Wood Floor of the Year: The Best Floors of 2015

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Consider these five companies the starting roster of the wood flooring all-star team. They cut, glued, scraped, sanded and nailed at a superstar level this year, and received recognition for their skills during the Wood Floor of the Year awards ceremony at the "Play it Forward" NWFA Expo in St. Louis.

A panel of expert judges chose all winners except for the Members' Choice award, which was picked by NWFA membership through an online vote.


Viral Floor

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Members' Choice and Best Limited Species | Real Antique Wood (Irvington, N.J.)

The series of events that took Gary and Lisa Horvath from A.T.C. Hardwoods owners to Real Antique Wood owners to viral Internet sensation to winners of the sought-after Members' Choice award began in 2007.

At that time, Horvath was operating as A.T.C. Hardwoods, which he and Lisa have owned since 1982, and the company had many installation clients who requested reclaimed wood flooring. They kept asking him where the wood came from and if he had any pictures from the site where it was salvaged. He didn't, and neither did his supplier, but Horvath thought there might be a business opportunity in answering those questions.

One day he went to his supplier and asked, "Why don't we go and take down the barns ourselves?" Horvath recalls. The supplier wasn't interested, and, after Horvath asked a second time, told him if he wanted to take down barns, then he should do it himself. Horvath was hurt, he says, but undeterred. Horvath asked his wife, Lisa, whether they should start their own reclaimed wood company. "She thought about it and said, 'I don't want to be 80 and regret that we didn't, so let's do it.'"

Shortly after that conversation, they dug into their life savings and in 2011 founded a company without a single piece of wood in inventory and not one piece of equipment, Horvath says. They had a 17,000-square-foot warehouse with a 2-acre yard and no jobs. But they had a name, Real Antique Wood, and a mission: to salvage, mill, sell and install wood products with a story.

The business took off, and today the company's empty lot is filled with wood from 20 barns that were salvaged from across the country.

A good story imbues the wood with an energy that people can pick up on and react to, Horvath says. If social media is any indication, that energy can even be felt through a photograph. On March 4, at the end of her first day with Real Antique Wood as brand manager, Megan Curley uploaded a project picture to Facebook. The picture was of Horvath's live-edge black walnut slab installation in the hallway and stairwell of a home in New Jersey.

The next morning, at 5:30 a.m., the picture had received 10,500 views overnight. It went crazy from then on, Horvath says, amassing 1.95 million views, 123,648 "likes" and 22,330 shares over the next two weeks.

The wood from the viral sensation came from a tree in Somerset County, N.J., that was damaged during Hurricane Irene in 2011—just one minor victim among a hurricane that caused $1 billion of damage to the state and left seven people dead. The tree measured approximately 24 inches in diameter at its base and 30 feet in length. It was kiln-dried and stacked between the wall and the couch in the Horvath's family room, where it sat for three years. "It moved us 3 feet closer to the TV," Horvath says.

Then Horvath's neighbor, a previous customer, asked if he could have the wood for a floor in his front hallway. He was going over the project with Horvath and his wife, Lisa, when he said to them, "Well, what about the stairwell?" Without missing a beat, Lisa said they would put the black walnut slabs up the stairs. They shook hands, but Horvath was uneasy.

Photos by Chris SaracenoPhotos by Chris Saraceno

"I said to myself, I don't think I know how to do this," Horvath says, laughing. "[Lisa], what are you throwing me under the bus for, I don't know how to do that." But with the help of Real Antique Wood's carpenter, Anthony Saraceno, they figured it out.

Horvath and Saraceno started by gluing two slabs of the live-edge walnut end-to-end on top of 3⁄4-inch plywood down the hallway. The rest of the floor slabs were then laid down. When the bark from one slab didn't sit flush with the bark of its neighbor, Horvath filled the gap using a mixture of wood flour and walnut bark crumbled with a cheese grater.

For the stairs, Horvath and Saraceno first installed the oak stair treads. Then they overlaid a slab onto each stair tread, scribed its shape and, using a jigsaw, cut and removed the middle of each tread. Then the slabs were fit into place. Gaps between the bark and the oak tread were filled using the grated bark and wood flour mixture, like the floor. Each slab was sized so that an inch would stick out beyond the edge of the tread. The extra inch was cut off, flipped underneath and carved round.

The finished project looked like black walnut trees had fallen on the stairs and in the hallway. With the floor done, Saraceno's brother Chris pointed his camera at the installation and snapped the photograph that accompanied Real Antique Wood's application for Wood Floor of the Year contest.

