Today, green initiatives are on the agendas of many corporations and
governmental agencies, and global warming, it seems, is on the tip of
everyone's tongue. Still, it is hotly debated as to whether the concept
of sustainability has reached a "tipping point" in the public
consciousness. For some audiences, such as interior designers, the
answer is that sustainability can't be ignored. The push from consumers
for environmentally friendly products means interior designers must be
savvy about the choices they make when specifying the green materials
they use. This CEU will explore the environmental impact of one
material—wood—as it relates to flooring design choices.
WOOD: A RENEWABLE RESOURCE
The basis for understanding wood flooring choices is grounded in the
cycle of tree growth. While it may seem like cutting down trees destroys
forests and wreaks havoc on the environment, the reverse is actually
true. Professionally managed hardwood forests in the United States and
Canada are sustainably harvested, meaning that only a certain percentage
of trees are removed annually, leaving the overall forest ecosystem
Statistics show that the number of trees in
existence today far exceeds those in the 1950s. In fact, the U.S.
Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, states that
there were 98 percent more trees in 2002 than 1953. For every tree
harvested in the United States, six more are planted in its place-and
while it may take 40 to 50 years for those new trees to mature, wood
from those trees won't be needed for another 50 to 100 years.
U.S. Forest Service data (2008) expands on
these figures. For hardwoods in the Eastern United States, the average
annual net growth was greater than average annual removals. In fact, the
growth to removal ratio was calculated to be 1.66—indicating that wood
volume is being added to inventory each year. Today's total standing
volume of hardwoods is estimated to be 328 billion cubic feet.
A study by the National Association of Home
Builders (NAHB) ranked the longevity of materials in homes. Wood floors
were rated at more than 100 years, further legitimizing the notion that
trees planted today will mature by 2057, but won't be needed until
2107. And during that time, trees contribute oxygen to the atmosphere
while consuming carbon dioxide-a significant environmental plus.
According to a 2006 American Society of
Interior Designers (ASID) member survey conducted by National Wood
Flooring Association (NWFA), most interior designers consider wood
floors to be environmentally friendly—a notion that has been recognized
by key sustainability advocates and initiatives such as the U.S. Green
Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®)
program; the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines; and the Green
Building Initiative (GBI), which works to accelerate the adoption of
building practices that result in energy efficient, healthier, and
environmentally sustainable residential and commercial construction.
BEAUTIFUL AND COST EFFCTIVE
Strong, durable, and beautiful, wood floors are available in a wide variety of styles, species and colors.
OPTIONS IN WOOD FLOORING
Solid Wood Flooring—"Solid wood" flooring is made from a single piece of wood and comes in three basic types:
Strip flooring, which
accounts for the majority of installations. Strips are usually are 2-1/4
inches wide, but also come in widths ranging from 1-1/2 inches to up to
Plank flooring, which involves boards that are more than 3 inches wide.
Parquet flooring, conducive
to dramatic geometric effects, comes in standard patterns of 4-inch by
4-inch blocks, with specialty patterns ranging up to 36-inch square
The thickness of solid wood flooring can
vary, but generally ranges from ¾ inch to 15/16 inch. One of the many
benefits of solid wood flooring is that it can be sanded and refinished
Engineered Wood Floors—are real wood floors that are
manufactured using three to five layers of different wood veneers. The
sub layers can be of the same species, or of different species. The
grain of each layer runs in opposite directions, which makes it very
stable. This means that the wood will expand and contract less than
solid wood flooring during fluctuations in humidity and temperature.
Engineered floors can be sanded and refinished, but not as many times as
solid wood flooring.
Above: This custom parquet floor
features solid maple with ebonized accent squares. The floor was
finished on-site using a
tung-oil surface finish. (larger image)
Below: American white oak, reclaimed and hand-crafted
from old wine barrels, was installed on-site in random-width planks,
using a water-based surface finish. (larger image)
Surface finishes are durable, water-resistant and require
minimal maintenance. Surface finishes are blends of synthetic resins.
These finishes most often are referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes,
and remain on the surface of the wood to form a protective coating.
The types of surface finishes available
include: water-based, oil-based, conversion varnish, moisture-cured,
acid-cured, and wax. An acrylic impregnated finish is another type of
finish that is injected into the wood to create a super hard, extremely
durable floor and is primarily used in commercial applications.
Hardwood floors can be finished on-site or
prefinished in a factory. Many designers prefer the rich, consistent
look of flooring finished on-site, but it requires on-site sanding,
proper cleaning, multiple coats of finish, and can tie up a work site
for several days. The alternative is a factory-applied finish which
typically involves at least four coats of ultraviolet-cured urethane
resin applied under strict controls at the factory—a process that may
add consistency and durability. Installation is "straight out of the
box," which can make the job easier and faster.
THE LEARNING CURVE
Designers and their clients are getting more adept at using
hardwoods. In 2006, 85 percent of interior designers indicated that
their clients are "very" to "somewhat" knowledgeable about wood
flooring—compared to 67 percent in 1993—a significant shift in 13 years.
Although oak is still preferred by a majority of interior designers,
recently its preference has waned. In 2006, 55 percent of designers
preferred oak—down significantly from 67 percent in 1993. Preference for
cherry, walnut, maple and mahogany have also increased since the
previous study, which suggests that designers are now more aware of
these other options. In terms of style, plank flooring took the lead
from strip flooring since 1993 (nearly half preferred plank in 2006);
however, among interior designers who have been in the industry for
several decades, strip is still preferred over plank.
Designers are also favoring medium and dark
tones, as preference for natural and white tones has decreased, at
least among senior designers. More experienced designers—those who have
been in the industry more than 11 years—prefer medium tones by a wide
margin. (Note: medium tones can be natural). Other findings of note:
Four in 10 interior designers indicated that the living room was the
most popular room for wood floors followed by the great room/den; and
more than half of designers surveyed saw increased demand for antique or
reclaimed wood flooring in the past two years (this number more than
doubled since 1993).
Besides their environmental and aesthetic benefits, hardwood
floors are a good financial investment and increase the value of a
property. Wood floors are often cited in a sales pitch, and have been
known to spur faster sales and higher prices according to an NWFA survey
among licensed U.S. real estate agents and brokers. In 2006, 99 percent
of real estate professionals indicated that having hardwood floors
"greatly" or "somewhat" influenced a home's salability to some extent.
In addition, nine out of 10 respondents suggested that homes with mostly
hardwood floors will sell for more money and faster—an increase over
the 1993 study when 82 percent of respondents felt this way.
A HEALTHY, LOW-MAINTENANCE CHOICE
Unlike other flooring alternatives, which can harbor
allergy-generating mold, mildew, and dust mites, hardwood floors may
actually improve a structure's indoor air quality (IAQ). With wood
floors, there is no place for mold, pollen and animal dander to grow.
Hardwood flooring has long been considered an excellent choice for
anyone with any kind of environmental allergies and is recommended by
many doctors as a key step in creating a healthy home. As the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites, especially for people with
asthma or breathing problems, IAQ will be better with wood floors.
Commenting on IAQ in residential settings,
Paula Baker-Laporte, AIA, principal and owner of Baker-Laporte and
Assoc., Sante Fe, NM, considers two groups of people when designing a
healthy home: the chemically sensitive, and those whose priority is a
"For people who are very chemically
sensitive, I recommend a factory UV-floor finish so that they don't have
to refinish in their home. Pre-finished materials are offgassed under
controlled conditions and the client receives an inert product,"
explains Baker-Laporte. "In the case of healthy people without chemical
sensitivities, there are many low- or zero-VOC finishes that work within
the parameters of healthy design."
