There have been some interesting trends in the world of flooring over the last year. Some of the most notable advances have been in the ease of maintenance and installation.
Oiled Wood Floors
The realm of “what’s old is new again” can be seen in the development of oiled wood flooring. In this country, we decided to put the hardest finishes we could find on the surfaces of wood floors. These finishes protect the floor by forming a wear layer, in effect a plastic-type film on the surface of the floor. They scratch and get dull over time and cannot be spot repaired. A costly recoating of the entire floor is necessary every so often for complete rejuvenation. An oil finish, on the other hand, penetrates the wood fibers to harden them, while not altering the natural beauty of the wood. With no visual film on the surface, oiled floors are distinguishable by their elegant patina. They are easy to care for and are repairable. An oiled floor never needs to be sanded — only regular applications of maintenance oil is necessary to nourish the wood and bring back the floor’s original luster.
Green offerings have also seen advances. Teragren offers strand bamboo with Xcora™ technology, which is manufactured under a process that fuses bamboo fibers with an environmentally safe adhesive under extreme pressure to form homogenous, high-density sheets. The sheets are sliced and milled into flooring planks. As a result, Synergy® with Xcora™ technology is 154% harder than red oak. Strand bamboo, which is close to impossible to nail, now comes in a drop and lock floating version.
US Floors has come out with a cork flooring in an even easier “5G” click together system. Basic 5G locking systems lock the floor panel both vertically and horizontally and enable fast installation in a single motion; the panel is just folded down and no additional angle or snapping movement is necessary.
US Floors will be updating their New Dimensions Natural Cork collection, introducing digitally enhanced cork flooring that uses high definition optics to produce amazing images. The images will be printed directly onto the cork substrate and will provide the look of marble and travertine tile. This will give all the benefits of cork with many design choices. Wicanders is reportedly coming out with similar cork floor technology.
Vinyl Sheet and Tiles
Another recent advancement is luxury vinyl tiles. In the past, vinyl tiles needed to be glued down; now they come in the popular easy-to-install click format. Vinyl tile flooring is now more stylish than ever. The tiles are available in a variety of patterns, colors, and styles that closely resemble natural products like wood, stone, and ceramic tile. All the products I’ve seen lately have been commercially rated and could be flooded without damage.
Another vinyl product grouping that is growing in popularity is a sheet vinyl called Fiber Floor® by Tarkett. Fiber flooring is designed with woven fiberglass, foam and tough, resilient wear layers that stand up to real-life water, moisture, scuffs, scratches, and indentations. The flooring is hypoallergenic and certified asthma and allergy friendly. It comes in either 12’ or 13’2” wide rolls. You can glue it down, but most people just cut it to size and roll it out. You have to leave a small expansion gap around the perimeter, but that’s about it.
The biggest development in carpet has been the explosion of carpet tiles, in both style and choice. In the past, carpet tiles were fairly expensive and not all that attractive (think hotel hallways). Costs have come down and the new designs are very fashion forward.
The advantage of tiles to the homeowner is multifaceted. First of all, carpet tiles can be installed by homeowners, while wall to wall carpet, most of the time, has to be installed by a carpet installer. Second, good portions of the carpet tiles on the market are commercially rated, so they are remarkably tough. But if you do manage to stain or damage a tile, you simply lift and replace it (provided that pressure sensitive adhesive is used). Another nice aspect is that many of the products contain recycled material and can also be recycled.
John Hill is an Ecological Coordinator for Interstate Flooring Co., located at 4075 N Interstate Avenue, Portland, OR 97227. For more information call 503-473-8689 or visit www.interstateflooring.com