For builders, this base-grade product has frequently meant callbacks to replace new floors that are scuffed, gouged or even torn-often within weeks of move-in.
Centex Homes construction consultant Joe Powell, a retired vice president of construction with 37 years of experience, estimates that at one point as much as 20% of the starter grade vinyl installed was later replaced. "We eventually had to upgrade the vinyl we used in our houses, and that is not something you want to do when your goal is to build an affordable home."
U.S. Home’s Kelly Somoza says over time some of its home buyers migrated away from vinyl. "We can tell you this. There has been strong customer concern about tearing and gouging with vinyl."
"That is why Armstrong World Industries embarked on a costly round of research and development to improve the durability of its entire line of vinyl flooring, starting with its base-grade Initiator product," says Armstrong vice president Frank Ready.
According to Ready, the resulting product, which began rolling out to flooring contractors in December, is expected to eliminate builder callbacks and over the longer term boost the image of the product category. The clincher: the new product stands up to the heavy-appliance-drag test. At the same price point, "we’re covering our new floors with a five-year warranty against rips and other common damage problems," says Ready.
The response from flooring subs has been positive. "It’s probably impossible to eliminate all the problems, but if it can be done, it would mean a major breakthrough for us," says Craig Cameron of the Tempe Decorator Center.
To get home buyers thinking about the maintenance benefits of vinyl as well as to tout the durability of its new Tough Guard process, Armstrong plans heavy consumer advertising.