Final Coat: Wood is Old, but Also New Again

Photo courtesy of NWFA.

Before North America was colonized, there were only two choices for flooring in most of the world: dirt or wood. And the wood option was only for the elite, wealthy, and royals. As the new world came into being, the vast availability of wood from the forest lands of North America allowed for more people to have wood flooring. However, it was still a luxury item and the most-likely competitor was still dirt.  

As the industrial revolution and new ways of living rapidly unfolded, options like tile or linoleum grew, but only for use in bathrooms or kitchens. It wasn’t until after World War II that carpet became more-affordable for the masses. At the time, wood floors were deemed outdated, and carpet became a preferred luxury item. However, after a few years, people realized that carpet didn’t wear well forever, and wood emerged again as the top luxury choice in the 1990s.  

Think about that – for most of human history, with the exception of three decades in the middle of the 1900s, wood has been the preferred choice for flooring.  

On the one hand, it might be nice to imagine a marketplace where your products only compete with dirt. On the other hand, regardless of other options, people who are making an investment in their home continue to want wood. Perhaps now, more than ever, it’s time to focus on branding wood as a luxury product that has no real competitor.  

This issue features many reclaimed products, both from a product standpoint and from the skills and special knowledge necessary to be successful with reclaimed projects.  

One of the greatest benefits of using a reclaimed product is the story it allows you to tell during the sale, and more importantly, the story it will enable the  end-user to tell about their floor. That’s what consumers really want – a story they can tell their friends, and a floor they can be proud of.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment of our current marketplace with so many look-a-like products, but remember two things: 1) They all look like wood; 2) This too is a trend that will not last forever.  

What will last forever? Wood. 

History repeats itself frequently, so if time is any indicator, wood flooring will remain the most-desired floor for the rest of history. The uniqueness of every board, the natural elements it brings indoors, and the prestige of having the real thing all point toward a healthy future for our industry.  

As I write this, the tariffs on imported products have lessened the competition for better wood products by discouraging the import of low-end wood and look-a-like products. Homebuilding is at record highs in some places, and interest rates are as low as they’ve ever been. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the future.  

There is no better time to invest in your company. Send your employees to training, make plans to attend the NWFA Expo, and use the “Real Wood. Real Life.” consumer campaign tool kit to differentiate your products and marketing as “real wood,” and to show your pride in being part of the real wood industry. Visit nwfa.org to download the toolkit and to see our 2021 training calendar. 

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