MLF generally include reduced prep times and need for t-moldings, the best installation methods vary depending on the material.
That’s why the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA) organized a webinar on Multilayer Flooring & Accessories in mid-2017. The live web series was aimed at educating contractors about the different installation requirements for various MLF types. Such publicity efforts are likely to support demand gains.
The Resiliency of Resilient Flooring Growth Opportunities
On a global level, nonresilient flooring continues to account for the largest share of total flooring demand. However, sales of resilient products such as LVT and MLF have experienced stronger growth over the past 5 years, a trend that is expected to continue going forward.
Increasing consumer preference for high-end aesthetics paired with heavy loadbearing capabilities are supporting demand for resilient flooring products like LVT. As these qualities become more appealing to consumers, more producers will begin to offer MLF products. As MLF becomes a more mainstream product, there will be greater opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to capture market share in this sub-category.
But how? Product innovation will be key. For example, some industry participants expect future MLF products to utilize surface materials other than WPC and SPC, with laminate and stone looking like particularly promising candidates.
To Find Out More
Looking for information on the flooring industry worldwide? For historical and demand data forecasts by product and region, see The Freedonia Group’s Global Flooring study. This study also covers market environment factors, industry structure, company market share, and leading companies.