Good afternoon and thanks for having me. I’m ______________ with Golden State Flooring. GSF is the largest specialty hardwood flooring distributor west of the Mississippi, and the largest flooring distributor period on the W Coast. We have locations all over CA, AZ, NV, OR, and HI, and our HQ is in South San Francisco. GSF is 84 years old, and was one of the first wood products companies in the U.S. to get certified for Chain of Custody by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Golden State Flooring has been quietly promoting FSC-certified products since long before most people knew what that was.
Golden State flooring is a registered provider with AIA/CES as well as LEED/GBCI. If you are interested, you can earn continuing education credits for both AIA and LEED for attending this program. A sign-up sheet is circulating.Certificates of Completion are available on request.
Although engineered wood flooring is taking over much of the market, solid wood flooring remains popular for its simplicity and reliability. Solid flooring also allows for the relatively easy installation of custom borders and inlays, and is sometimes the better choice in extremely dry climates, where cracking can be a concern with engineered products.
Engineered flooring is now available in virtually any look, including unfinished wood that allows custom coloring and texturing on-site (show sample), and there are a variety of different formats that can meet most any budget (show samples of multi-ply, 3-ply and HDF core). Because of its cross-ply construction, engineered flooring expands and contracts much less than solid flooring, although it’s important to note that stability doesn’t always translate into resistance to cupping or warping. Whether solid or engineered, the thickness and stiffness of the product are the biggest determinants of its resistance to cupping.
Engineered flooring is much more versatile than solid flooring, allowing for installation in a wide variety of situations. Over concrete, it allows us to avoid the installation of expensive and time-consuming wood subfloors. Engineered flooring is also ideal in commercial remodels where it’s important to minimize the amount of down time in the space.
Engineered flooring makes much more efficient use of the high-quality wood that we choose and walk on in wood flooring. Solid flooring is made from lumber, and a single piece of 1” thick lumber will yield one piece of flooring, but that same piece of lumber will yield 4-6 wear layers for engineered flooring. Solid flooring wastes precious, high-grade material as a “platform” to support the wear surface, while engineered flooring uses abundant and inexpensive woods in the platform and saves the quality wood for the part that counts. Also, because a solid floor can only be sanded down to the tops of the tongues (or more realistically, the tops of the nails, which are often higher than the tongues), the actual usable wear surface is never more than ¼”, so the difference in lifespan between a quality engineered product with a thick top layer and a solid product is much less than most people imagine.
There are three basic types of top layers (called ‘wear layers’) used in engineered flooring: sawn or ‘dry-sawn’, sliced, and rotary-peeled. Sliced veneers, shown at left, are made with straight cuts through the log, and therefore offer the same appearance as sawn wood, but at a lower price because there is no waste from the sawing. Rotary veneers, shown on the right, are peeled from the log on a high-speed lathe, making them even more affordable than sliced veneers. However, particularly in some species like Oak, rotary veneers have what some consider a less ‘natural’ grain, with elongated ‘cathedral’ patterns that are created as the blade of the lathe moves in and out of the wood grain. In other species, like Maple, the difference between rotary and sliced or sawn veneers is almost unnoticeable. With all species, the slicing or peeling of veneers causes damage to the fibers of the wood, making those veneers more susceptible to cracking when exposed to dry conditions. Sawn top layers are therefore considered better quality.
Floating installations, where the planks are adhered together but not to the subfloor, offer a variety of technical and cost-saving advantages. They can dramatically reduce labor costs, particularly with modern ‘click’ or ‘locking’ tongue and groove profiles, and they facilitate installation over virtually any subfloor. Floating installations are ideal where a floor is going to be installed over multiple types of subfloor in one contiguous area, and are by far the most cost-effective means of meeting sound-control requirements in multi-story buildings. Floating installations are also ideal in below-grade installations or other areas where subfloor moisture is a serious concern, because they allow you to lay a plastic vapor barrier under the wood.
If you need a sound control membrane and would prefer an installation that doesn’t have the ‘bounce’ of a floating floor, the traditional solution is to glue a layer of cork underlayment to the subfloor (we sell WECU brand cork) (show sample), and then glue the hardwood to the cork. Because of the labor involved in spreading two glue layers and the cost of the glue itself, this is an expensive process. The Sika AcouBond system (show sample) consists of a foam pad with pre-cut grooves, into which you lay tall beads of a special adhesive. The adhesive ridges act like rows of nails, and the flooring presses the adhesive so that it spreads to fill the whole groove, creating a sealed sound barrier. A great new solution that provides a more solid feeling floor is the Bostik Ultra-Set Single Step adhesive (show sample), which creates a moisture membrane and sound control membrane. It contains rubber beads that act as spacers, elevating the flooring above the concrete to ensure that a membrane of proper thickness is maintained until the adhesive has fully hardened. Both the AcouBond and Bostik Single-Step systems have higher materials costs than other installation methods, but the labor savings make them more cost effective overall than a double-glue installation with cork.
