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Turns out, wood flooring is not just for walking. It can also be art. Just look at Marbelous Wood from Denmark’s Pernille Snedker Hansen. To achieve this look, Hansen first drips earth-tone and neon inks into water, and then she dips a piece of pine into the water, which picks up the ink; it’s similar to a paper-marbling technique from eastern Asia called suminagashi. Next, the boards are sealed with a UV coating, and after installation Hansen recommends sealing the floor with a waterbased finish. Each piece of Marbelous Wood, which is part of the Danish Crafts Collection 15 at www.craftscollection.dk, is custom-made by hand. For Hansen, it’s an organic experience every time she makes her drips and dips a board in the water: “It feels more like a dialog with the materials instead of [having] full control,” she says.
Reprinted from http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com...More
If you were viewing this foyer floor in person at New York’s Gracie Mansion—the official residence of the Big Apple’s mayor—you’d initially think you were gazing upon a beautiful marble floor, and that’s just what the painters want you to believe. Upon closer inspection, you’d realize you are standing on wood planks, and that the marble is, in fact, an illusion. While the marble is an illusion, the life-changing opportunity it presented for people living with HIV/AIDS was real. The workers responsible for restoring the floor during the mansion’s most recent remodel came from Chelsea’s The Alpha Workshops, a nonprofit school for and employer of HIV-positive artisans. They were tasked with mimicking the style of itinerant painters from the 1790s, the era during which the mansion was built, says Workshop Executive Director Kenneth Wampler. The workers began with a freshly sanded floor, chalk lines and painter’s tape. Using variously sized paintbrushes and painter’s combs, they applied off-white, cream and brown glazes on the white squares, and white and pale gray glazes on the black squares; last was a waterbased urethane clear finish coat. So how does one achieve this faux look? Practice. “I can tell you from reading a lot of faux painting techniques that it is never well-described,” Wampler says. “The way you paint a good faux marble is by practicing painting faux marble.”
Reprinted from http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com...More
The Hardwood Federation will hold its annual Washington, D.C., Fly-In on Sept. 19-20; the lobbying group characterizes the event as an opportunity to reach influential policy makers.
Top issues expected to be discussed with representatives during the Fly-In include economic recovery, hardwood product advocacy, the Farm Bill, green building, U.S. Forest Service management of land, and the Lacey Act, according to a survey of members the Hardwood Federation recently completed.
Hardwood industry representatives will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the Obama Administration, as well as members of the U.S. Congress and their staff. For more information, contact Deb Hawkinson at email@example.com.
The Hardwood Federation is a wood products industry lobbying group of which the NWFA is a part.
Reprinted from: http://hwfmag.com/...More
The bible is full of stories of revelation; it even devotes an entire book to them. In February, the First Church of God in Paragould, Ark., had a revelation of its own and, while it was not of biblical magnitude, it required hard work and an element of faith.
Earlier this year, Pastor Kevin Edgar decided the carpet in his church needed to be replaced. When he and some volunteers began tearing up the tattered covering, they revealed a hardwood floor underneath, and they decided they would refurbish the hardwood instead of covering it again. That’s when Edgar asked professional floor man Richard Wall to help out. Wall, who has attended the church for the past six years, feels indebted to the church for helping him overcome addictions to methamphetamine and alcohol.
“I’ve been in flooring all my life, and I love doing floors,” Wall said. “There’s nothing more rewarding. Now that I have gotten my life back thanks to the church, everything I try to do, I try to do in God’s will.”
Wall and a crew of other volunteers helped Edgar hand-scrape the old carpet glue off the wood floor, and then Wall spent two days sanding it flat. Next came two coats of polyurethane finish, and today the floor is well equipped to handle the footsteps of the church’s parishioners.
While the church was getting its makeover, Wall saw the project as an effort to further his own life’s makeover. “With wood flooring, you strip off the old and go down to the bare foundation,” Wall said. “From there, you go through the proper processes to get to your finished product. You can’t miss any steps, and you can’t cut any corners. You have to have patience, and you have to have faith that what you’re doing is the right thing to do.”
Reprinted from: http://hwfmag.com/...More
Karen Luther sees the difficulty in owning both wood floors and a heavy dog. “The unfortunate thing is that I don’t think people realize dogs can damage wood floors before it’s too late,” she says. Luther started her Internet-only retail shopAllDogBoots.com in May 2010, and she’s been surprised by how often people contact her with this problem, something to which any wood flooring installer or retailer can also relate. “I get quite a few phone calls for this, and it’s not something that I would’ve expected,” she says, “but a lot of people put in brand-new hardwood floors, and they’ve got a 40-, 50-, or 150-pound dog that has ruined the floors the first week.” For the homeowner-cum-wood-floor-defender, Luther recommends Meshies by Barko Booties, an AllDogBoots.com house brand. Selling for $24.99 and available in red or blue, Barko Booties are lightweight, fit securely and won’t slide—best of all, they’re breathable so that dogs can still sweat through their paws when they have them on. (You knew dogs sweat through their paws, right?) So there you have it: Meshies will keep you, your customers and their dogs happy.
