Reclaimed wood flooring is a unique, organic, and natural design element. Choose wisely and wood floors are a highly sustainable and durable flooring option even in high traffic commercial settings. Asking and answering key questions at the beginning of your project will ensure your floor not only looks great at installation but in the months and years to follow. When choosing reclaimed wood, a few more questions get added to the mix.
Here are key tips to finding the perfect type of reclaimed wood flooring for your next project.
Start with the end in mind
The floor has to look great. That’s a given. Asking pertinent questions upfront can ensure your selection will not only look great at installation, but 60 days later as well as 5 and 10 years later. Start with the end in mind when selecting wood flooring. Achieving the Wow Factor at installation is a nice rush but no designer wants a phone call 60 days later from a distressed and angry customer because the flooring has been compromised. You’ll go from hero to zero. In order to look great, the flooring must be durable so as to withstand the intended occupant usage and it must be able to meet required cleaning standards.
- How will the space be used?
- How much traffic is expected?
- What kind of traffic?
- Where do you land on the aesthetic scale, highly rustic or super clean?
- Is some patina or character acceptable?
- How must the floor be cleaned and how often?
- Are there required cleaning processes?
An office with 20 occupants and the occasional visitor has far fewer flooring concerns than that of a reception lobby in which 100’s of occupants wearing hard soled shoes (many of which are high heeled) will traverse a specific path on any given day. The care and maintenance for a lobby will vary from that of a restaurant. Some spaces may require the movement of furniture or have the need to slide equipment from place to place. Understanding how the space will be used will guard against a flooring selection that will fail in short order.
From TerraMai: CBRE chose Teak Engineered Kukui for a refined rustic look that will work with any imperfections that might arise along the way while still maintaining a crisp, clean space.
Enter Durability Standards – Janka
Industry wide, the test used to evaluate flooring hardness and wear is the Janka hardness test. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28 millimeters diameter steel ball halfway into a sample of wood. The industry median for hardness is red oak (northern) at 1290 lbf.
Photo from Wikipedia.
Although Janka is a good starting place, don’t discount species that fall below red oak on the hardness scale. There are other factors to consider when determining whether a species is suitable for your flooring project. Use the questions above to reflect on desired aesthetic and how the space will be used. Walnut, which falls below red oak on the Janka scale, may not be suitable for a high traffic elevator lobby as it may dimple and dent under the pressure of high heeled shoes. If you’ve fallen in love with walnut for a high traffic area, staining a harder wood so that it resembles walnut is an option that will deliver a similar look. If some dimpling is acceptable, using an oil finish on the walnut will help diminish any indentations whereas a polyurethane finish can magnify them. In a low traffic environment like a residential home, walnut flooring is perfectly appropriate.
From TerraMai: MC Walnut Engineered Flooring in a reception area.
Doug fir, which also falls below red oak on the scale, has been used for flooring for centuries. Just like walnut, situations of high wear and tear may result in scratches and indentations. Some installations may embrace these “imperfections”. If one embodies character and has intentionally selected a reclaimed wood with a naturally distressed face or one with nail holes and circle sawn markings, then any new “imperfections” will further add to and enhance the floor’s appearance.
One of the best things about the large variety of reclaimed woods available is the range of unique characteristics you can find. When most people think of reclaimed wood, they think of a rustic aesthetic. However, reclaimed wood isn’t limited to the typical rustic appearance associated with it. When opting for a cleaner more pristine design look, woods higher up on the Janka scale will ensure your design intention is maintained.
Choose a Wood That Enhances the Experience
Today, experience design is an important concept in Architecture & Design. Designers are striving to create built environments that not only look great but also feel great. The goal is to provide occupants with a wonderful, engaging experience. That means facilitating interaction with the built environment, developing a unified design aesthetic, and designing for occupant well-being.
When choosing reclaimed wood flooring, considering its role in the experience will help to select the right wood. Is the wood a backdrop that frames and allows other design elements to shine or is it a major statement maker? For example, using a bold yet clean, eye-catching wood like Acacia Metro or Teak Metro in a minimalist environment will draw people’s attention toward the flooring while creating a sense of energy in the space.
One important aspect of experience design is the presence of an emotional connection. Flooring can actually help achieve this by thematically uniting the design as a whole and providing various visual textures for occupants to feel connected to nature to enhance overall well-being.
Sam Edelman’s Palm Beach location does this by using reclaimed Mission Oak White flooring in conjunction with an abundance of reclaimed oak throughout the store. This results in feelings of calmness and tranquility that help shoppers focus on the experience without being distracted. The wood also helps to tie in and fortify the store’s brand, as the reclaimed wood reinforces the culture of heritage and craft.
Which wood is the best to maintain?
This is a bit of a trick question. The wood is not being maintained; the finish is. Maintain the finish and the wood is protected.
If heavy traffic will result in wear patterns, oil is likely the best finish option. Surface scratches, dents, and stains can be spot treated by rubbing a small amount of oil into the area and buffing it with a cotton cloth until the affected area blends with the surrounding floor. The same is true for spot recoating larger areas of wear. Floors with extreme traffic may require a complete recoat every several months but floor areas of light traffic may not need a complete recoat for many years and can be managed with touch ups. At any rate, when the wood looks dry or starved, it is time to recoat. Always recoat an oil finish before it wears through completely exposing raw wood. This is especially true in layered finishes in which a stain has been used then an oil topcoat. Stain is a colarant and offers no protection. It is difficult to restain a small area and have it blend well. Maintaining the oil topcoat will eliminate concern with wearing through the stain layer.
An oil finish penetrates the wood. Polyurethane finishes coat the wood. If the wood flooring is finished with polyurethane, occupants are walking on the finish. A polyurethane finish is more damage resistant but comes with some drawbacks. Damage on a poly finish is more noticeable and cannot be spot repaired. To repair wear and tear, the entire floor needs to be sanded and refinished.
Cleaning standards and expectations must be well understood. If the installation requires routine wet mopping, an option other than wood floors may be best. Floors with a polyurethane should be dry mopped or vacuumed while oil finished floors can be damp mopped using the cleaner recommended by the oil manufacturer. Nothing will ruin a floor faster than improper cleaning and maintenance.
Flooring is a critical aspect of any built environment, so it’s important that it unifies the design and creates an unforgettable experience. No matter what type of project you’re working on, there’s a great reclaimed wood flooring option for you. With these tips, you’ll be able to select the right wood species and finish to create and maintain the look you want.
Contact us for free reclaimed wood samples and while you’re at it, check out our new collection of wide plank flooring.