Feature Article /
May 31, 2017

Surface Tension: 23 Flooring and Wall Surfaces You Need to Know

THESE SURFACING AND COVERING PRODUCTS WILL MAKE YOUR INTERIORS STAND OUT. Read data on surfacing trends from Home Innovation Research Lab and thoughts from industry experts on how to surface your next home.
Armstrong flooring Rustic Restorations


Made in the USA with Appalachian oak and hickory hardwood, Rustic Restorations features a variety of layered tones and distressed textures. The double-stained surface treatments provide unique depth and breadth of color, the company says.

It's hard to imagine a new house without carpeting, wood, or ceramic tile. That’s because the three were the most popular flooring materials used in new homes in 2015. It’s likely similar for remodeling and renovation. According to Home Innovation Research Lab’s Annual Builder Practices Survey, more than 2 billion square feet of flooring was installed in new homes in 2015. Of this total, carpet accounted for 40 percent, while solid hardwood and ceramic tile made up 17 percent each. When you include the 12 percent for engineered wood products, wood flooring made up 29 percent of the total.

“Over the past 12 years, Home Innovation has been closely tracking the many changes in the popularity of flooring types in new homes,” the Maryland-based group writes. “The biggest winners have been solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. While carpeting still remains the leader, it has fallen from 60 percent to 40 percent overall share.” The market for ceramic tile in new homes also has increased in the past decade, the group says.

These numbers reflect what construction professionals have been saying and doing for the last 10 years: taking tried-and-true products and materials such as ceramic and wood and using them in creative ways on floors and walls, in kitchens, baths, dining rooms, and now even in living rooms.

And it’s not just in flooring. The overall surfacing and covering categories have been very active for the last 10 to 15 years. Even within traditional material categories, manufacturers have created fresh, exciting options so designers, builders, and contractors can try innovative approaches to surfaces around the house and from floor to ceiling.

Our May/June 2017 cover story explores the world of surfaces and coverings— including countertops, flooring, and interior wall cladding. Our collection includes concrete tiles, textured marble mosaics, ceramic tiles that look like wallpaper and wood, curved wood floors, ultra-compact countertops, salvaged lumber panels, and more.

The good news for your clients and buyers is that you now have access to inventive materials that will result in unique and stylish interiors. If you use them appropriately, your clients will thank you.—N.F.M.

Flavor Paper ShweShwe wallpaper surfacing


Inspired by South African and Lesotho cultures from the 1800s, this hand-screened ShweShwe print features an intricate geometric pattern that comes in four colorways. Four prints are available; the Kingfisher print is shown here. 


What About Wood?

By Brett Miller, VP Education and Certification, National Wood Flooring Association

Of all the flooring options available today, none offer the enduring beauty and long-term value of real wood floors.

Unlike other flooring options that need to be replaced over time, real wood floors will last a lifetime. Best of all, advances in wood flooring technology now make it possible to specify wood floors anywhere in your clients’ homes, even in rooms that you might not have considered before, like a kitchen or powder room.

Today’s wood floors are available in a variety of colors, styles, and price ranges to complement any décor and budget. Knowing the options available will help you specify which wood floor is right for your clients.

Real wood floors are a sustainable flooring option. Other flooring products may do their best to look like wood, but none are made using raw materials that can be replaced and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. All wood look-alikes are man-made in factories using nonrenewable raw materials.

We recommend a saw cut that will perform well. End-grain flooring is harder than other cuts due to its grain orientation. This cut will outperform almost any other fl ooring option. Quartersawn material is the most dimensionally stable in extreme environments. Plainsawn and livesawn material tends to have the most variation in grain pattern.

You may also choose reclaimed woods, which have numerous benefits.


Bolefloor curved hardwood flooring


The world’s first naturally curved hardwood flooring, Bolefloor follows the tree’s growth, resulting in a dramatic visual effect. The 9-foot-long boards use about 20 percent more of each sawn plank than traditional options. Five species are available.


"Porcelain tile is a miracle. It’s really a great surface, and it comes in all kinds of sizes, colors, and prints. It can even look like cement. It’s just beautiful. We just won an award [from Ceramic of Italy] for a beach house, and we used it everywhere in that project. When a floor in a house is made from the same material throughout, it makes the space look and feel bigger. If you’re behind the bar standing on your feet all day, it’s not the best surface. But for residential work, it’s great—especially for beach houses. We’ve done more than 70 beach houses; a lot of them have wood, but lately most of them have porcelain."

Scott Bromley, Principal, Bromley Caldari Architects


41Zero42 Signs porcelain tile


A line of full through-body porcelain tile, Signs features six textured surfaces randomly mixed together in one package. The collection comes in four colors. 


How I Specify Coverings and Surfacing Materials

By Scott Harris, co-founder of Building Construction Group

When I’m selecting my materials palette [for surfaces and coverings], I look for a piece of natural material that uniquely tells its story and is equally beautiful. I always start on the road less traveled, where the masses have yet to wander ... where I have a better chance of finding my rare gem.

No road is too long when I’m in search of unique materials. I enjoy getting on a plane to fi nd a hidden stone yard or taking a five-hour drive to find the perfect reclaimed, hand-hewn, oak barn beam, or walking for miles in an old city in search of a rare treasure.

I call it “Going on Safari for Nature’s Story.” My three favorite materials to search for, in order: wood, stone, then natural plaster. Picking these materials is much more than simply seeing them. I have to touch the materials to identify how they will feel to my end user. Some stone may feel cold like ice and another, in the same room, can feel warm to the touch. I always select the materials that are warm to the touch, visually inviting, and mentally stimulating.

The next time you pick your surface, close your eyes, put it in your hand, and your heart will speak honestly to you and let you know if you found a treasure.


This story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Products magazine. See the print version here.

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