Reprinted from: http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com...More
Wood is a highly regarded building material for many reasons. Its versatility is unrivaled. It is a natural product and it is renewable, two qualities that net it “green” points. With its infinite grain patterns, inherent character in knots and wide spectrum of natural colors, it’s also gorgeous. Less notorious are wood’s acoustic qualities, which only reinforce its usefulness in buildings where people and sound come together. A prominent example of wood performing all of these functions is Helzberg Hall, a concert hall that is part of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a sprawling 285,000-square-foot complex in Kansas City, Mo.
To the building’s north is downtown and to the south is Kansas City’s warehouse district; also nearby is the city’s entertainment district. As a result of its location, the Kauffman Center serves as a cultural linchpin for the city known as the “Paris of the Plains.” At the building’s front is what Safdie Architects’ Partner Isaac Franco calls “the front porch,” a large, open lobby area behind a 65-foot-high by 330-feet-wide glass wall that provides patrons with a fantastic 180-degree view of the city beyond. “We wanted to have a very open, very light lobby area,” Franco says, “and it is almost like a window into the building from the outside so people walking by or driving by can see the activity in the lobby. That is our connection to the city. We wanted synergy between inside and outside, and we wanted to take advantage of that expansive view that the site afforded us. It is a window to the arts.”
Once inside the building, patrons seeking the finest in the musical arts will visit Helzberg Hall. With seating for 1,600, the building resembles a multi-tiered curvilinear bowl. The hall was designed in the “vineyard” style for orchestral halls, so the audience surrounds the performance stage on all sides, and there are no balconies—a design that serves to bring the audience closer to the performers. Nearly the entire space is clad with wood, with Douglas fir lining the walls, riftsawn red oak underfoot in the seating areas, and a stage crafted of Alaskan white cedar. Safdie and his colleagues picked wood as the primary building material in the hall for reasons easy to comprehend: performance and looks.The stage platform was straight-laid, causing individual planks to span the risers. This improved the visual breaks from riser to riser.
The Perfect Instrument
It is easy to think of Helzberg Hall as just one component of the Kauffman Center, but it is more than that. The hall is actually an independent building within the arts center since each component—Helzberg Hall, the Muriel Kauffman Theatre and their encompassing shell—has its own foundation and utilities. This way, sound within each component can be better isolated and acoustically optimized.
To acoustically optimize an enclosed space, the absorptive and reflective properties of its building materials must be properly balanced. Whereas bare concrete reflects too much noise, leading to excessive reverberation, or echoes, a room lined entirely with carpet absorbs too much noise, causing music to sound flat. This is why wood is a preferred material when acoustics are paramount. “Acousticians don’t like the idea of carpet flooring in a hall,” says Franco, who managed the Kauffman Center project for Safdie Architects. “Wood is a hard surface but gives a coloring and mellowing to sound. Wood has some porosity and hardness so it gives you a richness that you wouldn’t get from a tile floor … We wanted to build the perfect instrument,” he says. As for the other factor—looks—Franco may as well be preaching to the choir: “In terms of aesthetics, wood is much superior to a very hard concrete floor or any type of stone material.”
Since there are no balconies—for acoustical reasons—seating levels in Helzberg Hall are tiered. To fit with the overall curvilinear design theme, seating rows are curved. Adding to the difficulty of installing flooring in this tiered seating area were HVAC vents cast within the concrete. Essentially, the flooring within the seating area can be viewed as a large, curvilinear staircase with holes—for the HVAC vents—in the treads.The seating area is essentially a large staircase. The gray circles are HVAC vents that were located using a laser transit.
The Installation Process
Bob Kenney and his crew at Lenexa, Kan.-based Acme Floor Company Inc. started the massive wood flooring project by grinding the freshly poured concrete flat. Due to the complex curves, they next used a laser transit to gather precise dimensions of the treads. To mark the location of each HVAC vent, Acme’s Foreman Henning Mikkelson devised a system where each hole was plugged with a marker that would be picked up by the laser transit. “With the transit, we shot the front edge of the curve and the back edge,” Kenney says, “and then we shot each one of those little plugs.” Back at the shop, Acme input the transit data in the CNC machine and cut the ¾-inch plywood subfloor complete with the HVAC holes. Then the material was brought on-site and fastened to the concrete using ¼-inch driving pins. They also installed a sub-riser system of ½-inch MDF. Those two systems—subfloor and sub-riser—were joined with pocket screws so that the wood flooring installed over it would remain level.
