We recently attended the “Surfaces 2002” trade show in Las Vegas. The focus was on all things new in flooring and coverings for your home’s interior. This included carpet, ceramic tile, laminate flooring and countertops. Also, all the latest and greatest additions and changes in colors, styles and textures in everything from wallpaper to wainscot were demonstrated.
Today’s floors, walls and ceilings are being covered faster, better and more beautifully than ever before. Many natural hardwoods — in both classic and exotic species — now offer gleaming prefinished urethane surfaces that intensify grain and provide high scratch-resistance and abrasion-resistance for extended wear.
Improved staining, new colors and deeply distressed and hand-scraped wood surfaces were also eye-catching design tools.
A host of new flooring concepts are giving traditional wood floors a serious run for their money. These range from engineered woods and unusual hybrid-composite products to new high-pressure plastic-laminate surfaces like those on your kitchen or bath countertops — only 10 times tougher. They look just like wood planks, stone or ceramic tiles.
One of the more intriguing new entries is bamboo flooring. While bamboo’s been around for thousands of years in woven-mat form, today’s bamboo is milled, engineered and finished to provide beauty and durability. Bamboo floors are extremely beautiful and are harder than oak or maple. Because it is a form of grass rather than cut from trees bamboo is ecologically desirable as a readily renewable resource.
Another surprise is the strong emergence and growing use of cork flooring. We’re not talking about your bulletin-board variety of cork, but rather attractive new textures and multi-tone designs that are — as with bamboo and other woods — prefinished with durable high-tech surfaces to offer durability and a warm, lasting beauty.
However, the biggest buzz was centered on new glueless flooring systems. Whether natural wood planks, parquet tiles or the newer laminate, bamboo or cork flooring, each individual piece is engineered with a tongue-and-groove design that snaps together. It eliminates nailing and gluing and creates a tightly fit floor that just “floats” above the existing subsurface. What is especially nice, besides its speed and convenience, is that a glueless floor can be “unsnapped” and removed almost as easily. This is a nice feature if you want to replace a damaged piece. Another interesting offshoot: renters can now enjoy the beauty of a wood or wood-look floor and then take it along when they move.
One manufacturer has extended this new glueless “snap” technology well beyond its full line of laminate, cork and engineered wood flooring. They offer a wide range of glueless snap-together wood-look laminate paneling systems for both walls and ceilings. Custom recessed lighting and designer accent strips also are offered.
Another long-awaited flooring innovation finally has been perfected and now is being offered to homeowners. Combining the latest in HPL (high-pressure laminate) surfaces with new tight-fit glueless snap-seam technology, a Belgian manufacturer has added a PVC plastic base and matched tight-fit edge moldings to make a truly waterproof system. The company’s “Hydrofloor” offers the look and warmth of wood, the durability and wear of laminate surfaces, and now provides a ready answer for wet bathroom and kitchen floors.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are another product with a new look. Designer surfacing now ranges from deep texturing and high-definition relief tiles to hand-painted designs and pieces with a rugged, aged appearance. Both floor and wall offerings include many new shapes — allowing both intricate and exotic design combinations — and many new tiles and trim pieces with spectacular metallic surfaces.
Today, flooring is being cut and crafted into patterns, designs and inserts never before imaginable. Computer-controlled lasers, routers and precision water jets can now re-create virtually any image, in various forms (from cutting to engraving), in just about any flooring material that exists.
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