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  • Reasons Why Floor Sanding is a Must

    Friday, August 10th, 2012

    Part of the responsibility of homeowners is the upkeep and restoration of their homes in order to maintain its good condition. Now, wood floorings are still considered to be a top choice by most people because it exudes that warm, comfortable and inviting atmosphere at home. It does have benefits but one of the disadvantages of having this type of flooring is that it requires regular maintenance.

    Is floor sanding and sealing really necessary? The answer is yes. If you want to know why there is a need to do routine floor sanding and sealing, here are some of the reasons:

    The primary reason why it is a necessity is because it provides protection to your floor. Homes are considered to be a valuable investment that is why a lot of effort and money are put into it. You will only want the best quality in every aspect. If you want the wooden floors to retain its good and scratch-free condition then sanding and sealing are essential. By putting a protective layer, it prevents water from soaking to the floors. It saves the hassle of having to deal with molds and mildew later on.

    In case you failed to do a routine maintenance, floor sanding and sealing is the way to regain the floor’s old shine and luster. In case the woods start to look dull and lose its shine due to constant scrubbing and cleaning, it is advisable to perform sanding and re-staining in order to restore its appearance or give it a new look.

    Lastly, sanding could save you money in the long run. Wooden floors are subjected to regular wear and tear. It is only vital to check it on a regular basis and examine if repairs are needed. Among the common problems that you might encounter are loose planks and nails. Proper sanding could help prevent the situation from getting worse.

    Just a piece of advice to homeowners, floor sanding is not recommended as a do-it-yourself task. It is recommended to seek the services of professionals that are trained and equipped with the right tools for this job.

    Reprinted from: http://www.flooringnews.com

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  • American Hardwood Floors are Sustainable Resource

    Monday, June 11th, 2012

    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (June 15, 2011) – From flooring and cabinetry to moulding and furniture, American hardwoods have been treasured for generations, and for good reason. They offer warmth, durability, luxury, and design options that are unmatched by faux-wood products.

    Recently, however, an abundance of green product labels and misinformation has led to confusion in the marketplace, and has everyone asking, “Are American hardwoods really a sustainable resource?” The American Hardwood Information Center,www.HardwoodInfo.com, wants you to know that the answer is yes!

    Hardwood forests naturally regenerate themselves and do not need to be replanted like softwood forests. For this reason, their harvesting methods differ. The preferred method of harvesting hardwoods is single-tree selection. A professional forester evaluates a forest and determines which trees are ready to harvest. This responsible forest management practice not only provides a sustaining supply of hardwood, but it also ensures the overall health of a thriving forest – including water quality, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities – and has allowed the volume of our hardwood forests to more than double since the 1950s.

    Wood also is a carbon neutral material. Healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release oxygen. The carbon is then stored in the wood for the life of the tree and the products made from it.

    Advanced technology also ensures minimal wood is wasted during the manufacturing process. Every part of the tree is used. For example, tree bark becomes mulch, sawdust becomes animal bedding or fuel for boilers to operate dry kilns, and trimmings become paper. No other material can compare.

    It’s clear. There really is no better or natural choice for green building and healthy home environments than American hardwoods. Learn more by visiting www.HardwoodInfo.com.

    The National Wood Flooring Association is a non-profit trade organization of more than 3,000 wood flooring professionals working worldwide to educate consumers, architects, designers, and builders in the uses and benefits of wood flooring. The NWFA can be contacted at 111 Chesterfield Industrial Blvd., Chesterfield, MO 63005, or at 800-422-4556 (USA & Canada).

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • Styles of Wood Floors

    Monday, June 11th, 2012

    There are three styles of wood floors available on the market today: strip, plank, and parquet. Each style is available in a variety of species, colors and widths, so choosing the right style simply is a matter of which look you prefer.

    Strip flooring ranges from 1-½” to 3” wide, and creates a linear effect in a room, often making the room appear larger. Strip flooring generally is considered “traditional” wood flooring.

    Plank flooring typically ranges from 3” to 7” wide. While plank flooring is linear, like strip flooring, its wider widths often create a more casual look.

    Parquet flooring can vary in size, and usually generates a geometric, non-linear look. Parquet flooring can be very simple in design, or somewhat complex.

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • Preparing Your Home

    Monday, June 11th, 2012

    Before work begins, remove all furnishings, draperies, paintings, and other items from the room. For new installations, the wood will need to acclimate, which will vary from two days to two weeks or even longer depending on the species.

    If your floors are being sanded, finished or refinished, be prepared for some noise and disruption. Dust containment systems can minimize debris, but no system is 100% effective, so cover any items that you want to keep dust-free. When the finish is applied, stay off your floors until it has dried. The time required will vary depending on the type of finish used.

    After the finish has dried, put felt pads on the bottoms of any furniture to minimize scratches and dents. Place rugs at all entrances, avoiding those with rubber backs, which can discolor your floor. Avoid walking on your floors with cleats or high heels.

     

    Reprinted from NWFA

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  • American Hardwoods: The Environmentally-Conscious Choice

    Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

    Looking for an eco-friendly way to add beauty and warmth to your home or building? Look no further than natural, sustainable American Hardwoods. American Hardwoods bring the beauty of nature indoors with unmatched design flexibility. American Hardwoods are an environmentally-conscious choice.

    American Hardwoods are:

    Renewable: American Hardwoods are an abundant, natural material that is self-regenerating and naturally prolific. Nearly twice as much hardwood grows each year as is harvested. And, according to the U.S. Forest Service, the volume of hardwoods today is 90 percent larger than it was 50 years ago.