Next, Kenney and his crew worked to install the seating-area flooring over the subfloor system. They started with more than 20,000 square feet of raw quartersawn red oak lumber and brought it to their own floor-manufacturing facility. “Almost everything we install, we manufacture ourselves in Kansas City,” he says, and it is branded with the Missouri Hardwood Products name. The raw material was milled into tongue-and-groove plank flooring, measuring ¾ inch thick by 5 inches wide. Due to the complexity of the seating area, Kenney did not want to painstakingly cut each flooring board on-site, so the boards were first glued at the sides and pre-assembled into panels. “The panels were 4 feet wide and 12 feet long,” Kenney says. “We laid those on the CNC machine, and then we cut the back radius and the front radius and assigned it a ‘piece mark’ so we knew exactly where they were going.” The CNC machine also plunged a small center hole where each HVAC vent was located.These photos, snapped throughout the floor installation process, were provided by Acme Flooring Company Inc.
Those panels were brought on-site and then fastened to the subfloor with adhesive; biscuit joints secured the panel ends. Then Kenney’s crew used a router to cut holes for all of the HVAC vents. Between the panel and bottom of the sub-riser, Kenney left a ½-inch gap for expansion. On the outside of the sub-riser, a ½-inch MDF prefinished oak veneer riser was installed. Next came the sanding work and then stain and waterborne finish; to accent the actual stairs in the aisles, Acme Floor Co. gave the stair bullnosing a darker stain. “The nosing was stained a little bit darker so it would identify the tread itself,” Kenney says. “Otherwise, the wood would all run together, so it was a safety issue.”
In addition to installing the wood flooring in the seating area of Helzberg Hall, Acme Floor Co. was responsible for installing the oval-shaped performance stage platform, as well. The stage’s hallmark is a set of mechanical risers that allow for quick layout changes in order to suit a variety of musical performances, from solo concerts, to chamber music, to full orchestra. Over the steel stage legs, Kenney and his crew installed a grid of big timbers, and over that they installed a sleeper system using precise measurements gathered with the laser transit. For acoustical reasons, Safdie Architects specified the stage floor be made of 1¾-inch-thick Alaskan white cedar that, again, Acme milled itself. With the sleeper system in place, Acme straight-laid the entire platform, securing the 5-inch-wide cedar planks to the sleepers using 3-inch finish screws inserted on a 45-degree angle right above the tongue. “We didn’t use nails because we knew that stage would see a lot of movement, and eventually they could work their way out,” Kenney says.
The crew next used a router to cut the outlines of the risers from the stage platform. “We’ve got some real experienced carpenters,” Kenney says. “We set up a radius rod already knowing the tangent points for the risers, and then we cut through it with the router using a flush-cut bit.” Moving down about a quarter-inch at a time, it took several passes with the router to get through the cedar. To improve the aesthetics of the risers, Kenney and Project Manager Randy Hamilton did two things: First, they designed cedar nosing to wrap the board ends of the cedar on each riser. “It was like each one of those risers had a band around it,” Kenney explains. Second, they installed a two-layer skirt to conceal the extenders; the sub-layer consists of ½-inch MDF, and the outer layer consists of a ½-inch urethane-prefinished maple veneer. To finish the stage platform, Kenney and his crew applied two coats of tung oil.
Since Acme Floor Co. straight-laid the platform, individual planks span the risers, so there are no visual breaks from riser to riser. “The board you see on one riser is a continuation of another board on the next riser,” Franco explains, “and when it’s flat, you have a continuation of the same boards.”For safety reasons, red oak bullnosing was given a darker stain.
Attending to Detail
It is this type of attention to detail that bolsters Franco’s belief that Helzberg Hall is itself the perfect instrument, and that is an idea that Kenney and his crew kept with them throughout their time working on the project, a span of about 15 months. “This was a complicated project,” Kenney says. “At one of the very first meetings we had, it was discussed that we would be building a violin; we would not just be building a box.” As a result, Kenney and his team approached the project with extraordinary planning, providing numerous unspecified mockups in advance. “As a team,” Kenney says, “we really worked hard at solving problems ahead of time, and all the planning we did paid off in a big way. We always strive to make sure the architect knows what they are getting ahead of time.”
Safdie Architects’ Franco explains that work on the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts spanned about 10 years. “It’s a performing arts center,” Franco says, “and those are always complicated buildings to work on. It is a very well-crafted and very well-executed building. It took a little longer than a normal project to build and design, but we are still very pleased with the results.” With a perfect instrument made from the perfect building material, his sentiment is perfectly clear.
Reprinted from: http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com...More
Wood flooring consumers are perpetually confused about wood floor maintenance, and there are so many different products available these days that even The Wall Street Journal is writing about them.
The new outlet explains how Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer mop pioneered the light and easy-to-work-with floor mop segment years ago, and that today the market is even more crowded.
The article also discusses the Motion and Curve mops from Bona US (Aurora, Colo.). One of Bona’s strategies in selling the mops is to get the products in the hands of “flooring contractors who can recommend and sell an ‘aftercare kit’ to consumers to maintain their floors,” the Journal’s Anne Marie Chaker wrote. “The company is betting many consumers care more about their hardwood floors than other flooring in the house, and are willing to devote an extra cleaning implement to them.”
