NWFA Announces Official Definition of Real Wood Flooring

The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) is releasing a formal definition of wood flooring to help consumers and professionals identify the difference between real wood and wood-look flooring products.

“The level of growth in the sales and promotion of wood look-alike products, whether they be laminate, tile, plastic composite, or vinyl plank flooring, has created a need in the marketplace to tell the unique story of wood. And that story has to start with a definition of what is, and more importantly, what is not wood flooring,” said Michael Martin, NWFA President & CEO.

As part of the NWFA’s 2018 strategic planning process, the NWFA Board of Directors established a task force, which included representatives from across the wood flooring supply chain. This group created the formal definition for wood flooring as follows:

Wood is the hard fibrous material that forms from the main substance of the trunk or branches and beneath the bark of a tree. A wood floor is any flooring product that contains real wood as the top-most, wearable surface of the floor.

Wood flooring may be broken into three categories:

  • Solid wood flooring is a solid piece of wood from top to bottom.
  • Engineered wood flooring is real wood from top to bottom. Normally made using multiple wood veneers or slats of wood glued together at opposing directions.
  • Composite engineered wood flooring contains real wood on the wearable surface only. The backing and core material may be made up of any type of composite material.

“Many flooring options today emulate the look of wood flooring, causing consumers a great deal of uncertainty about what they are actually purchasing,” said Brenda Cashion, Hardwood Product Developer and Market Strategist at Swiff-Train Company, and member of the NWFA Board of Director’s Task Force. “As the authority for the wood flooring industry, the NWFA felt it was necessary to establish a clear definition of what comprises a true hardwood floor and to deliver that message directly to consumers.”

Now that the definition of wood flooring is approved, the work of promoting the definition, and the wood flooring that falls under the definition, will begin. The NWFA and its members will launch a formal consumer awareness campaign in 2019.

9 thoughts

  1. I’m going to take issue with this. Two of the three bulleted definitions are legit. The third one isn’t. Real Wood Floors are wood floors all the way through, top to bottom. Flooring that contains wood at the surface only is not a Real Wood Floor; I’m sorry. “Composite engineered wood flooring contains real wood on the wearable surface only. The backing and core material may be made up of any type of composite material” is merely a flooring product that contains wood at the surface; it is NOT however a real wood floor. Has our industry now defined “Real Wood Floors” to include any product that includes “wood” at merely the surface? Does that now pass muster as a Real Wood Floor, by the new definition? Or has it merely created inclusion for those who want to “compete” in the wood flooring segment, with a now legitimately sanctioned product? We have watered this down now to the point that any wood top layer that is enclosed in a thermoplastic resin, coating, or polymer can be considered a Real Wood Floor. What a huge mistake this is going to be. This will create unparalleled confusion, in my opinion, for consumers. They had a hard time believing for years that engineered flooring was real wood, as a stand alone option, to 3/4 solid. Now we will mix the signal even further by saying the minimum standard is just the top wearable surface you walk on. We had a shot to get it right, and we didn’t do it, in my opinion. Now anyone can market a “Real Wood Floor” when nothing past the first 1-2 mils can be anything but “Real Wood”. Is this the best that the NWFA Task Force assigned to this can come up with? I might be the only one disappointed in this result; it seems to be more politically biased for inclusionary purposes those manufacturers who want to be able to market legitimately within the wood flooring segment. Here’s my unbiased opinion: It’s time to get real. Consumers are going to get duped. Again. We’ve got to deliver the obvious truth to the consumer, and we’ve wasted an opportunity to do so. In my humble unbiased opinion. 🙂

  2. While I appreciate and support the desire to further educate consumers on the value of real wood, I don’t see the issuance of an “official definition” being a game changer. Respectfully, the definition as written actually makes wood sound less appealing. A “fibrous substance” makes me think of straw, rope, or something to make a basket from rather than the wear layer for a hardwood floor.

    Rather than focus on a scientific definition that basically says “wood comes from trees” (which pretty much is a given even to the uninformed), why not focus solely on why to choose wood rather than plastic? Wood is real. Wood is warm. Wood is renewable. Wood is safe for you and the environment. Wood is classy. Wood showcases nature. The list goes on.

    Again, I do appreciate the effort, but just hope the direction taken doesn’t gloss potential customers over with a bunch of lingo rather than give them solid reasons to choose the real thing.

    Maybe the industry just needs to market wood using the old Marvin Gaye song “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”.

  3. This “definition” is nothing more than the NWFA pandering to manufacturers who want to make cheap garbage, and call it “wood flooring.”

    As a hardwood floor craftsman, I feel an obligation to my customer to be honest with them, and help them make educated decisions about their wood floors. Apparently, the NWFA cares more about politics than the truth.

    This changes nothing for those of us commtted to an honest wood floor business. We will continue to educate the consumer, and provide REAL wood floor craftsmanship and restoration, as we always have.

    Thank you, NWFA, for your candor in this. I’m not into conspiracy theories, and I’ve heard plenty of them floating around social media and the internet about supposed collusion in the industry. At least now we have a clearly written piece on where the organization stands.

  4. Real wood. A solid piece of wood. That’s not so hard, is it nwfa? The third definition is stupid. Fake Chinese crap is now “real wood”?This makes me really not want to renew my membership. This is going to do way more damage than good. SMH

  5. Thank you all for your feedback on the definition of real wood. These definitions were created to address false marketing from other flooring categories that have implied they are made of wood products over the last few years.

    The NWFA task forces that worked on the definition were comprised of an industry peer group of wood flooring manufacturers, distributors, contractors, inspectors, and retailers. Three definitions were developed: Solid, Engineered, and Engineered Composite.

    As a trade association made up of the entire supply chain of wood flooring companies, NWFA continues to teach and support the use of quality wood flooring that can be refinished multiple times as the best environmental choice for consumers. From this baseline of definitions, the NWFA can now move forward with promoting real wood floors and helping our members grow consumer awareness of quality products.

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