CARE AND CLEANING
When it comes to a project's sustainability, non-toxic
care and cleaning of wood products is an important Consideration. Wood
floors are among the easiest floors to keep clean, particularly those
with urethane finishes. For the most part, they can be maintained with
simple, routine cleaning measures such as sweeping with a soft bristle
broom or dry mopping.
The usual damage to a wood floor comes from
debris. Dirt, dust, and grit can dull a floor's finish and cause
scratches that can only be repaired by refinishing. Vacuums with beater
bars can cause dents in the floor's finish and should not be used; nor
should warm soapy water be used to clean hardwood floors because the
soap may leave a film that could become slippery or even damage the
Regardless of its finish, a wood floor will
quickly lose its luster if exposed to excessive water, and may even
warp. Middlebury College in Vermont initially had concerns about putting
a wood floor in a dining hall, with its repeated exposure to water and
daily damp mopping. Yet the floor holds up well, according to Mark
Gleason, the college's construction project manager. "The hall serves
anywhere from 700 to 900 kids for dinner each day, so it gets a great
deal of use. It still looks great," he says. Once yearly, the floor is
buffed down to a bare wood and a low-VOC, water-based sealer is applied
to restore the floor's luster.
Another concern is ultraviolet radiation in
sunlight which can cause discoloration over time. The same ultraviolet
rays that can burn and age skin will also affect any organic material,
including wood. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will change the color of
virtually any wood floor, regardless of the species or finish. Some
woods lighten when exposed to sunlight. Others, like cherry and oak,
tend to darken. Some finishes feature sunscreens to help block the
penetration of ultraviolet rays, extending the time it will take the
wood to change color.
For a modern, organic feel, a nautilus-patterned parquet floor for a
spiral staircase in padauk, purpleheart and curly maple. The stairs were
then sanded and finished with a satin oil-based finish. (larger image)
Consumers are increasingly choosing wood for its health
benefits and ease of maintenance. The NWFA realtor survey attests to the
fact that as consumers become savvier about the benefits of hardwood
flooring, their rationale for wanting them has changed. The key reasons
homebuyers like hardwood floors has shifted since 1993. Now, realtors
say that resale value, fewer allergic reactions, and
beauty/modern/trendy looking aesthetics are the major reasons consumers
desire wood floors. Today's hardwood floors are considered "easy to care
for" by 66 percent of these real estate professionals (in 2006)—higher
than in 1993, when only 57 percent considered them so. And hardwood
flooring can become a habit. Realtors say that clients who have lived in
homes with hardwood floors are more likely to buy another home with
hardwood floors (84 percent vs. 69 percent in 1993—a significant shift).
ULTRA SUSTAINABLE CHOICES
Clients are well aware that all hardwoods are sustainable and
renewable. Yet many will press designers further for the species that is
the "greenest" of the green. The following types come with sterling
from old barns, buildings, lofts, rural structures and sustainable
sources of reclaimed timber are an ideal choice for green flooring while
making a home beautiful and unique.
eye-catching with its color and texture, cork flooring contains a
substance called suberin that makes the cork resistant to mold, mildew
and germs. The bark of the tree is harvested and new bark grows back
without harming the tree.
grass, bamboo used in flooring grows in the Southern part of China. This
plant grows quickly and matures in five to seven years. Beacause
installation is slightly different than that of hardwoods, it is
important to hire an experienced installer.
When working with exotic or foreign
species, a note of caution is in order. It is a safe bet that a domestic
hardwood species came from a sustainably harvested forest—but
sustainability isn't a fait accompli for all imports. It's often
difficult to know the source of the wood harvested from overseas, where
many areas have experienced illegal logging. Where does the wood come
from? Was it harvested legally and responsibly? Is the supplier involved
in a certification system? These are some of the initial questions to
determine the sustainability quotient of tropical or exotic species.
GREEN FINISHES AND ADHESIVES
Another major consideration for determining wood flooring's
"green" benefit is the product's Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
content, which is determined by the solvents used in finishes and
adhesives. As the EPA considers architectural coatings—including wood
finishes—second only to cars in producing VOC emissions, VOC laws,
particularly in California and the Northeast, have become stricter. As a
result, some manufacturers have reformulated their products with lower
VOCs. Designers can choose from waterborne finishes that tend to have
the lowest VOC levels, and several no-VOC or solvent-free adhesives and
finishes that are available on the market. Because allowable VOC content
can vary by region, the best policy is always to check the local VOC
laws and ask the manufacturer to assure that the finish and adhesive is
legally compliant and works with the flooring selected.
chose a mix
of wenge, quarter-sawn white oak, quartered maple and quarter-sawn
walnut to add depth and create a three-dimensional effect, with custom
parquet. (larger image)
CALCULATING LIFE-CYCLE COSTS
A growing area of research is aimed at measuring the
environmental impacts associated with products and processes in daily
use. This life-cycle thinking scientifically documents the collective
inputs and outputs associated with the production and use of commercial
Research related to solid hardwood flooring
indicates that solid wood is a desirable floor covering from an
environmental impact standpoint—a finding consistent with previous
studies in Europe. Preliminary results of the 2008 Consortium for
Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) study indicate that
solid hardwood is preferable as a flooring option from an environmental
standpoint when compared to tile, linoleum, and both nylon and wool
carpet. In addition to the carbon-neutral benefits associated with wood,
hardwood floors showed benign air emissions. Substantially less water
and total primary energy is required to produce wood flooring. Solid
wood also has a longer service life and desirable end-of-life scenarios.
In fact, solid hardwood flooring does not assume complete disposal in a
landfill after service life; it can be recycled or combusted as wood
fuel representing an advantage to the environment over other disposal
In other research, the Athena Model,
developed by the nonprofit Athena Sustainable Materials Institute,
compares the cradle-to-grave ecological quotient of wood, steel and
concrete. Wood was found to have the lowest environmental impact, and to
exceed the other materials in terms of environmental soundness as
measured by energy use; production of greenhouse gases; air and water
pollution; production of solid waste; and overall ecological resource
The NWFA has begun the process of a similar
life-cycle analysis for engineered wood floors; findings are scheduled
to be available in 2009.
A BEAUTIFUL GREEN CHOICE
Wood flooring is a proven sustainable choice for green design.
Durable, renewable hardwoods will look as good now as they will in 10,
20, and in some cases, 100 years. Known for their warmth and beauty,
wood floors give a humanizing touch to any setting, and their
versatility enables a range of looks from formal to modern. With
eco-sensitive finishes, adhesives and cleaning products, wood floors are
a fundamental component to the sustainability of any structure.
Specialty Design Elements
With advances in the industry over the past few decades, customizing
your wood floor is easier, and more affordable, than ever before. You
can create a unique look with simple upgrades such as borders,
medallions, hand-distressing, painted floors, mixed media and exotic
| Mixed Media
Borders create a frame effect in a particular room
or area, and usually contrast to the main area of the room. For example,
a simple installation of a medium colored wood such as strip white oak
might include a border outlining the room in a contrasting darker
species of wood such as Brazilian cherry. The possibilities are endless,
and are not limited to wood only. Borders can incorporate multiple wood
species, stone, marble, brass, stainless steel, nickel and other
Medallions usually are installed in the main field
of the floor, typically in areas such as foyers. Medallions can
incorporate multiple wood species, and other mixed media, such as stone,
metal and leather. Factory finished medallions can be routed into
existing floors with minimal disruption. For more customized looks, such
as a family crest, a professional wood flooring installer can work with
you to select the species and colors that will best meet your needs.
