Digital Printing Adds Realism to Wood Flooring

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Advances in digital print technology have created some of the most realistic patterns in simulated wood and tile flooring options. In some cases, the naked eye can’t tell the difference. And the floor, not necessarily the sky, is the limit for the multifamily housing industry.

High-definition printing is creating a flooring revival that’s sweeping vinyl, ceramic and laminate floor choices. The rich, grainy look and feel of wood is especially turning apartment choices up a notch. Nearly every floor can seemingly be as unique as the wood milled from hardwoods.

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Realistic wood finishes in laminates are emerging

Laminate flooring, also called floating wood tile, has come a long way since Pergo’s introduction in the 1990s. Most recently, the company rolled out, exclusively with Home Depot, a more durable and aesthetically pleasing plank. Pergo Outlast+ is easier to assemble, has a solid commercial warranty and can stand up to the test of apartment living, says , Mark Voykovic, Division Merchandising Manager for Flooring for Home Depot.

And there are hundreds of different looks in Pergo’s full line of laminates, including seven in Pergo Outlast+ from Java Scraped Oak to Molasses Maple.

“(Laminates) are now the new trend on wood-looking product and they’re much more realistic than they’ve been in the past,” he said. “Flooring in general has changed so dramatically. We’re at the beginning of a new renaissance in looks and feel across different flooring types. It’s really exciting. The repeat patterns are not like every 15 tiles, it’s like you’re getting to the 100s now.”

Simulated wood compares more closely with the real thing

The digital print revolution spread into flooring, at least with ceramic tiles, in 2000 and since has evolved with greater reproduction. The first machines were debuted at Cevisama, Spain’s huge tile show, according to Floor Daily, and created image resolutions as high as 1,000 dpi with six colors. Since then, digital print has been adopted across the industry in favor of Rotogravure printing, and design choices are limitless.

Nowadays inkjet printers utilize eight or more colors which allow designers to create patterns with more robust shades and tones on tile. Printing on laminates, vinyl and other flooring substrates, which began around 2005, has become more fashionable. In the past 18 months, says Voykovic, the quality has improved.

“Because of graphics and technology of digital printing now available, you get a truer look,” he said. “When you lay down a newer version of Pergo and newer version of vinyl or wood-looking tile, and you lay wood next to it, it’s hard to determine the difference in what is real and what is not wood.”

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Laminates are becoming a better choice for apartments

Along with a large spectrum of design choices, laminates are getting more durable and easier to install. Unlike laminates of the past, Pergo Outlast+ provides waterproof protection for 24 hours after accumulation of moisture because of a tighter interlocking of planks.

Such protection and a limited 10-year warranty now make laminates a good choice for apartments in areas like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms that were otherwise taboo because of damage risk, Voykovic said. Also, a scratch-resistant finish helps the floor withstand the rigors of high traffic in common areas.

Voykovic said installation is so easy that professional installers aren’t necessary. One reason is that an underlayment once necessary on other laminates and adhesives or glue are no longer required.

“(Pergo Outlast) allows a multifamily owner to now think about putting laminate into an apartment or single-family rental home,” he said. “The product that is more realistic, has scratch resistance, and it’s highly durable. Plus, installation time is minimal compared to other floors out there; you don’t necessarily need to hire a flooring professional.”


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