    Locally Grown: American hardwoods are locally grown so less energy Is requires to transport them, which results in a reduced carbon footprint when compared to non-native woods. Plus, studies have shown that it takes less energy to manufacture products from wood than other material. Studies show that making products from steel, aluminum, glass, concrete, and brick can require up to 126 times more energy to manufacture than American Hardwoods.

    Carbon Neutral: Healthy forests are net producers of oxygen through photosynthesis. Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and separate the carbon and oxygen atoms. The oxygen is released back into the atmosphere, while the carbon is used to grow roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. The carbon is then stored in the wood for the life of the tree and the resulting products, such as wood flooring.

    American Hardwoods also provide:

    Efficient use of by-products: Virtually every part of a log is used as lumber for flooring. Advanced technology and manufacturing processes ensure efficient use of wood by-products.

    Life Cycle Analysis: Solid hardwood floors can last for up to 125 years or longer creating a long life cycle. When considering life cycle costing, the useful life of American Hardwoods can span generation, making them more favorable and cost-effective over the lifecycle than competitive products.

    Third-Party Endorsement: The U.S. Congress passed resolutions in 2009 and 2010 that officially recognized that the American Hardwood industry sustainable manages and environmentally preferable, natural resource, and that hardwoods should not be discriminated against in government procurement programs. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed and announced an endorsement strategy regarding the merits of domestic wood a s a preferred green building material.

    For more information about American Hardwoods, including design tips and a species guide, visit www.hardwoodinfo.com.

    Reprinted from: http://www.woodfloors.org/

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  • How to install a wood floating floor or engineered wood

    Monday, January 9th, 2012

    One regularly asked question is whether or not floating solid wood floors is possible. The answer in most cases is no because solid types may not be glued or locked together. We have found a couple manufacturers however that have developed a way it may be accomplished, but it is unusual. Using this method, a solid floor may be floated using a clip based system the location where the boards are milled with channels where metal segments are connected.

    As you can see, floating hardwood flooring is so easy and inexpensive that this still remains the most used method of installing a floor. Hopefully this article has taught you a few things concerning this method and has helped you determine if it is right for you. .
    Flooring can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your property, provided it is properly installed. Right installation of the flooring is as important as selecting the most appropriate flooring material. Nowadays, people increasingly opting for some sort of floating floor. A floating floor, a misnomer, is actually a floor installation method, which is wrongly lost by many as a type of flooring material. In a floating floor, the flooring material generally consists of planks, which are installed without having to be glued, stapled, or nailed to your subfloor. Instead, of being fastened on the subfloor, the planks are joined to each other; allowing the floor to ‘float’ on the surface underneath.

    Homeowners can choose between the different types; such for the reason that ‘glue together’, which is an older version of a floating floor. The glue together floating floor is assembled thanks to appropriate adhesive and pressure applied to the planks, to bind it together. Another version in the floating floor is the ‘click together’, which is also called ‘enter click’ or ‘tongue and groove’. In this, the edges in the planks are so designed these easily click together, when combined and tapped on the edge toward one another. This does not require the use of any adhesive, making installing hassle-free and time-saving. The latest along with the fastest floating floor option could be the ‘lock and fold’ process, which requires neither tapping with the planks nor sticking them with glue. In this type of floating system, the planks are attached with the help of a special milled interlocking process.

    The rising popularity of this type of floor is due to the various benefits it gives you. The biggest advantage of selecting a floating floor is it’s convenient and hassle-free, which saves both effort and time. This installation method is indeed easy that the flooring in the room can be completed in just a few hours; irrespective of whether or not the installer is amateur and also experienced. In addition, it is available in a wide range of material, such as hard wood, linoleum, bamboo, cork together with plastic laminate. Depending with their preferences and funds, homeowners can choose amongst many of the available options.

    Its also a great choice for areas with excessive humidity or moisture problem. Most of the flooring options are affected by fluctuations in moisture together with humidity. Wooden planks, for example, tend to contract as soon as humidity is low together with expand when humidity is high; thereby causing moves and buckling, respectively. In contrast, since the floating floor is not fastened to the fundamental surface, it contracts and expands jointly complete unit without providing rise to gaps and also buckling.

    Reprinted from:http://www.freepressreleases.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=365472&catid=53&Itemid=31
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  • Residential Market Flooring Trends – Nov 2011

    Monday, January 9th, 2012

    When the housing market collapsed, it yielded changes not only in how homes are valued but also in how they are constructed and designed. Many of today’s customers are more concerned with efficiency, prioritizing what they need over what they want, and choosing materials that offer durability. In their flooring, renters and buyers in the multi-family, specification (spec) built and customer built markets are seeking finishes that promise durability and convey quality. As the values of renters and buyers change, it behooves flooring contractors and retailers to understand the emerging trends.

    Because of the fact that credit has tightened and foreclosures are widespread, the multi-family market is surging; rent prices are on the rise, and, with buyers less willing to pull the trigger on a purchase (especially with the uncertainty of when home prices will start to reverse their decline), continued growth is anticipated. As you might expect, a renter who was once a homeowner or one who is delaying their first home purchase doesn’t want an apartment that looks like a college dorm room. They want an apartment that feels like a comfortable home with quality finishes.

    The spec built home market also suffered in the recession. Spec homes are those that are constructed by a builder who intends to sell the property during the construction process or after the home is completed; in this situation, the builder makes the decisions about the footprint and major features of the home, and the buyer (if they are involved in the process early enough) may choose finishes and upgrades. In 2005, homes that were built for sale (spec built) made up 79.2% of the market; by 2009 that number fell to 66.4%, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

    Whereas having an inventory of homes built or slated to be built seemed like an asset (an assurance of money in your pocket) before the market collapse, builders today may be more hesitant to build a property that will drain liquid capital until it is sold, which may account for why spec homes are making up a smaller portion of the market. In the custom built home market, a home is constructed according to a buyer’s specifications, often on their own lot. In this situation, the owner has control over both the major elements of footprint and design as well as over the finishes (inside and out). The number of contractor-built custom homes rose 7.2% (from 11.4% to 18.6%) between 2005 and 2009, says the NAHB.