Traditionally, hardwood grades were established by industry associations like the National Oak Flooring Manufacturer’s Association (NOFMA) or the Maple Flooring Manufacturer’s Association (MFMA). You could specify a certain grade of raw unfinished flooring and be confident that what you received would fit within those grades. However, the industry is rapidly moving toward proprietary grades, as manufacturers struggle to differentiate themselves, so one company’s ‘select’ may not necessarily look like another’s. In today’s market, it’s advisable to get a sample from a particular manufacturer and specify that manufacturer in order to ensure you are getting the grade you want.
There are three basic ways to saw a log: plainsawn or ‘flatsawn’, quartersawn or ‘quartered’, and riftsawn. Plainsawn is cut as shown above, and is the most efficient use of the log, resulting in lower costs. However, because the grain runs parallel to the face of the board, plainsawn lumber also expands and contracts the most of any cut. Quartersawn lumber is cut perpendicular to the grain of the wood, resulting in a straight grain appearance that in some species like Oak reveals these medullary rays that can look like tiger stripes. Quartersawn lumber is very stable, as the expansion and contraction occurs mainly on the vertical axis. Riftsawn lumber is cut at approximately a 60° angle to the face, resulting in a straight grain appearance, but without the medullary rays. Riftsawing is the most wasteful way to process a log, and is therefore the most expensive, but offers a clean appearance with little variation. In the flooring industry, riftsawn and quartersawn boards are often mixed together and sold as “Rift & Quartered.”
Quarter-sawn wood moves twice as much in thickness as it does in width. Plain-sawn is the opposite: it moves twice as much in width as in thickness. Plainsawn flooring is therefore more likely to develop gaps over time, and more likely to cup or buckle when exposed to excessive moisture.
Hardness in wood is generally measured by the Janka Ball Hardness test, which measures the amount of pressure in pounds per square inch that it takes to sink a ball bearing into the face of the board. The Janka hardness of Red Oak is 1290, and is generally used as the industry standard in comparing other woods. As you can see, some of the traditional favorites for wood flooring such as American Cherry and Walnut are among the softest hardwoods, especially in comparison to the tropical species that have gained popularity in recent years, such as Ipe (Brazilian Walnut), at the top of this scale. Incidentally, a wood being harder does not make it more stable. In fact, although it’s hard to generalize, more dense woods usually expand and contract more than less dense woods. Also, it’s important to understand that a wood’s hardness isn’t the biggest determinant of durability when it comes to flooring. While it’s true that the softest species will dent fairly easily, the quality and sheen of the coating are probably the most important factors in keeping a floor looking new over time. In general, if it’s at least as hard as Oak and has a good coating, it will wear well.
Wood is composed of thousands of tiny straws that absorb and retain moisture like a sponge. The more water it absorbs, the bigger it gets! That’s why it’s critical to mitigate sources of moisture. We always recommend using a concrete sealer on slabs, regardless of whether or not there are any signs of moisture problems. A sealer will help ensure against future damage if soil or drainage conditions change. It’s also important with most types of wood flooring to acclimate the wood to the local humidity conditions prior to installation, so that it doesn’t change size AFTER installation. Maintaining consistent relative humidity is critical to the performance and appearance of wood flooring. If conditions are likely to get below 35% for extended periods, a humidification system may be necessary.
The most common cause of failure with wood flooring is too much moisture. As planks swell, they compress against each other and can be forced upward. Cupping, where the edges of the board lift relative to the center, is caused by an imbalance of moisture between the top and the bottom of the plank, usually caused by moisture from the subfloor. Telegraphing is a phenomenon seen in 3-ply engineered products where the core pieces shrink or swell unevenly, causing a wavy pattern in the face veneer. Excessively dry conditions can also cause problems, including shrinking, dry-cupping (where the face of the plank shrinks relative to the bottom), and checking or cracking. In engineered products, severe wet OR dry conditions can cause delamination.
Wood will react to the changing conditions at a jobsite, so it’s critical to establish normal living conditions in the space prior to delivery and acclimation. Painting and plastering can release huge amounts of water into the air, so be sure that all wet work is complete and cured before the wood is on site. One of the most common causes of flooring damage that we see, particularly in commercial construction, is failure to have the HVAC system operational prior to the flooring installation. Conditions can change dramatically once the system is functional. In residential construction, a common problem is cupping caused by failure to allow the concrete slab to cure thoroughly. Don’t let the GC rush the flooring sub into installing the wood before the conditions are right – it will only lead to finger-pointing and cost everyone time and money down the line.
Because radiant heat keeps wood flooring very dry, and can dry the wood too suddenly if turned up quickly, it’s best to be conservative and minimize risk when selecting products over radiant heat. Check with the wood floor manufacturer to ensure that the product is appropriate for the specific heating system being installed. Sometimes, modifications to the system, such as in-floor temperature sensors, outdoor temperature sensors, and governors are advisable. Most wood flooring is not warranted for use over electric radiant heat systems – hydronic systems are more wood-friendly because they change temperature more slowly. In general, you’ll have less problems with narrow planks rather than wide, and with rift & quartered or vertical grain wood rather than plainsawn or flat grain. Some species like Hickory, Maple and Brazilian Cherry are prone to cracking over radiant heat, while others like Oak and Walnut will do better. Solid flooring over radiant heat must be nailed to a floating subfloor, Warmboard, or sleeper system. In general, it’s better to use engineered flooring, which will move less and allow for the use of wider planks if desired.