Rubbermaid’s Reveal spray mop, like Bona’s mops, uses a washable microfiber pad, which contrasts with the Swiffer, which uses disposable pads that cost about $7.50 for a 12-count box. What’s more, the Reveal uses a re-fillable reservoir that lets consumers change the cleansing product they apply to their floors.
Libman Co. is taking a slightly different tack in offering the Freedom mop, which is designed for use between consumers’ deep cleanings. Like the Reveal, the Freedom offers consumers a choice of cleansers and uses a washable pad.
Reprinted from: http://hardwoodfloorsmag.com...More
I grew up working for my dad’s wood flooring business by the age of 8, had my own company from the time I was 19 until I was 30, went to work for a manufacturer after that and have been doing that ever since, teaching at a lot of NWFA schools and manufacturer schools in the process. Over those years I’ve seen a lot of mistakes wood flooring contractors make (and, yes, in my contracting days I made plenty of them myself). Here is my top 10 list of the most common mistakes I still see all the time:
1) Embarrassing Estimates
Your appearance is your first impression, and you’re going to make a bad one if you show up like you’ve been staining a floor for 18 days straight. Most contractors are one- or two-man bands, so a lot of times you are going straight from working on a job to doing an estimate. That’s fine, but put on a clean pair of pants and a clean shirt so you look presentable—like the type of guy people would feel comfortable having in their house. And, don’t smoke a carton of Pall Malls before you meet them.
2) Rushed Estimates
Most guys don’t allow enough time for an estimate; they just come in with a tape measure and say, “OK, you’ve got 250 feet; here’s your price.” Generally an hour is more than enough time to give an estimate in which you go over everything the job covers, like possible subfloor issues and moisture issues, and give a thorough explanation to the customer of what’s going to happen on their job and what they can expect from every step. Which way is the flooring going to run? What is the timeline? What is the schedule for the deposit and the payments after that? If it’s a resand, would they like a border or medallion installed or flush-mount vents? Especially in these times, you need to make the most you can out of every profit opportunity. I think that when I was contracting, 90 percent of the time I got the job because of my explanation during the estimate of what was going to happen.
3) Not Thinking about the Future
During the estimate, I also discussed realistic expectations for the floor and how often it will be recoated. What is the typical wear in the house? I once had a client complain about the finish not lasting in their house. When I got there one of their kids was riding a Big Wheel in the house, so I explained that the floor would probably have to be recoated every four months. Do they have a 130-pound dog? Sometimes a finish like wax or oil might be the best fit for that home.
It’s tempting to tell customers what they want to hear, like, “We can have this done in three days.” But what if something goes wrong? Always build in a time cushion in case things don’t go as planned. If it’s something you haven’t done in a while, add extra time to how long you think it will take. I had a job once where I had to take out ceramic tile. I hadn’t had to do that for 15 years and planned on it taking a day and a half … but it took twice that long. Don’t forget to leave an escape clause in your estimate in case you come across unforeseen conditions. On another job we thought we would have to demo a 1-inch concrete subfloor under slate to install our plywood subfloor. We ended up having to jackhammer out 4 inches of concrete and build up the subfloor those 4 inches. As the contractor, you shouldn’t have to eat that cost. One more thing: Never, ever say your wood floor will look like a piece of furniture.
5) Trying a New Product on a Big Job
This is a common downfall: You’ve never used that new finish, and the first time you try it is on a 2,000-square-foot job—never a 150-foot job, a practice floor or your friend’s floor. Also, you have a certain confidence when you’re using a tried and true product; with a new product you don’t look as capable. Of course, that is going to be when you find the customer watching you work. When you’re unsure of something, do not use it on a big job that will cause you some pain.
6) Not Knowing the True Cost of a Job
Many guys just charge what the going rate is in the market where they are selling, but if they don’t sit down and figure out their costs, they could be losing money on 90 percent of their jobs. And each job is different. On a factory-finish job, are you factoring in that you’ll be needing more saw blades because the blades dull down faster? Did you plan for 5 percent cutting allowance and figure that up to 5 percent of the product is allowed to be off-grade? Have you figured out how long it takes your average guy to install? How long will it take to drive to that job? Are you counting things as simple as trash bags? It can be the little things that kill us. What about counting your overhead like liability insurance and workers comp? Your vehicles? When it’s all said and done, most contractors would be surprised to realize what their true costs are for a job.
7) Thinking It’s Your Money
The reality is that a lot of wood flooring business owners feel every dollar that comes in is their money. But it isn’t until they’ve paid their suppliers, taxes, employees, and other expenses that it’s really their money. You can’t get paid, go buy a $60,000 truck and not pay your distributor. It takes a disciplined person to make sure all the expenses are paid out of his business. A lot of times it’s not a bad idea to hire an accountant to make sure all your financials are on the straight and narrow. Also, remember that Uncle Sam will come and find you if you don’t pay your quarterly taxes.
