Waterproof flooring: Domestic production ramps up
By Megan Salzano Birch—Just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the US, flooring producers—both domestic and global—announced myriad plans to bring floor manufacturing stateside or expand existing operations. While some of those plans were briefly put on hold in 2020 while the world went into various stages of lockdown, those campaigns have finally come to fruition.
Much of that new domestic production is coming in the form of the waterproof flooring segment—namely SPC, WPC and sheet vinyl. The category continues to grow and suppliers say they are ready to take advantage of the increasing demand while offering their own customers the products they need to succeed in today’s volatile market conditions.
Domestic producers grow capacity
Manufacturers in the US have expanded their domestic production over the last two years with many focusing on the coveted waterproof segment of the business.
Mohawk, for example, produces its waterproof VersaTech Plus, SolidTech Plus, RevWood Plus and UltraWood in the states. “We have incremental capacity coming online in both 2022 and 2023 to meet increasing market demand,” said David Moore, senior product director, wood and laminate. “All of the new capacity will have the ability to produce our waterproof RevWood products. With the global disruptions in supply chain and raw materials, the ability to get product and deliver it in a consistent manner has become a primary decision factor for consumers. And a product that is manufactured locally to them has the greatest chance to be available.”
In terms of its focus on waterproof, Tom DiMarco, director of resilient product management, added, “Our introduction of WetProtect technology into our Pergo and SolidTech product lines in early 2022 continues the momentum Mohawk has seen in our rigid LVT business. Mohawk is changing the ballgame by offering the right kind of waterproof where we are standing behind the flooring system itself.”
Shaw recently invested in expanding SPC capacity at its facility in Ringgold, Ga., which manufactures multiple vinyl constructions under one roof, including waterproof rigid core products. Shaw said that $20 million investment, made in August of 2020, came online in Q1 of 2021 with an additional phase of expansion expected to be fully realized this year.
“Shaw has always invested in domestic manufacturing, and it provides many supply chain and operations benefits—with service being a great example that’s currently top-of-mind for our industry,” said Herb Upton, vice president of residential product and channel strategy, Shaw. “Increasing consumer interest in domestically produced flooring is, in large part, due to product availability.”
Shaw also offers water-resistant, domestically made hardwoods from its Shaw Floors brand, featuring Repel Splash-Proof Technology. “And we’re seeing growing demand for those engineered hardwoods made in South Carolina and Tennessee,” Upton added. “As always, we’ll continue to apply the ‘3 Cs’ litmus test for all manufacturing investments—cost, capacity and capability—and then invest accordingly in our domestic and/or contract manufacturing operations to best serve our customers.”
For Mannington, David Sheehan, vice president, residential hard surface, said the company continues to set production records and has plans to bring additional capacity online at its Blackwood facility in Calhoun, Ga. “This plant is currently the only major producer of WPC in North America,” he said. “Demand has been, and continues to be, very strong for Adura Max; however, we intend to add additional capabilities that will enable us to produce domestic SPC in the near future.”
Sheehan added that Mannington is seeing increased demand for its flex products, which it produces exclusively in the US “As some competitors have exited this category, we see strong growth potential in flex and intend to leverage this at our plant in Madison, Ga., he explained.
Domestic production aligns with two of Mannington’s core values—the first being, “Control Our Own Destiny,” according to Sheehan. “With domestic production we are self-reliant, we can deliver better lead times and provide better service. We also have another core value, ‘Care.’ We care about the communities we live and work in, and we want to invest in those communities to create jobs and that in turn enhance the economic well-being of the community. Our preference is to always make products here in the US”
Armstrong has two domestic production facilities to date—one in Lancaster, Pa., and one in Stillwater, Okla. The company produces its waterproof flex LVT, commercial VCT and new Asana heterogenous sheet domestically, with capacity at its Stillwater plant doubling in the last year. The company is also finalizing new domestic SPC sourcing. “There is an increased focus on domestic production, and the why is really straightforward—the supply chain has been significantly disrupted for a variety of reasons,” said Yon Hinkle, vice president, product and innovation, Armstrong. “The one thing our customers are considering is the reliability of their supply. Our customers work off of schedules, and so the ability to meet those schedules is critical.”
Engineered Floors still touts its massive SAM extrusion plant in Dalton and LVT production at its Seretean facility, also in Dalton. “Progress continues to be made in our Dalton facility to bring more hard surface production to the United States,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing. “Domestic production is as important now as it has ever been. Products that are made locally ensure that resources, as well as a sense of pride, remain in North Georgia. This continued support ensures sustained growth and opportunity in an already thriving community.”
Overseas suppliers finalize plans
Overseas manufacturers of flooring have long found value in bringing production to the states, and the last year marked the completion of various, robust plans to do just that.
For example, this year marks the finalization of CFL’s Calhoun, Ga., facility, with its “Made in USA” collections shipping in 2022. The company’s waterproof FirmFit SPC is manufactured there. “For us at CFL, localization is the future, and the future is now,” said Lacy Price, US marketing manager. “Our ‘Made in USA’ collections have started shipping and will hit stores in a big way this year, bringing products with vastly less repeats and of which raw material is sourced almost entirely locally—allowing for greater transparency in the supply chain and reducing our footprint. The CFL factory drastically increases convenience of working with our partners and distributors. Being able to supply products produced in the United States allows us not only to sustain our leadership position in product design and product innovation but also create a platform allowing second-to-none service through reduced delivery times.”
Novalis Innovative Flooring’s domestic manufacturing facility in Dalton focuses on producing waterproof rigid core products using the most advanced manufacturing technologies and automation. “Our decision to open manufacturing in Dalton is reflective of the journey of our brand and our commitment to be closely connected to our customers,” said John Wu, president and CEO of Novalis. “This new location enables us to better service our customers while also helping to grow and support a community rich in the history of flooring manufacturing. The new headquarters and manufacturing not only better support our best-in-class service to our customers, it also supports our commitment as a company to attract the best and brightest talent in the industry.”
Wellmade completed construction of its new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at the end of 2021. The new 328,000-square-foot facility in Cartersville, Ga., is currently manufacturing the company’s patented HDPC Waterproof Rigid Core Vinyl Plank. Wellmade said it is currently producing and shipping truckloads daily to service the US market.
“Off-shore production has dominated much of the rigid core flooring market for quite some time,” said Dick Quinlan, vice president of sales and marketing. “That said, historically, US consumers have always had a preference to purchase products made in the USA. With that, we have found consumers are welcoming the opportunity to buy our domestically produced products.”
Quinlan added that Wellmade’s decision to build a plant in the US was initially based upon the company’s desire to produce HDPC core and other leading-edge flooring technologies in America. “In a nutshell, as a US company, we wanted our continued growth to support the US economy,” he explained. “Customer service was another driving factoring in moving production stateside. Domestic production allows Wellmade to offer our customers shorter lead times, more stable shipping, reduced inventory requirements, better capitalization and faster development of new product opportunities. Wellmade is leveraging its domestic and overseas capabilities to provide best-in-class rigid core products and service solutions for our US customers.”
Huali Floors, a China-based manufacturer of resilient flooring, established its first US headquarters and manufacturing facility in Murray County, Ga., in 2021. To date, it produces 100% waterproof SPC at the facility with added capacity expected by the end of 2022. “We constantly need R&D for this industry to survive and be relevant to the consumer,” said Julian Dossche, president of Huali Floors USA. “When you don’t have that domestic manufacturing, from raw material to product, and you outsource all of that, your innovation happens in other countries. I think domestic manufacturing is going to create another buzz around R&D and innovation and trying to understand what is truly satisfying the customer.”