It is estimated that there are more than 73,000 species of trees on Earth, including about 9,200 species yet to be discovered. However, fewer than 400 of those species are available for commercial use, and even fewer regularly are used in wood flooring applications.
Many great resources are available that provide information about many of these species. Resources we frequently refer to include the following:
- “Wood Handbook, Wood as an Engineering Material” by USDA, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
- “Understanding Wood” and “Identifying Wood” both by Bruce Hoadley
- “The Wood Database” and “Wood!” both by Eric Meier
- “The Wood Handbook” by Nick Gibbs
- “Wood Identification & Use” and “Wood ID Handbook” both by Terry Porter
- “World Woods in Color” by William A. Lincoln
- “The Woodbook” by Taschen
- “A Guide to Useful Woods of the World” by James H. Flynn Jr. and Charles D. Holder
We also rely on the information on wood species through a variety of wood and lumber organizations, including the American Hardwood Export Council, Hardwood Manufacturers Association, International Wood Products Association, National Hardwood Lumber Association, Western Wood Products Association, Southeast Lumber Manufacturers Association, and many others.
The NWFA technical publication A200 “Wood Species Used in Wood Flooring” originally was published in 1994. It has been revised twice, with the last edition published in 2010. This publication was developed as a resource for the wood flooring industry to include general information about wood commonly used in the flooring industry. It includes several common hardwood and softwood species, as well as several selected imported species. In the original 1994 version of Wood Species, there were 13 domestic species and nine imported species included. The first revised edition was completed in 2004. In this edition, the domestic species stayed the same, but the number of imported species increased from nine to 20. In the third edition, very few alterations were made to the publication.
Here we are 12 years later, and it’s time for this publication to be updated again. Although wood species don’t change, the information we use related to each wood species continues to evolve. For wood flooring professionals, knowing about the properties of wood, as well as those of individual wood species, is critical to a proper installation. The trends in the marketplace also change from year to year, as some of the imported species included were relevant to the flooring industry at the time of publishing, but are almost non-existent today.
In reviewing the current Wood Species technical publication in preparation for its rewrite, one of the most important attributes we would like to capture is to hone in on the constant staples of our industry, being domestic hardwoods and softwoods. We also felt it was important to give a clear overview of the mechanical and physical properties of these species, and how these properties relate to the installation, sanding, and finishing of wood flooring. In selecting the species described, the aim has been to offer a fair sampling of some of today’s most-common domestic species, while offering a general listing of many of the more-common tropical and imported species as well, but in much less detail.
In this update, we also will implement an upgrade by combining another existing publication into Wood Species. The technical publication A500 (Grading and Packaging) will be combined with A200 (Wood Species) to make one, more robust, resource for domestic wood species used in the flooring industry.
In this “more robust” technical publication, you can expect to find some good general information on domestic wood characteristics, including the botanical hierarchy, tree anatomy, grain angle and saw cut, appearance and grades, figure characteristics, updated wood characteristics charts, and more. Many of the species’ properties also will be included to help you provide proper information to your customers when making a decision on which species they will be putting to use in their homes.
You will find grading photos and descriptions of each of the domestic species, which will help showcase grade appearance through general NOFMA grading rules. You also will find reference to grading information from many of our sister organizations, such as the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association. The only challenge we have with including grading photos and descriptions is that there are many grading rules laid out in the flooring industry, none of which are mandatory. As a matter of fact, many flooring manufacturers have their own proprietary grades. When referencing this technical publication on grading, it is important that you consider that these are to be used as a guide and as a reference, not as the standard for all mills.
This is a challenge we have faced with the A500 publication for many years. The technical publication A500 “Grading and Packaging” originally was published in 1999. This publication was developed as a resource for our industry for anything related to the grading of flooring. It highlights what grading is, why we have grading, and some of the grading organizations in the flooring industry. It is not a publication that should be used as the “grader’s manual” to consider what is acceptable versus what is unacceptable.
The addition of all of this information to the Wood Species publication will provide the reader with a much more valuable resource when looking for information on a domestic species and when selling the attributes of that species to their prospective customer.
This publication will be available in our online store for purchase and download later this summer. As a member of the NWFA, you should be on the lookout for this upgrade in your technical library.
Brett Miller is the vice president of technical standards, training, and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.