I’ve been on the road for most of the month of April having most recently attended the NWFA Expo in Orlando. Without a doubt this was the best show NWFA has put on in recent memory. Congratulations to Michael Martin for infusing a sense of momentum and excitement back into the association.
As for the show and any visible trends, the most obvious push is still towards low-VOC hardwax oil finishes. It seemed every manufacturer was displaying at least one line of product that utilized these new finishes. In addition many of the finish companies were touting their new line of cleaning products specially formulated to maintain these new surface treatments.
European white oak in wide widths, a trend we spotted at Surfaces, also continues to grow in popularity particularly in grey tones with low sheens. All in all, nothing strikingly new in terms of product trends, however the major trend noticed and one we hope continues is good attendance at this show and a sense of excitement among attendees and exhibitors.
From freshome.com, these 5″ larch floors grace an apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden. Larch trees are native to the boreal forests of Russia and Canada. Although they are conifers, they are also deciduous and like the bald cypress lose their needles each season. Larch is generally similar in appearance to southern heart pine but is usually distinguishable by the small size of knots visible in the lumber.
5" Larch wood floors are used extensively in Swedish interiors.
These 3 1/4″ white oak floors are 75 years old. I sometimes find it interesting how the wood flooring industry has moved towards hand-scraped products to simulate an aged look. Time-worn, hand-sculpted, hand-scraped, aged, hand-hewn and the list goes on and on. But lets be honest, the majority of the scraping we do to wood floors does not mimic what a truly old floor looks like. It’s does add a texture to the floor, but if we really wanted to make wood floors that look truly aged, they would look like this.
These floors grace the dining room at Cafe 37 in West Plains, MO. These floors have been around for a while and they are still looking good.
Question I get often from homeowners: "will my floor scratch?" Answer: Yes, and that is when they really start looking great.
75 years of patina have left these floors looking great. Experience is not what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you.
One of the many things I love about my job is the variety of things I get to do. I spend most of my day in front of a computer working on wood floor design, marketing and sales tools for the products we manufacture. But on occasion I spend time in the Ozark hills, twenty minutes east of the middle of nowhere, watching the natural beginnings of our production process at little “mom and pop” sawmills. These small operations dot the countryside and provide a living to countless families. In this post, I’ll take you inside one of those small operations and give you a glimpse of the meticulous detail that goes into cutting walnut lumber to be used in wood flooring.
Above left: Select & Better grade walnut engineered flooring exhibits consistent color tone and a very limited amount of knots and other character marks. Above right: Character grade walnut engineered flooring includes color variation from dark brown to light creamy white, knots, peck (peck is named for the marks caused by woodpeckers), pith (the black streak formed at the heart of a log) and other natural characteristics of the lumber.
This week’s hardwood floor of the week showcased a natural grade walnut floor. In that post I included a picture of some freshly cut walnut logs to show the creamy white sapwood of the tree just below the bark. To give you an even better idea of some of the process that takes place from forest to floor I shot a few short videos to share. In this first video, you’ll see a small band-saw mill cutting into a large walnut log. At the outset you can see the creamy white sap layer in the log and a swatch of the dark brown heartwood peeking through. The saw cuts an 8/4 (referred to as eight-quarter, which essentially means 8 – 1/4″ measurements and is roughly 2″ thick) board and then slides it off onto the sled. It is then moved to the edger where the mechanic is looking at each individual board and carefully trying trim in such a way as to optimize the amount of dark heartwood gleaned from each cutting. This is painstakingly slow work but it does ensure good color selection. This video will help you understand why we have to work with 25 different little sawmills to come up with enough lumber for our production.
In this second video you’ll see the guys examining a board after it has been run through the edger. They are looking for color and defects and then sorting the boards into different grades of material to make different products.
Those different grades of lumber go into production to get different types of flooring products. For example, below is a 7″ engineered walnut floor that was produced from walnut lumber that had a mix of all different grades of lumber. So you see it has some dark brown, clean consistent boards along with some boards with color variation in the individual plank, knots and other natural characteristics.
The floor seen below was made from all consistently dark, clean walnut lumber that exhibits very little character markings or variation. Both floors provide breathtaking visuals in each setting.
These select grade walnut floors from a freshome.com post steals the show in this setting. Wide and long planks show all the true character of the timber and provide a striking visual to this interior.
No other American hardwood species is as revered as Black Walnut. High end furniture, architectural millwork, gun stocks and paneling are all markets smitten with the beauty of America’s naturally dark hardwood. In fact, walnut lumber often costs 3-4 times as much as red oak lumber. It is not unheard of to have logs fresh cut from the forest selling for over $4000. Most people are familiar with the dark brown heartwood of the walnut tree, but fewer people realize that walnut actually has a sap ring that is creamy white that forms a layer just under the bark.
Here is a batch of walnut logs we recently purchased to process into wood flooring. As you can see in the picture, the creamy white sap ring is visible just beneath the bark.
This white sap mixed in with the brown heartwood makes for a great wood floor with incredible natural variation in color and character. The above logs were turned into the wood flooring below. As you can see, in this particular product, we leave a mix of the white and brown for a truly unique wood floor.
This incredible herringbone floor was produced from reclaimed European oak taken from the wine industry (barrels, racking systems, etc). The veneers were sawn and then glued to Baltic birch plywood to create this engineered wood floor.
Reclaimed European oak wood flooring in a herringbone pattern by Fontenay.
The product has what I’d call purposeful imperfection built into the design. The thickness is random gauge meaning there are slight height differences between planks. I’m sure you’re asking why would anyone purposefully mill a wood floor with varied tolerances and the answer is authenticity. If you’ve ever seen a true 100-year-old floor this height variance is usually visible.
The planks were hand-honed and then finished with hand rubbed oil. No stain or coloring was used, this is the natural patina. For information on the product contact Rick Merwin at Fontenay.
I'm Sam Cobb. I currently serve as Managing Partner/CEO of Real Wood Floors.
I started this blog to open a discussion of emerging trends in the wood flooring industry. We've compiled a great list of contributors each bringing a unique perspective to the discussion providing you real-time info on current style trajectory.