Wall to Wall Solutions for the World’s Floors
Gerflor (with a soft ‘g’ as in ‘George’) Canada, with offices in Montreal and Toronto, offers design-led, innovative, decorative, eco-responsible, and complete solutions as one of the world’s leading flooring manufacturers.
We spoke with Michael Tunney, Gerflor Canada’s Director of Sales for Ontario and Western Canada, who had previously worked for a different resilient-floor manufacturer in a similar role for 13 years. During those years Tunney had become acquainted with Gerflor when distributors sold its products in Canada. He had noted that the company had done extremely well in the Quebec region but had not grown in the rest of Canada.
The upshot was that three years ago he decided that it was time for a career move to Gerflor, “thinking this was a good opportunity to go to work for a good company and help them expand in the territory I knew, with products that I knew were excellent.”
What caught Tunney’s eye was Gerflor’s long history, beginning in 1937 in Provence, in southeastern France.
In addition to Gerflor’s international reputation developed over the past 80 years, the company stood out, in his eyes, for its wide range of commercial flooring products; its design-led approach; an ability to leverage technology to create superior products; and continued growth through acquisitions.
But most importantly, for Tunney, there was the pride that comes with being a solutions provider which goes far beyond product sales.
Worldwide, there are twenty market segments in over one hundred countries that turn to Gerflor to address specific problems and provide flooring solutions for housing, education, sport, retail, industry, offices, hospitality, and for transportation vehicles and healthcare.
“While homogeneous flooring goes throughout the majority of the hospital areas, some require anti-static properties, depending on the type of medical equipment that is used. And then safety floors are needed for bathrooms with roll-in showers without a lip, which allow the water to spread over the entire area,” Tunney explains.
“The whole floor has to be manufactured to be slip-resistant, to withstand having water consistently on it, and to have the ability to be thoroughly cleaned. So those are areas that unique to a hospital, and there is not just one product that fits all.”
In 1937 Gerflor introduced Mipolam, the original resilient, homogeneous sheet flooring, which it has significantly enhanced through technology over the years and is now ISO 22196-certified to inhibit 99 percent of bacterial spread.
Since 2010 Mipolam has been treated with Evercare, an exclusive patented coating obtained by UV laser cross linking. This coating offers easy maintenance, is stain resistant, and according to Tunney, sets the standard other companies aim to achieve.
Also in 2010, Gerflor introduced Mipolam Biocontrol, a nonporous, abrasion-resistant product engineered to meet the technical regulations for cleanroom environments. Biocontrol has been assessed and certified for use by the world-renowned German Fraunhofer Institute.
Then, in 2011, Gerflor introduced Mipolam Symbioz, the only resilient sheet flooring made with a bio-based plasticizer.
Taraflex, the original resilient sports flooring which the company introduced in 1947, is engineered to provide shock absorption and comfort to athletes using indoor surfaces for sports such as volleyball, handball, badminton, and table tennis.
Taraflex first featured at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and has been selected for every Summer Olympic Games since, including the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021.
Like Mipolam, Taraflex has undergone continuous improvement. Since 1995 it has been available in both wood and colour designs and in 2013 was redesigned as Taraflex Sport M Comfort Flooring, featuring triple density backing.
Taraflex is the only synthetic sports flooring with a shock absorption rating greater than 50 percent, making it ideal for intense sports training. It is, in fact, the only resilient sports flooring with solutions in Classes 1 through 4 to meet ASTM F2772 standards for indoor sports floors.
With the acquisition of Connor Sports, a U.S.-based manufacturer of sports floors from wood, Gerflor offers a full range of this flooring, now fully meeting all requirements of the National Basketball Association.
In 1993 Gerflor introduced Saga, the first resilient modular tile, designed with a cork underlay for significant noise reduction. It has continued to develop its Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) and Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) collections with the introduction in 2011 of Creation Clic (LVT), a commercial application which has proved capable of withstanding the rigours of retail and commercial grade traffic.
While Gerflor’s resilient flooring products are all about practical considerations – durability, safety, ease of maintenance – that doesn’t mean aesthetics have been sacrificed.
In 2016, The Creation LVT Collection from Gerflor won the prestigious RedDot Product Design Award. An international panel of forty-one experts selected Gerflor’s entry from 5,214 entrees from 57 countries.
The experts did acknowledge the product’s practical aspects such as its usefulness in renovating existing floors and its recyclability, but they particularly focused on Creation’s range of mineral, wood, and textile designs in different embossed finishes, living proof that practicality and aesthetics can harmonize beautifully.
Gerflor also offers a range of products, including LVT, LVP, and homogeneous vinyl flooring that’s ideal for residential developments and provides solutions for a wide variety of typical homeowner issues and concerns. For instance, there is a sheet product that’s ideal for basements prone to flooding because it can be lifted out, dried, and reinstalled. There are floorings that can be laid over in-floor heating coils; that can withstand wheelchair traffic, that provide cushiony comfort in kitchens for cooks; while yet another product is ideal for cottages left unheated in winter, because it doesn’t crack.
