Money Pit's 'Voice of the Consumer' dwells on flooring

Tom Kraeutler, nationally syndicated radio host of "The Money Pit Home Improvement Show," said he was not surprised that flooring was the show's most talked-about category, edging out plumbing by one percentage point.

"It's actually been a trend we've been watching for many years," Kraeutler said. "Floors are the largest, most heavily used single surface in a house. They take a lot of wear and tear that leads to questions, and are a central decor point lending themselves to regular updating."

The radio show's "Voice of the Consumer" report, which analyzes all of Money Pit's consumer engagement, found that "following a short recession-fueled dip, questions related to flooring projects are again on the rise, especially in the South and Southeast."

That echoes a study by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm, which found that worldwide demand for flooring and carpets is forecast to rise 4.9% annually through 2016. This marks a sizable improvement from the 2006-2011 period, as countries rebound from the 2008 global economic crisis, the firm said.

U.S. flooring retailers agree that the market is ripe for a resurgence in flooring. "As an industry we know that there's been pent-up demand and people sitting on the sideline just waiting," said Sam O'Krent, president, O'Krent's Abbey Flooring Center, San Antonio. "It's exciting to see that people are starting to ask more questions about flooring, and the results from the Money Pit certainly mean that consumers are jumping back into the market."

Kraeutler said questions about flooring installation, care and repair — everything from squeaking floor repair, to installation or refinishing hardwood, to cleaning carpets — is top of mind among callers to the show. "I also find that more people than ever want to take on a floor as a DIY project. They are empowered especially because flooring products like engineered hardwood, tile and laminate have become easier to install."

Jeff Striegel, president and CEO of flooring distributor Elias Wilf Corp., Owings Mills, Md., said that while higher-end flooring is generally viewed as a "postponable purchase," many homeowners — from DIYers to those who shop at specialty retailers and need floors professionally installed — "are ready to jump back into the market. That's why that survey doesn't surprise me, because the market is ready to pop."

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