Hand-distressing offers a unique look and antiqued
appearance that appeals to many homeowners. Hand-scraping, which is
labor-intensive and time-consuming, is the most-common distressing
technique. Using tools such as chisels, planes, wire brushes, awls, ice
picks and grinders, the installer will work with the wood to achieve a
worn and distressed look. The end result will be a new floor that looks
Painted floors transform an ordinary wood floor into
something unique. For example, a painted border can transform your
floor into a work of art reflecting your personal style – country,
formal, or even patterns like free-flowing vines. For more dramatic
painted design elements, consider creating an Oriental rug effect, or
even marble. Your only limit is your imagination.
You can create a one-of-a-kind floor by mixing wood with other materials
such as stone, tile, slate, marble, metal, and even leather. For
example, highlighting a marble foyer with wood makes a dramatic
entryway, while incorporating brushed nickel accents into your kitchen
wood floor could accent your professional series appliances.
Exotic woods are available in a variety of colors
and can add an entirely new look to any room. Want something with a
pinkish-red hue to enhance your décor? Consider Bubinga from Africa. If
your style is rustic , consider Australian Cypress, which is harder than
domestic knotty pine. Purpleheart from Mexico will age to a deep purple
or purplish brown. Wenge from Africa, will age to a very deep brown,
almost black, color. With exotic wood species, the possibilities are
Staining can give your existing wood floors an
entirely new look very affordably. Light colored stains can give new
life to an old wood floor. For a traditional look, consider restaining
your wood floors to a warm, medium-toned color. Dark stains can give
your floors a stately new look.
The Wood Floor of the Year Awards are the Oscars of the wood flooring
industry, with enough buzz around them to merit paparazzi and a red
carpet procession. And the winners of the coveted trophies are no less
excited than the famous actors clutching those gold statuettes. Turn the
pages to find out about the proud Wood Floor of the Year winners who
collected their trophies at the NWFA convention in San Diego at the end
of April. Winners for all categories except Designers' Choice were voted
on by NWFA members before the show.
To find out how you can enter the 2012 Wood Floor of the Year contest, or to view all the entries in the 2011 contest, go to www.nwfa.org.
Best Limited Species; Members' Choice
During the late 19th century, the United States' logging heyday, "river
pigs" guided millions of logs down northern Florida's famed Suwannee
River. Inevitably, some of the logs destined for the sawmill fell to the
river's bottom—deadheads, as they're called. Over their 100 years of
submersion, the logs collected minerals and changed color, giving way to
an entire industry today where the deadheads are reclaimed and finally
used for building—and consumers love it.
120-square-foot floor specifically requested it be designed exclusively
using reclaimed deadheads from the Suwannee, which is just 60 miles from
his home. "He picked out the lumber and I drew a design that he loved,"
Marwick says of the creative process.
The floor has four primary components. The focal point is a 53-inch
medallion of end-grain bald cypress. took a slice of a log from a
recovered tree's crotch, sliced it horizontally, and then laid the
pieces opposite one another. The result is a mirroring effect at the
floor's center. Surrounding the medallion is a herringbone-patterned
ring of heart pine, and next is a field of end-grain heart pine. The
final component is a mitered border of rare curly pine. that about one in 400 deadhead pine is curly pine, which has a very
erratic grain and tiny protrusions at its bark, things
resemble "warts" (visible on the cover of this issue). the
wood that would become his border and sliced it lengthwise, then matched
the ends and placed them at a 90-degree angle.
When it comes down to it, this floor has everything a Members' Choice
floor should have: beauty, creativity, craftsmanship, and a great
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Rubio Monocoat | Router: Festool | Sanders: Lägler (Palo Duro), Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Festool, Delta | Wood: Goodwin Heart Pine
Best CNC/Laser Cut | Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet (Khimki, Russia)
a wood floor in a place where lots of people gather is good marketing.
Installing a wood floor in a place where lots of powerful, high-ranking
government officials meet is great marketing. In 1999 Yantarnaya
Pryad-Parquet began doing restoration work in Russian museums, and later
it began working in the homes of government officials, eventually
leading to work in the home of current Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev. Today the company is taking jobs several thousands of miles
from its base in the Moscow suburbs.
For Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet's latest Wood Floor of the Year winner
(it won the Best Living Room/Family Room [Hand-Cut] category in 2009),
it traveled to Tajikistan, of the former USSR. As a result of the
flooring company's conspicuous installations throughout Russia, the
National Bank of Tajikistan commissioned the company to install more
than 9,000 square feet of flooring in the National Teahouse inside the
Culture Park of Dangara. For design, an "ethnic ambiance" was requested,
so Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet incorporated common natural geometric
shapes prevalent in Tajik culture. The teahouse serves as a retreat for
the country's president, Emomali Rahmon, and it is dedicated to the
Nowruz holiday, or the Persian spring and New Year celebration. On
Nowruz, celebrants visit family, friends and neighbors, and so the
president entertains guests at the teahouse; pictured is the reception
The solid wood floor, which was glued down, comprises jatoba, beech,
wenge, amaranth, merbau, jarrah, walnut, maple and Karelian birch.
Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet is a vertically integrated company, so design
and fabrication were handled in-house at its plant in Tula, Russia.
Much like the patterns throughout this floor, life repeats itself in
the seasons and with each new year. If this fact is any indication, it's
likely we'll be seeing Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet in this contest for
years to come.—D.D.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive, Filler, Finish: Chimiver Panseri S.p.A. | Edger: Mafell | Sander: Eugen Lägler GmbH | Saws: Leitz Tooling Systems
All in the Family
Best Commercial | Archetypal Imaginary Remodeling Corp. (Long Island City, N.Y)
many, passing gifts to the next generation is life's primary goal, so
it's no wonder that Avedis Duvenjian, partner at Archetypal Imaginary
Remodeling, is so pleased with his company's second Wood Floor of the
Year award. Helping Duvenjian on this end-grain mosaic project at the
headquarters of AriZona Iced Tea in Woodbury, N.Y., was a typical cast
of architects and designers, but there was also a young boy who often
lent a hand: Duvenjian's 8-year-old son, Tigran, who also went on stage
in San Diego to help his dad claim their latest trophy (see photo on
"On this project, he came to the job site so many times," Duvenjian
says of his son, "and the client really loved him. He would try to take
Tigran on tours and get him iced tea, but he would say, 'No, I want to
stay with my dad.' Every time I speak about wood, he loves to learn."
The entire floor comprises thousands of end-grain white oak and wenge
pieces, organized in a concentric-circle-mosaic pattern and glued to a
plywood subfloor. "Looking at the middle, you think it's one piece of
wenge, but it is not," Duvenjian says. At the center, the faces of the
tiny pieces measure about 1/16 inch by 1/4 inch. With each successive
circle, the pieces become incrementally bigger until the final rows,
where they measure 1 1/2-inch square. For Duvenjian, this was the
toughest part of the job: Gradually increasing each row—millimeter by
millimeter—to give the intended effect of having his client's logo
appear to be floating in a dark, rippling pool.
The biggest fan of the project is Tigran. At school he was recently
assigned an art project to create a design using his school's name. His
chosen medium? End-grain mosaic with wenge and white oak glued to
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer: Bona US | Finish: Woca | Wood: Distinctive Hardwood Floors
Designers' Choice | First Coast Flooring Inc. (Jacksonville, Fla.)
some wood flooring contractors, installing a large-format custom
herringbone floor crafted from exotic species over a slab in a home
located directly on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway would be a job to
run from for fear of moisture problems ... but it's business as usual
for First Coast Flooring Inc.'s Greg Simpson. He's been in the wood
flooring business in Florida since 1984, and he has some words to live
by: "The moisture meter won't fail you if you use it right," he says. In
fact, Simpson ended up with this job after a different wood flooring
contractor ran into trouble and had to be replaced on another one of the
builder's jobs. "The builder asked me to come out to the house and look
at what they were doing; it's a nautical-themed home from stem to
stern, so to speak. There are big brass light fixtures and port-hole
windows." The builder had a rough design of a nautical-inspired floor
drawn out, and when Simpson created a large sample of the 8-foot
herringbone design from afrormosia and hard maple, he got the job.
The square-edged flooring was glued over a single layer of 3/4-inch
plywood on top of the slab; it has pegs to complete the nautical design.
As the customer wanted something different around the perimeter of the
room, a santos mahogany border stained to match the mahogany on the
windows was installed. In a bathroom, Simpson installed the afrormosia
in a grate pattern with epoxy centers, reminiscent of a boat deck, as
well. (Go to www.hardwoodfloorsmag.com/WFOY11 to see photos of that
floor and more photos from this project.) The customers loved it, and
Simpson loved getting such a nice job during what continues to be a
housing bust in Florida. "I've never been the cheapest guy in town, but
I've maintained my quality and customer service," he says. That's a
philosophy that proved to be a winner.—K.M.W.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders
| Filler, Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Sanders: Hummel
(Palo Duro) | Wood Flooring: Cochran's Lumber & Millwork
Best Manufacturer Factory-Finished | Jamie Beckwith Collection (Nashville, Tenn.)
Beckwith is an interior designer who entered the wood flooring business
because she couldn't find what she was looking for. "For so many years I
used hardwood for projects and was limited by linear planks, which are
beautiful but straight," she explains. "In my mind, I thought, 'This
would be an interesting place to bring shape and geometry to hardwood;
let's see wood that is circular and curved.'" That thought began a
two-year process of creating prototypes of non-ending patterned floors.
Beckwith wanted top-notch quality, from the construction of the 3/4-inch
engineered pieces to the aluminum oxide finish, and she wanted the
floor to be green. The resulting products debuted to rave reviews at
Surfaces in 2009, and now have garnered top honors from NWFA members, as
well, with the company's first Wood Floor of the Year award.
Beckwith's products have particularly caught the eyes of architects
and designers doing commercial work, but the winning Wood Floor of the
Year project happens to be a living room in a high-end residence. The
company's Sextant pattern from its Enigma collection was chosen because
it suited the home's design, which has French and Moorish influences.
That particular pattern was one Beckwith spotted on a stone church floor
in France—she saw it and immediately fell to her knees to trace it with
a piece of paper, which she took home to replicate in wood.
Although Beckwith still has her interior design business, she says
her wood collection, which can be installed on floors or walls, is now
her passion. "I love interior design, but I always say that the wood
doesn't talk back like clients do," she jokes. "The wood just does what I
want it to do—it has no complaints!"—K.M.W.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Wood Flooring: Graf Bros.
Doing What You Love
Best Reclaimed | Henry & Mariusz Flooring/H&M Flooring Inc. (Chicago, IL)
Karnas has been in the wood flooring business for 12 years—he moved to
Chicago from his native Poland to work with his father at a wood
flooring company—but his real inspiration in the business came two years
ago, when he went to his first Expert NWFA school and learned from
instructors including Frank Kroupa and Steve Seabaugh. "The National
Wood Flooring Association opened my mind to having a better perspective
on a better life," he says. After the school, "I worked hard and started
to create medallions," Karnas says. "I feel like my head is full of
different kinds of designs to this day; what I am looking for is space
to create these kinds of things."
Karnas found the space for two of the designs right in his own house,
and they both turned out to be winners—an honorable mention for his
Best Residential entry (turn to page 57 to see that floor) and the Best
Reclaimed top honor for this floor, which he fashioned out of hickory,
white oak, sugar pine and eastern pine.
"It was a huge honor to get on stage to get my award," Karnas says,
explaining that wood flooring is his life's passion. "I can do what I
love to do and I can feed my family; this is an amazing feeling." These
awards have special meaning for another reason, as well—Karnas dedicates
them to one of his workers, Marek Hliniak, who was with him for four
years and recently passed away after a short battle with cancer.—K.M.W.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Router: Festool | Saws: DeWalt | Wood Flooring: Top Quality Flooring Inc.
Learning How to Bend
Best Residential | Fine Cut Wood Flooring (Derry, N.H.)
Unlike many wood flooring contractors, Fine Cut Wood Flooring President
Craig Anderson didn't grow up in the trade. Rather, he's a chemist who,
at the suggestion of a friend in the construction business, ended up
sanding wood floors on the weekends, hauling around his sander and edger
in the back of a Toyota Corolla wagon. When that proved more lucrative
than his chemistry career, Anderson took the leap to doing wood floors
full time, and another leap came when he connected with Tom Osborn of
Mosaic Hardwood Floors. "He took me under his wing and showed me a lot
of techniques—how to do site-cut parquet, how to re-groove the boards,
how to lay things out," Anderson says. With Osborn, Anderson worked on a
variety of jobs up and down the East Coast, including one particular
highlight: the wood floors at the Presidential Conference Room in the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building, attached to the White House.
Osborn is now retired, but Anderson has the wealth of knowledge he
learned from his mentor—knowledge that enables him to create unique
floors such as this one, which impressed NWFA members enough to give it
the Best Residential nod. Anderson had the idea in his head for years.
"I was looking to do something different from what I had seen out
there," he explains. "Pretty much what's out there now are geometric
patterns that can be really fancy, or scroll-cut or laser-cut curves
that just take a straight board and cut a curve into it. I was looking
to take a straight board and bend it." Anderson experimented with which
widths of flooring he could bend without the boards breaking and finally
had custom 3/4-inch-wide white oak flooring milled for the project. He
used squares of plywood as fulcrum points against which to bend the
wood—he didn't steam the boards or get them wet in any way—then kept
nailing the floor from there. Anderson also custom-built the border,
which was re-grooved and splined to lock into the floor.
All this exacting work, which took about a week and a half, was done
for a client who truly appreciates the craftsmanship involved—it was
installed in the foyer of Anderson's own home.—K.M.W.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Abrasive: Norton Abrasives | Adhesive: Liquid Nails | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Seacoast Floor Supply | Finish: Synteko Floor Finishes | Nailer: Primatech | Router: Porter-Cable | Sander: Galaxy Floor Sanding Machines | Wood Flooring: Wilson Woodworks
Best restoration | Inex Floors (Richboro, Pa.)
Floors seems to have a knack for taking an existing wood floor to the
next level: In 2010 it won the Best Extreme Makeover category by
supplementing an ash and white oak floor with a sinuous dragon, and this
year the company earned the Best Restoration award by recreating a
floor in an apartment on Manhattan's East Side.
The apartment's new owners loved the colorful, intricate parquet
floor already in place, but it had fallen into disrepair. Stan Sidorov,
Inex's vice president, decided to create a new floor using the same
design as the old one. "The client already liked the floor," Sidorov
says of the deteriorated one, "so we just followed that."
