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The Evolution of Cabinetry and Flooring
New material options highlight value and sustainability.
There are two big items customers want built into their homes these days -- value and sustainability. New materials in cabinetry and flooring are helping contractors and designers satisfy both demands. Here's a quick look at some evolutionary ideas and innovations in both categories.
Stock kitchen cabinets now offer more choices in renewable woods. One example is alder, a member of the birch family that has a cherry-like grain and holds a rich, dark stain much like cherry does -- in fact, it's sometimes called "poor man's cherry." "It's less expensive than cherry, but the average person can walk into a kitchen and not tell the difference," says Emily Smith, marketing communications manager for AK Complete Home Renovations in Marietta, Ga.
Alder often is available with a number of glaze and distressing options, which can help break up the visual 'blockiness' of a large run of cabinets. One potential drawback to alder: It's somewhat softer than cherry, making it slightly more prone to dents or scratches.
If you’re building or ordering custom cabinets for your client, newer eco-friendly options include products crafted from Dakota burl, Kirei board and Durapalm. All three are derived from agricultural waste products -- namely, sunflower seed husks, sorghum stalks and coconut or sugar palms past their fruit-bearing years, respectively.
Underfoot, today's customers seem to value a combination of sustainability and stain resistance, says Michelle Giguere, lead designer for Mathew Hall, a building materials supplier based in St. Cloud, Minn.
Shaw Flooring is using a new fiber technology in its Anso nylon carpet that makes the fiber "super soft," according Shaw spokesperson Mollie Surrat. "You can take a nap on it," Surrat says. The material is made from 25 percent recycled carpet and features Shaw's R2X stain-resistant sealer. (It stood up to the torture of the world's largest pie fight in January.)
Scratching is a concern among consumers looking at hardwood floors. Surrat notes that Shaw finishes all of its hardwoods with ScufResist Platinum finish. "It's a miracle product," she says. "I have it in my own home. High heels, pets -- it resists all those kinds of scuff marks."
On the other hand, and in an ironic twist, Giguere says hand-scraped floors are gaining in popularity. "It already looks beat up, so the drop of a can or the scratch of a toy doesn't matter," she says. Hand-scraped floors feature the same polyurethane and aluminum oxide finish as other hardwood floors, making them easy to clean.
In vinyl flooring, Giguere says she's impressed with a new class of luxury products (an example is the Karndean line,) that mimics other materials, including wood, marble, slate and mosaic tile. "They're just stunning," she says. "I'm using it a lot in basement finishes. People are getting that warm look on their concrete. It's warmer, it's quieter, it's very usable and it looks great."