Friday, August 21, 2009

Strand Woven Bamboo Test

At our Seattle store we have a lot of customers who are interested in the strand woven bamboo. Some come in curious about bamboo, and some are not aware of it but fall in love with the strand as soon as we show them "the strand test". Many of these customers previously had a bad taste in their mouth about bamboo due to hearing about a friend (or friend of a friend) who has experienced problems with traditional bamboo (horizontal/vertical in either natural or carbonized). Once they see the test with their own eyes these concerns go away immediately.

What I mean by "the strand test" is we take 2 samples - a regular bamboo, and a strand bamboo - then we take the strand bamboo sample and hit the regular bamboo sample, which dents relatively easily. Remember - regular bamboo is about as hard as oak and maple. Then we take the regular bamboo sample and hit the strand bamboo sample with it (hard!) and honestly - nothing happens! I have been using the same strand sample for about 3 weeks, pounding on it multiple times per day, and you can't see a scratch. We also do the test with Brazilian Walnut/Ipe, the hardest wood - and the strand outperforms it.

Concerns about bamboo hardness are addressed when conducting "the Strand test" because you can immediately see how much harder the Strand is compared to regular bamboo.
This is not a trick - it is a great tool to show customers so they can get a real idea of how durable the strand bamboo is. Customers have asked me for samples to take home and show "the test" to their spouses, builders/contractors, and friends.

Strand comparison works well for:
Natural maple vs natural strand - similar color but much harder
Laminate vs strand - get the durability of laminate with natural beauty of bamboo
Hardwood vs strand - you can refinish the strand if you were ever able to damage it
Pet owners - very difficult to scratch/dig into the strand, and good for pet "accidents"
Families - very difficult to scratch/damage the strand with active children
Moisture concerns - being essentially a grass it is much better with liquid than hardwood
Eco friendly options - sustainable product that can also be refinished, not having to replace
Versatile look - easy to "dress up" or "dress down" based on personal taste. Can swing modern or traditional look depending on your furniture

In addition to being a great selling tool of the strand bamboo, it is fun!
video video

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flooring underlayment - the scoop!

I had another customer today ask me about underlayment... some of the common questions are:
1. Do I need underlayment?
2. Does it really matter which underlayment I get?
3. Why do I need a good underlayment if I am going over concrete and there is no one below me?

We decided at our Seattle store to put together a "cheat sheet" for our customers that outline the different underlayments we carry, and their features... as well as our comments and favorites listed.

Underlayment Options
When you are using a floating flooring product (whether it be wood, laminate, cork, or bamboo) you will need an underlayment. If you are going over a concrete subfloor you will also need a vapor barrier (a 6mil plastic). You will lay down the vapor barrier if necessary, tape the seams, then lay down your underlayment. There are multiple underlayments available, and the higher end ones will absorb more sound and vibration and make your floor sound more solid. This is true on both wooden or concrete subfloors. Low end underlayments will still cover your warranty but tend toward a more hollow or "clicky/tap-dance" sound when you walk on your floor.

6mm Cork (A close second for Favorite Category) $.97/sf
Natural cork underlay provide exceptional sound reduction capabilities in addition to insulation and comfort underfoot. The cork is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak tree without harm to the tree. An environmentally friendly option for naturally healthy living. Cork quiets both hardwood and laminate floors.
· Environmentally friendly option
· Meets condo requirements
· Sound Performance: STC 52 - 66
3mm Cork $.68/sf
Natural cork underlay provide exceptional sound reduction capabilities in addition to insulation and comfort underfoot. The cork is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak tree without harm to the tree. An environmentally friendly option for naturally healthy living. Cork quiets both hardwood and laminate floors.
· Environmentally friendly option

Redux® Acoustical Reduction (Simple Floors employee Favorite) $.50/sf
Our best foam rubber underlayment. Redux can be used in both commercial and residential applications. Redux reduces same room foot traffic noise as well as reduces sound transmission to adjacent rooms and lower levels. Redux is for use under both engineered wood floors, laminate and cork floating floors. Specifically for use with the floating floor installation method, Redux provides a quieter surface by absorbing under floor vibration.2.5mm thickness
· Mold and mildew resistant as well as non allergenic
· Sound Performance: STC 55

Royal Walker® $.59/sf
A premium underlayment developed to reduce noise transmission for use under both hardwood and laminate floors. The unique engineering of this underlay allow it to interact with the floor system itself in a manner that produces a sound similar to that of traditional wood flooring.
· Exceeds recommended moisture permeability ratings for installation over concrete slabs
· Sound Performance: STC 53

Silver series 3 in 1 (Moderate) $.32/sf
The silver series 3 in 1 is a mid level laminate and hardwood flooring underlay. The silver series offers moderate sound absorption for laminate and hardwood flooring. The higher density 2mm thick foam comes with an foil moisture barrier backing. No additional moisture barrier is needed when using The Silver Series. This underlay is for use over both wooden or concrete subfloors. The foil on this underlayment also adds insulating properties.

