Archive | January, 2012

The Wood Story. Who Can Resist?

Today’s wood story starts with the fact that, contrary to popular belief, wood is quite affordable.  Modern, efficient manufacturing techniques mean wood floor décor can become part of a home at any time, no longer optimally at the time the home is built.  Wood flooring says, “This home is built of quality.”  No other flooring type actually INCREASES in value over time and for a variety of reasons:  The popularity of design with wood continues to grow as people discover its timeless allure.  Wood lasts and lasts and lasts, and it also develops its own character in its home.  Like your best pearls or silverware, quality wood flooring takes on a patina that is unique to its environment –your home.

As important as that is, let’s look at wood flooring from the viewpoint of a designer or decorator.  From both the material itself and its “look” (color, grain and texture) to the ability to create grand works of art for the floor in the hands of a talented designer and trained installation craftsman, wood is the most versatile floor covering there is.  Professional designers will tell you that wood is a material superior to manufactured substances installed over plywood, in terms of its innate, natural beauty and prestige, of course, and for practical considerations, too, such as ease of installation and maintenance and durability, and the ability of a wood floor to “give” a bit, making it easy on your feet when you walk on it.

Not only can you select from any variety of wood flooring options to complement or set the stage for your décor, you actually can change the entire look dramatically and inexpensively over time with custom refinishing by a certified master, the simple addition of a bit of contrasting or coordinating wood flooring here and there, or by installing, rather easily by a professional, insets and pre-assembled medallions of almost any size.

If you think you know wood flooring, unless you are “in the business,” chances are you aren’t familiar with how far wood flooring has come in recent years.  They’re definitely not your grandmother’s wood floors.  Today there are more styles, colors, species, formats and finishes available to everyone, many of them carrying exotic names you’ve never heard of arriving all the time from far-flung corners of the world.  You can be assured that truly reliable brands take pains to ensure that not only is every piece of precious natural resource material used wisely in the manufacture of their products but that the process of good stewardship begins in the forest, well before wood for your flooring is harvested, or as creative businessmen and women reclaim some of the world’s loveliest and most “experienced” wood from buildings and even the bottom of lakes and rivers where they may have lain for 200 years or more.  Speaking of the environment, because wood is a hard surface, today’s generation of wood flooring is easier than ever to keep clean, and by its structure and nature, it won’t harbor dust or allergens.

With the world marketplace constantly supplying new species in more styles and colors than ever, yours can be a floor that begins its journey in any part of the word and brings to your home four priceless qualities.

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The Environmental Story

Your ‘greenest’ flooring choice.  For stylish flooring, you can’t get much more environmentally friendly than wood.  That’s a bold statement, but true.  The environmentally responsible story applies not only to solid wood flooring, but also to engineered formats.

Harvesting

Let’s start with the fact that the wood in your floor is completely renewable.  Better yet, at least as much wood can be grown as is harvested.  In fact, for every 100 trees harvested for wood flooring, 166 are planted.  Because of responsible forestry practices, the number of trees standing in North America today exceeds that of the 1950s, and standing hardwood alone has increased by about 90 percent to nearly 328 billion cubic feet.  Want more?  Research by the Consortium for Research on renewable Industrial Materials declares that solid wood flooring has less environmental impact than other flooring options it studied.  Not only are most professionally managed forests in North America responsibly harvested, a growing number worldwide are, as well.  Because only a specified percentage of trees are removed, the ecosystem remains intact.

Manufacturing

From a manufacturing perspective as well, wood flooring is quite “green.”  Hardwood flooring uses less water and energy in manufacturing than other flooring alternatives.  Solid wood flooring has no emissions of methane, nitrogen oxide or other offensive particulate gases, has minimal carbon dioxide emissions and, because wood produces oxygen during its lifetime, it is de facto carbon neutral.  Engineered wood floors consisting of multiple plies of wood with the fashion species on top actually get more productivity from the tree and help precious wood species go farther.  Dimensionally stable core plies form the foundation of an engineered wood floor.  Various thicknesses of the top fashion layer are used; this provides the look and performance of an exotic species, for example, yet each board foot of wood goes a lot further than planks of the solid variety (As a bonus, the stability and strength of engineered wood flooring mean the wood look you crave can be installed in more places in the home, such as more moisture-prone rooms below grade.)

Your home’s Ecosystem

From the standpoint of living with wood floors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that indoor air quality is better in buildings with wood floors.  Furthermore, wood floors won’t provide hiding places for allergens like pollen, animal dander, mold, mildew, bacteria or other airborne allergens.

Complete eco-cycle

Finally, with regard to replacement value, wood is hard to beat.  Hardwood flooring can last hundreds of years, versus other categories which can last up to two decades or more, but which tend to lose their fashion-ability in about seven years.  And at the seeming end of its useful life, usually when a building is obsolete, wood flooring often can be reclaimed and re-used over and over.  When the final day comes, maybe in 200 years or more, surviving wood floors can be used for combustible bio-fuel, or, to complete the cycle, returned to soil nutrients via composting.

