By Stan Hulin

The life cycle of hard flooring material (or any flooring material, for that matter) extends from the time it is conceived until it is removed and discarded or recycled. Within that life cycle resides the realm of floor maintenance — a shared responsibility between janitorial/custodial and floor maintenance professionals that represents over 98 percent of a flooring material’s life span.

Because gravity pulls everything down, ultimately, everything ends up on the floor. The question becomes: What does it land on?

If you are in the business of floor maintenance, monitoring new flooring sales is like considering the future. What is sold today will be what requires maintenance tomorrow. It will be your job to maintain the integrity of the product by protecting it, delivering cleanliness for health and sanitation reasons, improving appearance for aesthetic value, and providing a safe surface to walk on.

Shouldn’t it be prudent to know what’s coming and prepare for it?

Study history

Looking to the past may help you to understand the validity of the statement. Carpet sales have been declining both by value and by volume since before we entered this millennium. Although the market has fluctuated somewhat in the last 15 years, there is clear evidence of the decrease in carpet and area rug sales.

In 2000, carpet sales soared above hard surface sales by a staggering 72 percent (carpet) to 28 percent (hard surface). But by 2015, carpet and area rug sales were nearly even with hard surface sales, with carpet making up 53 percent of sales to hard surface flooring’s 47 percent — not including concrete flooring, which is one of the most dynamic hard surface flooring growth areas.

Percentage of flooring sales per square foot in 2015. Data compiled from Floor Covering
Weekly bi-annual reports.

Carpet is not going away, but competition for carpet cleaners will get much more difficult.

Look to the future of hard flooring

If carpet cleaners want to share in this surge in the hard flooring market, they should consider diversifying their operation and learn to take on other flooring materials.

Stone, wood, and concrete can be very specialized work that carries significant costs in terms of procuring the equipment, tools, and materials to perform the services. Additionally, there is considerable knowledge required to take on some of these flooring materials.

Hard surface work is not something that can be learned overnight; however, the return on investment will be greater because of the specialized work. The two best hard surface targets for carpet cleaners are the resilient and ceramic categories. These are the easiest (relatively) to take on with lower investment costs than some of the other categories.

Ceramic flooring is very popular, making up 14 percent of all flooring sales, and is an extremely durable surface. The cleaning challenge is in the grout.

Vinyl products are still the most popular category, especially now that solid vinyl (Class III, printed film flooring), more commonly referred to as luxury vinyl tile (LVT) or plank (LVP), is more entrenched in the market. Vinyl products (sheet and tile) represent 17 percent of all flooring sold, and when you add rubber and other resilient flooring, this figure exceeds 18 percent.

By tracking new flooring sales and attending flooring conventions, the future floor maintenance opportunities will become apparent. The question is, will you be ready for them?


Stan Hulin has over four decades of hard floor maintenance, services, training, education, sales and marketing, and management experience with companies such as ABM, DuPont, and milliCare. He is president and CEO of Future Floor Technology Inc. and the League of Hard Flooring Professionals. He can be reached at sqhulin@futurefloortech.com.