Bold Ways with Wood Floors: Varied Trees Available, but People Also Recycle

Article excerpt

Christian Toto is a staff writer for The Washington Times.

A few years ago, homeowners who wanted a hardwood floor had anywhere from 20 to 30 tree species from which to select. Today, that number has jumped to about 52, says Edward Korczak, executive director of the St. Louis-based National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).

It's just one of the changes fueling the current hardwood-floor market, giving consumers a greater variety in the styles and wooden hues from which they can choose.

Hardwood floors, in general, cost more than carpeted spaces. But they can last for decades, prove a breeze to clean and can be made of recycled wood for an environmental bonus.

The floors can be refinished numerous times, the final number depending on the refinisher's touch. A less skilled craftsman can take too much wood off during the sanding process, robbing years from the floor's life. In a best-case scenario, the floor will last for more than a century.

According to the National Wood Flooring Association, 90 percent of real estate agents surveyed by the group said houses with wood flooring sell faster and for higher prices than those without wood floors.

The expanded wood palette--in part due to higher number of wood-floor products being imported from China, Australia, and Brazil--is but one trend in the industry.

Sprigg Lynn, owner of Universal Floors in Washington, D.C., says the local wood of choice is oak. But that doesn't mean homeowners restrict themselves to only a few wood choices.

"From ash to zebra wood, anything goes today," he says.

The variety of woods available gives homeowners greater flexibility in their design choices. If someone wants a durable wood with a deep cherry color, they may opt for a tough oak floor, then stain it a rich cherry red, he says.

In the District, the youth-friendly condominium market is getting in on the scene, says Lynn. "There is a massive amount of condominiums in Washington," he says. "The majority of them are going with hardwood floors. People are demanding it."

Korczak says many consumers are shifting toward a plank aesthetic, with boards 3, 4, or 5 inches wide, as opposed to the 2 1/4inch width. The former provides a more casual, rustic appearance, he says.

That ties into another swing in consumer interest. Homeowners are opting to recycle found wood into their next wood floor, he says. That wood can be lumber salvaged from another old home's flooring or simply wood that's milled for fresh purposes. Bringing in recycled wood is an expensive option, but it can be the only way to make sure to properly match existing floors.

Another newer trend is ebonized wood floors--wood stained to a nearly black finish. The process is unforgiving--there is no going back once the stains are applied--but it provides a striking visual.

Consumers are also turning to bamboo floors for another aesthetic option. While bamboo is technically a grass, the bamboo floors bring a rich, mottled patterning and can be left finished or unfinished. They also can be as hard as an oak floor.

Korczak says the average hardwood-floor owner is 40 years old or older with an average income of $50,000 or higher. …