Almost all wood that isn’t stained changes color over time with exposure to air and light, and in some species the color change is significant, particularly in the reddish colored woods. (show Braz Cherry sample). Educate your clients to expect these changes so that when they move rugs or furniture and see a light patch, they don’t think something is wrong with their flooring. Exposing an affected area will allow it to even out over time. If specifying flooring in areas that will get lots of intense sunlight, such as rooms with south-facing clear-story windows, choose less photo-sensitive species to avoid bleaching.
There are now a variety of different surface treatments available for wood flooring. Hand-scraping and wire-brushing are too popular options. (show samples) Hand-scraping is nice because dings and scratches tend to be less noticeable than on a smooth floor. Wire-brushing enhances the natural feel of the wood, but deep brushing can make the floor difficult to clean. Prefinished flooring, where a UV-cured urethane is applied at the factory and fully cured before packaging, is a great option for a variety of reason we’ll discuss in a moment. In jobsite-applied coatings, there has been a shift in the market in recent years as more intensive air quality regulation and health concerns are rapidly making traditional oil-based polyurethanes a thing of the past. In CA, it is now illegal to sell oil-based polyurethane except in quarts, which are intended for repair only. Of course, some people still buy large quantities of quarts! But water-based urethanes are now just as durable if not more durable than the old oil-based finishes, and they dry much faster. Natural penetrating oil finishes are now becoming more popular, as they have been in Europe for many years.
Natural oil finishes are catching on in part because designers are embracing the raw, low-sheen aesthetic, but also because consumers are getting better educated about the benefits of spot-repairability and do-it-yourself touch-ups. The increased maintenance that comes with oil finishes is offset by the fact that the floor can be made to look new very easily as compared to a urethane, which has to be completely sanded and refinished in a costly, messy process. Oil finishes are ideal in commercial settings, where regular maintenance is easily performed by cleaning crews. Among the natural oil finishes on the market today, Rubio Monocoat has proven itself the most durable, and it’s unique single-coat application of color and sealant makes it easy and cost-effective.
Factory-finished or ‘prefinished’ flooring is gradually taking a bigger share of the wood flooring market due to its durability, rapid and dust-free installation, and low cost. However, with factory finished flooring, you usually don’t have the option to customize your color and gloss level, unless you are specifying a large project. That being said, Golden State Flooring does have the ability to produce custom prefinished floors even for residential projects. One drawback of prefinished flooring is that if you want solid planks, you have to accept beveled edges. For end-users with chemical sensitivities, prefinished flooring is the best option because the coatings are completely cured under UV lamps at the factory and do not off-gas at all in the home.
Before we move on to the environmental section of the presentation, are there any technical questions?
Each year the planet loses over 70,000 square miles of forest cover, permanently. This equates to more than a football field per minute. Interestingly, most people think that the majority of that deforestation is taking place in the tropics, but a recent study found that between 1995 and 2005, the USA lost more forest cover than Brazil, due primarily to development. In the tropics, agriculture and cattle are the biggest drivers of deforestation, but it is often logging, mining and oil operations that cut roads into previously inaccessible forest and open it up for farming and ranching. The sale of the timber from clearing the land often helps finance the clearing, so the timber industry’s claims that the farmers and ranchers are at fault is an oversimplification. There are many complex dynamics at work, and the demand for tropical timber plays a key role.
We are losing species faster than at any time in the planet’s history. Credible estimates (Harvard, Nature Magazine) indicate that half of the Earth’s current species will be gone by the end of this century. This kind of loss is totally unprecedented in the fossil record, even during the die-off of the dinosaurs. A majority of these extinctions are being caused by loss of forest habitat. And the effect of global warming on this extinction rate is just beginning to be felt.
Deforestation and the burning of tropical forests is now contributing more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere than all automobiles, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.
Another huge issue is the growing volume of timber in world markets originating from illegal logging, which is rampant in placed like SE Asia, Indonesia, Africa, and Russia. Note that the thickness of the arrows depicts the estimated volumes of illegal wood. Also note that much of the illegal timber is being processed in China, where it often gets falsified paperwork so that it can be legally exported to the US and Europe. USAID recently estimated that 50% of the hardwood being imported into the US comes from illegal sources. From SE Asia and Africa, the percentage of material that’s illegal exceeds 80%. It’s important to note that just because the species you are specifying grows in North America doesn’t mean that it comes from legal sources. Roughly 50% of the wood coming out of Russia right now is illegally-logged, and a large portion of the White Oak currently being sold on the world market comes from there. A White Oak floor sold here could easily have been grown in Russia, processed in China, and shipped here at a lower cost than our own domestically-produced White Oak that looks the same.
Recent amendments to the Lacey Act which ban the trade of wood products from illegal sources have had some impact, but not as much as activists had hoped. The new law enforces stiff penalties on offenders, including the seizure of inventory, which has scared some major suppliers into discontinuing the use of certain species that only come from problematic areas, such as Merbau, Teak, and many African woods. However, the enforcement capacity of US Customs relative to the amount of wood that we import is very limited, so the burden still lies primarily on environmental groups to offer proof that particular company is trading in illegal wood. The good news is that when presented with evidence, the government now has to prosecute, whereas in the past, there was nothing illegal about importing illegally-logged wood.
