Chairman’s Cut: Wood Flooring in Commercial Spaces

Wood floors can be a beautiful addition to any commercial project. For wood flooring professionals, it is important to understand that specifying wood floors for commercial spaces differs significantly from specifying them for residential spaces. When proposing wood flooring in a commercial space, we like to ask many questions about how the space is being used. Getting the spec right is critical for several reasons. Commercial spaces can be much larger than residential, and depending on the installation method, these large spaces need extra thought and planning to succeed.

For starters, the wood floors used in commercial settings must stand up to rigors that most residential wood floors would never be exposed to. Commercial wood floors will experience the foot traffic of potentially thousands of people day in and day out. They also need to be able to withstand dents from dropped items and stains from spills.

Species hardness plays an important role in specifying commercial wood floors. Harder species are less susceptible to denting, scratching, scuffing, and other incidental wear and tear.

Construction of commercial spaces is a consideration as well. Most commercial jobs include steel-stud framing and are constructed on a concrete slab instead of the wood framing and subfloor that is used in many residential projects.

Sound control is another important consideration when specifying commercial wood floors. This is especially important in multi-family structures.

The finish used on a commercial wood flooring project also will have a big impact on its overall look, feel, and functionality. Some finishes are more effective than others for commercial projects. We are big fans of UV-cured oils on prefinished floors and hard waxed oils that are field applied. We really like the ease-of-maintenance for these types of finishes in the field. There is little downtime and low odor when refreshed.

The final step in specifying a commercial wood floor is to recommend a maintenance routine that will keep the floor looking beautiful for its lifetime and functioning within the high demands of the commercial space. Too often, there is a disconnect between the specification of the floor and the maintenance of that floor to the end-user.

Most of the commercial spaces we are involved with have been in hospitality, but we occasionally also are involved with performance venues and high-end offices. In these types of venues, one of the biggest challenges is communicating care and maintenance procedures all the way down to those using the space. We come in early and get the right product specified for the space, but never interact with the people using and maintaining the space. For example, oiled finishes require very specific cleaning and refreshing procedures, and if not communicated, they can get off to a very bad start.

This issue of Hardwood Floors focuses on trends in commercial, how COVID-19 is impacting that side of the business, and what you need to know about taking on a commercial project. Read on to learn more about the nuances of specifying and installing wood flooring in commercial spaces starting on page 46. Also, be sure to check out the number of resources the NWFA has available about wood flooring installation, sand and finish, and repair in commercial spaces and beyond. More information is available at

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