Houston-based Schenck and Company has weathered natural disasters like hurricanes and floods over the years, and the company is well-versed in handling both. But no one could have predicted the mid-February snow storms that led to power outages, closures and ice-covered roads throughout the Lone Star State.
“It’s not usually a freeze,” Owner Greg Schenck says of local natural disasters. “It seems like Mother Nature is kind of angry right now, and we’re bearing the brunt of it.”
The weather has flipped back to normal 80-degree Texas temperatures in recent weeks, but not before bringing much of the hardwood flooring industry to a standstill during the snow storms.
During the freeze: power outages and treacherous roads
“The entire town of Dallas was in lockdown starting Feb. 14th and did not hardly move until Friday the 19th,” says Rick Farrell, architect and design consultant at Dallas-based Woodwright Hardwood Floor Company. “Any employees who could work from home did so, but the field guys and our production shop were out of commission all week.”
Faifer and Company Inc., a mesquite flooring manufacturer based in Floresville, Texas, had to close down for two days due to road conditions, extreme cold and loss of water, according to Co-Owner and Office Manager Dee McIntyre.
Matthew Garcia of San Angelo, Texas-based Craftsman Hardwood Flooring was in the midst of a job when the freeze hit his area Thursday, Feb. 11.
“We couldn't wrap up our project and we had an occupied home torn apart,” he says. “We had a limited crew because of the road conditions, but we were luckily able to put our clients’ home back together on Friday before it got really bad.”
Garcia lost power at his own rural home that Saturday and was without heat or running water for nearly a week. Temperatures were as low as 5 degrees, with wind chills around minus 10 degrees. Multiple employees and friends swung by Garcia’s property for firewood to heat their homes.
“It was difficult, because if you were lucky enough to have running water, there was a boil notice because of water main breaks,” Garcia adds. “The grocery stores had major shortages, especially for bottled water; they are finally just starting to get stocked back up again.”
The aftermath: shipping delays and water-logged floors
The state simply didn’t have enough snow plows for the ice and snow accumulation, which set shipments back a week, Garcia says. Freight companies are still trying to catch up.
“Some of our orders are not moving as they should, and things that should take one-day transit are taking three to five days,” McIntyre says.
Schenck, who was able to use a diesel generator at his Houston office during the widespread power outages, has also seen delays for orders of custom mill products, receiving estimates for eight to 10 weeks out.
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“COVID actually started it, and the freeze didn’t help,” Schenck says. “So many people are going to rural communities and wanting the wood floors in, so these mills are just overwhelmed.”
Schenck suspects flooring contractors may be the most impacted segment in the wood flooring industry with an abundance of work after frozen and burst pipes damaged wood floors.
“For the wood flooring contractors, it’s a boon, but at the expense and inconvenience of many, many homeowners,” Schenck says. “Wood floor guys here, they’re going to be busy for a while.”
Tim McCool, a Fate, Texas-based sales representative with MAPEI Corporation, also notes that flooring contractors in the area are slammed—some having done 30 to 50 bids since the freeze (one reported 12 bids in a single day).
When the weather finally began to return to normal, McCool, a NWFA-certified inspector, also began fielding numerous calls about a new phenomenon in the area: seasonal gapping.
“People had never experienced gaps in their floors,” McCool says. “Wood floors have dried out significantly.”
Garcia, whose diesel work truck’s fuel lines were frozen for seven days, had to reacclimate flooring in several projects that lost power. The disaster set the stage for an incredibly busy 2021 for wood flooring businesses, even with some unexpected delays, he says. “We actually have a new build project that is delayed because they have to rewire their electrical lines,” says Garcia. “The owners decided to have an emergency generator installed if something like this ever happens again!”