The Oak Flooring Manufacturers of the United States (NOFMA) was formed in 1909 in Detroit, Michigan. The purpose of the group was to publish and administer grading rules, provide statistical data, and to act as the official spokesperson for the hardwood flooring industry. NOFMA enjoyed brief stints in Detroit, Chicago, and Cincinnati. When the trend in hardwood lumber production began to lean toward the South, the oak flooring manufacturers did likewise. In 1930, NOFMA moved to Memphis, Tennessee, which had become not only the geographical center of the industry, but also the largest point of production. In fact, Tennessee continues to produce more wood flooring than any other state (approximately 25 percent of total U.S. production).
With the advent of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA), 70 wood flooring manufacturers reorganized as the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association, primarily to act as an agency of the Lumber Code Authority for the administration of a Code of Fair Competition for the oak flooring industry under provisions of the NIRA. Of the 70 original members in 1933, only one remains today: Missouri Hardwood by Hardwoods of Missouri in Birch Tree, Missouri.
As the 1930s progressed, the Bureau of Commerce adopted NOFMA grading and milling standards for its Commercial Standards Program, and the NOFMA grading system became such a well-established tradition in hardwood flooring production that even non-member mills routinely separated their production of strip and plank flooring along NOFMA guidelines. This trend continues to this day.
Recovering from the Depression years, hardwood flooring made a steady climb in flooring shipments. In 1949, U.S. flooring shipments were at a high of nearly 800 million board feet
(645 million sq. ft.), compared to just 43 million board feet (35 million sq. ft.) in 1909. In 1966, the Veterans Administration and the Federal Housing Administration, following the lead of private mortgage agencies, approved wall-to-wall carpeting as a primary floor in a home. The use of wall-to-wall carpeting, then a popular status symbol, increased dramatically. The effect on the wood flooring industry was devastating.
After a long decline, the industry bottomed out in 1982, when hardwood flooring shipments were less than 10 percent of their 1949 high. Since the late 80s and 90s, there has been steady growth in the popularity of wood floors. Today, nearly a billion square feet of wood flooring is sold in the U.S. each year, and wood flooring holds steady as the number one aspirational flooring product with consumers.
Part of NOFMA’s original plan to be the spokesperson for the industry has included making consumers aware of the value a hardwood floor adds to a home. Here are a couple of NOFMA advertisements from 1966 and 1969.
Wood flooring’s comeback can be attributed in part to NOFMA’s unwavering commitment to the industry. Part of NOFMA’s original plan to be the spokesperson for the industry has included making consumers aware of the value a hardwood floor adds to a home. Advertising campaigns traditionally have emphasized quality and beauty, as well as the different grades and species that are available. Over the years, technical publications such as Installation Guidelines, Sand and Finish Guidelines, and The Official Flooring Grading Rules, have been developed and made available to trade professionals. Furthermore, in 1979, recognizing a shortage of skilled installers, NOFMA along with the American Parquet Association (APA), originated the “Hardwood Flooring Installation School.” This school later gained support from the Maple Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA), and in the mid-80s, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).
NOFMA continued to develop programs and standards, as well as conduct research through the 90s, and into the new millennium. As a complementary service to its long-standing mill certification program, NOFMA began conducting a series of mill grading training programs to ensure grading consistency throughout the industry. Soon after, NOFMA developed the Wood Flooring Inspector Certification Program. This program was designed to provide qualified third party individuals who could properly assess the causes of flooring related problems at the jobsite. NOFMA also funded research at well-known institutions like Virginia Tech that explored issues such as the effects of various tongue sizes on wood flooring, fastener withdrawal resistance of wood-based composite panel products, and how the powder post beetle affects hardwood flooring materials.
Of the 70 original members of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association in 1933, only one remains today: Missouri Hardwood/Hardwoods of Missouri in Birch Tree, Missouri.
The NWFA was founded in 1985. By 1989, NWFA developed scholarship funds to help train wood flooring installers, and several NWFA and NOFMA regional training events were hosted together around the country. For more than 20 years, NWFA and NOFMA worked side by side, and often together, raising the bar in the wood flooring industry. It became apparent that both groups would be more effective if they joined forces, and in 2008, NWFA and NOFMA consolidated under the NWFA umbrella.
To reflect the new partnership with NWFA, NOFMA was rebranded NWFA/NOFMA in 2008. Staying true to its roots, NWFA/NOFMA continues to publish and administer industry standards, certify wood flooring mills, and invest in advertising campaigns (currently with Hardwood Floors magazine). The NWFA/NOFMA International Standards for Unfinished Solid Wood Flooring, and the NWFA/NOFMA International Standards for Factory Finished Solid Wood Flooring are the go-to standards for the wood flooring community. The standards are perhaps best known and utilized for their grade descriptions of Clear, Select, #1 Common, and #2 Common. This grading system is used regularly by architects and designers to specify projects, wood flooring manufacturers in the separation of their production, and sales professionals to help establish customer expectations.
NWFA/NOFMA continues to invite wood flooring manufacturers to certify their facilities to the industry’s wood flooring standards. Auditors conduct two onsite visits per year to ensure participating manufacturers meet grading guidelines, as well as additional criteria within the standards such as configuration and machining, moisture content, average bundle sizes, average minimum board lengths, and finish guidelines. The NWFA/NOFMA mill certification program continues to adapt to the changing marketplace. As an example, the program now has a compliance path that is open to wood flooring manufacturers that choose to develop their own grading guidelines, and sell products under proprietary names. At the time of this writing, there are 23 manufacturers from the U.S. and Canada who have earned the NWFA/NOFMA mark of distinction, and they vary greatly in size, product offerings, grading systems, and methods of distribution.
Although many NWFA/NOFMA certified manufacturers produce engineered wood flooring as part of their product mix, engineered products currently are not eligible to carry the NWFA/NOFMA logo. The Decorative Hardwoods Association (formerly HPVA) is the standards developer for the American National Standard for Engineered Wood Flooring (ANSI/HPVA EF 2020). To minimize confusion, NWFA does not maintain a separate engineered wood flooring standard. Conversely, we actively participate in revisions of ANSI/HPVA EF standard, and formally have adopted it since 2002.
In response to the lack of clarity of what constitutes real engineered wood flooring, in 2002, the Federation of European Parquet (FEP) has made substantial efforts in establishing a European norm stating that a wood floor can only be called “parquet” if its real wood top wear layer is thick enough to be resanded. NWFA/NOFMA currently is exploring the possibility of developing a program that closely aligns with FEP.
Mark your calendar now for
Wood Flooring Manufacturers Assembly
October 25-26 in Nashville
John Forbes is the director of manufacturer services for NWFA in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be reached at email@example.com.