Of course, legal does not necessarily mean sustainable. In most countries outside of Europe, forestry laws do not protect forests from destruction. The type of forestry shown here is still the norm for many large timber companies in N. America. There is no accepted definition of what constitutes “well-managed” or “sustainable forestry.” In the minds of some, the picture above is “sustainable” as long as the area is replanted, even if it is replanted with a single species. Clearing a diverse natural forest and converting the land into a mono-crop tree plantation is fully legal under U.S. and Canadian forestry laws, which tend to be poorly enforced anyway.
These satellite images are ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots of one of our national forests, owned by all of us in this room. The white patches in the photo on the right are clear-cuts or areas where the soil has eroded due to logging. Note the lake in the lower left corner, which has completely filled in with silt caused by careless road-building and cutting on steep slopes. You can see hundreds of before and after images like this of forests across the US by visiting www.nativeforestcouncil.org.
So with all this destruction, why use wood? Well, if it is responsibly harvested in ways that don’t destroy forest ecosystems, wood is actually one of the greenest building materials we can use. It is renewable, bio-degradable, easy to recycle, and produced primarily with solar energy and rainwater. Unlike concrete and steel, it does not come from finite resources extracted from the ground which can never be returned to it. Steel causes twice the water pollution of wood, 3x the air pollution, and 3x the CO2 emissions of wood. The manufacture of cement is responsible for 10% of all global CO2 emissions.
The carbon footprint of wood products is far lower than most other building products, and in many cases is either carbon-neutral or carbon-negative. Compare OSB, for example, with steel or aluminum.
So how do we ensure that the wood we buy comes from responsible sources? The Forest Stewardship Council, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, is an international non-profit group that sets environmental and social standards of forest management with an eye to protecting forest ecosystems and forest-dependent human communities for the long term. Wood products harvested from FCS-certified forests can be sold as FSC-certified and are continually verified as originating from responsible forest management practices. The FSC Principles and Criteria apply to three key areas: environmentally sound forestry, social responsibility, and economic sustainability. The standards are drawn up in a push-pull process between these three balanced ‘chambers’ of the FSC governing body, and result in outcomes that reflect a balance between all three goals. The FSC is the only forest certification body that allows environmental groups to have equal influence in standard setting compared to industry groups.
The FSC is the only truly independent forest certification system in that it is not a government program nor is it dominated by timber industry interests. This is one of the main reasons it is the only forest certification system that has the endorsement of the world’s major environmental groups like those shown here. The FSC operates in 63 countries worldwide and is recognized globally as the most credible, far-reaching forest products certification system in existence. FSC is the ‘gold standard’ in forest certification not only because of its universality but because it maintains the strictest environmental and social standards and is the only system that effectively tracks products through the supply chain through what’s called the Chain of Custody.
The Chain of Custody tracks FSC-certified wood products from the stump all the way to the end user. Any company that takes possession of the wood or remanufactures it in any way has to be Chain of Custody certified, meaning that their inventories and transactions are being regularly audited. FSC is the only forest certification system where Chain of Custody certification is mandatory for any company that wants to use the logo.
The basic concept behind sustainable forestry is that the forest is maintained as a naturally self-regenerating ecosystem. Enough mature trees are left, and enough of the canopy is maintained, that the forest heals itself without the need for replanting. Ecologists often say that if you have to replant, you’ve already blown it. This type of selective forestry helps support the full diversity of species, preserves soil and water quality, and ensures that the forest will be productive for future generations. In the photo on the right, you can see that one Maple tree was taken, but another of almost the same size was left behind to be harvested 10-15 years later.
This dark rectangle in the center of this photo is the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin, which has been under sustainable management for 150 years. The white areas surrounding the reservation are forest lands that have been managed by more traditional methods. The photo was taken during winter – the white areas are snow-covered ground where the forest canopy has been cleared. A detailed study of the Menominee land showed that over a 50-yr. period, they actually got more wood, and on average it was of higher quality, than any of the surrounding timber operations. Some of the best quality Maple veneers in the world come from this land, and it’s because they only cut larger trees, leaving behind the small and medium trees for future harvests. The Menominee still hunt and gather in this healthy ecosystem. So you can see that over the long term, the way we’ve been managing most of our forests doesn’t make sense, even from a purely economic perspective.
As we mentioned, tropical deforestation is being driven by a number of complex factors, one of them being population growth. In many countries, authorities simply do not have the enforcement capacity or political will to keep people out of sensitive forested areas. So, one of the only ways to preserve the forest is to somehow give it an economic value, by helping local communities sell products that can be taken in a sustainable manner without harming the long-term health of the forest. Sustainable forestry offers a solution. While even selective logging does of course damage the forest, it’s a far sight better than when the standing forest has no value. Unfortunately, it often comes down to a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition.