    In terms of flooring trends, renters and buyers in all of these markets share a preference: an increasing partiality for hard surface flooring, and the hard surface of choice is wood (or a wood look). Across all the markets, darker tones are preferred over naturals in hard surface flooring, and wider widths are desirable as well.

    There is a widespread belief that hard surface flooring is healthier than carpet because it doesn’t trap allergens (soft surface manufacturers dispute this claim), and many builders and retailers in the industry report that this plays a significant role in why customers prefer hard surface flooring. For this reason and others, carpet is often being relegated to bedrooms or skipped altogether.

    While only two of the builders that we spoke with say that they are building smaller homes than they were before the recession, the NAHB reports that, across the nation, square footage is decreasing, from an average of 2,253 square feet in 2005 to 2,100 square feet in 2009. Of course, after a recession it only makes sense that customers feel compelled to cut back and reject the idea of excess, at least for a time. Smaller square footage means reduced heating and electric costs, after all, so the savings aren’t felt only in the purchase of a home but on a monthly basis as well.

    With regard to sustainability, it might seem counterintuitive that builders are showing an increasing interest in going green amid the housing slump, but Nate Kredich, vice president of residential market development with the U.S. Green Building Council, reports that that is exactly what’s happening, because builders and developers see it as a means of establishing a competitive edge against the glut of homes already on the market. “They have a rich opportunity to build something better,” says Kredich, “to build a very high quality, highly energy efficient, water efficient home.” He points out that KB Homes, traditionally a value builder, just earned LEED Platinum certification for a new multi-family development in Los Angeles. “You would never have seen that three years ago,” Kredich says.

    CASE STUDY: MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING
    Phillips Development builds and leases Class A apartments in North Carolina, Texas and Florida. The company’s units rent for between $800/month and $1,500/month—or about $1.00 to $1.10 per square foot per month, depending on the floor plan. Phillips’ properties are aimed at young professionals and are outfitted with amenities like granite countertops, stainless steel kitchen appliances and large 42” cabinets that give them a higher end look and feel.

    To complement that upscale look, Phillips prefers to use wood-look vinyl plank flooring throughout its properties. In fact, the company did a market study that revealed that it could get an extra 5% to 15% in rent by installing vinyl throughout its units. Though vinyl does cost about 60% more up front than carpet ($1.24 for base grade carpet versus $1.98 for vinyl plank), it does not have to be ripped out and replaced between tenants as carpet does. And damaged spots can be replaced plank by plank, which saves both material and labor costs.

    However, there is one major drawback to using luxury vinyl tile in apartment units—sound transfer. Tenants on the lower floors can hear movement on the floor above, and this is the biggest source of tenant complaints for Phillips. The company has looked into engineered hardwood since it would better hamper sound transfer, but the material is cost prohibitive for Phillips’ purposes.

    Beige cut pile carpet is used in Phillips’ units on a limited basis; when it is used, it is installed in bedrooms. Phillips is interested in transitioning from broadloom to carpet tile because of the ease of replacement tile provides. The company has determined that, in spite of an increased up front cost, carpet tile is a financially beneficial investment after four years installed.

    Phillips’ apartments have not decreased in square footage during the recession, unlike some single-family homes, but the company has changed the units somewhat—opening up the kitchen to the living area to bring more light and life to the spaces.

    Flooring is one of the first selections that Phillips makes in the development process. The company considers maintenance and ease of replacement its top priority in flooring selection, but price and sustainability are significant factors as well.

    Phillips reports that its leasing outlook is fantastic at present. On its new Phillips Swift Creek property in Cary, North Carolina, the company had 22 pre-leases signed, even before it received the certificate of occupancy.

    CASE STUDY: ENTRY LEVEL SPEC BUILT SINGLE FAMILY HOMES
    Pulte is a national spec builder that constructs homes ranging from under $100,000 to over $1,000,000. The company also develops active adult communities, townhomes and a broad range of other housing solutions.

    Pulte reports that the trends in its entry level homes are similar to what it sees across the board. Flooring is the number one feature that customers upgrade, even at the entry level. And when these customers upgrade, they want hard surface flooring: hardwood, wood-look vinyl and ceramic tile. Pulte customers are making the switch to hard surfaces for several reasons: because they believe that hard surfaces are better for allergy sufferers than soft surfaces; because they believe that they are cleaner than soft surfaces; and because they are simply more desirable design wise.

    But there are additional factors promoting hard surfaces as well. First of all, wood-look products like vinyl and laminate have improved steadily through the years, so now customers can get a beautiful wood-look floor that is realistic, durable and affordable. Additionally, with today’s open floor plans, it seems logical to extend one floorcovering through all the living areas of the first floor. And often, Pulte’s buyers continue with hard surface through the master suite, using carpet only in the additional bedrooms.

    Great rooms are popular among Pulte’s customers, and the company believes that the trend has accelerated, in part because movable technology like laptops and tablets have made it possible to work anywhere. Today’s homeowners aren’t tied down to a big desktop in a home office; they can work as easily in the comfort of a great room as they can in a designated workspace.

    This has also impacted the size of the home. Pulte reminds its customers that they no longer have to account for big entertainment centers to hold giant televisions—today, most people have flat screens installed directly on the wall—so great rooms and master suites don’t need to be as large as they once did.