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The image earned votes from NWFA member companies just as readily as it collected "likes" on Facebook. This year's Members' Choice and Best Limited Species awards are the first for the Horvaths since they went all-in on their new company just four years ago.—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear bolded in all caps.
Abrasive: 3M Adhesive: SIKA CORPORATION Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders Filler: GLITSA Finish: Bona US Sander: Bosch Saws: DeWalt Moisture Meter: LIGNOMAT USA LTD. Nailer: Bostitch



Commissioning a Winner

Best Commercial | Ourada Designs (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.)

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Photo by David StlukaPhoto by David Stluka

One of Tom Ourada's winning wood floors this year was a direct result of his jaw-dropping Member's Choice winner in 2014, which graced the cover of the June/July 2014 issue of HF. He wandered into the Bostik booth at the NWFA Expo to talk about adhesives, and when they realized he was the creator of the winning "Blue Pine Swirl" floor, they told him they were looking for artists to represent their different lines of adhesives.

Ourada was commissioned to create a wood floor that could be displayed at the Bostik booth for the 2015 Surfaces trade show and the NWFA Expo. The floor premiered at a press conference on the show floor at Surfaces in Las Vegas and appeared again in St. Louis for the Expo, where it attracted

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many admirers and plenty of conversations with Ourada at the Bostik booth.

Creating an 8-by-10-foot custom wood floor that was "movable and reusable that stays intact and looks pretty" was the first challenge, Ourada explains, so he designed a hinged platform that can fold up for shipping. Designing that contraption gave him time to contemplate the design for the flooring, and the Bostik gecko became the focal point, complete with a tail that reappears off the floor.

Lacewood became the species of choice for the gecko. "It did exactly what I hoped it would do—when I stained it, the green in the lacewood dots became the texture of the gecko," Ourada explains. But "cutting one board into a gecko shape isn't very exciting," he adds, so pieces of lacewood were selected based on their grain and the tightness of the dots for different parts of the lizard. Padauk forms the red spots, yellowwood creates toes and ebony serves as eyes. In all, the gecko has 71 pieces of wood that appear to be one seamless, almost three-dimensional body. To give depth at the edges, Ourada tinted the wood with a Q-tip.

Ourada says he loves having problems to solve, and this project presented many of them, including how to cut the dark curved branches inside the piece that looks like a semicircle. His solution was to simply build a new sanding tool. "I took a DeWalt saw and put a 5-horse motor on it, and purchased a bunch of arbors and pulleys to create a double 12-inch blade so I could cut those little ribs in the arched spiral," he explains.

With this level of detail, how long did building the gecko take? "Thank goodness I have some patience," is all Ourada says, making it clear, however, that it was a labor of love.—K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear in all caps.
Abrasives: 3M Adhesive: BOSTIK Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders Drill, Hand-Planer, Impact Driver, Multi-Tool, Orbital Sander: Makita Filler: DURASEAL, WOODWISE/DESIGN HARDWOOD PRODUCTS Finish: GLITSA Router: Porter-Cable Saws: Bosch, Dremel, Makita, Skil Sander: LAGLER Wood: Cronin, Rustic Wood Floor Supply, Windsor Plywood, Ziggy's Building Materials

Watch Tom Ourada describe some of the details of his work on his gecko floor:



From Scrap to Center Stage

Best Residential | Ourada Designs (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.)

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The amateur woodworker who owns this cabin had accumulated a lot of scrap wood. So much wood, in fact, that his wife threatened to burn it all if he didn't get rid of it. And so an award-winning wood floor was born.

The owner, who was familiar with Tom Ourada's wood floor work, asked him if he could create a floor from his scraps that would grace the main gathering space around the fireplace in his cabin. "It's one of those where it's just fun," Ourada says. "You have to determine: What do I have?" He started by sorting through the big pieces first—"I have three of these, two of those, that one's rotten, so we're not using that, now what?"

Species ranged from sycamore, to mulberry, to maple, to black walnut; thicknesses from 5⁄8 to 11⁄2 inch; and widths from 4 to 15 inches. The thickest boards he planed to get close to 7⁄8 inch, and the thin ones were laminated onto a piece of plywood. For boards with variable thickness, Ourada shimmed them with pieces of plywood to even out the dimension.

Ourada estimates the design and jigsawing took 108 hours; the gluing, shimming and planing 30 hours; and the sanding and finishing 30 hours. Ourada had considered the possibility that he would have to use tints or stain on the floor to help make the colors pop, because all the species had oxidized to a similar rusty brown color. When he put the finish on, however, he realized that was unnecessary. "That was probably one of the most memorable times of my life when I put finish on this floor … I would have been pretty embarrassed if someone had a secret camera on me while I was finishing this by myself," Ourada recalls. "It was probably 2 a.m. while I'm doing this, and I'm screaming out loud and laughing; it was like Christmas."

