West Coast Winners: 2009 Wood Floor of the Year Awards

Hf609 Foy 2

This year's NWFA Wood Floor of the Year winners were selected by members online before the NWFA convention in Long Beach, Calif., April 28-May 1 (the Members' Choice was also voted on during the show).

A Little Help From My Friends
Members' Choice, Best Entry/Foyer (Hand-Cut) | DM Hardwood Designs (Farmington, N.M.)

Hf609 Foy 2

"I shouldn't even be here," says Dave Marzalek of DM Hardwood Designs. Last November, as Marzalek was gradually making progress on this floor-the entry to his own home-he lived through the scariest experience of his life when his F-350 four-wheel-drive pickup hydroplaned, rolled and slammed into the side of a mountain on the way to doing a wood flooring job at ex-Vice President Dan Quayle's house. "Obviously it wasn't my time," Marzalek says, explaining that the huge truck basically "disintegrated, " yet he was able to walk away from the crash with no life-threatening injuries.

The crash didn't end his life, but it did threaten Marzalek's progress on his own floor, which he wanted to complete in time for the Wood Floor of the Year January deadline. In an amazing turnaround, Marzalek's worst tragedy also resulted in the best experience of his life, excepting the birth of his kids, he says: His friend Wayne Highlander appeared on his doorstep with nine wood flooring men to help Marzalek work on the floor. The crew labored around the clock doing everything from hand-scraping to creating elements of the inlay to ensure the floor would be completed on time.

Marzalek had plenty of help from his friends, but the inlay, as well as the rest of the floor, is pure Marzalek style. "I always wanted to do my own floor without any female involvement," Marzalek says, and after relocating to New Mexico, this was his chance. Marzalek used the end-grain logs to distinguish the home's entry, as well as lead down a hallway and up the stairs. His signature broken-board technique surrounds the entry, and the focal point is an inlay reflecting his love affair with eagles and orcas.

This inlay pushes the limits of what Marzalek has done before (which includes a fiberoptic inlay that won a Wood Floor of the Year award in 2000). Not only does it encompass an elaborate wilderness scene, it also incorporates an added dimension of depth. Marzalek created the inlay in stages, pouring a layer of resin on, adding more elements such as orcas and seaweed, and repeating the process until there were five layers of resin.

The completed floor was the culmination of Marzalek's own unbridled design vision and also struck a chord with the NWFA members, who appreciated the complicated floor enough to choose it as both Best Entry/Foyer (Hand-Cut) and the coveted Members' Choice.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Sika Corporation | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Golden State Flooring | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Basic Coatings, Dura Seal | Nailers: Powernail Company Inc., Senco | Saws: Hitachi | Wood Flooring: Goodwin Heart Pine Photo: Chris Hasten

Best Engineered (Hand-Cut)

Hf609 Foy 3

Certainly Dave Marzalek's work is on a different level from a typical contractor-this winning floor, complex by most contractors' standards, is practically run-of-the-mill for him-but an important part of being a winner doesn't have anything to do with the actual floors, he says. He should know: Three Wood Floor of the Year trophies this year bring Dave Marzalek's total Wood Floor of the Year awards to 17, an amazing achievement and by far the most of any company.

"Half of it is photography, " he says. "You can tell the ones that were taken by a professional and the ones that weren't. " And having a great photographer is only part of a great photo, he explains, adding that the photo needs to show an entire scene, with the room decorated and furnished. Missing baseboards, random items scattered on the floor and empty rooms won't usually win trophies, he notes.

The scene was set in this job, a small house in Laguna Hills, Calif. The client was a referral who trusted Marzalek to create the right design with the walnut engineered floor. "I said, 'If you give me control, you're going to get much more than you even thought of,'" he says. The result was a hand-cut oval medallion surrounded by a starburst in the foyer, with flooring laid on a 45 in the living room to naturally lead into the kitchen. It's par for the course for Marzalek, but still special enough to win Wood Floor of the Year. -K.M.W.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Sika Corporation | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Basic Coatings, Dura Seal | Nailers: Powernail Company Inc., Senco | Saws: Hegner, Hitachi, Makita | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring, Goodwin Heart Pine

Education Flooring
Best Bedroom (Hand Cut) | CP Wood Floors (Gales Ferry, Conn.)

