Submitted by Annette M. Callari, Allied ASID; CMG

We are all in LOVE with hardwood flooring.  From East Coast to West Coast, the consensus is “wood is good”.  And it is.  The rich, welcoming look it gives a home is incomparable.  Old houses are uncovering treasures of aged, original wood floors, hibernating for decades beneath carpet and pad.  And newer houses sell faster when “hardwood floors” are part of their décor resume.  Wood has become the benchmark by which home values are now measured.

Given the importance of wood to today’s consumers, manufacturers of fine hardwood floors are in competition with each other to introduce the finest, most stable and functional wood floors possible. And, the consumer is the benefactor in that competition.  That was evidenced at the annual Surfaces Trade Show in Las Vegas.  I spent considerable time visiting all of the wood manufacturers’ exhibits, and loved what I saw.  Mullican floors captured my attention first, because of a unique pastel collection of hardwoods!  I know, you’re asking, what???.  It’s true.  The Royalton Collection offered wood plank flooring in baby blue, shy pink, and buttercup yellow--colors suitable not only for babies’ rooms, but how about cottage chic designs?  Mullican scored high on the creativity scale--from the wood species to special infused or fumed finishes.  Their R & D department has their design momentum cranked into high gear, and definitely worth a little research on your part (www.mullicanflooring.com

I’m frequently asked which species of wood and wood finishes are most popular.  That’s an impossible question to answer because it’s pretty much all over the place.  Hand-scraped wood floors offer dimensional beauty that has captivated America. And there are some new variations to that coming down the line for fall 2010.  But so have vintage-look floors, with all their markings and glory of years gone by.  High gloss, formal dark woods still command attention and have become a classic, although I see their popularity waning a bit.  I would attribute that to the upkeep necessary to keep them in a state of perfection. But warm neutral gray finishes with interesting wood grains are gaining in popularity because they are so user-friendly.  Across the board, I am happy to report that manufacturers have developed exciting wood finishes, glazes and textured surfaces to replace the more exotic imported hardwoods.  All of this done in an honest endeavor to preserve rare-species forests. 

So, given that overview of wood trends and directions, let’s drill down to one specific line to take a closer look.  Shaw Industries has thoughtfully introduced their Epic Collection, and it deserves some attention.  Shaw has been in the hardwood business for ten years now, and for the past five years they are manufacturing hardwoods domestically—in South Pittsburg, Tennessee (and that IS spelled correctly, I promise).  It goes without saying that domestic manufacturing is good for business and good for our country.  The Epic line earns a higher level of Green Guard Certification than any other wood floor on the market.  But it’s what’s at the core that makes it special.  Shaw uses quality wood in its high-density EnviroCore.  The end product is a measurably harder wood floor because of that better grade core and the stability it provides.  The core content actually incorporates more wood fiber than other brands for the purpose of  resisting dents, and, just as importantly the core does not absorb moisture.  That means your Epic floor will not expand and contract as much as conventional wood floors do with climate changes.  Especially for those of you who live in volatile climates, this is a big advantage and a line you will want to investigate more. 

Now that we’ve discussed the inside story of Epic, let’s talk about the aesthetics.  After all, that’s why we buy the product, right?  Epic offers planks in 5-foot long board lengths, with tongue and groove construction.  It can be installed as a glue-in-place wood floor (tongue and groove design allows for a cleaner adhesive application), or nailed down, and also can be floated.  Some of the newer introductions in the Epic line include these styles: 

Nottaway -- a nostalgic wood floor available in both light and dark woods, offered in 5 inch and 3 ¼ inch widths                  

Stonehenge -- Gray-based neutral wood tones are coming on strong in the world of design, and Stonehenge answers that trend. A softly weathered look gives the floor a beautiful patina that harmonizes with just about any color scheme. 

Paradise Cove --   a hand-scraped wood richly constructed from Black Cherry, American Cherry and Black Walnut.  This product speaks of opulence and could easily grace floors from castles to cottages.   

Crystal Cove -- a new addition to this same line includes a warm maple wood finished in a low-gloss scraped look AND a smooth high-gloss finish. 

Santa Cruz and Carnival – Both of these innovative styles utilize Maine Birch and Maple veneers.  Red Oak is also a newly introduced variety.  These styles feature woods that are “baked” (fumed). This technique, known as ‘Permacolor’ is Shaw’s patented process which results in color going all the way through the veneer.  No stains are needed since the heat-treatment process provides a natural color glow to the wood. AND, since the color permeates the entire wood veneer, scratches are much less likely to show. 

I mentioned earlier that Shaw exited the exotic wood business several years ago.  But they’ve found a way to add that exotic element to the Epic line by developing new, patented finishing techniques to bring to market awesome wood floors, while still protecting our world’s natural resources.  

This is just a brief overview of what’s newly available in the world of hardwood floors.  We can safely conclude that Shaw has been intent on developing new technologies that actually improve the “liveability” factor of wood floors.  Our homes are not museums.  We live and play hard on the surfaces we choose, and Shaw has issued a call to action to give us the hardwood floors we’ve been searching for.  Good work.  One could say, in the scheme of things, these floors are epic…..

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