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While the floor had that effect on Ourada, he was under no illusion that it would be a shoe-in as a Wood Floor of the Year. "I was kind of surprised I won with this, because I knew it wasn't for everybody—it's busy—but I enjoyed the process and was really excited about how it turned out," he says.—K.M.W.

Advertisers in this issue appear bolded in all caps. Abrasives: 3M Adhesive: BOSTIK Buffer, Edger: Clarke American Sanders Drill, Hand-Planer, Impact Driver, Multi-Tool, Orbital Sander: Makita Filler: DURASEAL, WOODWISE/DESIGN HARDWOOD PRODUCTS Finish: GLITSA Router: Porter-Cable Saws: Bosch, Dremel, Makita, Skil Sander: LAGLER Wood: Cronin, Rustic Wood Floor Supply, Windsor Plywood, Ziggy's Building Materials



A Special Seal

Best CNC | Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co. (Dallas)

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At Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co. in Dallas, the extraordinary is the norm, so when a repeat client requested a medallion be created for his library, a typical custom medallion wouldn't do.

Woodwright had produced and installed 10 laser-cut medallions for the same client in recent years, and this time he had a special request: a seal that had been custom-designed for his library inlaid into a rift and quartered white oak patterned floor that Woodwright was installing. The floor had a double hand-scrape, a brown stain and a tung oil finish.

Woodwright's Rick Farrell, architect and design consultant; Steve Welch, owner; and Aaron Craft, artist and laser/CNC operator, got together to brainstorm on the design, and Craft suggested they use a combination of laser and CNC capabilities to create depth and dimension in the medallion, unlike any medallion they had ever seen.

The idea was tested in hardboard and wood, and the Wodesigner loved it, but a challenge remained: convincing the client to incorporate bold colors. "It just seemed un-American to me to make a brown American flag," Farrell says. So the company created samples using bloodwood, maple and a dyed-blue veneer, but toned down the brightness with stain. The client embraced that splash of color, and creation of the complicated inlay began.

The original drawing showed a checkered effect in the background of the seal, which required a novel solution. Craft laminated wenge and maple together in various thicknesses, then used the CNC router to checker the material, similar to the process of how a gunstock is created. That exposed both species and replicated the drawing perfectly. Once assembled, the parts were meticulously detailed with hand tools before the final stain and finish. "The entire process took nearly six months, making our installers a bit nervous when they permanently placed it into the floor," Farrell recalls.

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The nerves were unnecessary, as installation went smoothly, creating the final ultra-custom touch for a special client and garnering Woodwright another Wood Floor of the Year trophy.—K.M.W.

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Finish: WATERLOX Moisture Retarder: BOSTIK Wood: Woodwright Hardwood Floor Co.



Stunning Showroom

Best Manufacturer Factory Finish | Gaylord Hardwood Flooring (Tweed, Ontario, Canada)

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Gaylord Hardwood Flooring is a small manufacturer with a multitude of options—co-owner Greg Gaylord says at last count, they had more than 400,000 offerings when all the species, colors, sheens, finishes, textures and more were taken into account. Custom flooring orders are their specialty; they even had one customer drive his Bentley into their plant so they could match the floor color to the luxury car. So figuring out what to include in a relatively small 2,000-square-foot showroom at a new branch location in Ottawa required some prioritizing.

The company is known for its long lengths, so the showroom floor design had to showcase that; small rectangles just wouldn't have represented the product well, Gaylord says. His resulting design features a starburst medallion bordered by a Greek key pattern, and 16 types of floors radiating off the inlay: six hickory options, four maple choices, two red oak products and four white oak floors. Those floors are bordered by a 1-inch-wide strip of red oak stained espresso and surrounded by 14 other hardwood flooring options. There are 50 more floors displayed in large samples on the wall.

Gaylord and co-workers Kelsey Boden and Nick Courneyea installed the main flooring in just two-and-a-half days, a task he said was made straightforward with the use of a track saw. The factory-finished flooring was nailed onto a floating two-layer plywood subfloor laid over underlayment on the existing slab.

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For the centerpiece, the company ordered a starburst medallion; the design was chosen because the points of the starburst align with the sections of radiating flooring.

The floor is a stunner for customers. With the showroom's location close to a big-box store, the new showroom attracts a lot of walk-in traffic. "It turned out really well," Gaylord says. "People walk in the door and they're not expecting it."—K.M.W.

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Nailer: PRIMATECH Saws: Festool Underlayment: Acousti-Tech Wood: Gaylord Hardwood Flooring



Elegant Waste

Best Reclaimed | Archetypal Imagery (Bronx, N.Y.)

