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It's hard to imagine a new house without carpeting, wood, or ceramic tile. That’s because the three were the most popular flooring materials used in new homes in 2015. It’s likely similar for remodeling and renovation. According to Home Innovation Research Lab’s Annual Builder Practices Survey, more than 2 billion square feet of flooring was installed in new homes in 2015. Of this total, carpet accounted for 40 percent, while solid hardwood and ceramic tile made up 17 percent each. When you include the 12 percent for engineered wood products, wood flooring made up 29 percent of the total.

“Over the past 12 years, Home Innovation has been closely tracking the many changes in the popularity of flooring types in new homes,” the Maryland-based group writes. “The biggest winners have been solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. While carpeting still remains the leader, it has fallen from 60 percent to 40 percent overall share.” The market for ceramic tile in new homes also has increased in the past decade, the group says.

These numbers reflect what construction professionals have been saying and doing for the last 10 years: taking tried-and-true products and materials such as ceramic and wood and using them in creative ways on floors and walls, in kitchens, baths, dining rooms, and now even in living rooms.

And it’s not just in flooring. The overall surfacing and covering categories have been very active for the last 10 to 15 years. Even within traditional material categories, manufacturers have created fresh, exciting options so designers, builders, and contractors can try innovative approaches to surfaces around the house and from floor to ceiling.

Our May/June 2017 cover story explores the world of surfaces and coverings— including countertops, flooring, and interior wall cladding. Our collection includes concrete tiles, textured marble mosaics, ceramic tiles that look like wallpaper and wood, curved wood floors, ultra-compact countertops, salvaged lumber panels, and more.

The good news for your clients and buyers is that you now have access to inventive materials that will result in unique and stylish interiors. If you use them appropriately, your clients will thank you.—N.F.M.

Flavor Paper ShweShwe wallpaper surfacing


Inspired by South African and Lesotho cultures from the 1800s, this hand-screened ShweShwe print features an intricate geometric pattern that comes in four colorways. Four prints are available; the Kingfisher print is shown here. 


What About Wood?

By Brett Miller, VP Education and Certification, National Wood Flooring Association

Of all the flooring options available today, none offer the enduring beauty and long-term value of real wood floors.

Unlike other flooring options that need to be replaced over time, real wood floors will last a lifetime. Best of all, advances in wood flooring technology now make it possible to specify wood floors anywhere in your clients’ homes, even in rooms that you might not have considered before, like a kitchen or powder room.

Today’s wood floors are available in a variety of colors, styles, and price ranges to complement any décor and budget. Knowing the options available will help you specify which wood floor is right for your clients.

Real wood floors are a sustainable flooring option. Other flooring products may do their best to look like wood, but none are made using raw materials that can be replaced and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. All wood look-alikes are man-made in factories using nonrenewable raw materials.

We recommend a saw cut that will perform well. End-grain flooring is harder than other cuts due to its grain orientation. This cut will outperform almost any other fl ooring option. Quartersawn material is the most dimensionally stable in extreme environments. Plainsawn and livesawn material tends to have the most variation in grain pattern.

You may also choose reclaimed woods, which have numerous benefits.


Bolefloor curved hardwood flooring


The world’s first naturally curved hardwood flooring, Bolefloor follows the tree’s growth, resulting in a dramatic visual effect. The 9-foot-long boards use about 20 percent more of each sawn plank than traditional options. Five species are available.


"Porcelain tile is a miracle. It’s really a great surface, and it comes in all kinds of sizes, colors, and prints. It can even look like cement. It’s just beautiful. We just won an award [from Ceramic of Italy] for a beach house, and we used it everywhere in that project. When a floor in a house is made from the same material throughout, it makes the space look and feel bigger. If you’re behind the bar standing on your feet all day, it’s not the best surface. But for residential work, it’s great—especially for beach houses. We’ve done more than 70 beach houses; a lot of them have wood, but lately most of them have porcelain."

Scott Bromley, Principal, Bromley Caldari Architects


41Zero42 Signs porcelain tile


A line of full through-body porcelain tile, Signs features six textured surfaces randomly mixed together in one package. The collection comes in four colors. 


How I Specify Coverings and Surfacing Materials

By Scott Harris, co-founder of Building Construction Group

When I’m selecting my materials palette [for surfaces and coverings], I look for a piece of natural material that uniquely tells its story and is equally beautiful. I always start on the road less traveled, where the masses have yet to wander ... where I have a better chance of finding my rare gem.

No road is too long when I’m in search of unique materials. I enjoy getting on a plane to fi nd a hidden stone yard or taking a five-hour drive to find the perfect reclaimed, hand-hewn, oak barn beam, or walking for miles in an old city in search of a rare treasure.

I call it “Going on Safari for Nature’s Story.” My three favorite materials to search for, in order: wood, stone, then natural plaster. Picking these materials is much more than simply seeing them. I have to touch the materials to identify how they will feel to my end user. Some stone may feel cold like ice and another, in the same room, can feel warm to the touch. I always select the materials that are warm to the touch, visually inviting, and mentally stimulating.