Hf609 Foy 3b

"All I want to do is teach and educate-I love it, " Charles Peterson says. These feelings prompted the CP Wood Floors owner to document every step in the creation of this year's winner in the hand-cut bedroom category. The 528-square-foot undertaking is comprised of 10 wood species-including American and Brazilian cherry, maple, Peruvian walnut and wenge-300 lineal feet of brass, and 60 square feet of gold leaf, as well as black marble, brass and stone inlays. It also included aniline dying, gilding and faux painting techniques.

One challenge of this floor was moisture control; the home in which it was installed sits along the Atlantic Ocean, and the floor sits over radiant heat, which made the flooring subject to moisture content ranges of 4 to 11 percent. Peterson overcame this problem by creating his inlays with a quartersawn veneer glued to nine-ply Baltic birch.

To help his educational mission, Peterson plans to publish more than 5,000 photos taken during the floor's creation in an educational book on wood flooring. Ultimately, he is trying to broaden the skill sets of his fellow contractors, which, he believes, can only enhance their creativity and earning potential. "Maybe a flooring guy is just installing strip floors and competing against another guy who does it for 10 cents cheaper, " Peterson says, "and he's not really making a lot of money. By creating a few inlays from scraps, he can create a signature that separates him from the competition." - D.D.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: U.S. Sander LLC | Distributor: Wood Pro | Finish: UV Cured Inc. | Nailer: Primatech Inc. | Router, Sander, Saws: Festool | Wood Flooring: Taylor Lumber

Hf609 Foy 4

Diamond in the Rough
Best Restoration | Universal Floors (Washington, D.C.)

"We stop and check out dumpsters on a routine basis, " says Sprigg Lynn, president at Universal Floors. Over the years, Lynn's penchant for dumpster diving has served the company well, as Universal Floors has developed a sizable inventory of old wood materials. When a repair on a historical wood floor is required, the company often has the material on hand. It's no surprise, then, that Universal Floors won the Wood Floor of the Year in the Best Restoration category for the third time.

The architect for this job, located in D.C.'s trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood, knew of Universal's restoration work and requested Lynn visit the site. Under the carpeting, most of the floor was covered with black tar. "I scraped out one corner and it was like a diamond in the rough, " Lynn says. "I told them it would be a crying shame not to breathe fresh life into this floor, and they gave me the green light to do it."

The resulting restoration was challenging. Areas of the wood floor had been removed and replaced with 6 inches of concrete; crews used jackhammers to remove it. Because of the black tar, the existing floor was painstakingly handscraped before sanding. Salvaged materials, including a mahogany door found in a dumpster in Baltimore, were used to repair and recreate missing areas of the floor. Then the repaired floor was finished with tung oil for a genuine hand-rubbed look, allowing this diamond in the rough to shine once more.

Hf609 Foy 4b

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Long Floor | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc. | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro), Clarke American Sanders | Saws: Dewalt, Festool

Best Library/Office (Hand-Cut)

Hf609 Foy 5

Many wood flooring contractors spend years dreaming about finding that one special client who will enable them to create a Wood Floor of the Year contender. The Universal Floors client from this job far exceeded such hopes: This is the third winning floor from the same 25,000-square foot mansion. After the dining room and library entry garnered awards for Members' Choice, Best Engineered (Non-CNC) and Best Entry/ Foyer (CNC) last year, Lynn predicted that the home's library, still in progress at the time, could be a contender. He was right.

As with last year's winning floors, Lynn called in his friend John Yarema, president of Troy, Mich.-based Yarema Marquetry, to develop the floor's design with the owner. For this room, the owner gave the pair nearly free rein. With the design selected, the greatest challenge was the steel poles supporting the catwalk-they don't align, with some as much as 4 inches off, and a perfectly symmetrical floor would have drawn attention to the flaws. "I would literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking , 'How am I going to make this look like it isn't an afterthought?'" Lynn says. As it turns out, most of the floor was created simply with a basic jig and a plunging circular saw, but to disguise the ill-placed columns, about every third piece of the wood floor had to be adjusted. The tweaks worked: With the installation completed, the floor hand-scraped and a tung-oil finish applied, no one would ever imagine this floor an afterthought.

Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Distributors: Derr Flooring Company | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Medallion: Yarema Marquetry | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc. | Router: Porter-Cable | Saws: Festool, Dewalt | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring

Best CNC/Laser Cut

Hf609 Foy 6

This project had an amazing turnaround: It started about as badly as a job can, but now, years later, it's a Wood Floor of the Year winner.

Universal Floors had worked with the owner of the Georgetown home to create the parquet design and create full-scale samples. Everything was ready but the signature on the bottom line when the owner called and said a monkey could lay the floor. "He had his monkeys install it, and they screwed it all up, " Lynn says. Three years later, the homeowner called back and said he was going to "eat crow"-he wanted Universal Floors to come back and redo the abysmal bedroom floor correctly.

Lynn turned the project over to Universal Floor's Sales Manager Tim Allen, who supervised both the technical aspects of the job and the relations with the homeowner. "By walking through his threshold you could tell he was extremely particular … so we took it a step at a time, stayed professional, stayed focused and made sure we did it right, " Allen says. Allen supervised each step, from the demo of the old floor to the installation of a plywood subfloor and the installation of the new floor, all as the homeowner kept tabs on the job from China. Allen's diligence paid off, as the homeowner was thrilled with the floor and Universal brought home yet another trophy. -K.M.W.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Borders, Medallions: Yarema Marquetry | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Distributors: Derr Flooring Company, Long Floor | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Powernail Company | Router: Porter-Cable | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Dewalt, Festool

Wrong to Right
Best Kitchen/Dining Room (CNC/Laser Cut) | Diamond Flooring (Elizabethtown, Ky.)

Hf609 Foy 7

Labels can be deceiving, as in the case of this Diamond Flooring project in Louisville. Even though the company's award-winning kitchen/dining room project was in the CNC/Laser Cut category for this year's contest, roughly two-thirds of the laser-cut pieces were also hand-cut on-site after Owner Jamie Lupresto began installing the floor.

Lupresto says it's more difficult to plan a custom floor in new construction, since the actual job-site measurements may not come out as planned, which was the case with this floor. The starburst spokes were "coming around too fast" on the short side of the design (toward the door in the photo) while installing, Lupresto explains. Lupresto and his crew, Jordan Weaver, Jessie Turner and Josh Cook, then had to cut "a ¼ -inch to nothing" from the starburst pieces' widths.

The customer had suggested the starburst design to complement the circular kitchen. Lupresto chose rift and quartersawn white oak for the starburst, while the border and inlay comprises padauk, bloodwood, santos mahogany, yellowheart, wenge, and more white oak. Starburst edges adjacent to the inlay measure 3/8 -inch wide, reaching 9 inches in width at the radius' outermost edge.

And when things don't work perfectly at first, Lupresto shows that a floor can still be saved and turned into something beautiful. "Things change a little bit," Lupresto admits, "but it's definitely possible to turn a wrong into a right."-D.D.

Abrasive: 3M, Bona US | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger, Sander: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Timbermate USA Inc. | Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Powernail Company Inc. | Router, Saws: Festool | Wood Flooring: Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring

Traditionally Beautiful
Best Commercial/Showroom (CNC/Laser-Cut) | Birger Juell Ltd. (Chicago)

Hf609 Foy 9

"I don't think I fall in love as much as I used to with any one thing; now I'm more interested in: Does it fit? Does it look like it belongs here? That's one of the things I like about the Clive Christian showroom," says Chuck Crispin, president at Birger Juell Ltd. The ultra-high-end English furniture and cabinet company usually uses stone flooring for its showroom floors, but for this room, a wood floor that would complement the cherry and yew wood on the walls was desired, and Birger Juell Ltd. provided a perfect fit for its neighbor in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

The floor pattern is a traditional chain-style parquet that is "souped up a little bit," Crispin says. The main floor is stained walnut, while the chain linking the pattern features wenge, walnut and a wood the company calls Peruvian gold. The square centers are flame-figured crotch walnut. "They're really exquisite little jewels in the middle of the parquet," Crispin notes.