This case study illustrates why buying FSC wood is not just the lesser of two evils, but is instead a proactive step allowing us as to consumers to directly impact forest conservation efforts. The Guatemalan government set aside the northern portion of the country, known as the Maya Peten, as a Biosphere Reserve, granting one half to the local Mayan communities to do sustainable forestry under FSC guidelines, and setting aside the other half as a total no-touch ecological preserve. After 12 years, the area that was supposed to be a total preserve is a patchwork of slash & burn agricultural plots where people have moved in and illegally colonized the forest because the government doesn’t have the enforcement capacity to protect it. By contrast, on the FSC-certified side where the communities are doing sustainable forestry (picture above), the locals are out there protecting the forest with their own guns, making sure that no one clears it for agriculture. The FSC side is a healthy, functioning ecosystem with an in-tact forest canopy. If we don’t give the local people the knowledge and market opportunities to allow them to create an economic value for the forest as a standing forest, they will cut it down and replace it.
In the tropics, FSC standards are very strict and help maintain rainforest ecosystems. The forest is carefully mapped tree by tree, and only a prescribed number of trees in each species can be taken from a given area, leaving plenty of large mother trees. After that area is cut, it can’t be touched again for 20-25 yrs., and it has to be actively protected from poachers and colonists. Steps are taken to remove the trees in ways that minimize damage to the forest. These photos show an FSC-certified forestry operation in Brazil. The photo in the lower right shows the forest just after harvest. As you can see, the canopy is in tact and a diverse, functioning ecosystem is left behind.
It is not true that ‘plantation grown’ wood is by definition sustainable. Often, the companies that are planting Teak trees to make ‘plantation-grown’ garden furniture are actively clearing natural forest in order to make way for the Teak. In Brazil, there is a huge industry of eucalyptus plantations that supply pulp mills, and many of those plantations replaced healthy rainforest. The eucalyptus is a non-native species that draws down the water table and harms the remaining forest that surrounds it. By contrast, the FSC-certified Teak plantation shown here was formerly a cattle ranch, so no natural forest was destroyed to create it. The FSC does not certify plantations created at the expense of natural forest. So, even with plantation-grown wood, specifying FSC-certified material is important.
A quick primer on terminology: wood can be recycled, reclaimed, or salvaged. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are actually quite different. First, ‘recycled’ products fall into one of two categories: pre-consumer (also known as post-industrial) and post-consumer. Pre-consumer recycling is taking waste products from the manufacture of other products and turning them into something useful. An example would be MDF made from sawdust recovered from saw mills. Post-consumer recycling means taking a product that has reached the end of its useful life and turning it into something that can be used again. What we refer to as reclaimed wood fits this definition - it is material taken from an old building and re-used somewhere else. When we talk about salvaged wood, we are referring to wood that is salvaged in log form. Sources for salvaged logs include urban street trees, orchards, lake and river bottoms, and dead or wind-fallen trees in a forest. Be careful – it is hard to verify whether or not something being sold as ‘salvaged’ actually came from salvaged sources.
Bamboo is a great sustainable option because it matures much faster than hardwoods, but there has been a great deal of exaggeration in the marketplace about its durability. Traditional Bamboo flooring, shown in the smaller squares in the upper right, is not as durable as Oak or Maple, despite the claims of many Bamboo importers. The reason has to do with Bamboo’s biology. It has extremely strong fibers, but the natural bonding material between the fibers (called lignens in wood) are much softer than with most woods. Because the Janka test, which we discussed earlier, involves a round object striking the surface of the Bamboo, the strong fibers act like a trampoline and the Janka ball bounces out. However, when a sharp object impacts the Bamboo and cuts through the fibers, the bonding material between them has little strength and the resulting gouge is much deeper than it would be in a hardwood of the same Janka hardness. So, even though traditional Bamboo flooring is marketed as being as hard as Oak or Maple, in practice a traditional Bamboo floor gets beat up much more quickly than those species, since sharp objects like rocks stuck in the soles of shoes make much deeper gouges. However, a newer type of Bamboo flooring, called strand-woven or ‘woven’ Bamboo, is extremely durable. It is made of thin strips of Bamboo fiber that are pressed with an adhesive under enormous pressure to create a composite material, shown in the upper left. Strand Woven Bamboo is as durable as some of the denser tropical hardwoods, and because its grain is more random and wood-like, scratches across the grain tend to be less visible than they are against the straight lines of traditional Bamboo. Strand woven Bamboo is an excellent green product for commercial applications. Another area in which there has been quite a bit of disinformation put out about Bamboo has to do with the environment. The American hardwood industry has led a campaign to discredit Bamboo’s sustainability claims, emphasizing that all Bamboo flooring has to be shipped to the U.S. from China and that Chinese Bamboo growers are clearing natural forests in order to plant Bamboo for flooring. Neither claim holds up when you look at the facts. First, the carbon footprint of a Bamboo floor sold anywhere near the coasts in the U.S. is actually smaller than most domestic hardwood floors, since our hardwoods are usually harvested and processed far inland and trucked out to the major cities. Most Bamboo is grown and processed relatively close to the coast in China, so it is transported primarily by ocean freight, which is 10-20 times more efficient than trucking. So, depending on your location within the U.S., a Bamboo floor may actually require a lot less diesel to get it to you than your traditional Oak floor, especially when you consider that some Oak is being harvested here and shipped to China for processing before being shipped back here for sale right down the road from where the tree was cut. Second, the claim that Bamboo plantations are replacing natural forest is exaggerated. There certainly may be instances where that is the case, but you could say the same about any agricultural product, and the truth is that in the Bamboo growing regions of China, Bamboo has been under cultivation for hundreds of years, and most natural forests were replaced with some type of agriculture hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Actually, Bamboo is now used as a means of helping the land recover in areas where agriculture has degraded the topsoil and caused erosion. Bamboo’s permanent root balls help keep soil in place, and Bamboo can be grown on steep, rocky slopes.
