After 30 years of hardwood industry experience, I must say I have never been so disappointed with the market to which I have dedicated half my life.
It is not hard to see that the market has shifted. While economic change is inevitable in any market, ours has taken a turn for the worse. We now live in a marketing age full of Lumber Liquidators and Empire Today ads. Liquidators have misled many into believing Select Grade* (a low grade) is the best grade and is comparable to Clear. Empire Today promotes next day installation while, in reality, 95% of all quality ¾” hardwood flooring should acclimate in the house for 1 or 2 weeks prior to installation.
Moreover, lots of imports from China (dried to 10-11% not 7-8%) with random lengths from 1-4 feet have become commonplace and increasingly popular. Such short board lengths often results in a choppy, overly systematic, and jigsaw puzzle-esque final floor that belies the natural, organic, and exotic appearance that used to be the very quintessence of hardwood flooring. Indeed, solid Clear Grade 3/4” flooring with long random lengths 1-7 feet has been replaced with 5/16” – 3/8” or even 1/2” or Formica floors with lengths 1-4 feet.
I stress that not all homes can be treated equal when it comes to hardwood installation. A house in Florida must be treated very different from a house in Massachusetts; while FL has year-round warm weather, MA floors are exposed to a six month, hot forced air heating season from HVAC systems. Yet these factors – and many others such as application, geographic region, and grade – are often neglected and flooring is installed on the sole criterion of price. While this may be cost-efficient and convenient in the short-run, it is much less certain whether this flooring format will last or IF such floors should be installed in the first place.
Finally, Floating & Click floors with paltry .06 mm, 1.0 mm, 1.6mm up to 3.0mm face (thickness of wood on the top) that are designed for below grade or over concrete, are being installed 1st & 2nd floor and could literally fail in less than 5 years.
Lower prices and uniform-across-the-country installation methodology is appealing but did anyone ever ask the costumer IF he/she actually wanted the flooring to work?