Take your place on the floor
24th May 2019

Take your place on the floor

Take your place on the floor

Timber flooring is an increasingly lucrative category for merchants. It’s especially true in those branches where kitchen displays attract not only builders but also their householder customers. Where should a merchant start with a flooring offering?


Investigating what’s needed below the surface is an important first step. “The base of a good flooring installation is the sub-floor,” says Joan Bailey, Sales Manager UK & Ireland at UPM. “It needs to be structurally sound and form the most stable base possible for whatever goes on top. As an example, WISA®-Sprucefloor is a fully-structural FSC®-certified Spruce plywood
specifically designed for this purpose.

“Dimensionally stable, all four edges of each sheet are tongue & groove for easy fitting, and it’s suitable for all standard flooring applications including underfloor heating,”

UPM’s Joan Bailey continues. “It comes in 18mm and 22mm thickness and one pack will cover the floors in an entire terraced house. Merchants can buy individual sheet quantities from our various distributors nationwide, detailed on our website.”

Two-tier market
Jason Dodd, Sales Manager, Setra Wood Products says there are two tiers to the solid timber flooring market in Britain: “Firstly there’s the RMI market, where builders need products for extensions and floorboard replacement. Secondly there’s the high quality solid timber flooring side, such as our Setra Tragolv product.

“Solid timber flooring is a good insulator and has the natural look and feel that many customers are after. It also has good acoustic properties and a warmth that’s sometimes lacking in laminated flooring. Solid timber
flooring is also good for wellbeing as it’s a low emission product with great environmental credentials. It’s also a good fit for those consumers who want to avoid plastics in their building materials,” Setra’s Jason Dodd

Merchants have been selling certain types of solid timber flooring for many moons. Do standard products like planed tongue & groove still cut the mustard in terms of sales? Jason Ostler, Managing Director at Arbor
Forest Products, certainly thinks so:

“PTG flooring lost a little ground some years ago but has maintained its market share ever since and is still a good performer for merchants.
Redwood PTG is the higher value product; whitewood PTG is more the commodity end of the market where people buy on price. Whitewood PTG flooring also tends to be thinner, at 18mm and 25mm nominal sizes.”


Extending value
With many builders’ merchants now incorporating kitchen showrooms into their branches, it makes sense to increase the value of kitchen sales by adding a flooring solution.

Brooks Brothers supply flooring to many other merchants. Flooring Manager Tom Dee advises: “For engineered flooring used on top of joists you need a 20mm thickness. If it’s a concrete floor there’s no point in having
additional depth so a 14mm thickness product will suffice. Beech was in fashion a few years ago but Oak and Walnut are the most popular veneers today.”

Kitchen flooring needs to be capable of handing extra moisture. “An engineered wood flooring with a lacquered finish is what we would recommend,” says Josh Burbidge, Business Development Director with Atkinson Kirby. “The lacquered finish seals the moisture out, and performs better in a kitchen situation.

Some customers may prefer to have luxury vinyl tiles around their sink area: it’s a further option that merchants can offer.”

With the architectural fashion for kitchens opening straight onto the garden through bi-fold glass doors, Rob Eckersley, Director of The Solid Wood Flooring Company says homeowners need to choose the finish for
their engineered flooring with due thought to their domestic situation:

“Lacquer sits on the top layer of the flooring, resisting spills and offering easier maintenance. UV Oiled boards fill the gap in the market between lacquered products and a natural oiled timber surface. They are good for high-traffic areas, keeping you in contact with the natural texture of the
wood surface.”

Selling a lifestyle
What are consumers looking for when considering flooring as part of a kitchen package? Tom Andrews, Sales Director for the Sheffield Area at Arnold Laver, explains:

“With kitchen flooring you’re selling the lifestyle and the ‘look’, not the product. People are less likely to be interested in price if they are after
a certain aesthetic. Engineered flooring is more stable and moves less than other flooring types, so gaps don’t open up. You still have the benefit of being able to sand the floor and re-finish it as there’s usually a 4mm depth of veneer on the top.”

How are engineered flooring products selling today in builders’ merchant outlets? From a builders’ merchant’s viewpoint, Grant Wilson at MGM Timber in Scotland sees engineered timber flooring as only rising in demand:

“We sell less solid wood flooring these days, whereas engineered wood flooring sales are definitely growing. We have a wide range of species to offer including engineered Beech, Ash, Walnut, Maple and Oak, but
it’s Oak which is by far the most popular.

There’s no doubt that engineered flooring is a very competitive market, but we also offer matching products. For example alongside our engineered Oak flooring we offer Oak doors, facings and architraves, to complete the look for the householder.”


Checking supply chains
With the supply chain for engineered flooring being a complex one, often involving products and components moving from one side of the world to the other, the Timber Trade Federation has launched a research stream
within its Flooring Working Group to check that flooring product claims of sustainable and European origins are accurate.

“China is the largest supplier of flooring into the UK, so it makes sense to start our research and testing here,” reveals TTF Managing Director David Hopkins. “There are some excellent products manufactured in the far east, and also in Europe. Yet previous research findings in other product categories make us aware that we should rigorously check on the material sourcing claims made by manufacturers overseas.”

“As timber merchants we take our environmental and purchasing due diligence very seriously,” says Brooks Brothers’ Tom Dee. “We have been working with one flooring factory in the Far East for 25 years: their compliance manager originally worked for an NGO. In addition to our TTF Responsible Purchasing Policy compliance and our other certifications, each and every box of our engineered timber flooring carries the Nature’s
Barcode system. It can track the origins of the timber back to its origins using scientific methods.”

Brooks Brothers took this step to provide clear assurance of the Western European origins and legality of Oak used in its flooring products manufactured in China. The assessment also includes Isotope testing and
full documentary due diligence.

Strict due diligence
Rob Eckersley at The Solid Wood Flooring Company, agrees with taking a strict approach to due diligence:

“We applaud the TTF’s efforts to improve the reputation of the wood flooring sector, though we feel that research shouldn’t just be focused on China. We feel that more attention should be given to the risk factors
with wood products sourced from many other countries including those within Europe. Our advice to anyone sourcing product from Europe is to check back along the supply chain beyond the producer as a standard part of their due diligence.”

Arnold Laver’s Tom Andrews holds similar views: “Check that what you think you are buying is correctly described. We only buy from European Union manufacturers and we also do our own due diligence, in addition
to ensuring they have FSC® and/or PEFC™ certification. We will never buy flooring products from an unknown entity overseas,” he affirms.

For heritage properties and conservation projects, solid wood flooring may be specified by the architect, but help to gain the business is available from TTF member suppliers. Brooks Brothers’ Tom Dee, comments “There are
occasions when we’ve been asked to replace heritage hardwood flooring for customers on special order – including for the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace! We are one of the few companies able to machine
75mm Oak flooring for older and historic buildings.”

Timber flooring solutions certainly come in many guises to suit all sizes of customer budgets. But whichever you choose, ensure you do your due diligence, or get help from your supplier, to ensure you are selling #TimbeYouCanTrust