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The floor that won this year's award in the Reclaimed category was almost not installed at all. The home is in rural Pirogov's Dam, Russia, and the Archetypal Imagery install team could not acquire visas to enter the country. Russia and the United States were not on friendly terms in early 2014, when the unrest that still haunts Ukraine first began.

After months of trying to get the visas, and with each element of the floor, from the hand-sawn dovetail parquet to the hand-scraped border inlays, cut to size and dry-laid in the company's Bronx, N.Y., headquarters, owner Avedis Duvenjian was ready give up. But the client knew his floor had to be installed by Archetypal's men. "He said, 'If we have to wait another year, we will wait,'" Duvenjian says. At last, the embassy told the team they had been approved. "They realized we were these harmless wood guys, and they let us go," he says. The team shipped themselves and the wood floor to Russia posthaste.

Harmless, yes, but Duvenjian and his lead product manager Vartan Arutyunian are dangerously talented, and this wood floor gave the company an excuse to show off its workers' craftsmanship.

The floor was installed for a wealthy Russian homeowner (he has an indoor Olympic-sized pool in his basement) inside a log home built like a castle. Despite his wealth, he asked that Archetypal be frugal with its wood supply. The homeowner was not concerned with the expense, but rather was focused on sustainability, Duvenjian explains.

The wood was reclaimed in America from Revolutionary War-era barns. Framing the parquet are 8-inch-wide oak planks in random lengths up to 14 feet. The oak planks directly bordering the parquet feature reclaimed walnut squares.

The team had leftover boards up to 4 feet in length, and Archetypal used those scraps exclusively to create the dovetail parquet. When possible, wood left over after cutting a dovetail was recycled into the next dovetail—"double reclaimed," Duvenjian says.

Each dovetail was made using a hand-drawn template jigsawed out of plywood. Then three pieces of wood were joined together using a biscuit joint and cut to form.

The rich in Russia rarely think about nature or being green, Duvenjian says, yet this client's entire home was built with sustainability in mind. The glass, like the flooring, is reclaimed. The house is almost like a thumbed nose to the client's peers. It proves that life can come from waste, Duvenjian says, adding that in Russia, it's usually the other way around.—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear bolded in all caps.
Abrasive: 3M Adhesive: TEC Buffer: Bona US Finish: Overmat Industries Nailer: Bostitch Sander, Saws: Festool



Déjà Vu

Best Restoration | Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet (Khimki, Russia)

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For most wood flooring professionals, the chance to see the wood floors at the Russian State Hermitage Museum, some of the most famous in the world, would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But the chance to work on those floors? Beyond belief.

Not so for the wood flooring professionals at Yantarnaya Pryad-Parquet. Since 2000, the company has restored intricate floors throughout several hallways and art exhibit rooms of the Hermitage's Winter Palace, home to the Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917. A floor they restored near the Winter Palace Grand Church received a Wood Floor of the Year award in 2013. This year, they won another award for another restoration project in the Winter Palace.

This restoration project was for a five-species medallion and parquet floor originally installed in the Winter Palace in 1850, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. The floor was in poor condition, says Natalia Lebedeva, export manager. Foot traffic had multiplied exponentially since the Winter Palace opened to the public and became part of the State Hermitage Museum after the Revolution of 1917, and the floor before Yantarnaya's restorationists was very thin in some places. There were holes and cracks, and some boards were missing altogether.

The foundation was also in rough shape, as was the floating subfloor. Yantarnaya had to repair them before the floor could be restored, which meant extreme caution while removing the old floor planks. Yantarnaya then replaced missing planks with wood from the Hermitage's private stores in the basement.

All told, Yantarnaya was able to preserve 75 percent of the historical parquet. The brightest point of the project was the effect of the final floor: The bog oak, maple, ebony, pear, walnut and sapele wood, sanded and coated with a water-based satin finish, was stunning.

"The whole team was impressed by the color," Lebedeva says. "It looked so vivid and bright."—A.A.

Advertisers in this issue appear bolded in all caps.
Abrasive: 3M Adhesive, Filler, Finish: Chimiver Panseri S.p.A. Edger: Mafell Sander: LAGLER Saws: Leitz Tooling Systems

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

Wood Floor of the Year 2014: Taking Center Stage

Big Winners: Wood Floor of the Year 2013

Honored in Orlando: 2012 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

San Diego Spotlight: Wood Floor of the Year 2011

Prizes on the Potomac: 2010 Wood Floor of the Year Winners

West Coast Winners: 2009 Wood Floor of the Year Awards

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


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