8) Not Maintaining Your Distributor Relationship
On a related topic, when you drag out paying your distributor, you put their business in jeopardy, and yours, too. Why? If you aren’t paying your bills, they can’t afford to turn inventory. Then when you need that gallon of finish or that paper, guess what? They aren’t going to have it. (See the article “Develop a Partnership with Your Distributor in Hard Times” from the April/May 2009 issue.)
9) Putting Your Head in the Sand When Problems Arise
As soon as you get a call from a customer with a problem, call them back. Say somebody calls and has a finish issue and you don’t call back for two weeks. Something you might have been able to deal with by doing a simple screen and recoat could now be a nightmare because you waited to call. When you don’t get back to people, they feel like you don’t care. When you do call, don’t make excuses or make up stories; you never have to worry about what you say when you tell the truth.
10) Not Listening to Your Gut
If you have a bad feeling about a job or a customer, trust your instincts. If you don’t, you’ll probably regret it.
Reprinted from NWFA
Wisteria Lane Flooring is a professional wood flooring manufacturer, reseller and installer. We provide quality, honest and reliable service to customers in California, Hawaii and around the world. We are also a proud member of the National Word Flooring Association. Please read what some of our current customers have to say about their experience with Wisteria Lane Flooring....More
I believe that trees are the answer to a lot of questions about our future. These include: How can we advance to a more sustainable economy based on renewable fuels and materials? How can we improve literacy and sanitation in developing countries while reversing deforestation and protecting wildlife at the same time? How can we pull carbon out of the atmosphere and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide in particular? How can we increase the amount of land that will support a greater diversity of species? How can we help prevent soil erosion and provide clean air and water? How can we make this world more beautiful and green? The answer is, by growing more trees and then using more wood, both as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels and materials such as steel, concrete and plastic, and as paper products for printing, packaging and sanitation. The forest industry stands accused of some very serious crimes against the environment. It is charged with the extinction of tens of thousands of species, the deforestation of vast areas of the Earth, and the total and irreversible destruction of the ecosystem. If I were one of the urban majority and thought the forest industry was causing the irreversible destruction of the environment, I wouldn’t care how many jobs it created or how many communities depended on it; I would be against it.
I have spent the last 15 years trying to understand the relationship between forestry and the environment, to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality. Since 1991, I have chaired the Sustainable Forestry Committee of the Forest Alliance of British Columbia. This has provided me with an ideal opportunity to explore all aspects of the subject. This article is the synthesis of what I have learned. But first, let me give you a little background.
I was born and raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, in the rainforest by the Pacific. I eventually attended the University of British Columbia studying life sciences. It was when I discovered ecology that I realized that through science I could gain an insight into the mystery of the rainforest I had known as a child. I became a born-again ecologist, and in the late 1960s, was soon transformed into a radical environmental activist. I found myself in a church basement in Vancouver with a like-minded group of people, planning a protest campaign against U.S. hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska. We proved that a somewhat ragtag looking group of activists could sail a leaky old halibut boat across the northern Pacific Ocean and change the course of history. By creating a focal point for opposition to the tests, we got on national TV news in Canada and the United States, building a ground swell of opposition to nuclear testing in both countries. When that bomb went off in November 1971, it was the last hydrogen bomb ever detonated on planet Earth. Even though there were four more tests planned in the series, President Nixon canceled them due to the public opposition. This was the birth of Greenpeace.
I spent 15 years on the front lines of the eco-movement as we evolved from that church basement into the world’s largest environmental activist organization, taking on French atmospheric nuclear testing in the South Pacific, Soviet factory whaling, baby seal slaughter, and the dumping of nuclear waste into the Atlantic Ocean. By the mid-1980s Greenpeace had grown into an organization with an income of more than $100 million per year, offices in 21 countries and more than 100 campaigns around the world, tackling toxic waste, acid rain, uranium mining and drift net fishing, as well as the original issues. We had won over a majority of the public in the industrialized democracies. Presidents and prime ministers were talking about the environment on a daily basis.
For me, it was time to make a change. I had been against at least three or four things every day of my life for 15 years; I decided I’d like to be in favor of something for a change. I made the transition from the politics of confrontation to the politics of building consensus.
All social movements evolve from an earlier period of polarization and confrontation during which a minority struggles to convince society that its cause it is true and just, eventually followed by a time of reconciliation if a majority of the population accepts the values of the new movement. For the environmental movement, this transition began to occur in the mid-1980s. The term sustainable development was adopted to describe the challenge of taking the new environmental values we had popularized and incorporating them into the traditional social and economic values. We cannot simply switch to basing all our actions on purely environmental values. Every day, 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy and materials. The challenge for sustainability is to provide for those needs in ways that reduce the negative impact on the environment. Compromise and cooperation, with the involvement of government, industry, academia and the environmental movement, is required to achieve sustainability. It is this effort to find consensus that has occupied my time for the past 15 years.
