Wood Cuts: The importance of defining wood flooring - May 2019

By Michael Martin

Since announcing the NWFA’s new consumer campaign a few months ago, which included the NWFA’s official definition for real wood floors, there has been a flurry of feedback, both positive and negative.

Most industry professionals recognize that there is significant confusion in the flooring market today about what is and is not a real wood floor. There are many products available to consumers that look like wood but don’t include any wood in them at all. In some cases, the product is literally a photograph of wood with a protective plastic coating. Sure, it may look like wood, but it is not wood. It will not perform like wood; it is not environmentally sustainable like wood; it will not last hundreds of years like wood; and it will not increase the value of a home like wood.

WOOD FLOORING DEFINED: THE PROCESS
This confusion in the market was the primary reason NWFA’s board of directors felt the need to take a stand and formalize the industry definition of wood flooring. The definition covers three categories: solid wood flooring, engineered wood flooring and composite engineered wood flooring.

While most everyone who has an industry background understands and accepts the definitions for solid and engineered products, we have received some questions about the inclusion of composite engineered products. There are wood purists who argue that any flooring product that contains anything but wood should not be included in the definition. We certainly considered and discussed that, at length, when formalizing the definition.

We had very technical discussions about wearlayers and sandability, and everyone agreed that if a floor could not be sanded, it was not wood until one of the contractors on our definition committee said, “We can all agree that a solid wood floor is a real wood floor and that it can be sanded numerous times during its service life, but when it can no longer be sanded, does it cease being a wood floor?”

That stopped us in our tracks.

Just because a wood floor cannot be sanded does not mean it is not made using wood. It is still wood, physically, biologically and chemically. So ultimately, we refocused our efforts to address the main obstacle, which was identifying products that included no wood at all. These are the products that are absorbing marketshare from those made using real wood.

Inclusion of the composite engineered definition does not mean the NWFA is supporting and encouraging the use of lesser-quality materials, as some have implied. This is not the case at all. We feel that it is the retail sales associate’s job-or sometimes the installer’s-to sell the right product for the right environment. We are simply addressing what is currently available for consumers to choose from. Ignoring that these products exist will not make them go away. At the end of the day, there needs to be a definition built from the consumer’s point of view, which is not necessarily the same as that of a flooring professional who has an opinion of quality. When a consumer looks at a floor, he or she has no idea what material is underneath, but if the top wearlayer is wood, it’s the NWFA’s job to define, not promote, the type of wood flooring material that is available for the consumer to purchase. This brings us back to NWFA’s consumer campaign.

WOOD FLOORING DEFINED: WHY WOOD?
No matter which type of wood flooring a consumer decides to buy, wood has a good story to tell. It is beautiful; it is durable; it is easy to clean; it is environmentally sustainable; and it adds value to the home. Let’s tackle each of these individually.

Wood flooring is beautiful. Wood is a product of nature, and no two pieces will look alike, even if they come from the same tree. Non-wood products simply can’t duplicate the natural characteristics of wood. Repeat grain patterns are inevitable with wood lookalikes, and while real wood products will change and patina with age, non-wood products will simply fade and wear out.

Wood flooring is durable. Wood is one of the oldest building materials known to man. There are castles in Europe that are more than 300 years old with original wood floors that are still in use today. Advances in finishes have made modern wood floors even more durable. No, they are not scratch-proof or dent-proof and definitely not waterproof, but they are able to stand up to generations of use.

Wood flooring is easy to clean. Routine maintenance with wood floors is straightforward. Daily sweeping with a broom or a dust mop will remove surface dirt and debris. Vacuuming on a weekly basis on the bare floor setting will remove contaminants from between floor boards or along baseboards. And using a recommended cleaner with a microfiber mop every month will provide a deep clean. Over a period of years, wood floors can be refreshed with a maintenance coat or can be sanded and refinished as well.

Wood flooring is environmentally sustainable. Wood is the only flooring material that can be replaced. That is because trees can be replanted and regrown to replace those that are harvested. In the United States, more than two trees are planted for every one that is harvested. And because wood floors can last for hundreds of years, the trees that are planted today won’t be needed for many decades.

Wood flooring adds value to the home. Wood is the only flooring material identified by both consumers and real estate agents as adding to the overall value of a home. In addition, wood also offers long-term value because it can last for multiple generations. When other flooring options wear out or look outdated, they must be replaced. Wood can adapt to numerous décor changes during its service life.

WOOD FLOORING DEFINED: THE RESOURCES
The NWFA’s Consumer Marketing Campaign gives the industry the tools they need to take the positive message about wood into the marketplace with social media posts, print materials, trade and home show signage, print and digital ads, and more. The materials are free and are located at https://www.nwfa.org/consumer-outreach.aspx.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus