Green or greenwashing? The truth about laminate flooring.

by Bill Dearing, President, NALFA

Visit any flooring department today and you’ll see a plethora of green colored signage—in fact, you have to look hard to find any display that doesn’t indicate, at the bare minimum, that a product will not cause adverse environmental impact. Some claims even make promises of saving the planet. So how does a consumer recognize overstating and greenwashing? What do the claims really mean? Is laminate flooring really “green”?

To answer the question about laminate flooring’s “greenness”, we’ll focus only on our NALFA Regular and Associate Member’s products — and with good reason. Unless a product is tested to NALFA standards, it cannot make claims about its relative performance to these standards with any certainty.

The first concerns of a shopper usually are the features and benefits, with sustainability now at the top of the list. When laminate flooring was introduced to North America in 1993, it was significantly ahead of most other flooring in environmental sustainability. It originated in Sweden who was striving towards “green” at least eight years before sustainability hit the average North American’s radar screen. The manufacturing process was extremely efficient in its time in order to make prices competitive, which in turn kept sourcing and production steps at a minimum. Finally, the product’s life cycle ended with further recycling of most of its components, or used as approved heating fuel or farming additives.

The Scandinavian consumer considered environmental recognition important and when a company was awarded the Scandinavian Green Swan for example, its logo was extensively promoted. Indoor air quality was linked to environmental concerns and once again, laminate flooring came through. Reported as superior to other flooring by various country’s health departments in this regard, Laminate Flooring rapidly replaced other options in these countries. By the way, “Laminate” refers to the tiniest component of a NALFA Member’s product which is the environmentally friendly protective cover that you can’t see yet gives well made Laminate Flooring its distinctive benefits of Wear, Fade and Stain.

NALFA Certified Laminate Flooring continues this tradition. For example, all of our Members’ products are CARB compliant. We invite anyone to visit www.nalfa.com for a complete update of our Green Standard initiative as well as a list of our Members, both Regular and Associate. From there, you may further link to our member’s sites where you will find that most have been awarded significant environmental recognition. A core NALFA belief is in our transparency; no smoke and mirrors, and never any deceptive statements.

It takes an effort for a company to claim genuine NALFA Certification and anyone concerned with sustainability (consumers, architects, dealers, installers, etc.) can visit our site and be directed easily to the standards that back up our NALFA Certification process. The NALFA certification seal, which gives a shopper and dealer assurance of quality and suitability, is proudly displayed by every NALFA member. And yes, it is “green”.

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What’s in fashion?

Saw marks and worm holes. It seems today’s laminate flooring manufacturers are taking realism to a new level. In the 6/20 issue of Floor Covering Weekly, reporter Ray Pina took a look at the current technologies and trends of 11 different laminate flooring manufacturers. Have a read!

http://bit.ly/o0YikZ

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Date Change for Charleston, SC Inspector Certification Class

The NALFA Inspector Certification Class originally scheduled for September 16th in Charleston, SC will now be held a day earlier on September 15th.

The remaining 2011 calendar looks like this:

8/25 – Vancouver, BC (new class!)
8/26 — Vancouver, BC
9/15 — Charleston, SC (date change!)
10/13 — Chicago, IL
11/11 — Calhoun, GA

The cost is $350 and includes all instructional materials, lunch, membership certificate, and an ID card. Interested participants should call Teiya Eubanks at 423-316-1566 or send an email to teubanks@kmtcreative.com for more information or to register. Seats are limited and going fast! Don’t wait!

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NALFA Adds New Inspector Certification Class!

Due to overwhelming demand, NALFA has added a second Inspector Certification Class in Vancouver, BC. The new class is schedule for August 25, 2011.

Inspectors who have already participated in the 2011 curriculum are raving about the information and value the certification class offers. The cost is $350 and includes all instructional materials, lunch, membership certificate, and an ID card.

Interested participants should call Teiya Eubanks at 423-316-1566 or send an email to teubanks@kmtcreative.com for more information or to register. Seats are going fast! Don’t wait!

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NALFA experts weigh-in on click systems

This past May, Floor Covering Weekly included a story on the pros and cons of click systems and the impact they’re having on the installer and DIY business. Two NALFA experts, Ron Starkey and Anthony Palandro weighed-in. Check it out:

http://bit.ly/q5OEjQ

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Laminate Flooring — The Game Changer

(The following article appeared in Floor Covering News’ 25th Anniversary Edition on May 16, 2011)

A game changer in terms of performance, warranties, value

by E. C. “Bill” Dearing
President, NALFA
nalfa.com

Laminate Flooring emerged in North America in the fall of 1993 promising previously unheard of qualities.  Imagine, a floor that was warranted against wear, fade and stains for an unheard of 10 years.  And, it did not stop there.  Laminate Flooring continued to grow in design, technology and sustainability to obtain incredible success and provide significant benefits to the consumer and flooring industry.

