05 Dec When Wood Is Good, Part II
Styling, price and performance determine engineered hardwood flooring sales, though environmental attributes abound
More people in the Midwest are choosing engineered hardwood because of a growing demand for wider plank flooring, particularly the 5-inch wide hand-scraped products.
The fact that these products use less premium hardwood than solid wood floors, along with other green attributes, is not the focus.
Very few ask about whether the wood was sustainably harvested or whether indoor-air friendly glues and finishes were used in making the product. Nonetheless, they are frequently opting for our engineered products, which are sustainably harvested and made with adhesives and finishes that are better for human health.
Engineered hardwood is a top choice for people building green homes on the West Coast, according to Aiki Homes in Bellingham, WA. And The New York Times recently pointed out that the appearance and performance of engineered hardwood floors have improved dramatically, spurring a trend that is sweeping the country.
The premium wood used in engineered, or floating, floors is the top veneer or layer, which can be up to ¼-inch thick. This veneer is glued to a wood core and backing, which make up the rest of the tongue-and-groove board. This construction results in a floor that is more dimensionally stable, meaning less expansion and contraction in response to changes in humidity and temperature. Engineered floors also can be installed in basements, and they can be sanded and refinished – often as many times as a solid floor can be, with a quality product.
Recycled content, sustainably harvested and healthful indoor air quality
Beyond style, performance and competitive pricing, there are several green benefits to weigh in choosing a product. Harding Hardwood — an engineered floor made by Shaw – is a good example.
Harding Hardwood, made in the United States, uses a core material that is a high-density core board made from recycled wood fiber, which means Harding flooring uses 50 percent less newly harvested wood than many leading brands. To attest that the product does not emit chemicals in unhealthful amounts, the product also has GREENGUARD Children & Schools Indoor-Air Quality Certification. This certification enforces emission limits on more than 360 VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in addition to a total sum of VOCs that can off-gas. These limits are more stringent than California section 01350.
The environmental benefits of engineered floors are so impressive that they should be pointed out.
There are a lot of Anderson brand engineered hardwood sales, as well as the Somerset line. Both of these products are manufactured in the United States, and both are FSC-certified companies, making them a great choice for both the U.S. economy, and the environment.
Like Harding Hardwood, the Anderson Hardwood has Cradle to Cradle Silver Certification – a third-party certification that assesses products based on material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship and social responsibility. Anderson also has GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certification, which is not as stringent as GREENGUARD Children & Schools.
Harding Hardwood, however, also has Environmentally Preferred Product (EPP) Certification – a third-party verification that it has a significantly reduced impact on the environment.
FSC factory or FSC product?
Interpreting what a company means when it says it has FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification requires a little more investigation.
While many manufacturers’ factories, including some of Shaw’s and Armstrong Worldwide Industries,’ have FSC certification, this does not mean that all of the flooring produced there is FSC certified. Additional certifications such as Responsible Procurement Program (RPP) Certification – from the National Wood Flooring Association, a trade organization – can further confuse. Anderson Hardwood, distributed by Wanke Cascade on the Northwest Coast, was the first company to receive this certification, and having completed Tiers 1 and 2, the company has FSC certification and is audited annually.
Having FSC certification means that a company can segregate and identify FSC certified hardwood as it leaves the forest and enters the factory, and the factory can then manufacture FSC certified flooring. But these plants also manufacture flooring that is not certified, and saying that a company is certified does not mean the product is.
For example, while USFloors’ oil-finished, engineered Navarre line is FSC certified, its polyurethane-finished Carriage House line is not. The Navarre flooring line is a higher-end product that competes with DuChateau Floors, an FSC certified product that was recently nominated for an Interiors & Sources Readers’ Choice Award.
The Navarre line from USFloors also gets a lot of attention.
Because it is finished with a natural oil, it offers the potential for spot repairs. Navarre, however, is pricier than others, including Somerset, which also has a good price-to-quality ratio.
For some retailers, that price to quality ratio often means that solid hardwood still wins over engineered.
Within most product lines, the engineered products carry a higher price tag given the added elements that go into their manufacturing process,
There also still seems to be some higher regard for solid wood products. Some people still think of solid products as those that can be sanded and refinished more often, although they do not realize that in most cases, they may never sand and refinish the floors, but rather, will simply recoat them, if even that. I think this outlook has a lot to do with lack of education. ©
— Nancy Kibbee is editor at naturalinteriors.com.