Phones have been ringing off the hook at flooring companies nationwide in the wake of allegations that Chinese laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators contains excessive levels of formaldehyde.
No surprise that some of the nation's largest home builders have also been quick to check and recheck their product lines and assure customers they are safe. While about half of all laminate flooring comes from China, according to industry sources, it is not widely used by major builders. Still, they do use some. We contacted some of the biggest and asked if customers should be concerned:
D.R. Horton (the nation's largest publicly traded home builder): "D.R. Horton does not buy anything directly from Lumber Liquidators, and laminate flooring is only installed in a small percentage of our homes. All of the manufacturers we purchase laminate flooring from have provided us responses outlining why the Lumber Liquidators issue is not expected to be a problem for D.R. Horton and they have all confirmed to us that they are CARB compliant. (CARB refers to California air regulations, which are the strictest.)
Pulte: "PulteGroup does not work with Lumber Liquidators, as the company purchases its flooring products through contracts with three of the largest flooring manufacturers in the United States. We have asked for and received confirmation from each of these suppliers that their laminate flooring products have been tested and are CARB compliant."
Lennar: "We buy our flooring from Mohawk and Shaw [a Berkshire Hathaway company]. They do import laminate flooring from China but have given us written assurance that it meets the formaldehyde requirements. They are compliant with the law. They are independently checked in accordance with CARB. Our suppliers assure us that their suppliers meet the formaldehyde requirements."
Since the bulk of the builders source their wood from large material providers, we contacted some of the largest of those:
Mohawk: "All engineered hardwood and laminate flooring produced and sold by Mohawk Industries meet CARB Phase 2 standards for formaldehyde emissions.
The company uses CARB-approved third-party inspectors to check regularly to ensure all products remain compliant with CARB Phase 2 requirements."
Armstrong: "Armstrong sources laminate flooring made to our specifications. Our product specifications require adherence to all environmental, health and safety requirements, including formaldehyde emissions, of the U.S. federal government and, where applicable, state regulations such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB II). Our suppliers have their products tested at independent certified labs and then provide the test results to us on a regular basis. We only accept products that are certified to meet CARB requirements. In addition, on an annual basis, we randomly test our products at the Hardwood Products Veneer Association (HPVA) lab in Virginia for OSHA requirements."
Armstrong admitted their phones have been ringing off the hook since the news broke on Lumber Liquidators, but since they put out that information, they say they've seen a positive reaction. It seems one company's nightmare could be another's bonus.
Analysts say the laminate flooring scare could be a boon for other, more pricey flooring options, like tile and hardwoods. Credit Suisse did a survey of homeowners in the wake of the March 1 CBS News report and asked what other type of flooring, instead of laminates, would they consider buying, to gauge what other flooring types could possibly pick up market share amid the fallout.
"Hardwood and ceramic tile were the big winners, with each garnering 50 percent or more of respondents' interest. Resilient (vinyl or LVT), stone, and carpet and rugs were small winners, with each type of flooring garnering between 20 percent and 40 percent of respondents' interest," according to the survey.
Lumber Liquidators has defended the safety of its products and dismissed the CBS report as untrue. It challenged CBS' methodology and claimed it was the victim of short sellers.
—Producer Stephanie Dhue contributed to this report.