Chair’s Cut: Telling the Sustainability Story of Wood Floors

Sustainability is trending, and many experts predict that it is set to remain a primary driver of buying habits. Consumers have begun to drive the market for sustainable products in their homes, including their flooring choices. Our industry is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend and help customers understand why wood flooring is truly a sustainable choice and provide the opportunity for them to “see the forest for the trees.”

Wood floors are the most environmentally friendly flooring option available. Responsible forestry practices ensure that we will never run out of raw material. Trees can be regrown time and time again to replace those harvested.

Color Finishes Textured Wood - Wood Floor of the Year Entry After Photo - Sustainability of Wood Floors
After Photo – Photos courtesy of MSCS Inc. | 2022 WFOY entry

Another favorable influence on natural resources is that the manufacturing of wood floors produces very little waste. Any waste products from the manufacturing of wood floors, including materials like bark, wood chips, wood shavings, and sawdust, typically are saved and used in the manufacturing facility. These waste products can be used to fuel boilers, heat the facility, or for other purposes.

Color Finishes Textured Wood - Wood Floor of the Year Entry Before Photo - Sustainability of Wood Floors
Before Photo

Trees are a carbon-neutral material. They take in carbon dioxide during their growth cycle and produce oxygen. However, one of the amazing facts about wood is not very well-known: wood stores carbon during its service life. This means that any manufactured wood product continues to store carbon as a manufactured end-product even after being sealed and finished.

When properly maintained, wood floors can last for hundreds of years. Solid wood floors can be sanded and refinished numerous times during their service lives, and many engineered prefinished floors can be refinished as well. A home’s style can stay on point for generations. A simple sheen change; a new stain color; or techniques such as hand scraping, wire brushing, or distressing can all create major transformations for a wood floor and the home. Rarely can such an impact on a home’s style occur without a trip or two to the landfill.

Wood has minimal impact on the accumulation of landfill waste. At the end of their service life, wood floors can be recycled into reclaimed flooring, repurposed as furniture, utilized in pressed wood products, manufactured into wood bricks or pellets, and even turned into mulch. Wood can be used as fuel or as a heating source. Finally, if the wood does end up in the landfill, it is biodegradable, which means it will decompose.

Th August/September issue provides a number of resources to help you further illustrate wood flooring’s sustainability story to your customers. Our feature story provides the latest information about the sustainability benefits of wood flooring. This is followed by Criswell Davis’s article about biophilic design (the yearning that all humans have to connect with nature). Finally, learn more about how the NWFA is announcing a certification program that provides the necessary criteria to determine if an engineered wood flooring product can be refinished.

There are a lot of flooring choices for the consumer today, and it can be a confusing process. Our industry has many strong selling points when it comes to sustainability. As a wood flooring professional, it is the perfect time to educate your customers about the different wood flooring options available to them, and what cost savings and design options it may provide them in the future. It’s a small way we can all play a part in helping preserve the planet for future generations.

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