Sidorov's clients wanted their new floor to be built on top of a
hydronic radiant heating system. To ensure the new floor would have
dimensional stability, Sidorov specified it with rift and quartered
wood. "It wasn't difficult to convince the clients to spend a little
more money," Sidorov says of using rift and quartered wood. "I showed
them how lower-grade wood could develop cracks, and they were
Before tearing out the old floor, Sidorov photographed it. Back at
the Inex shop, the floor in the photos was recreated using white oak,
wenge, maple and akaju; about 20 percent of the old floor was salvaged.
At the job site, the GC applied a leveling compound over the radiant
heating system and then Sidorov's crew glued down the wood. Two coats of
amber sealer were applied to achieve an oiled look, and then topped
with three coats of semi-gloss finish, resulting in a classy, elegant
floor that's as good as new.—D.D.
Suppliers for this project | Advertisers in this issue appear in bold
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Edger: Lägler (Palo Duro) | Filler: Woodwise/Design Hardwood Products | Finish: Bona US | Router, Sander, Saws: Festool
Best Residential | Inex Floors (Richboro, Pa.)
honorable mention winner includes white oak, merbau, maple and ash wood
flooring that is coated with a waterborne semi-gloss finish.
Best Residential | Henry & Mariusz Flooring/H&M Flooring Inc. (Chicago, IL)
residential entry from this company includes a custom layout of red
oak, white oak, walnut, wenge and maple with a satin water-based finish.
(The company’s winner in the Best Reclaimed category can be seen on
West Coast Winners: 2009 Wood Floor of the Year Awards
By Kim M. Wahlgren, Doug Dalsing, Catherine Liewen
This year's NWFA Wood Floor of the Year winners were selected by
members online before the NWFA convention in Long Beach, Calif., April
28-May 1 (the Members' Choice was also voted on during the show). To see
the Honorable Mention award winners, as well as all the entries, go to www.nwfa.org.
A Little Help From My Friends
Members' Choice, Best Entry/Foyer (Hand-Cut) | DM Hardwood Designs (Farmington, N.M.)
"I shouldn't even be here," says Dave Marzalek of DM Hardwood
Designs. Last November, as Marzalek was gradually making progress on
this floor—the entry to his own home—he lived through the scariest
experience of his life when his F-350 four-wheel-drive pickup
hydroplaned, rolled and slammed into the side of a mountain on the way
to doing a wood flooring job at ex-Vice President Dan Quayle's house.
"Obviously it wasn't my time," Marzalek says, explaining that the huge
truck basically "disintegrated, " yet he was able to walk away from the
crash with no life-threatening injuries.
The crash didn't end his life, but it did threaten Marzalek's
progress on his own floor, which he wanted to complete in time for the
Wood Floor of the Year January deadline. In an amazing turnaround,
Marzalek's worst tragedy also resulted in the best experience of his
life, excepting the birth of his kids, he says: His friend Wayne
Highlander appeared on his doorstep with nine wood flooring men to help
Marzalek work on the floor. The crew labored around the clock doing
everything from hand-scraping to creating elements of the inlay to
ensure the floor would be completed on time.
Marzalek had plenty of help from his friends, but the inlay, as well
as the rest of the floor, is pure Marzalek style. "I always wanted to do
my own floor without any female involvement," Marzalek says, and after
relocating to New Mexico, this was his chance. Marzalek used the
end-grain logs to distinguish the home's entry, as well as lead down a
hallway and up the stairs. His signature broken-board technique
surrounds the entry, and the focal point is an inlay reflecting his love
affair with eagles and orcas.
This inlay pushes the limits of what Marzalek has done before (which
includes a fiberoptic inlay that won a Wood Floor of the Year award in
2000). Not only does it encompass an elaborate wilderness scene, it also
incorporates an added dimension of depth. Marzalek created the inlay in
stages, pouring a layer of resin on, adding more elements such as orcas
and seaweed, and repeating the process until there were five layers of
The completed floor was the culmination of Marzalek's own unbridled
design vision and also struck a chord with the NWFA members, who
appreciated the complicated floor enough to choose it as both Best
Entry/Foyer (Hand-Cut) and the coveted Members' Choice.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Sika Corporation | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Golden State Flooring | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Basic Coatings, Dura Seal | Nailers: Powernail Company Inc., Senco | Saws: Hitachi | Wood Flooring: Goodwin Heart Pine Photo: Chris Hasten
Best Engineered (Hand-Cut)
Certainly Dave Marzalek's work is on a different level from a typical
contractor—this winning floor, complex by most contractors' standards,
is practically run-of-the-mill for him—but an important part of being a
winner doesn't have anything to do with the actual floors, he says. He
should know: Three Wood Floor of the Year trophies this year bring Dave
Marzalek's total Wood Floor of the Year awards to 17, an amazing
achievement and by far the most of any company.
"Half of it is photography, " he says. "You can tell the ones that
were taken by a professional and the ones that weren't. " And having a
great photographer is only part of a great photo, he explains, adding
that the photo needs to show an entire scene, with the room decorated
and furnished. Missing baseboards, random items scattered on the floor
and empty rooms won't usually win trophies, he notes.
The scene was set in this job, a small house in Laguna Hills, Calif.
The client was a referral who trusted Marzalek to create the right
design with the walnut engineered floor. "I said, 'If you give me
control, you're going to get much more than you even thought of,'" he
says. The result was a hand-cut oval medallion surrounded by a starburst
in the foyer, with flooring laid on a 45 in the living room to
naturally lead into the kitchen. It's par for the course for Marzalek,
but still special enough to win Wood Floor of the Year. —K.M.W.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Sika Corporation | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Basic Coatings, Dura Seal
| Nailers: Powernail Company Inc., Senco | Saws: Hegner, Hitachi,
Makita | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring, Goodwin
Best Bedroom (Hand Cut) | CP Wood Floors (Gales Ferry, Conn.)
"All I want to do is teach and educate—I love it, " Charles Peterson
says. These feelings prompted the CP Wood Floors owner to document every
step in the creation of this year's winner in the hand-cut bedroom
category. The 528-square-foot undertaking is comprised of 10 wood
species—including American and Brazilian cherry, maple, Peruvian walnut
and wenge—300 lineal feet of brass, and 60 square feet of gold leaf, as
well as black marble, brass and stone inlays. It also included aniline
dying, gilding and faux painting techniques.
One challenge of this floor was moisture control; the home in which
it was installed sits along the Atlantic Ocean, and the floor sits over
radiant heat, which made the flooring subject to moisture content ranges
of 4 to 11 percent. Peterson overcame this problem by creating his
inlays with a quartersawn veneer glued to nine-ply Baltic birch.
To help his educational mission, Peterson plans to publish more than
5,000 photos taken during the floor's creation in an educational book on
wood flooring. Ultimately, he is trying to broaden the skill sets of
his fellow contractors, which, he believes, can only enhance their
creativity and earning potential. "Maybe a flooring guy is just
installing strip floors and competing against another guy who does it
for 10 cents cheaper, " Peterson says, "and he's not really making a lot
of money. By creating a few inlays from scraps, he can create a
signature that separates him from the competition." — D.D.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: U.S. Sander LLC
| Distributor: Wood Pro | Finish: UV Cured Inc. | Nailer: Primatech
Inc. | Router, Sander, Saws: Festool | Wood Flooring: Taylor Lumber
Diamond in the Rough
Best Restoration | Universal Floors (Washington, D.C.)