The Challenge of Sustainable Forestry
Coming from British Columbia, born into a third generation forest industry family, and educated in forestry and ecology, it made sense that I would focus on the challenge of defining sustainable forestry. After all, forests are by far the most important environment in British Columbia, and they are also by far the most important basis of economic wealth for families and communities there.
I soon discovered that trees are just large plants that have evolved the ability to grow long wooden stems. They didn’t do that so we could cut them up into lumber and grind them into pulp; they actually had only one purpose in mind, and that was to get their needles or leaves higher up above the other plants where the tree could then monopolize the sun’s energy for photosynthesis.
Forests are home to the majority of living species; not the oceans, nor the grasslands, nor the alpine areas, but ecosystems that are dominated by trees. There is a fairly simple reason for this. The living bodies of the trees create a new environment that would not be there in their absence. The canopy is home to millions of birds and insects, and beneath the canopy, the environment is protected from frost, sun and wind. This, in combination with the food provided by the trees, creates thousands of new habitats.
This gives rise to the obvious concern that if the trees are cut down, the habitats will be lost and the species that live in them will die. But, there is a reason why forestry seldom, if ever, causes species to become extinct. We tend to think that forests need our help to recover after destruction, whether by fire or logging. Of course, this is not the case. Forests have been recovering by themselves from fires, volcanoes, landslides, floods and ice ages ever since forests began more than 350 million years ago.
It follows from this that every species that lives in the forest must be capable of recolonizing areas of land that are recovering from destruction. In ecology, this is known as dispersal, the ability to move from where you are and to inhabit new territory as it becomes available. Dispersal is an absolute requirement for natural selection and the survival of species. No species could exist if it were not capable of dispersal. Therefore, so long as the land is left alone after the forest is destroyed, the forest will recover and all the species that were in it will return.
Fire has always been the main cause of forest destruction, or disturbance, as ecologists like to call it. But fire is natural, we are told, and does not destroy the forest ecosystem like logging, which is unnatural. Nature never comes with logging trucks and takes the trees away. All kinds of rhetoric is used to give the impression that logging is somehow fundamentally different from other forms of forest disturbance. There is no truth to this. Forests are just as capable of recovering from destruction by logging as they are from any other form of disturbance. All that is necessary for renewal is that the disturbance ends, that the fire goes out, that the volcano stops erupting, that the ice retreats, or that the loggers go back down the road and allow the forest to begin growing back, which it will begin to do almost immediately.
The Eye of the Beholder
We all have been taught since we were children that you should not judge a book by its cover—in other words that beauty is only skin deep. Yet, we are still easily tricked into thinking that if we like what we see with our eyes, it must be good, and if we don’t like what we see with our eyes, it must be bad. We tend to link our visual impression with our moral judgment of what is right and wrong.
“Deforestation” is a difficult subject for the forest industry because an area certainly looks deforested when all the trees are cut down. But cutting the trees down is not sufficient in itself to cause deforestation. What really matters is whether the forest is removed permanently, or is reforested with new trees. But the unsightly nature of a recently harvested forest, even if it is going to grow back eventually, can easily give the impression of environmental destruction.
On the other hand, a rural scene of farmlands and pasture looks pleasant to the eye and is neat and tidy compared with the jumble of woody debris in a clearcut. Yet, it is the farm and pasture land that truly represents deforestation. It has been cleared of forest long ago, and the forest has been permanently replaced by food crops and fodder. More important, if we stopped plowing the farmland for just 5 years in a row, seeds from the surrounding trees would blow in and the whole area would be blanketed in new tree seedlings. Within 80 years you would never know there had been a farm there. The entire area would be reforested again, just by leaving it alone. That’s because deforestation is not an event that just happens and then is over forever. Deforestation is actually an ongoing process of human interference. That’s why deforestation is seldom caused by forestry, the whole intention of which is to cause reforestation. Deforestation is nearly always caused by friendly farmers growing our food and by nice carpenters building our houses. Deforestation is not an evil plot, it is something we do on purpose in order to feed and house the 6-billion-and-growing human population.
How to Save the Forest
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against farming. We all have to eat. But it is interesting to note that the three things we can do to prevent further loss of the world’s forests have nothing to do with forestry. These three things are:
- Population management. The more people there are in this world, the more forest we must clear to feed and house them. This is a simple fact of arithmetic.
- Intensive agricultural production. Over the last 50 years in North America, due to advances in genetics, technology and pest control, we have learned to grow five times as much food on the same area of land. If we had not made these advances, we would either have to clear away five times as much forest, which is not available anyway or, more likely, we simply could not grow as much food.
