Engineered stone is a new alternative to tile with ease of installation, warmth underfoot, and resistance to breakage.
With growing concerns about the availability of qualified tile installers, as well as the mess and time commit-ment that accompanies a traditional tile installation, more manufacturers are considering tile alternatives. One such product introduced in recent years is engineered stone.
This product is different than tradi-tional tile because it is easier to install, warmer underfoot and resistant to breakage. However, it is not synony-mous with rigid core vinyl flooring part-ly due to its mineral core composition.
“Rigid core products are different than engineered stone. An engineered tile product like Armstrong Flooring’s Alterna is built on a stone composite base to give it strength, with the rest of the materials providing a level of resilience that sets it apart from ce-ramic and porcelain,” shared Jeremy Kleinberg, senior product manager for Armstrong Flooring. Armstrong’s en-gineered stone also has the ability to be grouted, creating a visual that is more authentic to what consumers are look-ing for in a tile visual, Kleinberg added.
As with most product offerings, visuals are key for engineered stone. Companies such as Coretec are fo-cusing on the visual appeal of these products to ensure they are keep-ing up with the latest trends. Core-tec Stone, the company’s engineered stone, boasts 39 SKUs, shared Natalie Cady, director of category, Coretec. She explained, “By partnering with leading design houses and using the latest technological advancements, Coretec Stone features the most real-istic, desirable stone visuals possible — including granite, travertine and marble — even offering polished and matte options.”
Cady also noted Coretec’s engi-neered stone pairs elements of nature with the latest technology to “create stunning visuals incorporating the most-loved characteristics of the most popular stones.” And Coretec Stone comes in four sizes, including a large format 18˝≈ 36˝.
What sets engineered stone apart from traditional tile or stone is its performance benefits. For Nox, its engineered stone seeks to keep the best advantages of natural stone while transforming any of its weaknesses into “compelling benefits,” noted the company’s product marketing plan-ning director, Jee Eun Lee. She said these benefits include impact resis-tance, ease of installation, anti-slip properties and the wide range of avail-able designs.
An advantage over traditional tile, added Lee, is cost. Engineered stone’s easy installation and light weight cuts installation and delivery costs, she said. Also of note are the installation options (click or dryback) as well as bigger size options that allow for expanded design capability for each project. Finally, Lee said engineered stone offers a “perfect rectangular precise shape” that doesn’t require grouting.
Cady agreed, noting engineered stone requires far fewer accessories than does traditional tile. “Porcelain tile requires thinset/mortar, leveling agent, spacers, grout and a mixing bucket, a grout mixing paddle, grout sealant, a wet saw and much more.” By contrast, she shared, engineered products such as Coretec Stone re-quire no additional materials and can be installed over most existing surfac-es with “little or no prep.”
Coretec’s product also comes with integrated grout lines that coordinate with the product. This eliminates the mess and also the guesswork of ensur-ing the grout will match the installed product. This means the product can be purchased, installed and walked on all in the course of a day, asserted Cady.
In addition to the faster and easier installation, engineered stone is warm-er and softer underfoot than tradition-al tile options. Explained Kleinberg, Armstrong’s engineered stone offers a “warm and comfortable surface [that] is a major trade-up over the cold, hard tiles of natural stone, porcelain and ceramic.” He shared these products retain warmth, absorb sound and feel forgiving underfoot. “Plus, with a stain-and-soil repellent surface, it’s easy to clean,” he added.
CFL’s U.S. marketing manager, Lacy Price, noted CFL’s Tenacity has an engineered stone core that offers superior dimensional stability. It is also waterproof and rigid, though it does not contain PVC or plasticizers like most rigid core vinyl options such as WPC or SPC. The composition also helps the product to withstand temperature variations.
As this product category continues to thrive, engineered stone offerings will evolve to keep up with the needs of the consumer. For CFL, this means increasing appealing benefits such as the product’s fire resistance. “CFL will continue to look at the problems fac-ing consumers such as fire resistance, sound control, ease of installation and continue to develop products that meet those needs head-on with inno-vation and creativity,” Price said.
She added CFL’s Tenacity engi-neered stone boasts a sustainability story. “It comes with a pre-attached backing — Net Plus — made from re-cycled plastic bottles.” She shared for every 500 square feet of flooring creat-ed, 550 plastic bottles are recycled. She added this backing is more mold-re-sistant than many other underlays.
Kleinberg said for Armstrong, the importance of engineered stone lies in its ability to offer flooring retailers “a competitive product that provides the visual of authentic stone while solving for key concerns that their customers may have with traditional tile.” Such selling points include “faster, easi-er and cleaner installation; warmer, more comfortable feel underfoot; easy maintenance; and, durability to resist cracking,” he told FCW.
And the sky is the limit for what engineered stone might be able to do in the future. “As the indus-try leader and constant innovator, we are always looking to introduce more styles and visuals. Innovation doesn’t limit itself to flooring. We are looking into possible other ap-plications as well as accent pieces in visuals,” said Coretec’s Cady.
Above: Engineered stone can be just as stunning as its true tile counterparts; Armstrong Flooring’s Alterna offers the stunning visuals of natural stone without the installation headache.