Prior to Laminate Flooring’s introduction in North America in 1993, it had already made significant inroads in Northern Europe, especially Sweden, Norway and Germany, and its value and performance were recognized by residential and commercial clients for several years.  In fact, as early as the mid-1980’s, products like “Perstorp Super Flooring” were successful in Sweden.  In case you don’t recognize the name, Perstorp Super Flooring was the forerunner of Pergo®.

Not many companies were manufacturing Laminate Flooring when the category was introduced into North America.  Pergo arrived in 1993 and soon Witex® entered the market.  Pergo experienced a welcome reception – its first major customer was Color Tile, which at the time was a national chain. Major groups, such as Carpet One® saw the potential of Lamiante Flooring early and soon a number of players vied for recognition in this startup category which quickly moved into all the retail chanels of distribution at that time. Most of these “first movers” didn’t come from the traditional flooring industry.  Instead, they were producers of decorative laminate or MDF and HDF pannel manufacters.  The primary goal for these pioneers was establishing a new use for an existing product.

North American flooring manufacturers were close behind the first wave of Laminate Flooring from Scandinavia.  Credible and innovative manufacturers from both North America and Euorpe began their expansions into the market. These brand names included Wilsonart®, Formica®, Alloc®, Uniboard® and Fausfloor®.  Within two years major flooring companies in North America either had their own offering or was in development of an offering.

THE DYNAMIC INTRODUCTION OF LAMINATE FLOORING

Arguably the top six reasons for the success of Laminate Flooring’s introduction period and the start of its positive influence in North American flooring were:

  1. High performance values attributes backed by transparent warranties.
  2. Styles and colors with no dye lot restrictions that were not previously available.
  3. Floating floor technology.
  4. Installation that was simple (for the time) for both the professional and DIY markets.
  5. Packaging that used a highly transportable box or carton that could be inventoried easily and without noticeable breakage.
  6. Excellent recognition from publications and aggressive consumer advertising with dealer enthusiasm.

The landscape of flooring dramaticaly evolved once more when well established North American flooring producers became involved with their own Laminate Flooring brands which generated an even more astounding growth and acceptance level.

By the fourth year following the introduction of Laminate Flooring at Surfaces, ’97, the entire flooring industry was paying considerable attention to style, color and warranties to demonstrate a range of choices for the consumer.  Hard Surface products especially began to market products with added protection value in the area of wear resistance.  In many instances, packaging was dramatically altered to the new consumer friendly, shorter cartons.

The successful launch of this new category was good for the entire market.  It positively influenced the flooring industry by holding up to promises at a fair price, with honest margins for all. The consumer’s appreciation was apparent because Laminate Flooring volumes grew by double digits while its share of market increased each year.

THE FIRST CONFUSION AND THE SOLUTION

By 1997, we all knew what constituted Laminate Flooring. It was very straight forward, right?  The answer was a resounding “no.”  Several forces that could have destroyed the category in its infancy were swirling around chief among these were two major items that were causing mischief and needed to be addressed:

  1. There was no definition of Laminate Flooring.  In other words, anyone could make any product and call it a laminate floor.
  2. There were no measurable performance standards.

In 1997, a group of motivated individuals, manufacturers and importers who were dedicated to the success of the new category took the initiative to face these dangers for all and developed the trade association called the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) whose primary mission was to develop voluntary performance standards for laminate flooring and recognize those products.

In due course, other manufacturers and importers joined.  A membership tier was added for Associate Members, those firms who provide material or services to the Laminate Flooring industry. Today, the Associate Members participate fully in NALFA committees and are valued because of their specialty focus.  Presently, NALFA’s membership consists of some of the most recognizable brands in the laminate industry:  Columbia Flooring®; Fausfloor; Mannington Mills®; Mohawk®; Pergo, LLC; Quick Step®; Shaw Industries, Inc.® and TORLYS, Inc.

There is no equivocation with NALFA Standards and testing. They are ANSI Standards and every NALFA Certified product must conform to exact testing thus providing assurance of performance that benefits the industry and consumer.  NALFA developed its NALFA Certification Seal for product packaging to help the end user identify products that have passed its testing.  The association has also expanded to help establish consistency and quality in installation of Laminate Floors with the NALFA Installer Certification School and the NALFA Inspector Certification School.  For more information, you can visit the website at www.nalfa.com.

