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Breaking Down the Differences in Resilient Flooring

04/20/2020 By Adrian Thompson

Resilient flooring encompasses a wide variety of products, from tile to sheet and rubber, to more specific categories like rigid and flexible LVT. Join Mohawk Group’s Jackie Dettmar and Dana Wright as they walk us through the differences in these flooring categories and share their tips on how to find the best product for your project.

Mohawk Group*This podcast was created in partnership with Mohawk Group

[Start transcript]

Adrian Thompson: Welcome to I Hear Design, an interiors+sources podcast series. My name is Adrian Thompson, the host for today’s episode as well as associate editor for interiors+sources. Today’s podcast is in partnership with Mohawk Group, and it’s in addition to our How to Specify segment that focuses on finding the right flooring within a commercial space.

The Mohawk Group is an American flooring manufacturer that offers a wide range of high performing sustainable flooring for commercial interiors. From soft surface to hard surface including carpet, LVT, laminate and more, the flooring produced at Mohawk’s Dalton, GA, facility can be customized to fit any space’s needs, whether those needs are good acoustics, budget-friendly design, aesthetics or other considerations.

Living & Local So, to help navigate through the waters of large commercial flooring market are two experts from Mohawk Group who are here to share their tips and advice on selecting the best resilient flooring for your project needs. (Photo: Living Local, courtesy of Mohawk Group)

Joining us is Jackie Dettmar, vice president of design and product development at Mohawk Group, as well as Dana Wright, senior director of product management for Mohawk Group’s commercial hard surfaces. Jackie and Dana, it’s so great to meet you both. Thanks for joining us for today’s episode.

Jackie Dettmar: Great, thanks, so much. Glad to be here.

Dana Wright: Thanks for having us.

Adrian: Great to have you, Jackie and Dana. Let’s just start off by getting to know you guys a little better. What do you guys do at Mohawk Group, and how does it tie into resilient flooring? Jackie, let’s start with you first.

Jackie: I head up the product development and design functions for all of the Mohawk Group, which goes across all of our different platforms, hard and soft. My background has been 30 years in the flooring industry, of course, mostly all soft to start. And then within the last five years, have really been able to dig in and learn the hard surface development and all of those functions run through my teams here in North Georgia.

Adrian: And Dana, how about you?

Dana: Yeah, so I’m fairly new to Mohawk. I’ve been there for about a year right now. Prior to that, I spent four years with another flooring company, hitting up their hard surface business. My primary responsibility is to kind of lead the growth initiatives and strategies for our product selection, which would include what type of substrate, and what type of performance and attributes that we need for the products to be able to meet the needs for our customers.

My team works extremely close with Jackie’s team to provide solutions that not just look great, but also look better longer. So, it’s a combination of the design and the performance that really drive that solution for our designers, our contractors and our end users.

We really take an approach that drives in a very thoughtful, insight-driven way. We come in with some trends and then the product development team helps develop those into voice-of-customer that allows us to develop that best product that customers want and need.

Adrian: Well, it’s great to have both your perspectives because you obviously have different trades within Mohawk Group, but you also work closely together, which is awesome.

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Jackie, I just want to circle back on something you said right away, which is Mohawk’s hard and soft surfaces. You guys have a lot of different flooring products available for commercial spaces. Most all seem to be categorized as either hard or soft.

Can you guys just explain what the difference between each of these is, and what types of flooring might fall under the two different categories?

Jackie: Yeah, so at Mohawk, we really try to be a solution provider for all types of commercial interiors. And so, when you look at the different needs across different segments, you have needs for both hard and soft.

Large & LocalIn our soft production, we have our carpet tile, which has been a big, big part of our business over the years and continues to be very strong. We have broadloom, which is your 12-foot soft goods, which you would install in 12-foot breadths that’s really very important still in the hospitality world, in rooms, in public space. And those are the main two soft surfaces.

When you get into... let me mention two woven—we still make a beautiful woven, soft surface product, which was the original way of making carpet, and we still make that in our Eden, NC, plant, which is where I started my career.

(Photo: Mohawk Group’s Large & Local LVT collection features eight clean wood visuals with minimal graining, together with eight rustic visuals with coarse graining and a circle sawn texture.)

But then our hard surface, we also want to provide the full breadth of the needs that you would need in the marketplace for that. So, we have our LVT product, which is the resilient product, and we’ll talk more about that later. You’ve got rigid product, and you’ve also got flexible.

