In the flooring market, there’s tile that looks like tile, and tile that looks like hardwood, and there’s vinyl that looks like tile or hardwood, and there is, of course, hardwood that looks like hardwood, too.
The options for residential flooring have expanded way beyond the days of lime green and burnt sienna shag and soft linoleum that showed the history of every knife dropped in the kitchen.
Flooring trends change, and companies that sell flooring in St. Albert say vinyl planks are now super popular because of innovations in design and the product’s resiliency.
“Vinyl plank has been around for a very long time,” says Gerry Daechsel, sales associate at Titan Flooring.
“Most grocery stores have vinyl plank on the floor, but it was never really something that the industry looked at residentially, and the patterns were pretty awful. Now there’s tons of it. And more and more of it comes out every day, so customers have a lot more options.”
Bahar Mehradi, consultant and manager of Alberta First Flooring, a local, family-owned business, says because the innovations in design and the toughness of luxury vinyl – that sells for between $2 and $5 a foot – people are getting the look they want without investing in more expensive flooring.
“With technology advancing, the vinyl luxury tile and the vinyl luxury hardwood have become a huge trend because it’s very waterproof for busy households,” she says.
“Tile is cold, and customers feel the vinyl is a bit warmer, and everything looks realistic. You get the look of hardwood, and you’re not worried about your flooring.”
Daechsel is also amazed at how tile that isn’t made of traditional materials can look just like the real thing.
“I’ve been in a house where I said to the lady, ‘I love your composite tiles,’ and she didn’t even know they were composite. The whole time she thought she was living in a house with ceramic tiles.”
He also says people seeking an exotic hardwood look that won’t break the bank look to products like vinyl plank. He did a house in “pear wood,” which he says would be unaffordable for many people using actual wood.
Vinyl planks, usually cut wide, are also taking over some of the laminate market, Daechsel says. Because laminate is laid on a plywood base, if water pools for any time on the surface, the floor can expand, leading to problems. Vinyl doesn’t have that issue. Like all flooring materials, laminate comes in various grades, and it still sells.
Porcelain and ceramic tile, often heated underneath, is Alberta First’s biggest seller. People put tile in all the usual places – bathrooms, entranceways, and kitchens, where wood may look great but isn’t very practical, given the spills and dropped objects that go with kitchen activities.
But Mehradi says because actual tile can be made to look like wood, people are using tile for spaces other than floors and surrounds, such as feature walls. Daechsel recently sold chevron-patterned porcelain tile in a barn board plank look for someone’s feature wall.
People do still want real hardwood, Mehradi says, and most opt for a brushed or hand-scraped look because it doesn’t show marks as much as other finishes. Grey is a popular colour, she says.
Cork flooring has its niche, Daechsel says, especially in the condo market “because it meets a lot of sound-transmission codes, and it’s softer and warmer on your feet.”
And, half-jokingly, he points out that cork can be made to look like hardwood. It also has a natural antimicrobial element, which appeals to allergy sufferers.
Homeowners are still put carpeting in, especially on the level where their bedrooms are, because carpet is softer under foot, and advances in stain and soil resistance make it attractive.
He notes that carpet has a reputation for being unfriendly to people with allergies, which he says is largely a myth. Carpet does need to be vacuumed regularly, and it isn’t as easy to see what’s collected in it as it is with a rigid floor, but the materials, such as nylon, that modern carpets are made with are extremely durable.
Daechsel says customers opting for carpet are choosing textured looks with more than one colour.
“People find it easier decorate with something that has more than one colour in it.”