    Engineered hardwood and wood-look vinyl and laminate options are gaining acceptance among Pulte’s customers. In general, they are favoring wider planks (up to 6”) and are often choosing handscraped looks now that those are available at lower price points. Colors run the gamut, from taupe to charcoals to espresso. Pulte reports that some of its customers are choosing bamboo, now that the product is more readily available and the looks are varying due to new treatments.

    Though ceramic tile is often slightly out of financial reach for the entry level customer, Pulte reports that when it is chosen as an upgrade, the larger formats and more realistic stone looks are winning out.

    CASE STUDY: HIGH END SPEC BUILT SINGLE FAMILY HOMES
    Toll Brothers builds spec homes for the luxury market. Currently, the company builds in 19 states, and the average price for a Toll Brothers’ home is $570,000 nationally.

    Because Toll Brothers serves an age-restricted market—customers who are financially mature and, therefore, often mature in age, generally making their fourth or fifth home purchase—the company’s homes have a specific footprint by nature: the first floor generally contains all the living space as well as the two main bedrooms, and the second floor houses the guest bedrooms. Nationally, the average Toll Brothers home has square footage in the mid 3,000s.

    Flooring is the most upgraded item in a Toll Brothers home. In fact, only 35% of customers choose the company’s standard offering. Many Toll Brothers customers often upgrade the hardwood from the standard oak to either maple or hickory.

    Across all the markets it serves, Toll Brothers is seeing a preference for hard surface flooring and darker interior tones. The company notes an increasing demand for handscraped looks among its customers, as well as wider format boards. In solid hardwood, 33/4” to 4” widths are favored, and in engineered hardwood boards often go even wider. Medium browns to near blacks are the preferred tones. The company installs almost no natural tone woods.

    Toll Brothers reports that it is seeing some significant trends in the Florida and Northeast markets. In the hot climate of Florida, cool tile has always been the top choice for the first floor and living spaces, and it continues to dominate in these areas, especially in larger formats (18”x18” and larger). Frequently, however, Floridians are choosing to upgrade from ceramic tile to natural stone in their living spaces. On the second floor, things are changing more significantly. Tile and carpet, which once dominated these areas, are being replaced by engineered wood.

    In the Northeast, hardwood dominates, quite a change from the past when carpet was the flooring of choice in this colder region. Soft surface flooring is now generally restricted to the bedrooms, and tile is used in the bathrooms.

    Toll Brothers has considered using the newer laminate and vinyl products, but there is still the perception among its upper end buyers that these flooring types aren’t high quality. Occasionally, a customer with large dogs will choose one of these products for its performance attributes.

    On average, the build cycle for a Toll Brothers home is nine months, and flooring is chosen within the first 60 to 90 days from the agreement of sale. The company reports that the number one priority of its customers is style; they want to make their home as beautiful as they can with the budget that they have, and they feel that flooring upgrades go a long way toward achieving that.

    CASE STUDY: CUSTOM BUILT SINGLE FAMILY HOMES
    Sandlin Custom Homes of Dallas/Fort Worth is a second-generation family business that builds both custom and spec homes. The custom homes range from $400,000 to $1,000,000. The company divides its spec homes into three market segments: cornerstone ($180,000 to $199,000), heritage ($200,000 to $300,000), and signature homes ($300,000 to $500,000). The spec homes range from $56.00 to $112.00 per square foot.

    Sandlin is seeing activity in the regions in which it works—particularly in the $200,000 to $300,000 price range—because the low interest rates are incentivizing people to buy. It is also seeing an uptick in the $325,000 to $450,000 range. The company notes a decrease in sales in the first time buyer market now that the first time homebuyer tax credits have expired.

    Within Sandlin’s market, the footprints of homes have been decreasing since 2009. The McMansions of the 1990s are being replaced with smaller, more efficient versions of the same homes. Sandlin’s customers aren’t seeking a lesser quality home—they want high quality custom details—just a smaller home. One of the ways that customers are achieving that goal is by creating multi-use rooms or flex space, for instance, great rooms that also function as media rooms or offices.

    As with the multi-family and spec home markets, Sandlin’s customers are choosing hard surfaces over soft. Sandlin says that only 50% of its customers use soft surface products in their bedrooms. The company says that its customers are making this choice based, first and foremost, on their perception that a hard surface is more durable. In addition, carpet is often believed to hold allergens and to be less clean than hard surface flooring, which is influential in Sandlin’s customer’s decisions.

    On the hard surface side, hardwood is the material of choice, and the use of engineered hardwood is on the rise. In fact, over 40% of clients choose engineered wood for their kitchen. Clients like engineered wood because the product that is installed is more consistent with the product that they choose in the design center—there is not as much variation in color and design as there is with solid hardwood. When customers do choose solid wood, they always choose a handscraped style, and most of the engineered wood that the company installs is in character looks as well. The most common hardwood choice overall is a dark stained 5” plank.

    Some of Sandlin’s clients choose ceramic tile for living spaces because it is more durable than carpet and because, when cleaning is factored in, hard surface flooring becomes a more attractive value proposition. They also like the fact that ceramic tile can be used to create customized patterns and styles. Overall, flooring colors remain on the neutral to dark side for hard surfaces.

    When soft surface flooring is desired, fluffy, soft carpet with a longer fiber is the top choice among Sandlin’s clients, and frieze is the top seller.

    Schumacher Homes, a family run business, builds homes that range from 800 square feet to 8,000 square feet with prices from the high $50,000s to over $1,000,000. Schumacher offers house plans that customers can use and customize, but it also builds wholly custom homes.

    Schumacher has a unique perspective on the market, since it builds at such a broad range of price points. Like Pulte, the company says that it sees the same trends at the low and high ends of the market. Schumacher’s customers see flooring as a good place to invest, so, even at the lower end, they want to upgrade to hard surfaces.

