Emily Morrow Finkell for NWFA Magazine
Hardwood Floors for Savvy Consumers October 16, 2017
If you, or someone you know, are thinking about tackling some renovations to your home this year…you’re probably a little torn between “if, how much and where” to use carpet, hardwood floors or rugs…or a combination of each. The first things to ask yourself are how much of the legwork are you willing to do and whether or not you want to bring in the help of a professional. Perhaps it would be money well-spent to tap into the expertise and guidance you’d receive from someone who does this type of thing regularly and knows the potential pitfalls as well as the newest latest things to choose from. What compels someone to call a professional and who exactly do they consider a professional?
Recent years’ research released on HOUZZ and ASID state that out of 260,000 survey respondents, 84% hired some sort of “professional” or specialist to assist them with their home renovation project. Half of those responding to the survey hired an actual interior designer and the other half was divided between hiring kitchen and bath designers and design-build firms. Overall most homeowners find themselves challenged by things like determining their budget, working out the scheduling of work to be done, selecting products, finishes and materials, identifying their style, and coordinating the pros within their own schedules.
As homeowners are evaluating whether or not they want to hire a “professional”, they are planning on renovating the kitchen usually in order to upgrade and update countertops and to create a more “open floor plan” and the number one reason for 80% is to create a more beautiful space, simply put, to “please themselves” for their longterm enjoyment. Other still-significant reasons to renovate given by the respondents are to improve organization, improve function or to upgrade features like appliances and finishes. The decision to hire a professional designer is guided by an overall expectation that a designer can help the process go smoothly and avoid costly and time consuming mistakes.
Over the past two years since launching a “to the trade” line of premium hardwood floors, I’ve been surprised by one revelation that seems to have changed during the years that I was not practicing “100% full-time interior design” which has to do with hiring skilled installers of flooring, specifically hardwood flooring. Having grown up in my family business of industrial and commercial construction I’ve taken for granted having the resources of skilled tradesmen like electricians, brick and stone masons, finish carpenters and flooring installers. Having had my own interior design business and subsequent career in the flooring industry of Dalton, Georgia, I’ve taken for granted the resources for all these same skilled contractors and subcontractors but in the past two and a half years while developing my new business Emily Morrow Home, a division of E.F. Floors & Design in talking with designers and specifiers, it’s come to my attention that not everyone feels they have the resources or the competency to handle the hardwood flooring portion of their design projects as they might handle other parts of their design projects. “Why?” I asked. The responses varied from their concern over not having a tight enough control over the succession and timeline of jobs or the variations in all of the hardwood flooring types, leaving that part to the contractor, all the while, perhaps being limited to the flooring choices that their “go to guy” had to show them. As with everything, there are exceptions and there are always scenarios where I’d find designers who held in their resource rooms very beautiful flooring options, many of which had obscure labeling with elegant and european sounding “brand” names. Why is this information important? I’d like to think we have an opportunity to bring our professional groups together in an effort to better connect them to not only a higher level of skilled installers, a better variety of hardwood products and more importantly a more in depth knowledge of what to look for in “quality and premium” hardwood flooring.
As a professional interior designer and a floor covering expert, here are some of the typical questions people ask me…
Q: Where can I install hardwood floors…can they go on my slab floor or in my basement?
A: You can install engineered hardwood flooring in areas that solid wood floors cannot go, due to their dimensional stability of the cross-plies of hardwood, the flooring is an ideal flooring material chooice.
Q: How do I clean hardwood floors?
A: The less you do, the better. Due to advertised “cleaners” for hardwood, many homeowners are misinformed into thinking that they need to buy expensive or complicated wood cleaners. A barely damp mop of spot cleaning with a soft cloth will do nicely. Hardwood floors do not need to be wet mopped as hardwood is a living material and will expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperatures. Keeping the interior environment stable is the best way to keep hardwood floors looking beautiful for generations.
Q: What do I need to consider when shopping for hardwood floors?
Q: How do I tell the difference between “real hardwood” flooring and “wood look” flooring?
Q: How long will this look be in style?
Q: Do hardwood floors add value to my home or is that a myth?
Q: How can I find a good installer that I know is reliable and skilled?
