Flooring Forensics: Getting to the core - May 2018
By Lew Migliore
Hardwood is one of the oldest flooring surfaces on Earth. It has been used for hundreds of years and is the most natural of flooring materials, other than dirt or stone. Today, there’s flooring that looks like hardwood but isn’t, and it doesn’t perform like hardwood or carry any of its inherent and natural attributes or characteristics. Let’s not fool ourselves or anyone else into thinking any flooring that looks like wood is, in fact, wood; it isn’t. Just like pleather’s not leather. Real wood flooring has proven its strength in the commercial environment for years.
One thing to remember and understand is that hardwood flooring is still a tree, though in a different form. It is imperative that it be installed in a controlled environment. Hardwood will expand, contract, split, chip, dent, discolor and be affected by flooding-though not spills. If it’s the right product in the right place, it will withstand almost anything it’s exposed to.
A CASE FOR HARDWOOD
Use of hardwood in a commercial application requires the expertise of a commercial flooring contractor that understands the product. Hardwood is not a product suited for every commercial environment. To achieve an installation that performs long-term, a contractor must know the type of wood to use, the hardness, the performance characteristics for the particular application, and how it is expected to perform. Next, it has to be installed correctly and, again, by installers who understand each type of wood and how to work with them. Some of the most beautiful floors you’ll ever see are those installed by expert wood artisans who create works of art.
In business, you have to ask yourself two questions-“What business am I in?” and “Who is my customer?”-which I learned from the torturous reading of the book (that I couldn’t finish, by the way), Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices by Peter F. Drucker. The implication of those questions for real hardwood is that it is not for everyone or every space but for those who understand, appreciate and want a quality floor. A quality hardwood floor is not cheap, but it can be sanded and refinished many times and will last longer than any lookalike product or veneered imitation.
Another important fact is that nothing is as natural a flooring material as hardwood. Nothing. It is the epitome of green; it doesn’t have to do anything but be natural to qualify for that distinction. We have plenty of trees from which to make wood flooring, and we can plant more. If you have to remove a hard-working commercial hardwood flooring, you don’t have to be concerned about how to recycle it, because that characteristic is inherent in the product. Wood is also a natural sound mitigator, warm and comfortable.
Real wood can also be enhanced to perform beyond its inherent performance characteristics. By impregnating it with acrylic-a process utilized by both Nydree and Armstrong-the ability to resist scratches, dents, gouges and other appearance and performance compromising conditions for commercial application is expanded.
NOTHING IS WOOD BUT WOOD
Let me give you an example of how good real wood flooring is. Several years ago, I had a case where a very large lodge in upstate New York got flooded. The wood warped, and mold was growing on the back of it. The insurance claim was over $250,000, and it was thought to be a complete loss. Once evaluated, we determined the wood could be taken up, sent back to the mill and planed on both sides to take out the warping and remove the surface mold. This was done, and the same material was reinstalled. You couldn’t do that with any other flooring. I’ve personally experienced three flooding events in my house with both solid hardwood and engineered wood flooring and never had to replace one board of either.
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