"We stop and check out dumpsters on a routine basis, " says Sprigg
Lynn, president at Universal Floors. Over the years, Lynn's penchant for
dumpster diving has served the company well, as Universal Floors has
developed a sizable inventory of old wood materials. When a repair on a
historical wood floor is required, the company often has the material on
hand. It's no surprise, then, that Universal Floors won the Wood Floor
of the Year in the Best Restoration category for the third time.
The architect for this job, located in D.C.'s trendy Adams Morgan
neighborhood, knew of Universal's restoration work and requested Lynn
visit the site. Under the carpeting, most of the floor was covered with
black tar. "I scraped out one corner and it was like a diamond in the
rough, " Lynn says. "I told them it would be a crying shame not to
breathe fresh life into this floor, and they gave me the green light to
The resulting restoration was challenging. Areas of the wood floor
had been removed and replaced with 6 inches of concrete; crews used
jackhammers to remove it. Because of the black tar, the existing floor
was painstakingly handscraped before sanding. Salvaged materials,
including a mahogany door found in a dumpster in Baltimore, were used to
repair and recreate missing areas of the floor. Then the repaired floor
was finished with tung oil for a genuine hand-rubbed look, allowing
this diamond in the rough to shine once more.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders
| Distributor: Long Floor | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Waterlox
Coatings Corp. | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc. | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro), Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Dewalt, Festool
Best Library/Office (Hand-Cut)
Many wood flooring contractors spend years dreaming about finding
that one special client who will enable them to create a Wood Floor of
the Year contender. The Universal Floors client from this job far
exceeded such hopes: This is the third winning floor from the same
25,000-square foot mansion. After the dining room and library entry
garnered awards for Members' Choice, Best Engineered (Non-CNC) and Best
Entry/ Foyer (CNC) last year, Lynn predicted that the home's library,
still in progress at the time, could be a contender. He was right.
As with last year's winning floors, Lynn called in his friend John
Yarema, president of Troy, Mich.-based Yarema Marquetry, to develop the
floor's design with the owner. For this room, the owner gave the pair
nearly free rein. With the design selected, the greatest challenge was
the steel poles supporting the catwalk—they don't align, with some as
much as 4 inches off, and a perfectly symmetrical floor would have drawn
attention to the flaws. "I would literally wake up in the middle of the
night thinking , 'How am I going to make this look like it isn't an
afterthought?'" Lynn says. As it turns out, most of the floor was
created simply with a basic jig and a plunging circular saw, but to
disguise the ill-placed columns, about every third piece of the wood
floor had to be adjusted. The tweaks worked: With the installation
completed, the floor hand-scraped and a tung-oil finish applied, no one
would ever imagine this floor an afterthought.
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Distributors: Derr Flooring
Company | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. |
Medallion: Yarema Marquetry | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc. | Router:
Porter-Cable | Saws: Festool, Dewalt | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain
Best CNC/Laser Cut
This project had an amazing turnaround: It started about as badly as a
job can, but now, years later, it's a Wood Floor of the Year winner.
Universal Floors had worked with the owner of the Georgetown home to
create the parquet design and create full-scale samples. Everything was
ready but the signature on the bottom line when the owner called and
said a monkey could lay the floor. "He had his monkeys install it, and
they screwed it all up, " Lynn says. Three years later, the homeowner
called back and said he was going to "eat crow"—he wanted Universal
Floors to come back and redo the abysmal bedroom floor correctly.
Lynn turned the project over to Universal Floor's Sales Manager Tim
Allen, who supervised both the technical aspects of the job and the
relations with the homeowner. "By walking through his threshold you
could tell he was extremely particular … so we took it a step at a time,
stayed professional, stayed focused and made sure we did it right, "
Allen says. Allen supervised each step, from the demo of the old floor
to the installation of a plywood subfloor and the installation of the
new floor, all as the homeowner kept tabs on the job from China. Allen's
diligence paid off, as the homeowner was thrilled with the floor and
Universal brought home yet another trophy. —K.M.W.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Borders, Medallions: Yarema Marquetry | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Distributors: Derr Flooring Company, Long Floor | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Powernail Company | Router: Porter-Cable | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Dewalt, Festool
Wrong to Right
Best Kitchen/Dining Room (CNC/Laser Cut) | Diamond Flooring (Elizabethtown, Ky.)
Labels can be deceiving, as in the case of this Diamond Flooring
project in Louisville. Even though the company's award-winning
kitchen/dining room project was in the CNC/Laser Cut category for this
year's contest, roughly two-thirds of the laser-cut pieces were also
hand-cut on-site after Owner Jamie Lupresto began installing the floor.
Lupresto says it's more difficult to plan a custom floor in new
construction, since the actual job-site measurements may not come out as
planned, which was the case with this floor. The starburst spokes were
"coming around too fast" on the short side of the design (toward the
door in the photo) while installing, Lupresto explains. Lupresto and his
crew, Jordan Weaver, Jessie Turner and Josh Cook, then had to cut "a ¼
-inch to nothing" from the starburst pieces' widths.
The customer had suggested the starburst design to complement the
circular kitchen. Lupresto chose rift and quartersawn white oak for the
starburst, while the border and inlay comprises padauk, bloodwood,
santos mahogany, yellowheart, wenge, and more white oak. Starburst edges
adjacent to the inlay measure 3/8 -inch wide, reaching 9 inches in
width at the radius' outermost edge.
And when things don't work perfectly at first, Lupresto shows that a
floor can still be saved and turned into something beautiful. "Things
change a little bit," Lupresto admits, "but it's definitely possible to
turn a wrong into a right."—D.D.
Abrasive: 3M, Bona US | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders
| Filler: Timbermate USA Inc. | Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Powernail
Company Inc. | Router, Saws: Festool | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain
Best Commercial/Showroom (CNC/Laser-Cut) | Birger Juell Ltd. (Chicago)
"I don't think I fall in love as much as I used to with any one
thing; now I'm more interested in: Does it fit? Does it look like it
belongs here? That's one of the things I like about the Clive Christian
showroom," says Chuck Crispin, president at Birger Juell Ltd. The
ultra-high-end English furniture and cabinet company usually uses stone
flooring for its showroom floors, but for this room, a wood floor that
would complement the cherry and yew wood on the walls was desired, and
Birger Juell Ltd. provided a perfect fit for its neighbor in Chicago's
The floor pattern is a traditional chain-style parquet that is
"souped up a little bit," Crispin says. The main floor is stained
walnut, while the chain linking the pattern features wenge, walnut and a
wood the company calls Peruvian gold. The square centers are
flame-figured crotch walnut. "They're really exquisite little jewels in
the middle of the parquet," Crispin notes.
Birger Juell Ltd. parquets are traditionally hand-cut, but this
project marks the first collaboration between the company and John
Yarema, wherein Yarema laser-cut the parquet and a torch inlay
resembling one of the Clive Christian logos. Birger Juell Ltd. workers
then hand-scraped, oiled and finished the floor in traditional Birger
Juell Ltd. style, resulting in what has become another Birger Juell Ltd.
tradition: a Wood Floor of the Year trophy.
