The Wood Flooring Industry Prepares for New Normal with COVID-19

After weeks of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, states began the process of reopening at varying degrees in late April and throughout the month of May.

During the NWFA Virtual Expo, Bruce Zwicker, CEO of Zwicker Advisory LLC, noted that to survive and thrive, companies have to quickly figure out new protocols with personal protective equipment (PPE) and customer interactions. Next, businesses must figure out their competitive edge.

“Think about how you will start coming back and how you will get your people excited about it,” says Zwicker.“Continue using what you learned while working remotely – all of the things you ended up doing that you didn’t know you needed to do before. This time is an opportunity to change and improve, and it’s all about enlisting your people.”

A Hardwood Floors survey conducted in late April showed nearly 60 percent of respondents were operating with reduced hours/workload, and about 17 percent had been temporarily closed, attributed mostly to fewer customers or closures mandated by the state in which they operate. The survey found that close to 35 percent expect COVID-19 to impact their company’s operations through midyear 2020, while almost 40 percent anticipate the impact will linger to the end of 2020.

All of this has meant changes to the way wood flooring businesses function across the supply chain. While most have adopted increased sanitation and safety procedures and canceled work travel, other actions have included working remotely, budget cuts, reduction in staff on site, and drive-through supply pick-ups, among others. Businesses are changing how they operate and getting creative to fulfill new needs.

While ProKnee Corp. is known for manufacturing custom knee pads for flooring installers, they shifted focus to making a new product – face shields for first responders. This, as PPE shortages, has been widely reported by medical professionals during the pandemic.

“Initially, we went into shield making thinking it would be for the duration of the health emergency to help the front line as well as sustain our business through the economic crisis,” explains Jordan Richards, Marketing Director for ProKnee. “However, as we continue to evolve the product, we foresee keeping it in our ProKnee line as it aligns with our ethos of providing innovative, durable, quality, custom fit PPE.”

American Sanders has seen a strong response to launching a disinfecting product from their parent company, Pioneer Eclipse, in the hardwood floor market. According to Roy Cox, Global Product Manager for American Sanders, Nova Germicidal Disinfectant has been around for several years for use on hard floor surfaces and meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

“In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we initiated testing on hardwood flooring to ensure that the disinfecting process would do no harm to the existing surface or impede future recoating,” explains Cox. “We definitely have seen an increased interest in disinfecting floors by contractors and homeowners.”

Cox advises following the directions on the product label, using proper dilution, and getting 100 percent coverage.

“My best practice in a residential setting is to mist the floor with a spray bottle, then wipe that with a dampened microfiber mop,” explains Cox.

Cleanliness is top-of-mind during the pandemic. Companies are increasing sanitation efforts on the job, whether it is a manufacturing facility, a retail store, or at a customer’s home.

“In February, we had fewer than 10 calls from consumers asking about disinfecting. In April, we had more than 70,” notes Heather Lindemann, Senior Communications Manager for Bona. “From contractors, we’ve had queries about the best way to disinfect a floor, as well as questions about the effectiveness of antimicrobial finishes.”

To keep floors safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lindemann recommends following the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which state cleaning before disinfecting.

Robert McNamara, Director of Marketing and Sales for Basic Coatings, says they have been receiving all kinds of inquiries related to COVID-19 and wood floors. They suggest deep cleaning with Intensive Floor Treatment (I.F.T.) and neutralizing with Squeaky. We also asked about tips for increasing cleanliness on the job, since Betco Corporation, which owns Basic Coatings, makes products for the commercial cleaning industry.

“As far as cleaning and wiping down, we follow and recommend CDC requirements,” says McNamara. “Please note that washing hands frequently with soap and water is recommended, not necessarily needing antibacterial, disinfectants, or sanitizers.”

Betco recently launched a 5-Step Disinfecting Program with resources for the building service industry. The steps include site assessment and PPE, selecting the right application tools and disinfectant, proper infection control procedures, paying special attention to critical touchpoints, and communicating reassurance that disinfection was completed. For a complete list of helpful resources, check out the Hardwood Floors COVID-19 Resource Center here.

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