The next time you pick your surface, close your eyes, put it in your hand, and your heart will speak honestly to you and let you know if you found a treasure.


Aparici Bondi cement tile flooring


Inspired by encaustic cement tiles that were developed 10 centuries ago, the Bondi collection is manufactured with a new technique that offers a smoother fi nish with a higher adherence and anti-slip rating. 


Armstron Woodhaven paintable ceiling plank surfacing


WoodHaven ceilings are paintable, allowing for freedom of design expression. Along with ceilings, the planks can be used as wainscoting or backsplashes. They contain 95 percent recycled content. 


Kaza Concrete Liquid Forms tile surfacing


Inspired by the works of Italian sculptor and architect Bernini, Liquid Forms concrete tile combines a simple rectangular shape with asymmetric surface articulation. According to the designer, the tiles’ tactile quality evokes sensuousness and luxury. 

Cle Artist Cement Collection tile surfacing


Designed by 11 artist studios across the globe, the handmade encaustic cement tiles in the Artist Cement Collection reflect personal inspirations ranging from vintage textiles to nature. Shown here are the hexagonal designs by UK-based artist Boris Aldridge. 

Dupont Zodiaq countertop surfacing


Made from 93 percent quartz and resin, Zodiaq is a highly scratch-, heat-, and stain-resistant material that can be used for many surfaces. The kitchen in this Palm Springs, Calif., home features a Dove Grey countertop and a built-in charging station. 

Walker Zanger Andalucia wall surfacing


The Andalucia line of terra cotta tiles draws inspiration from traditional Moorish architecture and Old Spanish ornamentation. Featuring layered geometric shapes and deep reliefs, the tiles include rectangles, squares, hexagons, and arabesques. 

Natucer Art Escama ceramic wall tiles


The manufacturer’s Art Escama collection of ceramic wall tiles offers textured pieces in various shapes. Unlike traditional pressed tile, the extruded line is double thick and offers waves, hexagons, and crackle finishes. 

Neolith sintered stone surfacing


Sintered stone surfacing is made from clay, feldspar, quartz, silica, and other mineral oxides. It includes up to 52 percent recycled material. The product, which offers the look of natural stone, comes in thin, large-format slabs.

The Tile Shop Hampton Engraved marble wall tile


Hampton Engraved marble wall tile by Rush River Stone boasts an engraved 3-D wave design for a playful-yet-contemporary look. The polished Carrara marble tile features subtle gray speckling and veining. 

Atlas Concorde 3D WallDesign textured ceramic wall tile


3-D WallDesign is a collection of textured ceramic tiles for decorative wall applications. The white-body tiles have a satin fi nish with a silky touch. They come in nine textures and four colors. 

Silestone Iconic White quartz counter surfacing


The company says its new Iconic White is the purest, lightest, and brightest white available for quartz surfacing. The material is virtually non-porous and does not need to be sealed. 

Crossville handwritten wall tiles


Featuring a range of creative shapes, sizes, and colors, the Handwritten collection of wall tiles inspires designers to create custom installations, the company says. The tiles come in nine colors in field tiles, pickets, mosaics, and trim. 

Ariana Ceramica Canvas wallpaper collection


The Canvas collection is inspired by the world of soft furnishings and wallpaper. Tiles come in a variety of colors and three different effects. They’re available in 12-by-48-inch, 12-by-12-inch, and 24-by-48-inch sizes. 

Porcelanosa Manila imitation cement tile collection


The Manila imitation cement collection offers a range of smooth tones and a Deco version with engraving made up of leaves. Available colors include White, Steel, and Sand. 

Veridian Reclaimed Wood panel flooring


The manufacturer offers a variety of reclaimed wood panels, including Douglas fir, oak truck deck paneling, and mahogany. Products are made in the USA and come prefinished. 

Daltile Venetian Calacatta tile surfacing


Venetian Calacatta tile offers the luxurious, sophisticated feel of natural stone marble, providing an alternative to traditional Italian Calacatta. It comes in four fl oor tile sizes, 10 mosaics, a chair rail, and a pencil rail. 

Lumber Liquidators Bellawood Matte Braziliam Pecan hardwood flooring


Bellawood Matte Brazilian Pecan is a solid hardwood floor measuring from 1 foot to 7 feet long. The low-gloss finish is designed for consumers who prefer an oil-rubbed floor. The company says the 100- year finish features a multi-layered, micro-particle process for superior wear and scratch resistance. 

Caesarstone Montblanc surfacing


With a light gray base and lines of varying widths, Montblanc offers the look of natural stone. Part of the Classico quartz collection, it has a polished finish and comes in two thicknesses. 

Hanstone Quartz Cascina Collection countertop surfacing


Cascina Collection quartz features soft veining and rich undertones that mimic Carrara marble. It is non-porous, is resistant to stains, and comes in four white hues.