In addition to adding warmth and charm to the home, this red birch hardwood floor from Green River is likely to appeal to consumers who care about environmental issues. Harvesting policies that maintain sustainable forests is a major priority for the company.

An educated consumer is the best customer. There is no question about that. But relative to solid unfinished hardwood flooring, in many cases it's left up to your sales staff to educate the consumer. The people working in your showroom must be prepared to offer a veritable primer on how this remarkable flooring adds warmth and beauty to a room, and why it is an excellent investment for homes and businesses. It is incumbent upon dealers and their staffs to teach potential buyers why unfinished hardwood makes sense. Informed buyers, after all, usually want the best. If your salesperson does an effective job of educating the customer, the probability of making the sale is greatly enhanced. And it goes without saying that satisfied customers will recommend you time and again to their friends and associates.

Unfinished hardwood floors offer a wide array of features and benefits likely to appeal to the discriminating buyer. These go well beyond the natural beauty of solid hardwood. They include installation issues. For example, because unfinished hardwood floors are sanded after they are installed, a precisely level subsurface is not always needed. This is why these floors are ideal for remodeling projects in older homes. The flooring can be expected to last longer than most other wood flooring options because it can be sanded down and re-finished time and again over the life of the installation. And unlike pre-finished wood flooring, the finish is applied over the entire surface only after all the flooring has been installed. This means a more uniform finish and a better seal. Additionally, by specifying an unfinished hardwood floor, end-users have the flexibility to select a finish that closely matches the existing floors or trim.

Green River's maple flooring helps this space achieve a look that is rustic yet sophisticated.
Then, of course, there are the "green" issues. More than ever, distributors, dealers and most other members of the floor covering industry are becoming more knowledgeable-and concerned-about conservation. There clearly is growing interest in offering natural "green" products. Yet at the same time, the industry wants to make sure it is not depleting the future worldwide inventory by over-harvesting these materials.

To address these concerns the wood flooring industry took action in the early 1990's, creating a certification process to assure the sustainable and environmentally responsible harvesting of timber. The concern also led to the creation of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which set down specifics for the sustainable harvesting of timber. A certification process based on independent, third-party verification was put in place. Using accepted scientific standards, it mandated sustainable forestry practices complete with subsequent chain-of-custody follow-through on the resulting wood products. This procedure is aimed at protecting one of our greatest natural resources while ensuring that certified products maintain their identity from the forest to their final destination. In other words, if an architectural firm wants to specify unfinished hardwood flooring for its next rollout project, those involved could readily determine exactly when the wood was harvested. They would then assure that the forest from which the wood came was managed and sustained within the established guidelines.

The principles and criteria for certification fall under three categories: sustainable harvest, ecosystem health, and social and economic considerations. The process works like this: First, the FCS will certify an entire forest to ensure that the acreage harvested is sustainable. The forest is then monitored to determine when and how much lumber is harvested. This establishes an audit trail. It is also the beginning of the chain-of-custody that ends with the actual end-user. When the wood flooring manufacturer purchases the lumber, the invoice includes the quantity of board feet purchased. Later, after the manufacturer produces the flooring, the invoice will be updated to specify the square footage of flooring produced. When the manufacturer sells the hardwood flooring to a certified distributor, the product includes a unique chain-of-custody number. For its part, the distributor also details how much it bought and sold. Finally, when the end-user purchases the hardwood, the invoice can include every step that the actual materials went through before landing in a residential or commercial installation. Using this sequence the chain-of-custody is unbroken and accountability is assured.

Peter Barrett, co-founder of Green River-American Hardwood, notes that the process helps assure the industry's future. "Certification guarantees sustainability of our raw materials," says Barrett, whose company was among the first in the U.S. to be awarded chain-of-custody certification. "That's an important message for consumers. We have always known that wood flooring is an environmentally sound choice. Now we can guarantee it."

It's clear that the benefits of offering unfinished hardwood flooring are many. While there is no denying the lasting beauty and charm that these floors bring to any room, our industry also has an environmental story to tell. With the sustainable management of our forests and the commitment to long-term protection of one of our greatest natural resources, the supply chain is stronger than ever. Now, when you and your sales staff talk to customers about their hardwood flooring options, you can discuss the important steps taken by our industry in this area. You can tell them that when they choose unfinished hardwood flooring, they are embracing a product that has a verifiable "green" design component. Many will agree that makes perfect sense in this age of social and environmental consciousness.