We also offer a variety of sheet goods. We have our sheet product that is produced here in North Georgia. We also have a rubber sheet good and homogeneous sheet, and so, those would fit into needs in the healthcare arena.

We also have a little bit of work that we do with laminates, and then as well as a selection of hardwoods that we offer in our higher end commercial spaces. So, we really do cross across all of the different platform needs across many different segments. And it’s our job in the product development design group to think about each of those spaces and try to identify what you need for each of those spaces as we’re designing products.

Adrian: You guys clearly have it all—so many options available to fit any of those spaces and different needs.

Dana: Just to ladder off what Jackie said, we do have the full capabilities to reach across multiple different flooring platforms, which creates alternatives or solution alternatives for customers based on what their need state is.

And so, as you start thinking through your project, there are a couple things that come to mind. One is what is the desired look that you’re trying to achieve? And can that be accomplished through soft, like carpet or carpet, tile, or hard surface or could be a combination of the both, which is a big trend in the commercial marketplace.

The type of activity that’s going to take place in that area—is there light or heavy traffic? Is there rolling loads? Are there situations with weather with own things being moved in and out of the building? And then there’s around installation—costs and timing, as well as the overall maintenance and repair of the floor are critical areas—they have to be answered if you’re trying to select what product you need.

Adrian: And I know within all these different options, you guys have even further specifications. Let’s just pick out LVT specifically. It’s a hard surface. You have both rigid and flexible LVT. So, just to narrow down your options even further, maybe explain the differences between these different products and where you might use them versus the other.

Dana: Yeah, resilient is one of those categories that just has boomed over the last several decades. And if you break resilient down further, there’s LVT, there’s sheet vinyl, and there’s rubber technically and vinyl composite tile, or VCT, that fall into bucket. I just want to focus kind of on LVT right now.

LVT and some of the technology changes that have taken place, whether it be to the core of the product or through the print layer of the product, or even the coatings on and around the product, have really allowed LVT to take share from a lot of other categories like laminate wood, ceramic, concrete and soft carpet as well.

And what you’re finding is that the look and feel of that product is inspirational, looks like wood, feels like wood and a lot of times it’s a very stable product. It drives a lot of added features and benefits compared to some other categories. At the end of the day, it looks better longer and holds its value for a long period of time.

Second Home
Photo: Second Home, courtesy of Mohawk Group

If you break it down further within resilient, and when we play on both sides, there’s flexible and rigid. To put it in layman’s terms, is flexible LVT is something if you were to hold, it would flop over. It’s one of the oldest original formats out there. It can be put down either through glue, it could be loose lay, just lay it down flat and stays there, or it could be done in the click format. So, there’s multiple installation types.

But what that format does is allows you design flexibility, cuts easy with a knife, you can do herringbone. It also allows you modularity with carpet tile to create some very unique design looks. It comes across different price points to fit project budgets. Also, very friendly for heavy loads and limited transitions across the building. It reaches across every segment that’s out there today, whether it be hospitality, healthcare, workplace, retail, main street, it goes across pretty much every commercial segment that’s there today.

It comes in various thicknesses—typically could range anything from two millimeters to five millimeters and more—and it really depends on what kind of benefits you’re looking for. It also comes with different types of protective wear layer on it.

Most commercial market shoes 20-mil wear layer for resistance, that gives it a high-end performance for scratching prevent. Either way, Mohawk does play in the flexible category bolting, glue down, loose lay and click.

[Mohawk’s Evidence-based Design: Carpet Patterns Reduce Stress]

The next one is really a fast growing one. It’s the rigid. So, going back to how I could tell it’s rigid, if I was holding that plank, it would be straight as a board. It would not bend. A lot of it is driven through core technology today. In rigid, there are two types of cores. One is called WPC, the fancy name for wood, polymer wood plastic composite core, which is basically wood dust with some plastic that’s extruded. And just keeping it very simple.

And the latest one is called SPC or stone, plastic or polymer core, and that’s a mixture of like limestone or the minerals with plastic and gives you the more dense product—gives you a greater level of dimensional stability, a lot less dent, so a very dent-resistant type of product.

Today, Mohawk offers both core technologies in their assortment. And so, we’re able to provide benefits that either lean towards better sound properties or comfort underfoot or something that wants conventional stability, longer runs with limited transition and also waterproof benefits.

And that’s a segment that actually has started slow in commercial, but is gradually coming around. You’re starting to see trends in hospitality where they’re putting rigid LVT into guest rooms and flowing into common areas as well.