PERFORMANCE TIMELINE

  1. Desirable designs.
  2. Incresed flooring performance attirbutes.
  3. Consumer friendly packaging.
  4. Transparent warranties.
  5. Floating floor acceptance.
  6. Glueless installations
  7. Demonstrable sustainablility.
  8. Dealer Enthusiasm..
  9. Transition improvements.
  10. Constant improvements in quality and presentation.

Reflect back to1992, or immediately pre-Laminainate Flooring, and you will recall a far different flooring lanscape with regard to design, warranty and packaging offerings.  All that changed with the introduction of this of this upstart category and thanks to our innovative manufacturers and limitless technological opportunities, Laminate Flooring will continue to improve and benefit the entire industry.

Laminate Flooring’s producers consistently demonstrate that our category is not limited by nature or a “we always did it that way” mentality.  From innovative designs and demonstrable sustainablility to quicker and more secure installations, such as the another major “game changer”: glue-free locking systems, we continue to push the envelope, an  attitude that will continue to impact our industry byond the category.

The future is what one makes of it.  From our personal vantage point of being involved in Laminate Flooring in North America from its start, we believe that the category is nowhere close to being a mature category, in fact Laminate Flooring is just getting warmed up!

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Updated Inspector Certification Class Calendar!

NALFA recently announced a new class has been added to its inspector certification class calendar. Laminate flooring inspectors can now register for the class to be held in Charleston, SC on September 16, 2011. NALFA also announced a date reschedule for its September class in Chicago, IL from September 27 to October 13, 2011.

The remaining 2011 Inspector Certification Class calendar is as follows:
6/24 — Salem, NJ
8/26 — Vancouver, CA
9/16 — Charleston, SC
10/13 — Chicago, IL
11/11 — Calhoun, GA

The cost for the class is $350 and includes all instructional materials, lunch, membership certificate, and an ID card. Interested participants should call Teiya Eubanks at 423-316-1566 or send an email to teubanks@kmtcreative.com for more information or to register.

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Congratulations Dallas Inspector Participants!

The recent NALFA Inspector Certification Class held in Dallas, TX received rave reviews from participants.

Here’s a peak inside. Congratulations to each of you on your new certification!

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Laminate Installers Can Stay Strong in a DIY World

Let’s face it, we live in a DIY world and many homeowners buy laminate flooring to install it themselves. How are you ensuring that potential customers who are looking for a quality laminate installer are finding you? We have one exceptional way to stand out in the crowd and increase your business.

The NALFA certified installers program will catapult your skills to the next level. Spend two days with veteran installer and instructor, Anthony Palandro, learning advanced techniques in a hands-on environment. What’s more, when you successfully complete the course, you’ll receive NALFA membership privileges and become one of the elite installers listed on the searchable directory at nalfa.com. Talk about increasing your visibility!

Six sessions remain in 2011. Classes are kept small to maintain the highest level of involvement and attention. There is no better laminate installation program available!

Call Teiya Eubanks at 423-316-1566 for pricing and registration information. (email teubanks@kmtcreative.com).

Installers receive hands-on training at the Seattle, WA installation class.

Remaining 2011 Schedule:

June 13 & 14: Calhoun, GA
July 12 & 13: City of Industry, CA
Sept 19 & 20: Salem, NJ
Oct. 17 & 18: Calhoun, GA
Nov 8 & 9: City of Industry, CA
Dec 6 & 7: Seattle, WA

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UPDATE! Seattle Installer Certification School Rescheduled

NALFA’s Installer Certification School previously scheduled for April 19 & 20 in Seattle, WA has been rescheduled for May 10 & 11. The complete and updated schedule is below. Interested participants can call Teiya Eubanks at 423-316-1566 (email teubanks@kmtcreative.com) for more information or to register.

2011 Installer Certification School Dates:

March 22 & 23: City of Industry, CA
UPDATED! May 10 & 11: Seattle, WA
May 16 & 17: Salem, NJ
June 13 & 14: Calhoun, GA
July 12 & 13: City of Industry, CA
Sept 19 & 20: Salem, NJ
Oct. 17 & 18: Calhoun, GA
Nov 8 & 9: City of Industry, CA
DEC 6 & 7: Seattle, WA

Upon successful completion of the class, installers earn NALFA certification and membership to the organization for one year. They are listed within the search directory on the nalfa.com website and have unlimited access to NALFA marketing assets to help promote their certification in their new business endeavors.

The cost of the program is $500 ($450 for NALFA members) and includes all instructional materials, on-site tools, meals, membership certificate, and an ID card. Certified installers may renew their membership yearly for a cost of $100.

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