2 in 1 Combo Foam Film (Low end) $.24/sf
The 2 in 1 Combo Foam Film is the standard laminate floating floor underlay. The 2 in 1 Combo foam film can also be used under solid or engineered real hardwood floors as well. The 2 in 1 is a 2mm thick foam with a pre-attached moisture barrier. This underlay can be used over both wooden or concrete subfloors.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Green is not always about buying new

Anytime you purchase something, you have an impact on the environment. Planned obsolescence is a term used to describe the artificial short life of a product. When I think about this in terms of flooring products (this is a blog about floors), one of the first things that comes to my mind is carpet and even sheet vinyl goods. Both of these products have a very short life span. They wear out, mat down, tear, stain and are available in colors and even patterns that date themselves and become obsolete by plan. They are both oil based and treated with stain resistant chemicals and fibers from companies like Monsanto the chemical company (another video to watch sometime is the world according to Monsanto). When I think about the impact of s carpet on the environment, I have to multiply the negative impact by more than a few times. This is because in a 50 year period it will need to be replaced at minimum 3-4 times.

In contrast good quality wood floors can be in service in a home 50 years down the line. Wood, bamboo and cork floors are a quality, long lasting product and they do not become design or "style" obsolete. Not only is their manufacturing impact on the environment less to begin with, they have a lower overall 50 year cost of ownership as they do not require constant replacing and they provide for healthy interior living spaces. 

This video has been watched over 7 million times now. Its the Story of Stuff and the global manufacturing chain. It is direct, somewhat entertaining, very enlightening and only about 20 minutes long.  I recommend it to everyone. 



Monday, August 10, 2009

Pets and Flooring

Many potential flooring customers come in the store looking for something that hold up well with their pets. Asking a few questions will help determine what the best flooring is for their personal situation.

What type of pets?
Dogs? If so, what size and how active are they?
Cats?
What are the concerns?
Scratching?
Accidents?
How long would the customers like the floor to last?
Are the customers looking for a cheap/inexpensive floor?
What type of sub-floor are they going over?

The good news is there are flooring options for pets in all categories... Here is some of our best flooring for pets and why one choice may be made over another:
Solid Hardwood - Although the finish on all hardwood can be scratched by pets, the wood hardness (Janka) varies per species. The harder species will still allow the finish to scratch, but will not be as easy to actually scratch/dig into the wood. Solid hardwood can be re-finished multiple times over the life of your flooring. Most of the solid hardwoods must be nailed down, our Reclamation Plank can also be floated.

Engineered Hardwood - Although the finish on all hardwood can be scratched by pets, the wood hardness (Janka) varies per species. The harder species will still allow the finish to scratch, but will not be as easy to actually scratch/dig into the wood. Engineered hardwood is typically less expensive than solid hardwood, and due to the multiple layers has less expansion and contraction, which is a better fit for many climates. Easy to install - can be nailed, glued or floated. May be able to be re-finished depending on the wear layer.

Handscraped Hardwood - Although the finish on all hardwood can be scratched by pets, the wood hardness (Janka) varies per species. The harder species will still allow the finish to scratch, but will not be as easy to actually scratch/dig into the wood. Due to the handscraped features on this product, scratches by pets can be filled in with a color-fil pen, just adding to the already "distressed" look of the flooring. Small dings/dents typically go un-noticed on this type of flooring.

Solid Bamboo - Although the finish can be scratched, this is an eco-friendly and inexpensive option vs. solid hardwood. It can be re-finished multiple times over the life of your flooring. This must be nailed or glued down.
Handscraped Bamboo - Due to the handscraped features on this product, scratches by pets can be filled in with a color-fil pen, just adding to the already "distressed" look of the flooring.

Strand Woven Bamboo - Our current favorite! Super hard and very difficult to scratch. Solid, so it can be refinished multiple times over the life of your flooring. 1/2" thickness allows the Strand bamboo to be nailed, glued down, or floated. The nature of bamboo vs. other flooring products makes it the best for "accidents" as well, being essentially a grass it is incredibly stable with spills/moisture.

Cork - This is a great option for an eco-friendly product, with a softer feel and special look. If your pet has a lot of accidents, we would recommend applying another coat of varnish so that it would be "seamless". Because of the varying pattern of most cork flooring small scratches/dents are difficult to notice.

Laminate - Great flooring for no-scratch marks from pets. Comes in various collections, colors and styles to suit different tastes. Not the best if the pet has a lot of accidents because there are seams in the flooring - but replacing planks is an option because it is a click-together product.