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On the House

Product Innovations Make a Focal Point of the Floor

April 07, 2002|JAMES CAREY and MORRIS CAREY | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Today's floors are being covered faster, better and more beautifully than ever before.

The recent Surfaces 2002 trade show in Las Vegas featured new and improved flooring techniques and products. Here's what we found:

* Many natural hardwoods--in classic and exotic species--now offer gleaming prefinished urethane surfaces that intensify grain and provide high scratch- and abrasion-resistance for extended wear.

* Improved staining, new colors and deeply distressed and hand-scraped wood surfaces provide eye-catching designs.

* 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 high-pressure plastic-laminate surfaces like those on your kitchen or bath counter tops--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 has 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 beautiful and are harder than oak or maple.

* Another surprise is the strong emergence and growing popularity 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.

* 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.

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.

* Another long-awaited flooring innovation finally has been perfected and now is being offered to homeowners. Combining the latest in high-pressure laminate surfaces with new tight-fit glueless snap-seam technology, a Belgian manufacturer has added a plastic base and matched tight-fit edge moldings to make a waterproof system. The company's Hydrofloor offers the look and warmth of wood and 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. Floor and wall offerings include many new shapes--allowing 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 possible. 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.

*

For more home improvement tips and information visit www.onthehouse.com. Readers can mail questions to On the House, APNewsFeatures, 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or e-mail careybro@onthehouse.com.

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