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Dura Seal | Medallion, Wood Flooring: John Yarema | Saws: Festool
Best Reclaimed (Hand-Cut)
When the interior designer of this South Bend, Ind.-home brought the
homeowners to the Birger Juell Ltd. showroom in the Merchandise Mart,
they were instantly drawn to reclaimed products and made it clear that
they wanted to use environmentally responsible materials. Birger Juell
Ltd. was able to meet their needs, as all of the wood flooring chosen
for their house was from wood that was either salvaged, cut from city
trees or harvested because the tree died a natural death. The wood in
this particular room was reclaimed white oak from a circa-1860 medical
building in Richmond, Ind. It combines with leather centers, lightly
stamped with a faux-reptilian pattern, to create a Versailles parquet.
The company has done wood/leather combinations for years—having won a
Wood Floor of the Year trophy in 2002 for such a floor—and Crispin says
the pairing has become even more popular recently. The leather is glued
to plywood squares that are tongue and grooved, and it is oiled and
waxed just like the rest of the floor.
The floor's installation was handled by longtime Birger Juell Ltd.
employee Tony Farina. "That was his last big award-winning installation,
" Crispin says. "He retired after that; it was kind of his swan song.
He always did an exquisite job and was a gentleman installer in every
way." Another Birger Juell Ltd. stalwart is still on the scene,
though—the company's namesake is now 92 and still comes into the
showroom several times a week to chat up clients with classic Birger
Juell charm. —K.M.W.
Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Dura Seal | Interior Designer: Chris Kramer/Graffis Furniture Inc. (South Bend, Ind.) | Leather: Edelman | Saws: Festool
Going with the Flow
Best Kitchen/Dining Room (Hand-Cut) | American Hardwood Flooring of MN LLC (Delano, Minn.)
Henry Wuollet, owner at American Hardwood Floors, has been in the
hardwood flooring business long enough to know that working with
high-end builders and designers means frequent changes. This was the
case on both of the projects that earned Wuollet two Wood Floor of the
Year awards this year.
Wuollet's winning dining room underwent several changes throughout
the design and even installation process. Working with
WayzataMinn.-based Hendel Homes, Wuollet created several sample panels
to replicate a picture of a hand-scraped floor the homeowner had found.
Once the design, color and texture was finalized, Wuollet's crew began
installation in the new Parade home. However, after the lines were
snapped, the designer decided to run the hand-distressed white oak
Versailles pattern on a 45. Then during the installation, a border
consisting of two rows of 7-inch plank was added around the perimeter.
And if that were not enough, the designer changed the finish from a wax
finish to a tung oil. Even though Wuollet and his crew spent many hours
hand-distressing and dying the floor to replicate a time-worn look, he
says it was harder work pleasing the designer and homeowner. "That's
more challenging than just getting on the floor and scraping," Wuollet
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Nailer: Senco | Router: Porter-Cable | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool, DeWalt
Best Entry/Foyer (CNC/Laser Cut)
The other winning American Hardwood Floors project had just as many
challenges along the way. Over three years earlier, Wuollet came out to
the project, a major renovation of a Minneapolis-area Victorian home, to
bid the job. He didn't get it, but halfway into the five-year project
Wuollet received a call from John Yarema, president of Troy, Mich.-based
The homeowner noticed a border design she liked on Yarema's Web site,
and Yarema called in Wuollet to handle the project. Because Wuollet
came in late on the project, he had to get up to speed on the
particulars of the design from the homeowner and Ron Betcher of
Minneapolis-based Oeretel Architects. The homeowner had specific
instructions on how the direction of the grain should run in each board
of the herringbone pattern and border. The herringbone pieces were
already ordered and on-site by the time Wuollet arrived, so before
installation could begin he had to inspect every board. "We went through
each piece and made sure she liked every piece of wood that was going
in the floor," Wuollet explains.
Once the client approved the boards, Wuollet's and Yarema's crew
installed the padauk herringbone field and the winding border of padauk,
white oak and wenge. "There was a lot of work in there making the
border match up because none of the walls were the same angle or
length," Wuollet describes. But the challenges didn't stop after
installation—despite his best efforts to get the flooring approved
before installation, about 20 pieces had to be replaced because the
homeowner didn't like the grain direction.
Though both projects presented challenges and changes along the way,
they share two important characteristics—happy clients and two
first-ever Wood Floor of the Year Awards. —C.L.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Border: Yarema Marquetry | Buffer: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Glitsa American Inc. | Finish: Dura Seal | Router: Porter-Cable | Nailer: Senco | Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool
Best Commercial/Showroom (Hand-Cut) (tie) | Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co. Inc. (Dallas)
Turns out, the only thing standing between Woodwright Hardwood Floor
Co. and a Wood Floor of the Year award was the small act of completing
an entry form. "We've had multiple floors of this complexity, but we've
just never entered until this year, " says Steve Welch, the company's
This 7,0 00-square-foot engineered walnut floor was installed in the
lobby of Hunt Oil Company's Dallas headquarters. At the center of the
floor's starburst pattern is a large compass with a dangling pendulum
that shows true north. Contrasting with this sense of location is a
3-foot-wide infinity pool lining the floor's perimeter. A 4-inch gap and
a line of bricks separate the wood from the flowing water, lessening
the chance of any wayward splashes damaging the wood. A moisture barrier
was installed underneath the floor to lessen the risk of damage from
pool water leaking into the slab. "There was a lot of design thought
that went into tying together the infinity pool, the compass and wood
floor, " Welch says. Comprising the sunburst's radials are
brushed-bronze inlays. To avoid tarnishing the bronze's brushed
appearance, the floor was installed and finished, and the inlays
Welch says the project's architect, Gensler Architects' Paul Mano,
wanted the floor to be the focal point of the lobby— and it's obvious
Woodwright succeeded. —D.D.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: Künzle & Tasin SPA | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Dura Seal | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp.
Wave of the Future
Best Commercial/Showroom (Hand-Cut) (tie) | Divine Hardwood Flooring (Calgary, Alberta)
Divine Hardwood's Carlos Soares wants to show that working with
prefinished engineered products does not limit creative choices.
Different colors, myriad species and unique angles are all at the
craftsman's disposal when installing a prefinished engineered floor, he
This is evident upon seeing Divine Hardwood's winning entry in this
year's contest, a floor that is, in Soares' words, "as close to perfect"
as a hardwood floor can be. This was a difficult feat, he believes,
because when working with prefinished products, there is "no chance for a
quick fix" if a craftsman mis-cuts a segment.
Soares' team spent about three weeks on layout and then another three
weeks to glue down the project's 1,500 square feet onto the concrete
subfloor. It was another challenge to cut the overlapping birch inlays,
which Soares says are not purposefully reminiscent of petals or rain
drops; they were merely installed to add dynamism to the floor's red oak
field. "There's not a lot of people doing that out there, " he says,
"and we just wanted to show that you're not limited to just straight
wall-to-wall jobs." —D.D.
Adhesive: BASF | Saws: Makita | Wood Flooring: Eterna Hardwood Flooring
Best Living Room/Family Room (Hand-Cut) | Yantarnaya Pryad (Khimki, Russia)
Val Platonov, vice president of Yantarnaya Pryad, is amazed by the
craftsmen who designed and built the world-famous floors in St.
Petersburg's Hermitage and France's Palace of Versailles. These feats
are "unbelievable," Platanov says, "they blow my mind away." What's
more, those "marvels" were built without computer-aided design and power
Obviously, however, the artistic parquet floors Yantarnaya Pryad
produces are impressive, too, as is the case with this year's Best
Living Room/Family Room winning-entry, located within a massive suburban
Moscow home. This particular room measured 652 square feet, but the
design comprised an impressive 5,300 square feet in a single wing of the
home; in total, Yantarnaya installed 15,000 square feet in the home.