Adrian: That and a lot of hotels I’ve stayed at recently are substituting carpet for LVT.

Dana: That is also going into senior living applications, workplace, small boutique retail, as well as your high-end condo and crossover into your main street markets. So, it is growing pretty rapidly in the commercial side of the business. And again, it offers a very stable, realistic type of look with a very easy to install system with either the locking technology today. Then it also gives you the overall waterproof, water-resistant benefits, too.

Adrian: Just to circle back on the rigid and flexible types of LVT. I know you guys have come out with a couple of different collections that fall under each category. Jackie, perhaps you can shine some light on those collections? My personal favorite is Large & Local. But I know Second Home is one of them as well.

Living Local
Photo: Living Local, courtesy of Mohawk Group

Jackie: Yeah, absolutely. Larger and Local is one of my absolute favorites and go-to products that I would really look at using on any number of jobs. It is a 4 ½-millimeter thick product. So, it bumps up against our carpet tiles without any kind of transition strips. And so, as a designer, I love not having to worry about transition strips and then being able to transition from my hard surface right into my carpet tile seamlessly is really important.

We develop the hard surface and soft surface to work together. So, as we’re looking at new carpet tile patterns, we’re thinking about ‘Okay, what are the colors that I would use in the wood visuals? What are the patterns that I would use in the visuals of this hard surface to go with my carpet tile?’ So, Large & Local, the colors were developed there based on a nice, beautiful range of colors and patterns that work really nicely with our carpet tile and broadloom colors.

We have one pattern in it that is just a very soft, very low character pattern that is very clean, which is something that commercial interior designers really are going towards that direction. Then we also have in the same colorways, we have a more rustic wood pattern that for different applications, you might want to have something a little more rustic and homey in spaces.

So, we see need for both, and that’s definitely one of my favorite products out there. The second one that we mentioned, the brand-new Second Home, is our new rigid product that is really taking off in the hospitality realm and rooms and public space. And again, has some amazing wood visuals and colorways that really support the rest of our product line.

Adrian: You can never go wrong with wood looks.

Jackie: Exactly. And they’re so realistic today. I think that’s one of the things, to me, has been so fun to watch about this whole category is we always wanted to use wood in commercial interiors, but you would have all kind of problems with performance and scratching and denting, and you really couldn’t use it everywhere that you wanted to.

Today, it opens up all kind of areas that everybody can have that beautiful wood, natural visual, that is very realistic, and it can go in much higher-traffic areas than real wood can. So again, it’s opened up that visual and it’s been in such a great demand with people really wanting it to have that biophilic inspiration in their spaces and really connect back to natural wood and the natural visible parts of the patterns. I think that’s been a really great innovation that this whole revolution in resilient has brought to us.

Adrian: Yes. And I know you both have highlighted, again, on different considerations to take when selecting these different kinds of floorings. So, from aesthetics, acoustics, Dana mentioned waterproofing, how that’s become quite a trend—just highlighting all these different challenges and different considerations people want to think about before specifying their type of flooring, what would be say one or two tips each of you want to suggest to people to think about when navigating that process?

Jackie: I guess I can jump in here and I’ll go first and then Dana. One of the things that you really see a lot of firms today wanting to do is go with natural concrete in their workspace. And it’s beautiful, but it really is not great for acoustics. You have all kinds of ambient noise bouncing around, and it’s very loud and hard for people to actually be productive in those spaces.

And so, a great alternative to the natural concrete is to use one of our resilient products, the loose lay boulder type product that really gives you that nice concrete look. But you get much better acoustic, ambient control.

The other area where you’re really looking at improved acoustics is in your hospitality rooms areas where you can have the high acoustic rating on products that are used to let you not hear your upstairs neighbors walking ahead of you.

Adrian: Right. And I think acoustics is just one of those things that has to be taken into consideration in modern design. It might not have been up in the top five list several years ago, but it’s definitely important or seen as very important today.

Dana, if you had to offer any advice or suggestions to specifiers, what would it be?

Large & LocalDana: Well, as I talked about earlier, your project has different applications and different sets of benefits that it’s going to deliver. So, one is obviously you’re going to lean in on what kind of look you’re trying to accomplish. And there are some limitations in some hard surfaces on the printing technology. Resilient categories like LVT do give you a wide range, as we talked about earlier. Flexible gives you the chance to make different patterns because it’s easier to cut and fit.