So for sake of time and interest, let me walk you through the basic process of how and why certain colors, finishes and “looks” are created in flooring today. For starters there are major trends going on in the world and more specifically the USA that serve as a guideline for what we will see in new product introductions. If for example, single family, new home construction starts are up and remodeling projects are up, you’ll see many more higher quality “enduring” products enter the market place. Like a see-saw, if the multi-family households increasing then you’ll find more of the value-engineered and performance products come into play. Homeowners want to know that the materials that they build into their homes or update their homes with will not only endure, but will stand the test of time. Many home projects are showcasing custom-type kitchen cabinets, luxurious bathrooms, very specific and unique aesthetics that go well beyond the “beige options” of the early 2000’s. Grays, taupes, creamy off whites and white-whites are clearly making homes look and feel entirely fresh and certainly not dated for the early 2000’s but positioning them for the next decade of color and design trends.
Today’s flooring options, especially hardwood flooring, is durable beyond what one would expect if they based their judgement on flooring of twenty years ago. We have technology built into each layer of hardwood from the face, to the core, to the back. Advanced aluminum oxide finishes not only resist surface scratches and daily wear, but also popular hardwood species like white oak become even harder and more stable when pressed and cross-plied with similarly-hard species. Many imported hardwood products are often imposters to “European oaks”, having “genteel sounding” names and romanced with wonderful storylines but when the rubber hits the road, or the can of soup hits the floor, the truth comes out and the shortcuts can be seen and felt, leaving many homeowners disappointed in their flooring choice, perhaps disillusioned in hardwood unnecessarily. If one does hire a professional designer and or a professional installer, then their chances of loving the outcome are much greater since professionals have typically worked with their “tried and true” products and brands, knowing that their reputation and livelihood is at stake with word of mouth and social media being one of the primary platforms on which they showcase their work.
How does one clean a hardwood floor? There are some great options today for keeping hardwood flooring clean, and like many flooring types, the less you do, the better. For wood, only a barely “damp” mop or dry “swiffer” type pad will work well. Little to no moisture is best. Assuming your floors are pre-finished, it doesn’t take much to keep them looking like new as long as you’re not dancing in heels, abusing them carelessly. Oil based hardwood flooring, is another thing altogether. I can hear the “Cinderella song” in my head right now just thinking about waxing oil-based floors. Knowing the right type of flooring for the right areas is so important once again going back to the values of working with a professional designer or installer. There are some basic things you should consider when choosing hardwood flooring for your home. I’d suggest sticking with porcelain tile or vinyl flooring for the full bathrooms where showers and bathtubs create a constant moist environment. Powder room type bathrooms on the other hand are beautiful when hardwood flooring is used and especially so if there’s a harmonious and continuous flow of the same hardwood flooring going throughout an open floor plan. Many times, I am asked if hardwood flooring is okay for kitchens to which I always answer “YES, absolutely”. In face, hardwood flooring is my personal favorite option for kitchens as it adds so much warmth, character and personality to the kitchen which has become the #1 area of the home where families and friends gather and generally the largest part of a home’s budget. Hardwood flooring and kitchen cabinet styles have both evolved over the years to provide homeowners wide options of colors, stains, finishes…giving a high end, luxurious first-impression for the rest of the home. Kitchen cabinet companies have been showcasing whites, off-whites, grays and even some robins egg blues at recent builders, kitchen and bath shows. Some “stained wood” finishes still sell but the biggest trends are found in painted finishes as they give a super-custom furniture effect when base cabinets might be one color and island bases are another and mixed together skillfully so that it looks and feels like actual furniture.
So how can designers and homeowners better connect with skilled installers? NWFA has several resources including the “Find a Professional” feature at woodfloors.org, the NWFA Industry Guide at hardwoodfloorsmag.com, as well as a team of experts that designers and consumers can tap into to locate credible, certified installers that they can rely on to bring their vision to life. If you are an installer who has not joined NWFA or gone through certification with the NWFA, I encourage you to consider the importance and value of the program. Certification sets you apart from the rest of the pack and allows you to force the competition to step it up in their credibility. I encourage my fellow designers to start with this impressive pool of skilled professionals.
Similarly, I encourage installation professionals to reach out to local designers, introduce yourself and share the value of working with a professional for wood flooring projects. The ASID “Find a Pro” feature at asid.org puts you in contact with North America’s most talented professional designers. In addition, the NWFA has a set of presentations that can be used to provide education and CEUs to designers. Forging these relationships will help improve the overall quality of any flooring project.
Emily Morrow Finkell is CEO of Emily Morrow Home and EF Floors & Design in Dalton, Georgia. You can contact Emily at 1-866-775-3877 or firstname.lastname@example.org