Included in the solid glue-down floor are oak, maple and walnut.
When designing and installing floors that are as intricate as
Yantarnaya's "artistic parquet" products, the "canvas" has to be quite
large, Platonov says, so that the intricate design does not overpower
the rest of the room. Installing an artistic parquet in a 300- or
400-square-foot room might receive the "Oh, my God, how can I walk on
this floor?" reaction, he says. However, there's no threat of that
reaction with this award-winning floor. —D.D.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc., Sika | Edger: Mafell | Filler: Tover | Finish: BonaKemi | Sander: Eugen Lägler GmbH | Saws: Leitz | Wood Flooring: Yantarnaya Pryad
Best Living Room/Family Room (CNC/Laser Cut) | SVB Wood Floor Service Inc. (Grandview, Mo.)
When Steven Brattin, president of SVB Wood Floor Service Inc., moved
to the Kansas City area in 2002, he knew he wanted to start a wood
flooring business that focused on high-end installation. Seven years
later, Brattin has created an exclusive clientele, earned a reputation
as a premiere wood flooring contractor and built his own wood
fabrication shop. And now Brattin can add winning his first Wood Floor
of the Year Award to his list of accomplishments.
The floor that earned SVB its first award was on a remodeling job for
a steel fabrication designer with whom Brattin had worked on a previous
job. The owner had splurged on many bells and whistles in other areas
of the home (such as the fancy iguana cage in the photo) and the floors
were to be no exception. "He wanted something that was unique, that
nobody else had, " Brattin says. "It started out as your basic 2¼ , then
I started talking about designs and showing him different things." The
owner decided on a design created by Troy, Mich.-based Yarema Marquetry.
Brattin laid out the design in CAD and got final approval from the
client before sending it to Dan Antes of Nashville, Ind.-based
Distinctive Hardwood Flooring for the laser cutting.
Once the floor was cut, Brattin had the task of assembling more than
2,0 00 pieces of maple, wenge, walnut and quartered red oak into the
intricate design. "We were probably in the house for two weeks," Brattin
says. All of the hard work and collaboration on this project, along
with the trophy, assure Brattin's place as a premiere wood flooring
Abrasive: Norton Abrasives | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders |
Distributor: Hardwood Floors | Dye: Industrial Finishes | Filler,
Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Router: Festool | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool, Bosch | Sealer: Dura Seal | Wood: Yarema Marquetry
Taking it to the Top
Best Manufacturer Factory Finished (Hand-Cut) Red Oak Hardwood Floor Inc. (Glenview, Ill.)
Tom Smoliga, president of Red Oak Hardwood Floor Inc., has learned
many things during his 15 years in the wood flooring business. He's
discovered new installation methods, new products and more efficient
ways to work. But probably the most valuable experience Smoliga gained
was when he joined the NWFA and gained the tools to take his business to
the next level. "We used to do floors just to make a living , just to
get by," Smoliga says, "but since we joined the NWFA a few years back,
we started to treat it as a career." Smoliga focused on high-end
installations, building Red Oak Hardwood Floor the reputation as a
premium wood flooring contracting company.
His company's elevated status is evident in this Chicago penthouse,
where Smoliga installed approximately 4,500 square feet of prefinished
santos mahogany with a dark-stained birch border. Smoliga worked with
designer Eric Krause of Chicago-based Creative Wood Concepts to design a
floor that met the clients' needs while being able to be glued directly
to the subfloor. The client chose a diagonal layout with a
520-linear-foot border that runs through the entire apartment. While the
field took a week and a half to install, the border took twice that
amount of time. "When we cut the perimeter around the room, we had to
actually groove and bevel all the prefinished flooring, " Smoliga
Now with his first Wood Floor of the Year award, Smoliga has taken
Red Oak Hardwood Floor to a new level. "It's a huge honor for me to win
something like this and be acknowledged by my peers," Smoliga says. —C.L.
Adhesive: Sika | Filler, Wood Flooring: Mirage | Router: Festool | Saws: Bosch, Festool
Best Limited Species | Precision Floorcrafters (Ocala, Fla.)
Matthew Marwick, president of Ocala, Fla.-based Precision
Floorcrafters Inc., says his flooring company "took all the jobs nobody
else wanted" during the recent construction boom years. Today, he's
reaping the rewards: He's booked two to three months in advance, taking
jobs throughout the United States and expanding his company's
central-Florida presence with a new showroom in Summerfield. "We've been
very, very blessed, " he says of his company's success.
One showroom installation that's sure to draw some foot traffic is
his recent Best Limited Species-winning entry—an end-grain cypress
floor. "I thought cypress was such a pretty wood," he says, "and it
offers a much more organic shape" than conventional woods.
Marwick obtained cypress heart pine beams from Micanopy, Fla.-based
Goodwin Heart Pine. Then, along with fellow designer, installer foreman
and childhood buddy Mitchell Perkins—the two even took woodshop classes
together in high school—Marwick cut the beams into ¾-inch end-grain
pieces. This was the toughest part of creating the floor, Marwick says,
because some of the beams had a diameter of about 4 feet. They glued the
pieces down and then installed a filler of cypress dust and epoxy
between the peninsular end-grain pieces. Because the end-grain blocks
acted "like a sponge," Marwick and Perkins had to apply six coats of
tung oil finish.
Even though his company is busy, Marwick continues to maintain
award-winning standards on his jobs. "We're picky enough where we're
never 100-percent satisfied, "he says. —D.D.
Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives Corp. | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro) | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Saws: Festool | Wood: Goodwin Heart Pine Co.
Fresh, New Look
Best Xtreme Makeover | Majestic Wood Floors Inc. (Frederick, Md.)
After nearly five years of having the same floor in his showroom, Bob
Humphreys, president at Majestic Wood Floors, decided it was time for a
change. He wanted the floor to be more dramatic and showcase some
design elements he had used on jobs since the floor was first done. "I
wanted something with a little better flow to it," Humphreys says. The
first step was bringing up the original design on CAD; then, he simply
added new designs. While the Xtreme makeover rules state that up to 50
percent of the original floor can be replaced, only about 60 square feet
of the 630-square-foot floor ended up changing. The four original
corner medallions were replaced by nautical stars with points that
radiate into the existing border and herringbone pattern. "That gave it
more of a three-dimensional effect," Humphreys says. Around the center
medallion, Humphreys created a radial grid pattern to fill the center
field surrounded by the first border. Finally, in the center medallion,
the background wood was replaced to highlight the center star.
Once the new layout was finalized, the new pieces were manufactured
in Humphreys' shop and then placed onto the floor. Humphreys and his
crew had to be careful when tearing out the existing floor not to damage
the elements of the floor that were staying. The new medallions could
be dropped into the slot of the old ones, but the radiating star points
had to be routed out individually. Three new species—walnut, bloodwood
and ebony—were added and the walnut was dyed ebony for more drama.
Humphreys' six-week showroom makeover had the desired effect: a more
dramatic floor that showcased his flooring design skills. The bonus is
earning the respect of his peers by winning his third Wood Floor of the
Year award and piquing the interest of potential clients who walk into
his showroom. —C.L.
Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Lenmar Inc. | Routers: Festool, Porter-Cable | Sanders: Clarke American Sanders, Lägler (Palo Duro)
Wood floor inlays/borders/medallions
Floor of the Year
Installing wood flooring Wood floor design
Distressed wood flooring Reclaimed wood flooring