With wood flooring there’s no reason you can’t have it all – timeless, tasteful and tempting floor fashion plus the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing the right thing for your environment.

NWFA Verified Renewing Forest Seal

…means the wood flooring you select is from a managed forest that is fully sustainable and renewable as designated by the US Department of Agriculture.

NWFA Verified Legal Seal

…means that your wood flooring is harvested legally according to the laws of the country of origin, and is imported into the United States in compliance with the U.S. Lacey Act.

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Wood for Life

What does that really mean?  Certainly, for thousands of years wood floors have provided unique and timeless beauty for homes, public buildings and businesses.  In fact, good wood flooring, properly installed and cared for, will last indefinitely.  There are countless examples of that all over the world.

Just as important, wood is proven to enhance not only the beauty but also the value of your home.  The mere presence of a basic wood floor makes it a permanent architectural addition to your home, one that can easily be maintained, even refinished with a new look over and over, using the same floor.  Partially for that reason but mostly because of the allure of wood, wood flooring maintains its value, even as it develops its own character over time.  However, when you take the extra step to incorporate the design possibilities of wood, the immediate value of both your home’s beauty and its net worth go up exponentially.  Real estate agents agree 9 to 1 that homes with wood flooring sell faster and for higher prices.

Wood for life is also wood for lifestyle.  Wood floors last many lifetimes, but in the here-and-now they are easier to care for than ever, helping you to keep a healthy home.

Plus, because wood flooring is derived from a living, replenishable resource – trees of varied grains, colors and other characteristics, such as hardness – wood encourages you to bring the outdoors in, which is a very current and continuing trend in modern interior design.  That’s living a green, ecologically responsible lifestyle.

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Designing with Wood

Designers select each element in their plan as a striking contrast or subtle complement within a complete design scheme.  They consider function, dimension, flow and the integration of elements within and across living spaces.

If you could ask a designer for the one best piece of advice on interior design, one that would apply to wood floor décor, this is the answer you would receive: “Start your design with the floor, and pay attention to detail.” (Details like … species, color, cut, texture, format and size, plus those specialties like borders, trim, transitions, grilles and grates.)

Wood flooring is one of a designer’s first choices because it establishes primary, broad design strokes, much like the critical outline of a work of art.  Part of that decision includes species and color, of course, size and format, sheen, stain or paint.  Your floor is one of the largest spaces to work with, and it represents a large part of your budget.  (Remember, wood flooring is an investment, not merely an expenditure, which makes your decision all the more important!)

By selecting your wood floor first, you have established two things at once: a color and texture palette from which your design and all future deigns will spring and a foundation on which to build your creation!  Let your imagination run free.  Whatever you can imagine can be achieved in wood.

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Wood Finishes

In selecting your perfect wood floor product, your last choice mostly likely will be the finish.  A floor’s finish, whether applied at the factory or in your home during installation, has two “jobs.”  The first is to protect the beauty of the floor beneath.  Today’s finishes are supremely tough, some embedded with materials almost as tough as diamonds.  The second is to enhance the look of the floor according to your taste.  Will it have a matte or flat finish, a bit of a gloss or a bright shine?

Finishes most commonly are durable, water-resistant urethanes requiring minimal care.  Water based urethanes tend to deliver clearer finishes bringing out or enhancing natural variations of hardwood.  They’re normally applied in thinner coats than oil-based materials.  Oil-based urethanes have slower drying times but typically yield harder finishes than water-based urethanes.  Normally applied thicker than water-based urethanes, the oil-based types deliver a slightly “softer” appearance and can lessen the contrast of hardwood’s natural variations.

Types of Surface Finishes

Oil modified urethane: a solvent based polyurethane, is easy to apply and dries in about eight hours leaving a bit of amber cast. Available in gloss, semi gloss, satin and flat.

Moisture cured urethanes: also solvent-base polyurethanes are more durable and more moisture-resistant than most surface finishes, and are available in non-yellowing and non-ambering types, in satin or gloss finishes.

Water-based urethane finishes: are clear and non-yellowing, from flat to high gloss. They have a milder odor and dry in about three to four hours.

Conversion varnish: a durable resin-based coating is a favorite for kitchen and bath environments. It dries clear to slightly amber. These finishes have a strong odor and should be applied by highly skilled flooring professional, especially when recoating.

Penetrating stains and waxes: literally soak into wood pores, hardening to form a protective seal. Low-gloss, satin sheen. Maintenance is generally by solvent based (never water-based) waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids specifically made for wax-finished wood floors, plus additional thin applications of wax as needed.

Oil finishes: essentially derived from vegetable oils (linseed, tung trees, and soybeans, exc.) dry medium hard, wear well and are moderately abrasion resistant. Various gloss levels.

Varnishes: today are a blend of oil and resins achieving good wood penetration for adhesion and water resistance. Very slow to dry-often many days. Deliver rich patina to wood.

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Sunshine Hardwood Flooring is a wood flooring contractor in Ada County that specializes in hardwood floor installation, dustless hardwood floor refinishing, custom wood floor makeovers and historically accurate repairs for older homes.