Formaldehyde, a naturally occurring gas, is emitted naturally from all wood and Bamboo products. Humans add formaldehyde emissions to wood products by using volatile formaldehyde-based adhesives that come in two main types, urea-formaldehyde glues and phenol-formaldehyde glues. Urea (UF) glues are much more volatile than Phenol (PF) glues and therefore emit more formaldehyde gas. These two glues have been the traditional favorites in the wood products industry for their low cost and high performance. However, formaldehyde is now recognized as a human carcinogen and irritant, so regulators and manufacturers are moving toward formaldehyde-free adhesives such as PVA. PVA glues didn’t used to have the water-resistance and strength needed to manufacture flooring, but technologies have improved and they are being used more and more. EPI glues are very strong and flexible, but also very expensive and somewhat harmful to the workers at the factory. EPI glues have the benefit of being totally inert when dry, so they don’t off-gas at all. Golden State Flooring sells products made with all of these types of adhesives. The truth is that modern regulations are so stringent, even the urea-formaldehyde glues have been modified to the point where they off-gas next to zero formaldehyde, particularly since the passage of the new California Air Resources Board standards that dictate that laminated wood products emit less than 0.05 parts per million, which isn’t much higher than the background levels that we deal with in the air outside. It’s interesting to note that one well-respected Bamboo flooring manufacturer changed from a urea-formaldehyde glue to a more expensive EPI glue in order to meet the demand coming from LEED, which has a credit for ‘no added urea formaldehyde.’ However, when they tested the new EPI product made with formaldeyde-free glue, they found that it had HIGHER formaldehyde emissions than the old product. They soon discovered why: urea-formaldehyde glues require heat to cure, and the heat from the pressing process was flashing off most of the formaldehyde, not only from the glue but from the Bamboo itself. The formaldehyde-free glue, by contrast, is a cold press glue, so none of the naturally-occurring formaldehyde was flashed off during manufacture. The result? The so-called ‘formaldehyde-free’ product actually had 25% higher formaldehyde emissions than the one made with UF glue. Yet another example of how a well-intentioned policy can result in a perverse outcome when the policy makers aren’t experts in that field!
Golden State Flooring is proud to have been one of the first hardwood distributors in the US to become FSC-certified, and we have experience supplying LEED projects, including providing proper, legitimate documentation. We are one of the few distributors in the US to have actual stock and/or easy access to a wide variety of genuinely FSC-certified products, and if there are special lead times or unusual costs associated with an FSC product, we will be honest with you about it up front so that your pursuit of a LEED credit won’t fall through at the last second, as happens with many suppliers less experienced in this field. We offer free LEED consultation for floorings selections, and can help you select from a wide variety of LEED-compliant adhesives, coatings, and other sundries to go with your flooring.
This chart details the LEED credits that are relevant to wood and Bamboo flooring and its installation. We’ll quickly go through each one….
There are two main types of FSC-certified products, and they carry two different labels: FSC Pure, shown on the left with its “100% label,” and FSC Mixed Sources, shown on the right. For LEED purposes, 100% of the dollar value of an FSC Pure product can be applied toward the calculation of the MR7 credit for certified wood. However, if you use a Mixed Source product, it’s important to find out ahead of time whether or not it was produced under the so-called “percentage based claims” system as opposed to the “batch/credit” system. If it’s a ‘percentage based claims’ product, you have to multiply the dollar value by the percentage of certified wood in the product (70% is the minimum), so only a portion of the purchase applies toward the MR7 credit. If it’s a “batch/credit” product, you get to use the full value. “Batch/credit” products are produced under an accounting system where the quantity of product that gets the FSC logo coming off the production line is exactly equal to the quantity of FSC logs that went into that production run, so there is a 1-to-1 ration between input and output. What this means, however, is that the FSC-certified floor you walk on may not actually contain any wood that was harvested from an FSC-certified forest. A good analogy is when you buy green power from an alternative energy provider. The electricity still comes to your house via PG&E and may not have been produced by green methods, but by making that choice you are pulling green demand through the system.
Currently, the FSC, SFI, CSA, PEFC and ATFS all certify forests. However, only the FSC is recognized worldwide as a credible certification system. Only the FSC has the endorsement of major environmental groups nationally and internationally. Each of these other systems has fundamental shortcomings. They all have lax environmental standards that allow the conversion of forest ecosystems into ecologically-impoverished tree farms and/or fail to keep illegally-logged or otherwise objectionable material from entering the certified supply chain. PEFC, originally a system backed by the European timber industry, similar to SFI here in North America, has morphed into is just an umbrella organization that recognizes virtually every certification system on Earth, including SFI. Although some of you may have heard that USGBC is considering recognizing certification systems other than FSC, today that is still not the case and given the politics within USGBC and its membership, it seems unlikely that there will be a change any time soon, despite intense lobbying from timber industry groups. If you would like to discuss this controversy in more detail, please come see me after the presentation. You can also visit www.credibleforestcertification.org for more information.
