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history of hardwood flooring

Hardwood flooring was the first type of flooring to have a major impact on the way people built their homes. In the times leading up to the medieval era, the ground floor of most homes was just that – the ground. Consisting of nothing more than beaten earth, these floors made for a muddy, dusty experience. The first wood floors were used in multi–storey buildings, and generally consisted of little more than two–foot wide planks of elm or oak set atop wooden joists.

First Uses of Hardwood Flooring

Fine wood flooring first came into use in the homes of wealthy Europeans. Parquet floors became popular for their elegance and variety of beautiful patterns, but the price was prohibitive for the middle class. Over in North America, the abundance of available timber made hardwood floors much more reasonable for the average citizen. Plank floors came into wide use, generally made out of slow growth pine. These early hardwood floors were not sanded or finished, since the pine would be polished smooth simply by regular traffic.

Hardwood floors were made by hand until the late nineteenth century, when factory mass production came into play. Hardwood plank flooring was still the most commonly seen type of flooring in modest homes. Planks were made with tongue and groove edges, or simply nailed down to the joists. Because of shoddy installation and poor maintenance, few of these floors survive today.

Hardwood Floors Today

Due in part to hardwood's perceived lack of longevity, it was easy for carpet to come in and overtake hardwood's place on the market. Although linoleum and cork offered competition throughout the 1920's and 30's, improved varnishes and durability kept hardwood flooring relevant. This changed in the years following World War II. While hardwood was initially laid out in newly built houses, it was often covered up by carpet, the cost of which was included in home loans. This led to an increased focus on carpet in the flooring industry.

It wasn't until the 1980's that hardwood flooring began to regain its popularity in the residential market. Ready for a change, consumers have embraced the clean, modern look of hardwood flooring. Installation techniques have been refined, making hardwood floors a solid investment that can last for decades. According to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), hardwood floors now make up 10% of all flooring sales. With a wide variety of hardwood floors to choose from, you can bring a lifetime of warmth and classic beauty to any room in the home.

Nowadays, hardwood flooring can be made with reclaimed wood, or wood from a responsibly managed forest (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council). These are both eco-friendly alternatives to hardwood flooring made with newly harvested materials. On you'll find questions that can help you when buying green hardwood, as well as information on hardwood floor's lifecycle.

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