    Schumacher, which builds in 14 states, has been offering plans with less square footage to accommodate buyers who seek efficiency, but so far it hasn’t seen a trend in that direction. It does, however, see a trend toward buyers wanting square footage that makes more sense—eschewing formal living and dining areas in favor of space that they will use on a daily basis. They are looking for casual, more comfortable shared space. For instance, Schumacher often builds great rooms with an adjoining office nook that can be closed off from the living area. While parents are cooking dinner, kids can do their homework in the office space within earshot of mom and dad, and, when the office isn’t in use, it can be closed off from the rest of the room, which is a bonus since office spaces generally aren’t attractive (or tidy).

    In addition, the company says that homes are being built to accommodate multi-generational living with, for instance, dual master suites and multiple entrances. More adult children are moving back in with their parents and older parents are cohabitating with their children as a result of the challenges of the economy, and homes are reflecting these new arrangements.

    Reprinted from: http://www.floordaily.net/FloorFocus/Residential_Market_Flooring_Trends__Nov_2011.aspx

    Schumacher’s customers are using more wood in their homes. Distressed and handscraped looks are popular, in part because they complement that casual living style that is trending. Mid-range to dark colors are preferred in hard surfaces. When customers are building a home with Schumacher, they make all their choices—from flooring to shingles to countertops—up front, before construction begins.

    Schumacher customers often still choose to install carpeting in the bedrooms. While colors are still neutral on these surfaces, they are often selecting carpet with pattern and texture or a multi-tonal look.

    Schumacher’s customers value durability in their flooring above all else, since flooring takes so much use and abuse. But the company believes that its customers see flooring as more of a fashion element than they ever have before. The company regularly tells its customers that flooring is a major element in creating a look in a home.

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  • Green flooring options abound; what to look for, ask about

    Monday, January 9th, 2012

    Rob Chewning has noticed a trend over the past few years: More and more customers who enter his Bethlehem, Ga.-based Southern Woods showroom have more than simple flooring on their minds and while they’re looking for green options, it’s not a color choice that drives their decisions.

    What they’re looking for is flooring that has a gentle impact on the environment and/or their own health. Many types of carpet and flooring can negatively affect air quality by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) These compounds can be especially harmful to people with allergies and upper respiratory conditions.

    “We’ve had more informed customers come through our doors in the past five to seven years knowing what they’re looking for and asking relevant questions,” Chewning said.

    Some customers don’t have adverse health effects from traditional flooring options, but they’re intent on buying locally made or renewable products. The solution for both groups of concerned customers is what’s commonly referred to as “green” flooring.

    “There are two things you want to look at,” said Lisa Joss, a representative for California Carpet, which has showrooms in San Francisco and San Carlos, Calif., and an online store (www.theperfectrug.com) that offer green flooring options. “Is it good for the home environment; the family so they’re not breathing in these fumes or off gases? The other thing is: Are you being good to the Earth?

    Wool carpeting is a renewable resource and a healthy alternative to nylon or other synthetic carpets. Wool from New Zealand is chemical free, Joss said. Grass-made carpeting often produced from seagrass, sisal and hemp is also all-natural and renewable. Bamboo and cork have become two of the more popular green flooring options because of the source materials’ ability to regenerate quickly.

    There is a carbon-footprint drawback to bamboo and cork, though. Because both of those products are generally manufactured and shipped from overseas, those transportation costs diminish the overall green benefit.

    Hardwood flooring is renewable but some is considered less Earth-friendly because the trees that provide the wood must be cut down and re-growth takes many years. Recycled hardwood flooring, though, is an environmental win-win.

    “What I recommend to people is they think about doing something that’s local and recycled,” Chewning said. “The most eco-friendly floor we could install here in Georgia is a floor that comes out of an old cotton mill. There’s one in Virginia that’s been harvesting wood beams for five years. We sand them and finish them with a water-based polyurethane. So it comes from within a few hundred miles with materials that were harvested 100 years ago, you’re not destroying new growth now and are using a low VOC to coat it.”

    More carpet manufacturers are meeting industry standards for low VOC emissions. Those products carry a “Green Label” from the Carpet and Rug Institute. Many wood flooring manufacturers are having their products certified from the Forest Stewardship Council, which requires responsible harvesting of trees. Recycling has also become a big point of emphasis for flooring retailers. Both Joss and Chewning said their companies recycle all of the carpet they remove from a customer’s home.

    “Five years ago, all this stuff was just going to a dumpster and now every bit of it from the padding to the edging to the carpet itself gets recycled,” Joss said.

    There are also a number of products that claim to be green, but aren’t, so it’s important for homeowners looking to invest in eco-friendly flooring to research and understand the composition of the flooring, as well as the adhesives, glues and other products used during the installation.

    “A lot of those products have the (green) name, but you’ve got to do your homework and be selective,” Chewning said. “You can walk into any showroom and read the labels. The information is there and available. When it comes to choosing the retailer you want to purchase from, I would suggest driving by their collection dumpster. What are they doing with what they’re ripping out of homes? If you see carpet rolls in their dumpster from a home they finished the day before, then that’s having a negative environmental impact. There are better ways to dispose of those products.”

    FLOORING SHOPPING TIPS

    Shopping for eco-friendly flooring? Before you buy …

    - Look for a “Green Label” on the product from the Carpet and Rug Institute.

    - Check specifications to determine if the product contains low or no VOCs.

    - Ask if the flooring is made from renewable or sustainable materials

    - Ask about the transportation method used to get it from its point of origin to you.

    - Check that the company recycles the flooring it removes.

    - Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood

    Reprinted from: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/01/09/3360448/green-flooring-options-abound.html

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  • Understanding Wood Flooring Certification Programs

    Saturday, December 10th, 2011

    Start discussing environmental issues in any social group, and passions quickly flare. Discuss them with people in the wood flooring industry, and opinions run the gamut. Given that situation, it can be difficult for consumers to know what to believe when they ask questions about wood flooring and the environment. Certain products, such as reclaimed floors, have obvious environmental value. Beyond that, the truth can be more difficult to perceive.

    Certification programs try to make it easier on consumers by verifying that their certified wood floors come from trees in sustainably managed forests. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) are the three most common certifications in North America, and a bevy of others are found elsewhere. The FSC garnered media attention in 1999 when The Home Depot announced a new environmental purchasing policy that focused on FSC-certified wood. Lowe’s quickly followed suit, but both companies have struggled to achieve their goals. Likewise, certified wood flooring has yet to achieve the hold on the market that manufacturers had envisioned. Many consumers aren’t even aware that certification programs exist, or if they are, they’re confused about what each certification means.

    Understanding Certification

    The certification programs aim to achieve similar goals based on responsible forest management. The programs vary in the stringency of their requirements and the breadth of their scope, but they have a common basis in “sustainable forestry.” Coined in the ’80s, the term is relatively new, but the practices that support it are not. Basically, it goes beyond managing a forest simply for “sustained yield” to also accounting for other factors, most importantly maintaining the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

    FSC was the first certification system. Founded in 1993, FSC has the backing of most major environmental groups, and it is international in scope. FSC determines the requirements for its certification, while the actual certification process is handled by an organization such as Smartwood or Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). Manufacturers of end products such as flooring that carry an FSC label comply with a strict chain-of-custody program in which the wood from the FSC-certified forest is tracked separately from non-FSC products. Distributors must pay to be chain-of-custody providers.

    In 1994, SFI was founded through the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). Participation in the SFI program is a requirement of membership in AF&PA. SF I offers three levels of certification: self-certification, second-party certification and third-party certification. Only third-party certifications may carry the SFI label. End-product producers are required to have an auditable monitoring system that accounts for wood flow, but there is no chain-of-custody system.

    The National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management from CSA was first published in 1996. This third-party certification system primarily focuses on Canadian forests, and it includes a chain-of-custody program.

    Compare and Contrast

    Differences between the certification programs can be difficult to discern by asking industry experts. A 2001 report from the Meridian Institute (commissioned by FSC-U.S., SFI and The Home Depot) offers an unbiased comparison of the FSC and SFI programs (available on the Web at www.merid.org/comparison). Opponents of SFI point to differences in policies on clear-cutting, pesticide use, old-growth timber harvesting and conversion of forests to plantations as key distinguishing factors.

    Others say the differences are minimal. “Basically, most of these systems are fairly comparable, and independent verification is a fairly standard auditing procedure. The real differences are political,” says Dr. Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace and now chairman of Greenspirit, an environmental consulting firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Dan Harrington, director of marketing and architectural sales at EcoTimber in San Rafael, Calif., disagrees. When EcoTimber was founded in 1992, company representatives traveled the world doing their own research to determine which companies were logging while leaving ecosystems intact. Today, the company relies on FSC for verification of sound forestry practices and points to the endorsement of major environmental organizations as evidence of FSC’s validity.

    Harrington says he wishes SFI would spend less time and money marketing and more promoting good forestry management, but he sees some benefit to the SFI certification. “The SFI does represent the fact that the timber industry has recognized that change needs to occur because of consumer demand,” he says. “It’s a positive development … in my view it’s clearly a response to the growth of the FSC marketplace, and to that extent, I think the existence of SFI is the biggest achievement of the FSC.”

    Good Practices Regardless

    Others in the industry explain that wood floors don’t have to be certified to come from sustainably managed forests. At Laona, Wis.-based WD Flooring, President Peter Connor points to the fact that his grandfather was a pioneer in the concept of selective harvesting in the 1920s. The family’s Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation owns 40,000 acres in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The property has been managed for logging for five generations, and the company has been awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its sound forest management practices.

    When using selective harvesting practices such as those at Nicolet, it can be hard to tell which forests have been recently logged. On forest tours, Nicolet’s forester, Al Murray, asks a trick question. “I’ll take someone past an area we just cut two years ago and ask them how long it’s been cut. They’ll guess 15 or 20 years ago. In reality, we might have just moved the machine out of there,” he says.

    These days, he says, selective harvesting is more common than not for commercially managed hardwood forests. After all, it’s in companies’ best interests to manage the forest well, ensuring an abundant harvest in the future.

    Oftentimes, it’s the smaller, less-educated land owners who employ more damaging logging practices, he says. Perhaps they bought the property as an investment, and now they want to see a cash return. Bigger companies selling tracts of land also can be damaging. “A lot of what I call ‘rape and pillage’ happens right before properties sell … Anytime a block of timber is sold, someone tries to recoup money,” Murray explains. “So, if you have a 20-year rotation, it moves up to 15 years, and you start losing the structure of your forest as that goes on.”

    Although Nicolet and WD are SFI certified (SFI certification is necessary for any mill wanting to sell its wood chips to paper mills), Connor doesn’t see certification as necessary for promoting the companies’ environmental aspects. “The fact that we’re still managing the same amount of acreage and have been doing so for 100 years—we think that speaks for itself,” Connor says. “We don’t see that it’s necessary to put some kind of a stamp on it so people can feel good about what they’re buying.”