Just to give you an idea of how these certification systems differ on the ground, these are all photos of forests certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the system founded by the North American timber industry’s trade association, the AF&PA. Incidentally, SFI certified 90% of the industrial timber land in America in its first two years of existence. All SFI certified forests like these are also recognized under PEFC.
When specifying FSC-certified wood products, it’s important to do a little research ahead of time. One of the most common mistakes we see is specifiers choosing a wood product from a sample of something that’s not certified, and then simply adding the FSC requirement at the end of the spec. If you specify FSC-certified quartersawn Zebrawood from Africa, you aren’t going to get it, and the contractors will waste a ton of time trying to find it. You can save a lot of time for everyone by finding out ahead of time what’s available, and whether or not there are any added lead times that need to be communicated to contractors. Also, by choosing from regularly stocked items, your costs will generally be much lower.
When specifying sustainable wood products, communicating clearly with contractors is crucial. They must understand that the FSC portion of the spec is important and that you will be demanding verification. Often unfamiliar with what FSC is, contractors have been known to overlook or ignore this part of the spec. Contractors tend to prefer to buy from their normal suppliers who they golf with on the weekend and have an account with, and they may say they can’t find what’s been specified before they even look for it, so it’s helpful to list the contact name and phone number of the supplier right in the spec. Contractors have also been known to inflate the cost of FSC material in order to force a change in the specification. If you receive a surprisingly high cost estimate from a contractor for certified material, it might be wise to contact the suppliers yourself to verify the information. It is also very helpful to communicate lead times to the contractors in writing when the specification is issued, so that delivery times can not be used as an excuse when it comes time to build. To verify the certified status of the product after it’s been purchased, demand in the spec language that the contractor must provide an FSC certificate AND an invoice detailing the certified status of each product on a line-item basis. Those line-items are what the FSC audits. It’s very important to know that some companies that are FSC-certified don’t sell any FSC-certified wood. Being certified just means they have the right to trade in FSC wood, but it doesn’t mean they do. The presence of an FSC logo in a brochure or on a product sample doesn’t necessarily mean that what will actually be sold is FSC-certified. The practice of misleading consumers by using FSC-certification to sell products that aren’t actually certified is now rampant. We see many companies that have FSC certification, so they are allowed to put the logo in their binder or brochure, but they position it in misleading ways near products that aren’t certified. We’ve even seen companies go so far as to put the logo in their letterhead on invoices for uncertified material, and to use the FSC logo in a binder or brochure simply because it has been printed with FSC-certified paper. If you see marketing that makes claims indicating that a flooring product is FSC-certified, make sure that when it comes time to purchase, you or your contractors are demanding full documentation. Because flooring is pre-packaged, the material should show up with FSC labeling. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not certified.
This single specification from Gensler’s San Francisco office had a huge impact in spreading sustainable forestry practices throughout western Pennsylvania. During a glut in the Maple market, the producer of the flooring used on this project was able to sell his Maple faster than any of his neighbors, which made them all curious. When they learned that it was because he had taken steps to get his land FSC-certified, many of those neighbors contacted the FSC and began the process of working toward certification. Now, much of Pennsylvania is FSC-certified. Designers, whose decisions affect our forests over and over on a daily basis, wield tremendous power to make a positive difference. By the same token, not being aware of where your wood comes from has tremendous power to do harm.
Thank you very much for your time and attention. Are there any questions?
Wood Flooring for Building Green
Wood Flooring forBuilding Green www.goldenstateflooring.com
Wood Flooring International is a Registered Provider with TheAmerican Institute of Architects Continuing Education Systems.Golden State Flooring is the registered presenter of this presentation.Credit earned on completion of this program will be reported to CESRecords for AIA members. Certificates of Completion for non-AIAmembers are available on request.This program is registered with AIA/CES for continuing professionaleducation. As such, it does not include content that may be deemed orconstrued to be an approval or endorsement by the AIA of any materialof construction or any method or manner of handling, using,distributing, or dealing in any material or product. Questions related tospecific materials, methods, and services will be addressed at theconclusion of this presentation.