Birger Juell Ltd. parquets are traditionally hand-cut, but this project marks the first collaboration between the company and John Yarema, wherein Yarema laser-cut the parquet and a torch inlay resembling one of the Clive Christian logos. Birger Juell Ltd. workers then hand-scraped, oiled and finished the floor in traditional Birger Juell Ltd. style, resulting in what has become another Birger Juell Ltd. tradition: a Wood Floor of the Year trophy.

Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Dura Seal | Medallion, Wood Flooring: John Yarema | Saws: Festool

Best Reclaimed (Hand-Cut)

Hf609 Foy 8

When the interior designer of this South Bend, Ind.-home brought the homeowners to the Birger Juell Ltd. showroom in the Merchandise Mart, they were instantly drawn to reclaimed products and made it clear that they wanted to use environmentally responsible materials. Birger Juell Ltd. was able to meet their needs, as all of the wood flooring chosen for their house was from wood that was either salvaged, cut from city trees or harvested because the tree died a natural death. The wood in this particular room was reclaimed white oak from a circa-1860 medical building in Richmond, Ind. It combines with leather centers, lightly stamped with a faux-reptilian pattern, to create a Versailles parquet. The company has done wood/leather combinations for years-having won a Wood Floor of the Year trophy in 2002 for such a floor-and Crispin says the pairing has become even more popular recently. The leather is glued to plywood squares that are tongue and grooved, and it is oiled and waxed just like the rest of the floor.

The floor's installation was handled by longtime Birger Juell Ltd. employee Tony Farina. "That was his last big award-winning installation, " Crispin says. "He retired after that; it was kind of his swan song. He always did an exquisite job and was a gentleman installer in every way." Another Birger Juell Ltd. stalwart is still on the scene, though-the company's namesake is now 92 and still comes into the showroom several times a week to chat up clients with classic Birger Juell charm. -K.M.W.

Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Dura Seal | Interior Designer: Chris Kramer/Graffis Furniture Inc. (South Bend, Ind.) | Leather: Edelman | Saws: Festool

Going with the Flow
Best Kitchen/Dining Room (Hand-Cut) | American Hardwood Flooring of MN LLC (Delano, Minn.)

Hf609 Foy 11

Henry Wuollet, owner at American Hardwood Floors, has been in the hardwood flooring business long enough to know that working with high-end builders and designers means frequent changes. This was the case on both of the projects that earned Wuollet two Wood Floor of the Year awards this year.

Wuollet's winning dining room underwent several changes throughout the design and even installation process. Working with WayzataMinn.-based Hendel Homes, Wuollet created several sample panels to replicate a picture of a hand-scraped floor the homeowner had found. Once the design, color and texture was finalized, Wuollet's crew began installation in the new Parade home. However, after the lines were snapped, the designer decided to run the hand-distressed white oak Versailles pattern on a 45. Then during the installation, a border consisting of two rows of 7-inch plank was added around the perimeter. And if that were not enough, the designer changed the finish from a wax finish to a tung oil. Even though Wuollet and his crew spent many hours hand-distressing and dying the floor to replicate a time-worn look, he says it was harder work pleasing the designer and homeowner. "That's more challenging than just getting on the floor and scraping," Wuollet says.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Nailer: Senco | Router: Porter-Cable | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool, DeWalt

Best Entry/Foyer (CNC/Laser Cut)

Hf609 Foy 10

The other winning American Hardwood Floors project had just as many challenges along the way. Over three years earlier, Wuollet came out to the project, a major renovation of a Minneapolis-area Victorian home, to bid the job. He didn't get it, but halfway into the five-year project Wuollet received a call from John Yarema, president of Troy, Mich.-based Yarema Marquetry.

The homeowner noticed a border design she liked on Yarema's Web site, and Yarema called in Wuollet to handle the project. Because Wuollet came in late on the project, he had to get up to speed on the particulars of the design from the homeowner and Ron Betcher of Minneapolis-based Oeretel Architects. The homeowner had specific instructions on how the direction of the grain should run in each board of the herringbone pattern and border. The herringbone pieces were already ordered and on-site by the time Wuollet arrived, so before installation could begin he had to inspect every board. "We went through each piece and made sure she liked every piece of wood that was going in the floor," Wuollet explains.

