By Michael Martin, president and CEO, NWFA
There is a peculiar trend evolving in the flooring industry lately: It seems everywhere I turn, there are flooring products that look like wood but are not wood at all. Seemingly every flooring type — tile, carpet, laminate, LVT/resilient — is being made to duplicate wood’s unique aesthetic. So, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what does this tell us?
To me, it clearly demonstrates the strong desire for wood flooring among today’s commercial consumers. And if consumers want wood, why not get the real thing as opposed to imitations?
There are many more advantages to choosing wood over imitation flooring products than simply its design elements. The most obvious is that wood is a natural product. It is produced in a factory called a forest using a renewable source of energy called the sun and requires nothing more than water and soil provided by Mother Nature to grow. In addition, when trees are harvested, they can be replanted, which makes them a renewable resource.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service supports this claim. It reports that average annual net hardwood growth for the entire eastern United States — where domestic hardwood is primarily grown — is greater than average annual removals. Furthermore, for every hardwood tree harvested, 1.66 trees are replanted in its place, which is increasing standing volume by more than 50%. The result: Total standing hardwood volume has grown in to more than 328 billion cubic feet in the United States.
Trees are a carbon neutral product. During their growth cycle, they take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. At the end of a tree’s life cycle, the reverse is true — the tree will stop producing oxygen and will instead produce carbon dioxide. At this point, the tree is no longer beneficial to the environment, so it is therefore more advantageous to harvest a tree at maturity. When a tree is harvested and becomes a product like wood flooring, its carbon is sequestered for its useful life and not released back into the atmosphere. So as you look around your office right now — at your desk, wood flooring or even the picture frame hanging on your wall — each of those items is sequestering carbon dioxide and will continue to do so until it’s recycled into another form such as mulch, plywood or fuel.
Additionally, wood floors have the added benefit of improving indoor air quality. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, wood floors do not harbor allergens, microorganisms or harmful pesticides that can be tracked in from the outdoors. This is a significant advantage for the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies because wood floors help to eliminate the triggers that can cause them.
With all of the advances in sustainable forest management, wood manufacturing and finish technology, it’s no wonder wood has never been a more desirable flooring material for much more than its looks. It offers tremendous insulation properties, adds warmth to any room, is cost efficient and sustainable, and has timeless beauty. Your clients may be enticed by faux wood aesthetics, but the addition- al benefits found in real wood floors cannot be simulated. It is a win-win-win for your customers, the environment and you.