The National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA) 2018 Wood Flooring Expo, themed “Deep Dive” and held April 11–13 at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida, drew more than 3,000 attendees.
“Our goal with Expo is to bring all sectors of the wood flooring industry together to collaborate, build relationships, and ultimately make our industry better,” said Michael Martin, NWFA president and CEO. “The community aspect of our Expo was stronger than ever this year. We are very pleased with the outcome of the event.”
Cary Moon, policy and political action committee manager for the Hardwood Federation, gave an update about the policy issues the organization is working on for 2018. One is federal forest management reform, including access to timber, a streamlined permitting process and a fire funding fix, which will improve the way the U.S. funds wildfire suppression to better manage its forests. The second is the Farm Bill, which expires again this year, and the group has been working to ensure that the funding continues to promote U.S. farm policy, including export programs for the hardwood sector. The third issue is trade, and the organization has been lobbying to maintain existing export markets for goods around the world while warning against wood product are unfairly subsidized and compete unfairly with U.S. products.
“It’s been a wild year in the nation’s capital: tax policy, environmental regulation, access to raw materials, trade, federal green building policy—we cover all of these issues and more with a focus on what federal government should and should not do to help the wood products industry thrive in the United States,” Moon said.
Despite challenges facing the hardwood market, Expo attendees remained enthusiastic about the potential for the business this year.
“People are always going to want that natural feeling of wood,” said Sean Connolly, regional vice president of sales, The Belknap White Group. “Maybe the lower end woods have taken a beating from the new LVTs [luxury vinyl tiles] that look like wood, but if you want the warmth and performance of a hardwood floor, it’s still going to be a viable option. Right now, we are looking for a little higher end product, we want to find niche that might fit a higher-end need in markets like New York or Boston.”
Authenticity, craftsmanship, sustainability and social responsibility are all factors that can help grow the hardwood flooring business.
“People would prefer wood floors if they can afford it, and you are seeing lookalikes looking better and better and that’s having an effect of the wood flooring business, especially at the lower end,” said Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM and Hearthwood Floors. “In the high end, we’re not seeing that kind of impact.”
Finkell reported that American OEM is in its fourth year of manufacturing private label products for companies that want to have an American-made product. The company employs 200 inmates in its manufacturing of Nashville, Tenn.
“We pay them a civilian wage, it’s a voluntary program, and it’s the only paying job in prison, so these guys are competitive to work with us—there are 1,000 more on a list who want to work with us,” Finkells said. “They have to have perfect behavior, you have to have a GED or a high school diploma, and you end up working with people who want to better their situation and create some job opportunities for when they want to get out.”
The company has been diligently building its distribution network to five companies, and Finkell said they plan add another four. American OEM recently announce the expansion of the Hearthwood distribution group to Compass Flooring Distributors, based in Orlando, Fla.
Prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturer Mirage added a new color, Lunar Eclipse, to its Flair Collection, which features natural characteristics of wood and oiled flooring with a matte and highly resistant DuraMatt finish.
“You look at our line today compared to what it was 10 years ago, and it is day and night,” said Pierre Thabet, president of Mirage. “We have really evolved with engineered, wider, longer, which is where it is moving to. Wood is an investment. Over time, when you want to sell your house, if you have real wood, granite tops, your house is worth more.”
Wayne Highlander, national adhesives sales manager for Bona, was on hand promoting the Bona Certified Craftsman Program, which aims to develop a network of hardwood flooring experts that use the complete Bona System—everything from sanders to dust containment to finishes.
“Maintenance is a big part of our program,” Highlander said. “Consumers are more educated than ever before and they need to maintain the floor with the proper products. Being able to do recoats with our Bona Certified Craftsman gives their floors their floors the longevity they are after.”
He said that the Bona relies on flooring retailers and contractors to help get the word out about maintenance programs. “The key word is education. We have school all across the country, and we train guys every day. We have CEU presentations we can do for our retail customers and architects and designers. If you’re not getting the maintenance on that floor, such as with recoats, you’re touching that customer one time and you might not see them for seven to 10 years. Offering maintenance, it keeps that customer ongoing.”
He also said that the Bona Wire Brush tool has also become popular among contractors. It allows contractors to wire brush hardwood floors so that customers enhance their existing floors to create accustom wire-brushed feel.
Osiel Betancourt of Insight Flooring Technologies of Dallas was the winner of the NWFA’s Plank Tank contest, receiving a $15,000 package of NWFA marketing, education products and services. His winning idea was QuoteHero, an app that helps contractors and estimators measure the square footage of rooms and estimate jobs.
Another Plank Tank contest finalist, Paul Gaunt of Better Timber Flooring in Fyshwick, Australia, showcased the QuikBrace All-in-One Flooring Machine, which uses pneumatic action to brace five or more boards at a time during installation.
“With a QuikBrace, you can save about seven seconds per lineal foot,” Gaunt said. On an average 1,200-foot job you are saving 8,000 seconds or more than two hours per day.
NWFA will hold its next convention May 1-3, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas. For more information, visit nwfaexpo.org.