Once the client approved the boards, Wuollet's and Yarema's crew installed the padauk herringbone field and the winding border of padauk, white oak and wenge. "There was a lot of work in there making the border match up because none of the walls were the same angle or length," Wuollet describes. But the challenges didn't stop after installation-despite his best efforts to get the flooring approved before installation, about 20 pieces had to be replaced because the homeowner didn't like the grain direction.

Though both projects presented challenges and changes along the way, they share two important characteristics-happy clients and two first-ever Wood Floor of the Year Awards. -C.L.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Border: Yarema Marquetry | Buffer: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Glitsa American Inc. | Finish: Dura Seal | Router: Porter-Cable | Nailer: Senco | Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool

Grand Entrance
Best Commercial/Showroom (Hand-Cut) (tie) | Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co. Inc. (Dallas)

Hf609 Foy 12

Turns out, the only thing standing between Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co. and a Wood Floor of the Year award was the small act of completing an entry form. "We've had multiple floors of this complexity, but we've just never entered until this year, " says Steve Welch, the company's owner.

This 7,000-square-foot engineered walnut floor was installed in the lobby of Hunt Oil Company's Dallas headquarters. At the center of the floor's starburst pattern is a large compass with a dangling pendulum that shows true north. Contrasting with this sense of location is a 3-foot-wide infinity pool lining the floor's perimeter. A 4-inch gap and a line of bricks separate the wood from the flowing water, lessening the chance of any wayward splashes damaging the wood. A moisture barrier was installed underneath the floor to lessen the risk of damage from pool water leaking into the slab. "There was a lot of design thought that went into tying together the infinity pool, the compass and wood floor, " Welch says. Comprising the sunburst's radials are brushed-bronze inlays. To avoid tarnishing the bronze's brushed appearance, the floor was installed and finished, and the inlays installed afterward.

Welch says the project's architect, Gensler Architects' Paul Mano, wanted the floor to be the focal point of the lobby—and it's obvious Woodwright succeeded. -D.D.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: Künzle & Tasin SPA | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Dura Seal | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp.

Wave of the Future
Best Commercial/Showroom (Hand-Cut) (tie) | Divine Hardwood Flooring (Calgary, Alberta)

Hf609 Foy 13

Divine Hardwood's Carlos Soares wants to show that working with prefinished engineered products does not limit creative choices. Different colors, myriad species and unique angles are all at the craftsman's disposal when installing a prefinished engineered floor, he says.

This is evident upon seeing Divine Hardwood's winning entry in this year's contest, a floor that is, in Soares' words, "as close to perfect" as a hardwood floor can be. This was a difficult feat, he believes, because when working with prefinished products, there is "no chance for a quick fix" if a craftsman mis-cuts a segment.

Soares' team spent about three weeks on layout and then another three weeks to glue down the project's 1,500 square feet onto the concrete subfloor. It was another challenge to cut the overlapping birch inlays, which Soares says are not purposefully reminiscent of petals or rain drops; they were merely installed to add dynamism to the floor's red oak field. "There's not a lot of people doing that out there, " he says, "and we just wanted to show that you're not limited to just straight wall-to-wall jobs." -D.D.

Adhesive: BASF | Saws: Makita | Wood Flooring: Eterna Hardwood Flooring

Time Capsule
Best Living Room/Family Room (Hand-Cut) | Yantarnaya Pryad (Khimki, Russia)

Hf609 Foy 14

Val Platonov, vice president of Yantarnaya Pryad, is amazed by the craftsmen who designed and built the world-famous floors in St. Petersburg's Hermitage and France's Palace of Versailles. These feats are "unbelievable," Platanov says, "they blow my mind away." What's more, those "marvels" were built without computer-aided design and power tools.

Obviously, however, the artistic parquet floors Yantarnaya Pryad produces are impressive, too, as is the case with this year's Best Living Room/Family Room winning-entry, located within a massive suburban Moscow home. This particular room measured 652 square feet, but the design comprised an impressive 5,300 square feet in a single wing of the home; in total, Yantarnaya installed 15,000 square feet in the home. Included in the solid glue-down floor are oak, maple and walnut.