Recognizing that everyone may not want to use PVC flooring products, Gerflor in 2011 became a distributer in France for DLW Linoleum products. The German company was founded in 1887 and had grown to become the world’s second largest manufacturer of linoleum by the time Gerflor acquired its plant in Delmenhorst in 2018.
Unlike synthetic resilient flooring, linoleum is manufactured from natural, renewable and 100 percent biodegradable ingredients which include linseed oil, wood flour, limestone, jute, and resin, and is available in a variety of colours and created with natural pigments.
With this addition, Gerflor’s product portfolio as it is now can offer a choice of vinyl, linoleum, and wood flooring.
DLW, like Gerflor, has a long history in Canada. Several large hospitals and educational facilities have it installed, including the just-completed student residence at St. Clair College, in Windsor, Ontario, a project overseen by Tunney.
Gerflor products have been sold in Canada for over 35 years. However, as Tunney notes, until Gerflor Canada was formed in 2015, these products were sold through distributors who carried multiple products – carpets, tiles, resilient flooring – from different manufacturers.
“But with a distributor,” he says, “you are always fighting for face time, because the distributer has so many assorted products, and the manufacturer’s concern is whether or not the distributer spends enough time trying to sell its products. That’s why Gerflor decided to create its own Canadian sales organization. It parted ways with the distributor and went direct to market in 2015. This ensures that 100 percent of the time of the people we hire is spent solely on selling our products.”
As he emphasizes, it’s not only about selling, but it is also about providing the solutions and technical services with installation.
“When we do large projects, we can have our technical representative on the site to start up and make sure the moisture content in the floor is correct and the air temperature is correct. This is particularly important. And not only do we manufacture the floors, but we also supply the adhesive – Gerpur, our full-spread adhesive product – and other accessories. People feel confident because we don’t just sell the product, but we make sure that it meets their specific needs and that we are there to help throughout the installation,” says Tunney.
“It’s hard to walk down a street in Quebec and not see a healthcare facility Gerflor has done,” he tells us, discussing the Centre Hospitalier de l’Universitè de Montréal (CHUM). This is a $1.9 billion mega-facility which brings together three existing hospitals in the heart of downtown Montreal. Gerflor provided the flooring – 3-million square feet (342,000 square meters) of it – under the direction of National Sales Director Steve Melo.
Further to the east in the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, Melo is executing another large flooring project at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, while in the far west, in the interior of British Columbia, Tunney is involved with the flooring solutions at the Royal Inland Hospital (RIH).
Located in Kamloops, this 254-bed teaching hospital is the primary referral centre for a catchment area of 225,000 square km and is currently the largest project on which Tunney is the working. The job has two phases, the first being the construction of a tower which is nearing completion, and the second a major renovation of the existing hospital, once patients are transferred to the tower section.
Tunney says that “from the very beginning we worked with Parkins Architects and their designer, In House, based in Vancouver, and with Don Ellis Construction, once it was awarded the contract.
“They were all looking for a product that met the high-performance standards the hospital required, so we were able to learn about these requirements which incorporated a number of design elements – more than other health care facilities have,” he explains. “They’ll use standard homogeneous vinyl and the other types of flooring we talked about – the safety flooring and the anti-static flooring – but they also have a wood-patterned vinyl installed in patient sitting areas to give it a more homely feel. That’s the first time I’ve seen this done in a hospital.”
The feedback from the hospital on the flooring – installed by Maxwell Flooring – has been positive, which is why Gerflor products will be used again on the second renovation phase. “If there were issues or problems, they wouldn’t be specifying us,” Tunney says.
In fact, Rick Wagner, Maxwell’s owner, is so pleased with the first phase of the flooring that he intends to submit the project for a design award from StarNet Commercial Flooring, the world’s largest network of full-service commercial flooring contractors.
Tunney believes RIH will be a marquee asset for Gerflor Canada, and that this flagship hospital will really help grow business in western Canada.
Not only can potential clients see the product for themselves, but they like doing business directly with the company that manufactures the product and not a third-party distributor. “People know exactly who they’re dealing with,” Tunney says.
In addition to providing superior quality, Gerflor meets ISO14001 standards in recycled materials and recycling of end-of-life material.
Clients are given EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) and HPDs (Health Product Declarations) which provide full disclosure about ethically sourced raw materials, accurate reporting of product contents, and health information on products designed for the built environment.
“This has become the industry standard, and it’s now reached the point where if you don’t have it, architectural firms won’t even let you put your books in their offices,” Tunney says. Obviously not something Gerflor Canada has to worry about.