Special to the E-T

In the flooring category, there is not a more popular choice today than hardwood. And it’s easy to understand how this beautiful product continues to attract consumers searching for a distinctive look for their homes. The richness of grain patterns and the natural colorations and markings inherent in living wood all tell a story of each tree’s individual character. A well-crafted hardwood floor imparts a soft, reflective glow that seems to bathe your rooms in quiet luxury. Moreover, in addition to the obvious aesthetic contribution, your home’s value is enhanced with hardwood floors.

The selection of hardwood products is breathtaking. From elegant fine-grained styles carefully selected from inner cuts of heartwood to rustic looks with broad variations in grain and color that offer a casual charm and warmth, there are surface visuals that offer something for every d/cor and lifestyle. Wood has an unlimited range of natural details, including grain and color, called “character marks,” and unpredictable and random “signatures.” Within each species, every tree is an individual; no two logs carry the same “signature” of knot, burls, or mineral streaks.

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood flooring is milled from a single piece of wood. It requires basic machinery to manufacture, and the process has remained virtually unchanged for over 150 years. Solid hardwood is dependent on nature to remain flat and straight. It is typically 3/4” thick and must be nailed to a wood sub-floor for proper installation.

These floors mimic the natural variations of the trees from which they are harvested, and uniformity is therefore based on appearance value, with the lowest appearance rating being a “tavern or cabin grade.” Because solid wood is prone to expansion and contraction, warping and cupping may occur when the wood is exposed to pronounced temperature and humidity fluctuations. These floors are typically not suitable where climactic changes are great, and they should not be installed below grade, as in basement areas.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood flooring is made of multiple layers that are arranged in a cross-grain configuration for strength, stability, and balance, then bonded under intense heat and pressure. The top layer is the premium appearance hardwood. Engineered products can be manufactured using 3 to 9 plies of wood. The inner layers, or core layers, can be made of softwoods or lesser grades of hardwood. Hardwood layers provide more strength and stability, while softwoods are more economical. Still, others use composite woods, i.e., high-density fiberboard (HDF) for the core with a premium wood veneer on top and a balancing layer of wood on the bottom.

This engineered hardwood process produces a high-quality flooring with all the timeless beauty and luster of its hardwood face and the enhanced structural integrity and moisture resistance that are key in below-grade installations, or where humidity is a concern. Engineered floors are the most versatile for installation, allowing nailing, gluing, or floating methods (5” or wider).

Finishes are basically the same for all pre-finished wood flooring (and many solid products), despite the wood species or appearance style. The premium finishes of today are factory-applied polyurethane with aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide provides a scratch-resistant surface, and polyurethane applied in a factory is 5 to 7 times harder than a traditional field-applied finish. A factory finish allows the polyurethane to instantly cure with ultra-violet light, keeping the finish dust-free and hard. Aluminum oxide cannot be applied in the field, only at a factory using UV curing.

New Generations of Hardwood

Leading flooring manufacturer Shaw has introduced its own breakthrough in hardwood flooring to meet the needs of consumers looking for a versatile, beautiful and durable floor. The Epic Hardwood Collection represents the latest innovation in factory-finished, engineered hardwoods.

The collection is Shaw’s latest step in the company’s deep-seated commitment to environmental responsibility. EnviroCoreª, the company’s exclusive HDF core, uses fewer trees with less waste, resulting in one of the most environmentally responsible products around. At the same time, the innovative core creates a more dimensionally stable platform. “It’s really the best of all worlds,” says Rick Knowles, vice president of sales for Shaw’s hardwood flooring. “We’ve made a better product that’s also good for the environment.”

Additionally, all the wood veneers used to create the stunning grains and visual appeal of Epic Hardwood are obtained from suppliers who are committed to being good stewards of our environment through sound forestry practices.

Each year there are over 1.7 billion trees planted in the U.S. Shaw supports the country’s efforts to reforest the land by carefully adhering to sustainable forestry guidelines. Respecting these standards helps to balance ecosystem health by reducing the amount of timber harvested.

Among its many advantages, the Epic Hardwood Collection is available in longer lengths than other engineered woods, and like many of Shaw’s engineered hardwoods, this collection features a traditional 3/8” product. Most of the 3/8” products are offered in 31/4” and 5” widths, as the trend is toward wider planks. But for the first time ever, Shaw is also manufacturing the Epic engineered line in 3/4”, the standard for solid hardwoods, making the Epic Hardwood Collection a truly viable alternative to solid hardwoods.

What’s more, due to its increased humidity resistance, this engineered hardwood line is suitable for virtually any climate and can be installed at any grade level — even below — where solid hardwoods present problems. Shaw’s innovative patent-pending tongue-and-groove system facilitates installation and results in tighter seams. With a shorter acclimation period, elimination of seam gaps, and highly durable finish that withstands even the toughest wear and tear, many builders see Epic as the perfect candidate for premium construction installations. These floors also deliver on style, offering a wide range of beautiful and durable varieties to choose from, including red oak, maple, American cherry, walnut, and hickory.

For more information on Shaw flooring and the Shaw Green Edge, visit www.shawfloors.com.