Oak Is Back With High Gloss And Long Planks

Back To The Basics As King

Today's state-of-the-art technology means: Production by manufacturers of hardwoods in the hardwood flooring industry can just about do anything they want.

After a years review of consumer tastes, it has become apparent that most educated consumers these days want to return to the basics, and that usually means oak. Reports indicate that the latest trends in hardwood flooring also include new finishes, textures, colors and longer, wider plank sizes.

Luc Robitaille, vice president of marketing at Boa-Franc; makers of Mirage brand, has agreed with these new reports. He also indicates that there is definitely a trend toward lighter colors and texture, but, it may not be as pronounced as a few years ago. Luc says that some dark colors are being requested even if the trend tends to favor lighter colors for a more natural, relaxed and organic look. The popularity of these softer textured hardwood floors is at an all-time high.

Robitaille explained that tried-and-true oak remains popular with consumers because Oak is a traditional species that perfectly meets the new trend for a return to basics that came with the economic climate of last year.

Dan Natkin, director of hardwood business at Mannington, also agreed that oak remains king. He also notes that the longer the plank, the better. Dan states, that when we looked at emerging trends and effects, longer plank length is re-emerging as a trend. Additionally, textures are getting more refined, and distressing is taking on new or renewed effects, such as wirebrushing and subtle grain enhancing effects.

Natkin has also added in his reports that as far as types of wood species go, it's not only oak that is enjoying a bit of a renaissance but all domestically harvested species, such as birch, maple and hickory. This is clearly a move away from exotics. Emerging as an alternative to exotics are printed exotics on species like bamboo. It remains to be seen, however, whether our highly technical and educated consumer will choose a printed exotic over the real thing. We shall see.

Today's consumers have a desire for authenticity, noted Dewevai Buchanan. As the vice president over hardwoods for Unilin, Dewevai says that consumers are gravitating to visuals that present wood in more of its natural state, such as hardwood that is accented by the variations organically inherent in wood such as natural knots, sapwood, heartwood and rich mineral streaks. Consumers like styles that bear the uniqueness where no two planks are alike.

Hot Trends: Shiny is back

With the increase in the traditional hardwood flooring returning to the light Oaks, that beautiful sleek high gloss levels are edging higher for the first time in a number of years. Not counting a few wild products with extremely high gloss levels, it appears that products are trending up toward mid-gloss again, and are reflected in the latest sales figures.

Like Natkin, Kevin Thompson, who takes care of Shaw's hardwood category, they have also seen a return to high gloss. It is reported that these higher gloss finishes on handscraped products are also growing right now. While really low gloss is still the most popular on handscraped, we are seeing these dramatically increasing demand on products with satin to very high-gloss finishes. If you have questions on what to use for your new or refinished hardwood floor, please give us a call. Options for consideration are easy to provide to you for the asking.

What is the most popular? While aggressive handscraped textures on hickory are still the most popular, Natkin says; and we are seeing an increase in demand for more subtly sculpted textures and wire brushing. Exotics are all but completely dead while consumers are preferring domestic species with less red colors.

Mitch Tagle, co-founder of DuChateau Floors, said trends in hardwood flooring vary from coast to coast, but, just about all consumers are favoring wide-planked flooring, very minimal yet authentic distressing, and unique finishes. It is true that fashion in hardwood types and finishes is no longer about exotic species; it is about creating distinctive finishes and offering reliability at reasonable pricing points.

Of course, green flooring products as a whole are a major trend. And it is true that the leading hardwood suppliers embrace FSC certification, Lacey compliancy and CARB compliancy. This is true of most manufacturers.

Sara Babinski, principal designer for Armstrong, indicates that 5-inch planks have become the new tradition. As consumers are being drawn to wider-width hardwood options, Mother Nature is actually the one providing color inspiration for the home. Overall, this equates to all colors earth, including coastal colors, weathered grays and rusted metals or mountain-inspired tones such as mineral colors from stone and dark, bark browns. The looks achieved with more refined rustic textures are everywhere. They offer a nice variation for visual and tactile textures throughout any given interior space.

Sara, much like like Thompson, she sees the use of tropical exotics on a slight decline as consumers and designers rediscover domestic species. She too has seen the resurgence in both oak and hickory. Time will tell, and numbers could change between now and the end of the year.

Hardwood Flooring - State of the Art Creation

When it comes to technology, no category does it better than hardwood. According to Robitaille, the lightly brushed look and less distressed woods are big right now at the expense of the handscraped look. People are still wanting to have rooms and homes that have character, and the industry is offering a wide range of flooring that suggest subtle color variations. These variations occur in nature as nnots and color imperfections that were once removed. With the push towards the more natural look, these imperfections in the wood are now left in to reinforce the natural resource and antique style.

Earthly Elements was the biggest innovation the hardwood category has seen in years from a visual perspective, Natkin said. Another trend, which is not new to the industry; but is only now emerging in the U.S.; and that is the use of fumed or heat-treated species. This brings out a tremendous luster in the wood.

Another state-of-the-art innovation, according to Thompson, is ScufResist Platinum by Shaw. Preferred by high traffic and large homes with lots of activity, this finish is so tough and scuff resistant when compared to other domestic and imported competitors that you can easily demonstrate the difference with a green Scotch Brite pad. ScufResist Platinum gives consumers permission to live on their hardwood flooring. Which isn't a bad thing, and makes more of the home accessible to the family and a worthwhile investment.

Additional noteworthy state-of-the-art innovations are in engineered flooring, and the advances are making it more stable, user-friendly and reliable. Technology, not known 5 years ago, has allowed us to produce stable planks as wide as 14 inches and as long as 12 feet. Advancements have also helped manufacturers create more environmentally responsible flooring. Pricing in materials, availability and natural trends have brought these new options to the marketplace.

According to Babinski, factory-finished flooring is wonderful for a homeowner on a budget. The process has been simplified. There is little down time within the house and the dust that used to be created by on-site sanding is now done in a factory setting. Engineered flooring retains the look of natural wood flooring while making the floor more stable to humidity differences and uses less precious hardwood. This is a strong consumer trend.

Pure die hard enthusiasts will probably disagree with the engineered opinions; however, from the buyers perspective everyone has an option now. The family who has the budget to support the preferred true hardwoods no matter what type or finish; and the consumer whose home is on a tighter budget; but they like the look of the engineered products and have the budget to support those right now.

Get back to the basics, and call Keith Clay Floors. Find out which type of flooring your home needs. We provide new flooring, installation, refinishing, and just about anything you can think of that is flooring related. A member of our qualified staff is looking forward to your call.

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