- Urban densification. There is actually only one significant cause of continuing forest loss in the United States: 200 cities sprawling out over the landscape and permanently converting forest and farm to pavement. If we would design our cities for a higher density, more livable environment, we would not only save forests, we also would use less energy and materials.
Wood is Good
You would think that since forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries, and that wood is without a doubt the most renewable material used to build and maintain our civilization, that this would give wood a lot of green eco-points in the environmental movement’s ledger. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Greenpeace has gone before the United Nations Inter- Governmental Panel on Forests, calling on countries to reduce the amount of wood they use and to adopt “environmentally appropriate substitutes” instead. No list of substitutes is provided. The Sierra Club is calling for “zero cut” and an end to all commercial forestry on federal public lands in the United States. The Rainforest Action Network wants a 75 percent reduction in wood use in North America by the year 2015. I think it is fair to summarize this approach as “cut fewer trees, use less wood.” It is my firm belief, as a lifelong environmentalist and ecologist, that this is an anti-environmental policy. Putting aside, for a moment, the importance of forestry for our economy and communities; on purely environmental grounds the policy of “use less wood” is anti-environmental. In particular, it is logically inconsistent with, and diametrically opposed to, policies that would bring about positive results for both climate change and biodiversity conservation. I will explain my reasoning for this belief:
First, it is important to recognize that we do use a tremendous amount of wood. On a daily basis, on average, each of the 6 billion people on Earth uses 3.5 pounds or 1.6 kilos of wood every day, for a total of 3.5 billion tons per year. So, why don’t we just cut that in half and save vast areas of forest from harvesting? In order to demonstrate the superficial nature of this apparent logic, it is necessary to look at what we are doing with all this wood.
It comes as a surprise to many people that over half the wood used every year is not for building things but for burning as energy. More than 60 percent of all wood use is for energy, mainly for cooking and heating in the tropical developing countries where 2.5 billion people depend on wood as their primary source of energy. They cannot afford substitutes because most of them make less than $1,000 per year. But, even if they could afford substitute fuels, they would nearly always have to turn to coal, oil or natural gas; in other words, non-renewable fossil fuels. How are we going to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions from excessive use of fossil fuels under the Climate Change Convention if 2.5 billion people switch from a renewable wood energy to non-renewable fossil fuels? Even in cases where fuelwood supplies are not sustainable at present levels of consumption, the answer is not to use less wood and switch to non-renewables. The answer is to grow more trees.
About 20 percent of the wood used in the world is for building things such as houses and furniture. Every available substitute is non-renewable and requires a great deal more energy consumption to produce. That is because wood is produced in a factory called the forest by renewable solar energy. Wood is essentially the material embodiment of solar energy. Non-renewable building materials such as steel, cement and plastic must be produced in real factories such as steel mills, cement works and oil refineries. This usually requires large inputs of fossil fuels, which inevitably results in high carbon dioxide emissions. So, for 70 percent of the wood used each year for energy and building, switching to substitutes nearly always results in increased carbon dioxide emissions, contrary to climate change policy.
Twenty percent of the wood harvested is used to manufacture pulp and paper, mainly for printing, packaging, and sanitary purposes. Half of this wood is derived from the wastes from the sawmills that produce the solid wood products for building. Most of the remaining supply is from tree plantations, many of which are established on land that previously was cleared for agriculture. So, even if we did stop using wood to make pulp and paper, it would not have the effect of “saving” many forests.
Saving the Trees Through Wood Use
It is therefore clear to me that the policy of “use less wood” is anti-environmental because it would result in increased carbon dioxide emissions and a reduction in forested land. I believe the correct policy is a positive rather a negative one. From an environmental perspective, the correct policy is “grow more trees, and use more wood.” This can be accomplished in a number of ways.
First, it is important to place some of the world’s forest into permanently protected parks and wilderness reserves where no industrial development occurs. The World Wildlife Fund recommends that 10 percent of the world’s forests should be set aside for this purpose. Perhaps it should even be 15 percent. Then the question becomes how we should manage the remaining 85 to 90 percent of the forest. I believe we should manage it more intensively for higher timber production, keeping in mind the needs of other species in the landscape. Through the better management of our existing forests, we could dramatically increase the world’s supply of wood. In addition, we should expand the geographic extent of our forests, largely by reforesting areas of land that previously were cleared for agriculture. In particular, huge areas of forest have been cleared for domestic animal production. A modest reduction in meat consumption would open up large areas of land for reforestation. This would be good for our health as well as for the health of the environment.
In tropical developing countries, there is a pressing need for sustainable fuelwood plantations, as well as for forest plantations to provide timber. We should direct more of our international aid programs toward this end. Relatively modest changes in fiscal and taxation policy could bring about a doubling of global wood supply within 40 years. All that is required is the political will to put these policies in place. The general public and our political leaders, however, have been confused by the misguided approach towards forestry taken by much of the environmental movement. So long as people think it is inherently wrong to cut down trees, we will continue to behave in a logically inconsistent and dysfunctional manner.