Learning Objectives•Essentials of writing a hardwood flooringspecification• Pros and cons of solid vs. engineered wood flooring, including environmental impacts• Fundamental characteristics of wood flooring:species, formats, hardness, cuts, coatings,common problems, etc.• Environmental and health attributes of wood flooring and how they relate to LEED and IAQ regulations
Specification Attributes ½ Engineered vs Solid ½ Color ½ Style/pattern ½ Surface Treatment ½ Plank ½ Coating ½ Strip ½ Thickness ½ Parquet ½ Width ½ Herringbone ½ Lengths ½ Species ½ Installation Method ½ Cut ½ Adhesive ½ Grade ½ Underlayment ½ Edge Detail ½ Environmental Specs ½ FSC, VOC’s, LEED
Solid Hardwood Flooring • Requires acclimation at site • Nail or staple to appropriate subfloor • Can be glued in some cases – check with sub • Install on or above grade only • May be sanded or refinished multiple times
Engineered Flooring - Installation • Little or no acclimation • Install on any level grade • Use over variety of subfloors • Staple, nail, glue or float • Recommended over radiant heat • May be sanded and refinishedStaple/Nail Glue Float
Engineered vs. Solid Wood Flooring Efficient use of slow-growth hardwood Sandable wear surface
Engineered Flooring: Top Layers Sawn, Sliced, or Rotary-peeled Rotary-peeled Sliced
Floating Installations• Engineered flooring only• Planks not adhered to subfloor – glued or ‘clicked’ together• Cost-effective sound control• Allows vapor barrier for maximum moisture protection• Underlayments : foam, rubber, Cork floating Glue Acoustical Underlayment Vapor Barrier
Acoustical Membranes - Glue Down Double-glue over Cork Sika® AcouBond® Wood Flooring CorkMastic Bostik® Ultra-Set® Single Step™ adhesive/membrane
Grades• NOFMA, MFMA – grades and rules vary by species• Industry moving toward proprietary grades MFMA Grades - Hard Maple 1st 2nd & Better 3rd
Cuts in Wood Flooring Plain sawn Min. waste/cost Min. stability Quarter sawn Med. waste/cost Max. stability Rift sawn Max. waste/cost Med. stability
Rift sawn & Quarter sawn - More DimensionallyStable Rift/Quartered Plain-sawn Arrow thickness = amount of movement
Comparative Hardness Janka Ball Hardness Test ASTM D 1037-7 Industry Standard
Wood is Hygroscopic• Seal concrete!• Acclimate flooring on-site• Maintain consistent humidity during acclimation and after installation (35% - 60%)
Problems Related to MoistureToo wet: • Swelling/cupping • Telegraphing • DelaminationToo dry: • Shrinking • Dry-cupping • Cracking • Delamination Cupped floor, caused by wet subfloor
Jobsite & Schedule ConsiderationsBefore Delivery of Wood:• Enclose structure• Complete and cure concrete, plastering, and painting• Operate HVAC system for 14 days with stable relative humidity (35% - 60%)
Radiant HeatSolid• Use narrow width• Consider Rift/Quartered• Use dimensionally stable species• Floating subfloor or sleeper systemEngineered• Can use wider widths• Use crack-resistant species• Float or Glue*Check installation instructions before finalizing heatingsystem design. Follow instructions precisely to maintainwarranty.
Color ChangeSome species change color dramatically • Air - oxidation • Light – accelerates oxidation, too much may cause bleaching Brazilian Cherry White Oak New > Aged >
Natural Penetrating Oils Pros: - spot repairable for easy touch-up - highlights wood’s natural feel Cons: - requires regular maintenance - wood is less protected from dings/scratches Rubio ® Monocoat ® – color and seal in one coat natural oil urethane
Unfinished vs. PrefinishedUnf inished Prefinished • less durability • ✔ greater durability • adds 2-3 days to • ✔ fast installation installation • ✔ no emissions from coating • emissions during drying • ✔ lower total cost • higher total cost • customize only on big jobs • ✔ easily customized • solid flooring must have • ✔ solid flooring can beveled edges have square edges
• Deforestation and illegal logging • Why wood is good • Forest certification • Plantations vs. natural forests • Recycled/reclaimed/salvaged • Rapidly renewable materials - Bamboo • Of f-gassing/IAQ • LEED compliance & documentationWood Flooring for Green Building
Deforestation 70,000+ sq. mi. lost permanently each year - more than a football field per minute
Deforestation Half of all species will be extinct by 2100
DeforestationSecond leading cause of global warming, ahead of all forms of transportation combined
Lacey Act AmendmentsFirst U.S. ban on commerce in illegally-sourced wood: • Civil & criminal penalties • Forfeiture of goods (even if trading unknowingly)
Wood products are carbon-neutral or carbon-negative
What is Certified Wood?Forest Stewardship Council• Environmentally sound forestry• Social responsibility• Economic sustainability
Forest StewardshipCouncil Independent, Non-profit, International
Chain of Custody (COC) Certified products are reliably tracked from forest to end-user
Sustainable Forestry Selective felling maintains forest ecosystems • 4-6 mature trees harvested per hectare • For each tree cut, dozens are left behind (non-commercial trees, seed trees, juveniles)
Sustainable Forestry in theTropics Giving local people a stake in keeping forests as forests
FSC Management Reserve | No ManagementPeten Region, Guatemala
Guidelines for SelectingSustainable Wood Products • Research first - some species, grades, dimensions not available • Determine lead times, plan ahead • Regularly stocked FSC and Recycled items carry much lower price premium than custom-order items Visit www.goldenstateflooring.com/green, www.fscus.org, or www.rainforest- alliance.org
Holding the Specification Ensure compliance: • Specify the supplier – contact name & phone • Communicate lead times in writing • Communicate the importance of proper documentation: 1) Valid Chain of Custody certificate 2) Invoice detailing FSC-certified status of product on a line-item basis
The Power of the Specification • Signals future demand • Translates directly into change at the forest levelGAP Headquarters, San Bruno, CAPrefinished Engineered Maple Flooring
Questions and AnswersGolden State Flooring680 8th St., Suite 169-BSan Francisco, CA 94103Showroom: 415.522.5120This concludes the American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Systems Program. www.goldenstateflooring.com