    FSC All the Way

    Canadian forest products giant Tembec, which has 55 manufacturing facilities, mostly in Canada, and wood flooring operations in Huntsville, Ont., also has a history of selective harvesting practices. Tembec, however, chose to pursue FSC certification. Four years ago, the company’s private land program in Huntsville was the first of the company’s operations to become FSC-certified. “We felt if it was going to be meaningful in the public eye, then we had to have support of environmental groups; we felt we needed to work in concert with them rather than separate from them,” says Gerald Kroes, general manager of Tembec’s Huntsville, Mattawa and TKL sawmills.

    The original goals of Tembec’s FSC certification were varied. “At that time, the feeling was that the high-end markets would be looking for certified flooring,and that would give us further access into that end of the market. That hasn’t been the reality,” Kroes says. The company also looked to the FSC auditing process to push the company to progress even further in its forest management practices, as well as give outside verification of the company’s good practices.

    Tembec’s biggest benefit of FSC certification wasn’t what the company expected. “The major benefit we’ve seen—that we didn’t plan on initially—is helping the corporate image for Tembec as being a proper steward of the forest,” Kroes says. “It’s improved the image of Tembec overall.”

    The company has expanded greatly from its initial foray into FSC certification. In 2001, it signed an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) pledging to seek the FSC certification of all woodlands as soon as possible; the WWF agreed to help Tembec promote its FSC products. “That was a historic agreement—getting the environmental groups and the forest industry to strike an accord like that,” Kroes says. “I don’t know that that’s ever happened in history before.”

    Anti-FSC Sentiment

    While FSC certification is beneficial for some, just the thought of working under the control of an organization with ties to major environmental groups makes other wood flooring professionals cringe.

    “A lot of private landowners don’t want any environmental groups telling them how to run their land, so they don’t care how good the system is,” Greenspirit’s Moore says.

    In WD’s region in northern Wisconsin, Connor sees strong ties between radical left-wing environmentalist groups and the local FSC-certifier. Those environmental groups are actually hurting sustainable forestry, not helping it, he says, by successfully lobbying to stop responsible harvesting on national forest lands and thereby putting more pressure on sustainably managed private holdings.

    “We don’t feel we should pay large sums of money to the FSC program to see that money come back and fight us in terms of the sustainable practices we’ve been continuing for 60-some years,” Connor says. He also despises the implication that environmentalist groups are responsible for turning the forest products industry on to sustainable practices. “The fact that they want to gain credit for it now when they had absolutely nothing to do with sustainable forestry is rather unnerving to us,”he says.

    Feelings can rage so strongly against FSC and its environmental ties that one FSC certifier, SCS, is rolling out its own certification for companies uncomfortable with the political extremes of FSC and SFI. “If the FSC is simply not going to be embraced by a substantial segment of the industry, and if SFI is little more than a green marketing campaign designed to stop FSC, we believe that forest owners and managers will benefit from another option,” says SCS Senior Vice President Dr. Robert J. Hrubes. The main distinguishing factor of the SCS certification, he says, is that it “isn’t FSC.”

    The Marketing Spin

    Even those who strongly support the FSC’s goals can encounter frustrations. William Jopling, president of Delran, N.J.-based Wood Flooring International (WFI), has been involved in FSC from its inception, and he produced flooring from the first tropical forest to be FSC certified. “There are lots of problems when you’re trying to put together a product line that needs consistent sourcing, and your certified base is too small to supply all your needs,” he says. Keeping the FSC wood segregated all the way through production is another logistical problem. Today, WFI offers an FSC-certified line of domestic engineered flooring,but no exotics.

    Some FSC supporters are frustrated by what they see as misleading marketing by other FSC-certified companies. Jopling points out that any manufacturer can pay to become a chain-of-custody provider as long as it abides by the chain-of-custody process in the event that it gets FSC product. “They agree to keep it segregated and to match all the labeling all the way through, but that doesn’t mean they’re running one stick,”Jopling says. “What really counts is what percentage of their volume they buy FSC-certified and sell FSC-certified.” Regardless of the volume, they can use the FSC logo on their literature and other marketing pieces.

    Scott Taylor, sales manager at Great Barrington, Mass.-based Green River Lumber, which sells FSC-certified red oak, cherry and maple, voices similar concerns. Walking the show floor at Surfaces early this year, he was incredulous at the number of wood flooring companies promoting their FSC certification. After checking into them further, “I found out that some manufacturers have only one of their products certified, but they are marketing as if their whole line is certified,” he says.

    Jopling agrees. “Where I have the most problems with it is those in the industry—the ‘bad boys’—who have gotten the chain-of-custody, and all their literature makes them look like they’re holier than thou,” Jopling says.

    Those problems add up to what Taylor calls “a consensus of frustration with the whole thing.” Jopling points out that although he heartily agrees with the goals of sustainable forest management and the FSC program, “When you get into the trenches and see how it’s played out by competing interests—see how it’s abused—you get a little jaded.”

    Green Motivation

    Pricing for certified products doesn’t provide much incentive for manufacturers to increase their certified production. The vast majority of consumers will not pay more for certified products,manufacturers say. “All the certification programs were set up saying that there would be a market share looking for green, certified wood,” says Nicolet Hardwood’s Murray. “But as a matter of fact, people take the wood whether it’s certified or not, because they go for the best price. There are very few customers who will pay extra just because the wood is certified.”

    Indeed, EcoTimber’s Harrington says that 90 percent of wood out of FSC-certified forests is sold on the common market. At Tembec, FSC-certified flooring is sold for 15 to 20 cents (U.S.) more a square foot, but the company hasn’t found many consumers willing to pay the small surcharge. “It’s the same product, but one is certified. The certified product doesn’t look different at allthan the regular product, and that’s the problem,” says Tembec’s Sales and Marketing Director Robert Belisle.