When designing and installing floors that are as intricate as Yantarnaya's "artistic parquet" products, the "canvas" has to be quite large, Platonov says, so that the intricate design does not overpower the rest of the room. Installing an artistic parquet in a 300- or 400-square-foot room might receive the "Oh, my God, how can I walk on this floor?" reaction, he says. However, there's no threat of that reaction with this award-winning floor. -D.D.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc., Sika | Edger: Mafell | Filler: Tover | Finish: BonaKemi | Sander: Eugen Lägler GmbH | Saws: Leitz | Wood Flooring: Yantarnaya Pryad

Winning Fabrication
Best Living Room/Family Room (CNC/Laser Cut) | SVB Wood Floor Service Inc. (Grandview, Mo.)

Hf609 Foy 15

When Steven Brattin, president of SVB Wood Floor Service Inc., moved to the Kansas City area in 2002, he knew he wanted to start a wood flooring business that focused on high-end installation. Seven years later, Brattin has created an exclusive clientele, earned a reputation as a premiere wood flooring contractor and built his own wood fabrication shop. And now Brattin can add winning his first Wood Floor of the Year Award to his list of accomplishments.

The floor that earned SVB its first award was on a remodeling job for a steel fabrication designer with whom Brattin had worked on a previous job. The owner had splurged on many bells and whistles in other areas of the home (such as the fancy iguana cage in the photo) and the floors were to be no exception. "He wanted something that was unique, that nobody else had, " Brattin says. "It started out as your basic 2¼ , then I started talking about designs and showing him different things." The owner decided on a design created by Troy, Mich.-based Yarema Marquetry. Brattin laid out the design in CAD and got final approval from the client before sending it to Dan Antes of Nashville, Ind.-based Distinctive Hardwood Flooring for the laser cutting.

Once the floor was cut, Brattin had the task of assembling more than 2,0 00 pieces of maple, wenge, walnut and quartered red oak into the intricate design. "We were probably in the house for two weeks," Brattin says. All of the hard work and collaboration on this project, along with the trophy, assure Brattin's place as a premiere wood flooring contractor. -C.L.

Abrasive: Norton Abrasives | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Distributor: Hardwood Floors | Dye: Industrial Finishes | Filler, Finish: Bona US | Nailer: Stanley-Bostitch | Router: Festool | Sander: Hummel (Palo Duro) | Saws: Festool, Bosch | Sealer: Dura Seal | Wood: Yarema Marquetry

Taking it to the Top
Best Manufacturer Factory Finished (Hand-Cut) Red Oak Hardwood Floor Inc. (Glenview, Ill.)

Hf609 Foy 17

Tom Smoliga, president of Red Oak Hardwood Floor Inc., has learned many things during his 15 years in the wood flooring business. He's discovered new installation methods, new products and more efficient ways to work. But probably the most valuable experience Smoliga gained was when he joined the NWFA and gained the tools to take his business to the next level. "We used to do floors just to make a living , just to get by," Smoliga says, "but since we joined the NWFA a few years back, we started to treat it as a career." Smoliga focused on high-end installations, building Red Oak Hardwood Floor the reputation as a premium wood flooring contracting company.

His company's elevated status is evident in this Chicago penthouse, where Smoliga installed approximately 4,500 square feet of prefinished santos mahogany with a dark-stained birch border. Smoliga worked with designer Eric Krause of Chicago-based Creative Wood Concepts to design a floor that met the clients' needs while being able to be glued directly to the subfloor. The client chose a diagonal layout with a 520-linear-foot border that runs through the entire apartment. While the field took a week and a half to install, the border took twice that amount of time. "When we cut the perimeter around the room, we had to actually groove and bevel all the prefinished flooring, " Smoliga explains.

Now with his first Wood Floor of the Year award, Smoliga has taken Red Oak Hardwood Floor to a new level. "It's a huge honor for me to win something like this and be acknowledged by my peers," Smoliga says. -C.L.

Adhesive: Sika | Filler, Wood Flooring: Mirage | Router: Festool | Saws: Bosch, Festool

Recession Reaping
Best Limited Species | Precision Floorcrafters (Ocala, Fla.)

