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May 10, 2020
The supersizing of wood planks remains the most prominent trend in hardwood flooring, says Brett Miller, NWFA Vice President of Technical Education & Certification, who gave a presentation on hardwood trends during an education session at TISE 2020.
With a 60% share, plank and wide plank floors dominate the hardwood market.
Today, wide planks of 7-1/2 to 8 inches are readily available, and the trend seems in no danger of petering out anytime soon. In fact, Miller knows an Indonesian manufacturer that’s producing 18-inch wide planks, and he reports they are considering going up to 24 inches wide.
Board lengths are also enjoying a growth spurt. Custom lengths range from 10 to 12 feet, he says.
It’s All About the Surface
Scoring high on the popularity meter with customers along with those wide planks are boards with complex graining and texture.
Boards that are quarter and rift sawn continue to gain in popularity, Miller says, as consumers are drawn to the striking natural beauty and linear grain pattern of boards revealed by these cuts. The linear pattern has a modern look that appeals to current consumer tastes.
Textured surfaces remain a strong trend, though the means of achieving that texture, as well as the look of it, have changed over the past decade. Miller says today’s texture of choice is accomplished via wire brushing rather than by hand scraping, which had its day in the sun about a decade ago.
Wire brushing takes away all the soft grain on top, and “the texture is almost like claw marks along the boards,” Miller says, resulting in a more linear grain pattern.
“A lot of the character of wire brushing is in the way colorants can take on a different look across the surface of the boards. You can end up with a graduated color underneath.”
Miller reckons that cleaning was probably the single thing that sounded the death knell for hand-scraped floors, since the hand-scraped finish leaves high and low places along every plank. Handsome to look at, a pill to clean.
Today’s consumers have low tolerance for high maintenance anything, so it’s understandable that they would gravitate to a hardwood product that offers the texture they want without the cleaning hassle.
Wood can always be textured; it’s repeatable. It’s really unlimited in what you can do with it, Miller says.
Color and Sheen
Lighter stains rule, and shiny finishes are out.
The very dark colors of the 2000s have gradually lightened to the grays and whites that are trending today. The grays tend to stay on the cool side or occupy a neutral zone when it comes to tone, as do whites, with no yellow undertones.
Cerusing—highlighting the grain of the wood with a pigment, typically white to create a bleached look—is also a popular trend, Miller says. He’s starting to see different colors of water-based stain and dyes used to create layers of color in boards. “Whether it’s an entire floor that’s purple, or just [used as] an undertone, that’s the fun of the trend.”
Miller says another interesting use of color is to highlight the beveled edges of boards using a darker color first, sanding it, then adding a lighter pigment on top to create definition.
When it comes to finishes, matte or low-sheen dominate the market, he says. There is also a huge growth in penetrating oils, as well as plastic coating products that replicate the matte look.
What customers don’t want to see is a glossy, plasticky-looking finish on top of their hardwood floors. It’s all about the natural look, Miller says.
Chevron and herringbone patterned floors continue to enjoy a certain popularity, he says, but today’s wider planks and longer lengths tend to fit better in new home settings where there’s a lot of interior volume.
Looking to the Future
Over the next five years, Miller expects customers to turn increasingly toward natural products, and he believes they will be making purchases based in part on how environmentally friendly they are. “Wide, natural floors that show off how natural they are will continue to grow,” he predicts.
“Plastic will go away, and natural, sustainable options will come back around,” he says, and low VOC finishes will increase in demand.
Finally, Miller anticipates that “In light of Covid, we will see our finish manufacturers produce products that can be marketed to the consumer as easy to clean and sterilize, low maintenance, and a healthy option. Finishes and cleaners will have a big part in this push.”