    Taylor says that Green River’s support of FSC is motivated exclusively by the company’s values, not by a lucrative business opportunity. “Honestly, it’s worth it to us because it’s something we believe in,” he explains. “If you want to base it totally on dollars and cents, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

    Even though prices on FSC products have come down significantly—Harrington estimates they are now anywhere from 0 to 10 percent higher than non-FSC products—shipping can still make the flooring costly, because few distributors see the benefit of paying to be a chain-of-custody provider and stocking FSC material. And, since they don’t see much demand, they can’t buy in the quantities that make the price more appealing.

    Of course, there are “hot spots” in the United States where environmentally minded consumers are willing to pay more for certified products. Predictably, San Francisco; Portland,Ore.; and Seattle are among them, along with Austin, Texas; Santa Fe,N.M.; Los Angeles and Madison, Wis. Beyond that, interest in certified products is growing, but manufacturers say the majority of people still don’t know about certified products, much less the difference between the various certifications.

    “I think consumers are too confused as to what the different certification systems mean,” says Tembec’s Kroes. “There are just so many out there; it’s become meaningless to the consumer.”

    Where producers do find demand is with architects and corporations. “The markets that ask for certified products are some of the corporate accounts, and the design community likes it. There is zero interest from end users,” Jopling says. At EcoTimber, high-profile commercial clients include Pottery Barn, Nike and Disney.

    Taking the “LEED”

    Architects are increasingly asking about the environmental aspects of wood flooring, and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council is one of the reasons. The program aims to recognize “green” building, and various aspects of a project’s construction earn points toward LEED certification. For wood flooring, FSC products and “rapidly renewable resources” such as bamboo earn green points.

    “LEED is sweeping the commercial industry by storm, especially with government and municipal projects. Lots of universities, state organizations and even the military have adopted LEED standards for all their new construction,” Harrington says.

    At Mamaroneck, N.Y.-based distributor Geysir Hardwood Floors, architectural design representative Lana Vogestad fields many questions from architects interested in the availability of certified products, and she notes that architectural firms have inquired about FSC products for their LEED projects. They’re concerned about the environment, she says, “However, we haven’t placed any orders.”

    Jopling sees the LEED program as instrumental in keeping FSC certification alive. “I thought the movement [FSC] would fade away, but it’s actually coming back stronger on the demand side just recently, and part of that is coming from the LEED program. That’s really what’s driving some visibility and demand,” he says.

    While Green spirit’s Moore recognizes the good intentions of the LEED program, he sees some fundamental flaws in its policies regarding wood products. “The real problem with forest product certification is that none of the other building materials are required to be certified for anything… Where’s the green steel, where’s the green concrete?” he explains. “So,the most renewable material in the world is being required to meet a higher standard than non-renewable materials, which pushes architects away from wood and toward nonrenewable products—which definitely is not green.”

    Moore also takes issue with the specific LEED requirements for wood flooring. “The Green Building Councilis telling people that bamboo is superior to wood flooring from an environmental perspective—what that means is it’s green to cut down a native stand of hardwood trees grown to make flooring and replace it with a monoculture bamboo plantation,” he says. “That’s because their criteria for renewable resources is’ rapidly renewable resources,’ and trees aren’t fast enough for these people,” he adds.

    Moore urges his clients to take an inclusive approach to certification—accepting SFI, CSA and FSC—and he turns traditional preservationist logic on its head by making the case that the best way to save forests from destruction is to use more wood, notless. It’s consumption of lumber that encourages landowners to maintain the forests, he says. “If you hold apiece of wood and ask yourself, ‘Was this piece of wood from a sustainably managed forest?’ Well, how else did it get there? It had to be in a tree. The real question is, ‘Is the forest where this piece of wood came from still being managed as a forest, or has it turned into a parking lot?’ So, what we really want to do is promote policies that maintain land in a forested state, and the best way to do that isto use more wood.”

    Reprinted from http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com

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  • More Floor Less Pulp

    Saturday, December 10th, 2011

    Small logs once destined for use in low-value products such as pulp and paper pulp have a new lease on life as flooring thanks to a pilot program in Western Australia. Researchers took logs from six-, eight- and 10-year-old southern blue gum (Eucalyptus globules), a common pulpwood species, and 12-year-old maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) plantation trees and manufactured them into engineered floating floor panels. These plantations have, according to a report from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corp, been on the rise so much that economists are predicting that the number of trees will outpace demand for pulp and paper woodchips, making it necessary to look for alternate markets for the juvenile wood.

    Previously, southern blue gum was not considered a good source for sawlogs or flooring because of high growth stresses and a tendency for severe collapse during drying. In response, specific techniques were developed to convert these normally difficult-to-process species into a high-value product. “The drawback to utilizing juvenile hardwoods is the difficulty of avoiding degrading during drying in boards more than 1⁄2 inch thick unless the drying process is very slow,” says Phil Shedley, the project’s principal investigator. “Our work using a super-heated steam process to recover this collapse and return the boards to a flat condition is one of the most significant outcomes of the research,” he adds. The result is a high-quality flooring, with a ‘walnut’ color and numerous feature knots. Other benefits of the flooring are its cost effectiveness and suitability to fluctuating climactic conditions.

    This study, funded jointly by the Forest and Wood Product Research and Development Corporation, the Joint Venture Agro-Forestry Program, the Wood and Paper Industries Strategy, Western Australian government instrumentalities and a number of forest products industry participants, demonstrates the value of juvenile wood that was not previously acceptable as a source for flooring, Shedley notes. An added benefit of the study is that it has applications for other hardwood species as well. “The concept and benefits of cutting juvenile logs into lamellae while still green should be applicable to any hardwood species,” he says.

    Reprinted from http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com

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