The association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring, EPLF e.V. (based in Bielefeld, Germany), has been actively involved in European and international standardisation work ever since it was founded. Many of the standards established could not have been achieved without the input and expertise of the EPLF and its association members. The development and constant improvement of the product and testing standards within the EPLF is the main task of the Technical Committee, which has been successfully managed by Dr. Theo Smet since 2002. Smet also skilfully handles the EPLF's lobbying work in terms of CEN and ISO standardisation. Standardisation work ensures the constant quality assurance of the products on the market, thus sustainably promoting consumer protection.
Collaboration with the relevant CEN and ISO committees is essential in order for the EPLF to be able to conduct standardisation work successfully. In the mid-1990s, laminate flooring was introduced as a new product by the CEN TC 134 standardisation committee (CEN: European Committee for Standardisation) alongside textile and elastic flooring, and has been in good hands ever since. Any discussions or decisions made by CEN concerning laminate flooring occur in the CEN TC 134/WG9. Concerning ISO, the EPLF is involved in ISO TC 219. This work is now becoming increasingly important, not least through the latest EU free trade agreement with Canada as well as the discussion regarding the free trade area between the USA and the EU.
The first milestone: EN 13329
13 years ago, the EPLF celebrated its first major success in standardisation; thanks to the association's pioneering work, EN 13329 was implemented in 2000, setting the very first mandatory standards for laminate flooring across Europe. With a variety of detailed regulations, this new framework set high quality standards, finally establishing a clear system of load classes for laminate flooring. With classes 21 to 23 for private living spaces and classes 31 to 33, it became possible to classify laminate floorings according to their usage intensity, thus ensuring greater market transparency. In 2008, the special class 34 for public buildings was added as part of an update of standards.
The next item on the agenda, coming quite a while after EN 13329, was the ISO (International Standardisation Organisation) standard for laminate flooring, ISO 14486, published in 2012 following eight years of collaboration between the EPLF and the ISO committees. Ever since, the industry has benefited from a globally-valid standard for the evaluation and testing of laminate flooring. The ISO committees were able to draw upon the considerable content from the European laminate flooring standard; for example, the load class system was inherited from the EN standard to the ISO 10874 standard.
In 2007, the European Committee for Standardisation CEN TC 134 (Resilient, textile and laminate floor coverings) implemented the Construction Products Directive, introduced in 1989, in the CE marking. In 2010, this Construction Products Directive was transformed into the Construction Products Regulation. It came partly into force in April 2011, although the articles relevant to building product manufacturers did not become effective until July 2013. This regulation ensures the CE marking for this flooring type according to uniform guidelines across Europe.
Recent success: CEN/TS 16354 underlay materials
There are yet more examples of standards and specifications that were only able to be implemented in collaboration with the EPLF Technical Committee. As an example, the new technical specification for Underlay Materials CEN/TS 16354 was adopted in summer 2013, after four years of preliminary work. It provides detailed and consistent information about dimensions, mechanical and thermal properties, sound, fire and emissions properties, resistance to humidity and durability. CEN/TS 16354 refers exclusively to loosely-laid underlay materials and not to insulating materials integrated into laminate flooring. This means that, for the first time, there are now mandatory criteria for the testing and application of laminate underlay, which will benefit the quality of all laminate flooring systems. They shall also provide a basis for a future European product standard for laminate underlay.
In order to distribute the new insights as widely as possible across the market, the EPLF issued a free technical data sheet in several languages in August 2013, entitled: “Underlay materials under laminate flooring elements - testing standards and key data”. It explains the testing methods of the new technical specification CEN/TS 16354, and provides instructions and assistance in selecting the right underlay for laminate flooring for different types of use. According to Dr. Theo Smet: “Only the right underlay can optimise the entire laminate flooring system and extend its service life. This also promotes long-term customer satisfaction! Our EPLF data sheet provides producers, suppliers, planners, tradespersons, wholesalers and potential end users with the information they need.” This step further enhances the safety of European end consumers with the active involvement of the EPLF.
The EPLF technical experts are currently working on the revision of the EN standards for laminate flooring EN 13329, EN 14978 (electron beam cured acrylic-based surface layer), and EN 15468 (directly applied printing) to align with the latest technological developments for products and testing methods. The revision of EN 14041 (Essential characteristics), which aims to integrate potential hazards and environmental aspects into the CE marking, is also important. It mainly covers indoor air quality, VOC emissions and harmful substances. The ISO standards ISO 24338 (Falling Sand) and ISO 24334 (Locking Strength) are currently undergoing a revision process.
The EPLF advocates sustainable construction
As a green high-tech product, laminate flooring can win over consumers with its extremely positive environmental credentials, proven by the EPD environmental product declarations. The laminate flooring industry was one of the first flooring sectors to hold this kind of proof concerning its products; in 2008, the EPLF members worked together to create the EPDs, thus setting the standard for greater sustainability in the flooring sector. An EPD makes statements concerning the ecological properties of construction products, thus serving as an essential basic document for sustainable construction for architects and planners. In 2009, the first EPDs for laminate flooring were published at www.bau-umwelt.de by the IBU Institute Construction and Environment e.V. Since then, three sample EPDs for DPL, HPL and PDL flooring have been created, which cover most of the products manufactured by EPLF members. Technical progress means that the specific EPDs for laminate flooring can now be further revised by the EPLF Technical Committee. In autumn 2014, EPLF will introduce the new EPDs for laminate flooring.
Laminate: outstanding environmental credentials!
Interior design products which have a positive environmental impact and can demonstrate this in specific environmental declarations (EPDs) are increasingly being used in the commercial construction sector. These declarations are so informative that they could theoretically be used as the basis for a standard European eco label for the benefit of consumers. According to Dr. Theo Smet: “EPDs certify the strong environmental credentials of laminate floors, with very positive figures in terms of primary energy demand and greenhouse gas potential. Regarding sustainability and the environment, our manufacturers can put forward the best arguments for the marketing of laminate flooring.” The EPLF will continue to work together with its members in future in order to raise the profile of these positive characteristics of laminate flooring.
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