X-Day has arrived: On April 10th, 2000, the new Euro Standard for laminate flooring EN 13329 was officially inaugurated. All involved countries have given their consent. With this Europe has for the first time a binding and official standard for laminate flooring. It went the full distance until the date for last objections had passed, but the results for all involved in this industry - manufacturers, trade, flooring installers and consumers - are more than satisfactory. The new standard with its great number of detailed rulings is setting the basis for high quality standards and is creating a good platform for more market transparency. "The EN 13329 will be within a short time span the ruling tool in the market", according to the EPLF chairman Ulrich Windmoeller. Already now there is first tangible success noticeable.
The EPLF, European Producers of Laminate Flooring Association, was the driving force for the new Euro-Standard for laminate flooring. The EPLF is home to the leading laminate flooring producers of Europe. One of the main objectives since foundation of the association in 1994 was the development of a standard for laminate flooring valid for the whole of Europe. Forerunner of the EN 13329 was the French laminate flooring standard NFB 54020, which was established by a number of producers in conjunction with the CTBA (Centre Technique du Bois et de L' Ameublement/Paris), which was implemented in 1996. Parallel to this development the work on the new Euro-Standard had already started. At the end of 1994 the application was launched with the CEN (Commission Européenne de Normalisation) in Brussels. By the end of 1995 committees were founded in all involved European countries including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal and Sweden. Around ten meetings were necessary to co-ordinate the results of the work of these European committees, meaning the development of an integrated technical standard. In November 1998 finally the most important aim was reached with the publication of the pre-EN Standard 13329 which gave the industry for the first time a unified technical standard for laminate flooring. What followed in the meantime until the official inauguration were the French and German translations resolving all language differences.
Quality is more than abrasion
The new Euro-Standard lists for the first time all pre-requisites for quality laminate flooring and its related tests systematically and completely. The most important point was that product quality was not only defined through the abrasion factor but through a variety of quality features like light stability, rolley castor resistance and straightness of edging, including also topics like the stain protection and reaction to cigarette embers and many more. Brand-new in the spectrum of attributes of the Euro-Standard are the usage classifications distinguishing between private living and commercial areas with heavy, medium and below average use. Simple pictograms will in the future mark each product showing the various classifications.
The acceptance of the new standard by the market was according to be leader of the EPLF´s marketing committee Ralph Eisermann (Akzenta Paneele + Profile GmbH), "much easier than expected". It seems that many, especially in the trade, are very thankful to have now clear classifications, demonstrating this acceptance long before the standard was operational by changing to the new standard product marking. According to the EPLF´s managing director Peter H. Meyer: "We are happy that the European trade has accepted the new standard. We have no intention to become a 'spoiler' meaning to resort to legal venues, but if necessary we will certainly show our intentions by following up on massive disorientation via false advertising and/or product labelling." The legal groundwork for this in Germany, the laminate flooring´s largest market in Europe, is the DIN EN 13329, which will automatically become law in December 2000, half a year after the inauguration of the new Euro-Standard.
Where to from here? With the new EN 13329 the European brand leaders have found a unified platform, a standard, which defines quality, without any doubt. It is a yardstick that will help to stem the tide of negative quality advertising. But where does one go from there? What is happening in China, the USA, or in the Eastern European countries? More as half of the European laminate flooring production is exported. On this basis the question of an ISO Standard for laminate flooring is relevant. The first steps in this direction have already been taken with an application launched with the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) in Geneva followed by the foundation of the first secretariat only some weeks ago, located at the British Standard Institute (BSI). The established working commitee is expected to start its work soon.
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