I believe that trees are the answer to many questions about our future on this earth. These include:
- How can we advance to a more sustainable economy based on renewable fuels and materials?
- How can we improve literacy and sanitation in developing countries while reversing deforestation and protecting wildlife?
- How can we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide in particular?
- How can we increase the amount of land that will support a greater diversity of species?
- How can we help prevent soil erosion and provide clean air and water? How can we make this world more beautiful and green?
The answer is, by growing more trees and using more wood both as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels and materials such as steel, concrete and plastic, and as paper products for printing, packaging and sanitation.
By far the most powerful tool at our disposal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption is the growing of trees and the use of wood. Most environmentalists recognize the positive benefits of growing trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But, then they say, “Don’t cut them down, or you will undo the good that’s been done.” This would be true if you simply piled the trees in a heap and lit them on fire. If, however, the wood is used as a substitute for fossil fuels and for building materials that require fossil fuel consumption, we can dramatically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions. For example, consider a large coal-burning power plant. If we grow trees and use the wood as a substitute for the coal, we are able to offset nearly 100 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions from the power plant. That is because sustainable use of wood results in a zero net release of carbon dioxide, whereas coal combustion counts for the full 100 percent. If environmentalists recognized this fact, it would inevitably lead them to believe that the answer is in growing more trees and using more wood rather than in reducing our use of this most renewable resource.
A Final Example
To conclude, let me take you back to the rainforest of the West Coast of North America. About 300 feet from my house in downtown Vancouver is Pacific Spirit Park, 2,000 acres of beautiful native forest, right in the heart of the city. It is not a botanical garden where people come and prune the bushes and plant tulip bulbs, it is the real thing, a wild West Coast rainforest full of Douglas fir, western red cedar, hemlock, maple, alder and cherry. But people who come by the hundreds each day to walk on the many trails in Pacific Spirit Park would find it hard to believe that all 2,000 acres were completely clearcut logged around the turn of the century to feed the sawmills that helped build Vancouver.
The loggers who clearcut Pacific Spirit Park with double-bitted axes and crosscut saws didn’t know the words ecology or biodiversity any more than my grandfather did on the north end of Vancouver Island. They just cut the timber and moved on to cut more somewhere else. Nothing was done to help restore the land, but it was left alone. It became part of the University of British Columbia Endowment Lands, and it was not developed into housing like the rest of Vancouver. It all grew back into a beautiful new forest and in 1989 was declared a regional park.
In Pacific Spirit Park, there are Douglas firs more than 4 feet in diameter and more than 120 feet tall. All of the beauty has returned to Pacific Spirit Park. The fertility has returned to the soil. And the biodiversity has recovered— the mosses, ferns, fungi, liverworts, and all the other small things that are part of a natural forest. There are pileated woodpeckers, barred owls, ravens, hawks, eagles, coyotes and a colony of great blue herons nesting in the second-growth cedar trees. It is a forest reborn from what is routinely described in the media as the “total and irreversible destruction of the environment.” I don’t buy that. I believe that if forests can recover by themselves from total and complete destruction, we can—with our growing knowledge of forest science in silviculture, biodiversity conservation, soils and genetics— ensure that the forests of this world continue to provide an abundant, and hopefully growing, supply of renewable wood to help build and maintain our civilization, while at the same time providing an abundant, and hopefully growing, supply of habitat for the thousands of other species that depend on the forest for their survival every day. The fact is, a world without forests is as unthinkable as a day without wood. And it’s time that politicians, environmentalists, foresters, teachers, journalists and the general public got that balance right. We must get it right if we are going to achieve sustainability in the 21st century.
Reprinted from Hardwood Floors Magazine...More
In the strange wood floor news department…
Now THAT’s Water Damage: Wood Floors for Alligators We all know that hardwood floors can be a great option for people with pets since the pet hair and the associated allergens don’t cling to the hard surface like they would to carpeting. But what about hardwood floors for pets that aren’t the cute and fuzzy kind?
For one pet owner, a house with hardwood floors turned out to be the ideal spot for his 11 pet alligators, reports The Pocono Record. John Boyko gained notoriety when The New York Times reported on his plight to try to keep his pet alligators after they were confiscated from his Connecticut home, and he has since been included in a BBC documentary called “Americans and Their Pets.” In 2005 he bought the Prince Township, Pa., house specifically to house the alligators—Pennsylvania doesn’t require a permit to keep the reptiles—and visits them once a week to feed them, the Record reports.
“Inside, all the carpeting has been ripped out, leaving bare hardwood floors. Instead of a sofa there are several large, black plastic ‘ponds’ for the alligators to soak in,” reports the Record. Click on the Record’s slideshow within the article for some images of the alligators and their wood floors that will make any wood flooring professional cringe.
Reprinted from The Pocono Record...More