Despite working in a historic church, the hardwood flooring team of James Henry Ltd. in Wellington, New Zealand, didn't always seem to have a helping hand from above. "At one time the guys had someone Kango-ing out concrete above their heads," says Owner Chris Northmore, using the Kiwi term for jackhammers. That concrete removal was part of the building's structural reinforcement after two earthquakes rocked Wellington in 2013, putting St. Mary of the Angels church at risk.
The Gothic-style landmark was undergoing a four-year renovation when Northmore was approached to install 5,382 square feet of cork flooring. "I was equally excited about it as I was nervous about it," Northmore admits. The floor was to be a replica of the church's original cork floor. While Northmore was no stranger to large projects, working with cork was uncharted territory. He and his crew embraced the challenge, starting by gluing the square cork tiles to the concrete substrate in the center aisle (as seen on the cover of this issue). Unlike the cork tiles, the ebony borders and inlays were laser-cut and prefinished. "This meant we needed really precise laying, as there was no opportunity to sand off any lipping," Northmore says. The floor received three coats of water-based finish.
The occasional falling shards of concrete didn't make things easier. "The main challenge was working in a large building with lots of other activity going on," Northmore says. Despite the conditions, they completed the floor in one month. The project that began with a touch of anxiety ended with accolades, winning the Floor of the Year award from the Australasian Timber Flooring Association, proving that taking risks—from tackling new types of products to working under falling pieces of 100-year-old concrete—can pay off in the end.