(Photo: Large & Local features extra-wide and long planks measuring 9.25" x 59" in a selection of 16 styles, each named after a local mountain gap or destination near the city of Dalton, GA.)

So, I think one is look, combination of soft and hard, etc. And the other one is really going to be about the benefits it delivers to your customer. The overall cost of ownership coming through either starting with the installation all the way through the maintenance and repair. Those are some questions to ask if you get into it. Some products are a little bit harder. They require stripping and waxing and polishing. Some of them are self-sufficient, where you don’t have to do that.

There are a lot of advancements in finishes on top of products today that basically you just allow water, a simple mop to clean it. So, those are some things, too, is as you lean in on the look of the product, you need to be thinking about what kind of benefits that your customer is going to be looking for. And then how does that particular product deliver on those benefits?

Adrian: I know you guys provide plenty of resources and information to kind of help walk specifiers through all these different products and their features on your website, of course. But it’s just been incredible to see how resilient flooring has been innovated over the years from the different designs that you highlighted, Jackie, and just the materiality behind everything that you mentioned, Dana. It clearly works in a variety of spaces.

But what do you guys see on the horizon for 2020 and beyond when it comes to this product category, and is Mohawk going to be focusing on anything in particular when it comes to flooring later on this year?

Jackie: Yeah, just from a design perspective, we’re really pushing the limits on what you can do with patterning. Designers are looking for things, not just wood visuals, not just stone visuals, but textiles have been very important.

We’ve got a few lines that we’ve done there, but we’re continuing to explore what are the other visuals that we can do on this amazing capability to deliver something different to the market from a design perspective. So, you’ll see some cool new visuals that aren’t stone or wood.

Adrian: We’re excited. Dana, just to speak further to that, what do you see on the horizon?

Dana: Well, like I said, technology continues to change in the resilient category, whether it be the core technology of the product or whether it be the coating, because that protects the product allows it to look better longer. We’re focusing on several of those key technologies now that help focus on improved installation. So, faster time to install, more immediate occupancy, ergonomic benefits, lighter weight flooring.

There’s the sound platform, sound abatement, whether it’s a transfer, absorption of sound. Overall maintenance, cleaning part of the product, and I think that’s going to be even more critical today as we get into people being concerned about how to clean floors or disinfect floors.

And then, lastly sustainable, so looking at the types of material used, or even the processes used in making the floors that were more friendly towards the environment, whether it be reducing energy or carbon footprint, whether it be bio based or recycled materials.

And for us also it’s really kind of expanding our capability made in the U.S. A lot of resilient products today being sold in the U.S. are produced in China. We have an opportunity here to be able to expand on the U.S.-made collections, kind of like Larger and Local and Second Home that allows us to get some sustainable benefits, but also some service benefits to it and actually put jobs back into the economy.

So, a lot of focus next year on those platforms and be able to say made in the U.S.A. with a few more products.

Adrian: And I think everyone can get behind that and appreciates that stamp as well. Well, we look forward to hearing more from Mohawk Group as the year goes on. Jackie and Dana, I just want to thank you guys again for joining us for today’s episode.

Jackie: Thank you.

Dana: Thank you very much.

Adrian: Absolutely. For those listening, you can learn more about innovations and resilient flooring and how it can work for your space. Easily download Mohawk Group’s free LVT Field Guide. You can find that at go.mohawkgroup.com/largeandlocal. Learn a little bit more about that collection that Jackie mentioned earlier. You can also find more flooring topics related to our How to Specify series on interiorsandsources.com as well as in our magazine. Otherwise, thank you again for tuning in. We hope you join us again for another episode of I Hear Design.

[End transcript]

About our guests:

Jackie Dettmar, vp of design and product developmentJackie Dettmar (pictured) is the vice president of Design and Product Development at Mohawk Group. A flooring industry veteran with more than 30 years of diverse experience, Jackie Dettmar joined Karastan (now a Mohawk brand) as its first female manufacturing management trainee.

She spent the first eight years of her career in manufacturing, then moved into design and product development, bringing with her a unique perspective on designing and building innovative, sustainable flooring solutions. 

Dana WrightDana Wright: With more than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing across various industries and segments, Dana leads global strategy for Mohawk Group as senior director of Product Management for Commercial Hard Surfaces.

Wright has a strong background in growing product and growing business, having worked extensively in B2B and B2C marketing and development operations at Georgia Pacific, where he was employed before entering the flooring industry.