Hf609 Foy 16

Matthew Marwick, president of Ocala, Fla.-based Precision Floorcrafters Inc., says his flooring company "took all the jobs nobody else wanted" during the recent construction boom years. Today, he's reaping the rewards: He's booked two to three months in advance, taking jobs throughout the United States and expanding his company's central-Florida presence with a new showroom in Summerfield. "We've been very, very blessed, " he says of his company's success.

One showroom installation that's sure to draw some foot traffic is his recent Best Limited Species-winning entry-an end-grain cypress floor. "I thought cypress was such a pretty wood," he says, "and it offers a much more organic shape" than conventional woods.

Marwick obtained cypress heart pine beams from Micanopy, Fla.-based Goodwin Heart Pine. Then, along with fellow designer, installer foreman and childhood buddy Mitchell Perkins-the two even took woodshop classes together in high school-Marwick cut the beams into ¾-inch end-grain pieces. This was the toughest part of creating the floor, Marwick says, because some of the beams had a diameter of about 4 feet. They glued the pieces down and then installed a filler of cypress dust and epoxy between the peninsular end-grain pieces. Because the end-grain blocks acted "like a sponge," Marwick and Perkins had to apply six coats of tung oil finish.

Even though his company is busy, Marwick continues to maintain award-winning standards on his jobs. "We're picky enough where we're never 100-percent satisfied, "he says. -D.D.

Abrasive: Virginia Abrasives Corp. | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Sander: Lägler (Palo Duro) | Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Finish: Waterlox Coatings Corp. | Saws: Festool | Wood: Goodwin Heart Pine Co.

Fresh, New Look
Best Xtreme Makeover | Majestic Wood Floors Inc. (Frederick, Md.)

Hf609 Foy 18

After nearly five years of having the same floor in his showroom, Bob Humphreys, president at Majestic Wood Floors, decided it was time for a change. He wanted the floor to be more dramatic and showcase some design elements he had used on jobs since the floor was first done. "I wanted something with a little better flow to it," Humphreys says. The first step was bringing up the original design on CAD; then, he simply added new designs. While the Xtreme makeover rules state that up to 50 percent of the original floor can be replaced, only about 60 square feet of the 630-square-foot floor ended up changing. The four original corner medallions were replaced by nautical stars with points that radiate into the existing border and herringbone pattern. "That gave it more of a three-dimensional effect," Humphreys says. Around the center medallion, Humphreys created a radial grid pattern to fill the center field surrounded by the first border. Finally, in the center medallion, the background wood was replaced to highlight the center star.

Once the new layout was finalized, the new pieces were manufactured in Humphreys' shop and then placed onto the floor. Humphreys and his crew had to be careful when tearing out the existing floor not to damage the elements of the floor that were staying. The new medallions could be dropped into the slot of the old ones, but the radiating star points had to be routed out individually. Three new species-walnut, bloodwood and ebony-were added and the walnut was dyed ebony for more drama.

Humphreys' six-week showroom makeover had the desired effect: a more dramatic floor that showcased his flooring design skills. The bonus is earning the respect of his peers by winning his third Wood Floor of the Year award and piquing the interest of potential clients who walk into his showroom. -C.L.

Abrasive: 3M | Adhesive: Bostik Inc. | Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders | Filler: Timbermate USA | Finish: Lenmar Inc. | Routers: Festool, Porter-Cable | Sanders: Clarke American Sanders, Lägler (Palo Duro)

Take a look at past Wood Floor of the Year winners:

Florida's Finest: 2008 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

Best of the West: 2007 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

Baltimore's Best: 2006 Floor of the Year Winners

Waikiki Winners: 2005 Floor of the Year Awards

Show Stoppers: 2004 NWFA Wood Floor of the Year Winners

In the Spotlight: 2003 Floor of the Year Winners

Best in Show: Floor of the Year Awards 2002

Sweet Victory: 2001 Floor of the Year Winners

That Winning Feeling: 2000 Floor of the Year Winners

Master Craftsmen: 1999 Floor of the Year Winners

Page 1 of 18
Next Page
Resource Book
Looking for a specific product or a company? Wood Floor Business has the only comprehensive database of the industry.
Learn More
Resource Book
All Things Wood Floor, created by Wood Floor Business magazine, talks to interesting wood flooring pros to share knowledge, stories and tips on everything to do with wood flooring, from installation, sanding and finishing to business management.
Learn More