Modular multilayer flooring becoming a huge success in the market

Following on from the pronounced trend for more rustic styles, more harmonious effects and finer grains are now gaining ground. – Photo: Designflooring

Modular multilayer flooring has been a success in the market, which has resulted in an increase in membership for the Multilayer Modular Flooring Association (MMFA). In the beginning of 2017, a total of 40 European producers, suppliers and institutes were working together towards the worldwide implementation of high quality standards for these innovative products. The MMFA anticipates that the recently-formed North American MFA Association will provide positive impetus for the interests of the industry.

Recently, the USA have recently joined forces to form their own MFA Multilayer Flooring Association is unanimously welcomed in defining a strategic path for the future success of the modular multilayer market.

“The founding of the MFA was an essential and decisive step for the industry in the USA. Naturally, we maintain direct contact with our colleagues there and have passed on our congratulations. There is already an overlap of interests among member companies, and we know some of the MFA executive committee members personally. We look forward to a positive partnership between our two industry associations that is based on cooperation and mutual trust. Together we can make a bigger difference for MMF flooring worldwide,” said MMFA Executive Chairman Matthias Windmöller.

President Matthias Windmöller on 15 January 2017 at Domotex in Hanover. – Photo: MMFA

Last year, the MMFA welcomed newcomers Aspecta, Novalis, Designflooring, James Halstead and ter Hürne as ordinary members, and supplier companies Renolit and Toppan as extraordinary members. The reports from the five new producers in addition to the MMFA statistics has made it possible to document more comprehensive sales figures for modular multilayer flooring, thus allowing the Association to compile a more accurate analysis of the market situation and global trends. 

Double-digit rise in HDF based products 

For some considerable time, all sales curves for MMF flooring have shown a visible upward trend. The reported figures document the MMFA ordinary members’ sales in all regional markets on the basis of their own worldwide production.

Sebastian Wendel, Chairman of the MMFA Market Development Working Group, elaborated, “Over the past three years, a 20% annual increase has been recorded for MMFA Class 1 (substrate based on HDF with polymer layer). We estimate that our members achieve 90% market coverage in this category. In addition, Germany, Austria and Switzerland account for as much as 80% of international sales volumes for this product group. However, it is predicted that this high concentration will lessen because Class 1 floors are now increasingly finding favour in the rest of Europe.”  

The MMFA has also registered annual increases in sales for Class 2 (substrate based on polymer or polymer composite with polymer layer and/or polymer lacquer system). This could also be due to the increase in membership, which may make it hard to draw a comparison with the figures for the previous year.

Data for MMFA Class 3 (all other flooring structures which are not covered by Classes 1 or 2 or by external standards, e.g. organic wear layers or mineral core material) cannot be published yet due to antitrust regulations which stipulate a minimum of five reporting companies. In the medium term, Mr Wendel anticipates good growth rates for the modular multilayer flooring market as a whole.

MMFA: Clear minimum requirements for all products 

Although the market figures are pleasing, the rapid pace of product developments and the ensuing consequences are under close scrutiny by the MMFA; as they make the product spectrum for MMF flooring even more confusing. Completely new structures have appeared, as well as modifications to existing product compositions and new developments in click connections. Standardisation, too, is struggling to keep up with the changing product landscape. For example, the current regulations only define the classifications and requirements for LVT and heterogeneous PVC flooring (products with a wear layer and additional compact layers with a different composition) by specifying the thickness of the wear layer. But the view of industry experts is that this classification is totally inadequate for the new products. 

Hence, to ensure consistent, high quality standards for all MMF products across the board, Volker Kettler, chairman of the Technical Working Group, said, “To give customers peace of mind, only the best quality products should be able to assert themselves on the market. It is our aim to identify existing gaps in standards and close them where appropriate. To this end, we in the MMFA undertake thorough basic research which we view as our contribution to the review of international standards in terms of content.” 

Appropriate tests and clear requirements for the many and varied products on the market are currently being devised by experts to define product standards that are universally valid. And so, clear product labelling and classification is crucial. Recently, two MMFA working groups have been involved in developing new parameters for testing the locking strength and temperature resistance of MMF boards. The test series was carried out in close cooperation with the IHD in Dresden and has resulted in some important new findings; full details of these were communicated to the Association during autumn 2016.  

Mr Kettler explained, “Our pilot project called ‘Hot Spot’ deals with thermal stress at specific points on the upper side of MMF flooring – a situation that can occur in practice e.g. from solar radiation through room-high glazing. In cooperation with the IHD Dresden, we want to work on new and meaningful test methods specifically for floating MMF flooring in special installation situations.”

These will take into account different product structures as well as the potential effects of different underlay materials. The members of this Ad Hoc Group are in agreement that only by combining several test methods can a clear picture be gained so that a sound evaluation of product quality can be made.  

Remarkable variety of designs 

Premium MMF floors made in Europe are products with a strong emphasis on design. Some of their strengths are: the huge variety of surfaces and decors available; their technical features which provide excellent performance characteristics, allowing them to be used in a wide variety of applications in the commercial and domestic flooring sectors; and the range of types and sizes – in tile or plank format from large to small and wide to narrow – which creates ever more design options for individual floorscapes. New to the market are thin MMF structures 4-5mm thick for floating installation with a click-lock profile, but the top sellers are still generously-sized country-style planks with a safe click connection.

In the domestic sector, wood reproductions are still the frontrunners when it comes to decor, with oak variations in leading position and a range of new effects is now enhancing the selection, including elegant acacia, pine, alder and walnut.  

Following on from the pronounced trend for more rustic styles, a lively yet more harmonious look with a finer grain is now becoming more prevalent in the collections. Decors with synchronous embossing for elegant, matt surfaces that are pleasantly soft to the touch and with natural colouring, such as warm beige, greys and browns are right on trend. In the stone decor range, alongside the concrete effects (which are very popular, particularly in the commercial sector), we are now seeing the return of classics such as marble with a fresh, modern interpretation. Some decors show reflections from skilfully-incorporated copper and gold tones, resulting in a special surface effect.

The MMFA believes that combinations of sustainable, bio-based materials will increasingly gain importance over the next few years. Its members want to give additional impetus to flooring markets in 2017 through their numerous innovative developments – and there is good reason to believe that modular multilayer flooring can look forward to another successful year on the international market.