Suppliers leverage capabilities in finishing, service and logistics
July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2
By Reginald Tucker
With all the talk of tariffs in recent months, much of the focus has been on hardwood flooring manufacturers from China and Southeast Asia. But you can’t overlook the impact that suppliers from Canada have had—and continue to have—on the U.S. market.
Given their long reputation for producing some of the clearest, cleanest maple flooring available today—along with their steadfast focus on product quality, finishing innovation and strict environmental controls—some of the major Canadian suppliers continue to raise the bar by which many wood brands are measured.
Case in point is Boa-Franc, maker of the Mirage Floors brand, which continues to be recognized by the trade in both the U.S. and its home base in Canada. No stranger to the winner’s circle, the company recently achieved another milestone by earning its 10th Award of Excellence honor. “We are honored to be recognized as the top company in the hardwood flooring category again this year,” said Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Boa-Franc. “Having received 35 awards for quality and excellence over the last 20 years is a testament to the quality of the employees, suppliers and customers we have at Boa-Franc. This goes to show that we keep our promise of continuously providing our sales network with consistent quality products and service.”
Dealers who stock the Mirage brand tend to agree. Karla Wischmeyer, an interior designer at Verhey Carpets in Grand Rapids, Mich., has specified the brand for scores of renovation projects. In fact, it’s the top-selling hardwood flooring line in her store. Wischmeyer is particularly impressed with the technology utilized in Boa-Franc’s signature finish, Duramatt, which combines the in-demand look of a low-gloss finish with the durability of a high-performance urethane coating.
“We have been very pleased with it, and I’m sure we haven’t had any claims,” she told FCNews. “We have the product installed in our downtown showroom, and we also have a rug gallery with Mirage hardwood on the floor. This serves as a demo regarding the product’s performance.”
Other major Canadian suppliers have made strides in advanced finishing technology. Mercier Wood Flooring, known for its high-performance, low-sheen Generations finish, is looking to raise the bar with its newly launched Naked Series. The line features a proprietary process that allows the aesthetic qualities of the natural species to come through even after the application of the finish and stain.
“With this new finishing technology, we are able to apply a coating to the wood, seal it and then apply our Generations coating on top of it without changing the overall look,” said Wade Bondrowski, Mercier’s director of sales, U.S. market. “With most other wood flooring finishes, once you put a urethane finish on, it changes the look of the graining of the natural wood species.”
Some of Mercier’s longtime customers attest to the attributes of the technology. “This is an extremely clean-looking product,” said Tom Norris, regional manager for ProSource in Pittsburgh, a Mercier partner for the past 20 years. “With this process Mercier is using, it looks like a fresh-cut sawn plank. It’s better looking than any engineered product I’ve seen out there.”
Not to be outdone, Lauzon Hardwood Flooring has been marketing its own brand of high-performance finishing technology. Some of its select products feature an innovation called Pure Genius, which contains a patented titanium dioxide technology that decomposes bacteria, viruses and mold, thereby reducing potential carcinogens, according to the company. Activated by natural or artificial light—in combination with the movement of ambient air in a room—the finish constantly transforms toxic airborne particles into harmless water and carbon dioxide molecules, creating a constant supply of pure air in the home.
“Many people don’t realize the extent to which the air-tight environments in today’s homes contain pollutants and toxic contaminants, such as formaldehyde emitted from furniture, building materials and common household products,” said Priscilla Bergeron, communication manager at Lauzon. “Studies show that the air in rooms installed with Pure Genius is up to 85% cleaner than spaces without it. And after 30 days, rooms installed with Pure Genius flooring have been shown to have a formaldehyde level of only 5 parts per billion, compared to 16-32 parts per billion in a typical home.”
Even upstart hardwood flooring manufacturers from Canada are looking to capitalize on the reputation of suppliers in the region. Times Flooring, a manufacturer of high-end engineered wood products, recently jumped into the fray with the rollout of Aqua Allira, a new product that provides a waterproof engineered wood flooring option for commercial and residential use.
Developed in collaboration and acquired from Uniboard Canada, Times Flooring’s proprietary development process showcases the unique characteristics, performance and finish of its engineered flooring. The Aqua Allira collection features modern colors with natural variation for an authentic look.
“Luxury engineered wood flooring is already a hugely popular option for both homeowners and commercial businesses,” said Linda Gelly, owner and president, Plancher Times Flooring. “When you add to its benefits—waterproof features, enhanced durability and innovative colors and textures—Aqua Allira is the best product in its category in the North American market.”
How it works: When exposed to water, Aqua Allira waterproof flooring maintains its integrity thanks to the AquaTimes application process that combines a patented construction and a superior formulated finish, which prevents the wood from swelling, buckling or delaminating. It features a non-toxic hypoallergenic finish with an antimicrobial agent and is highly durable.
At your service
Beyond their sheer technical capabilities, Canadian suppliers also tout their ability to service a diverse range of client needs. Wickham Hardwood Flooring, for instance, has successfully employed a business model that allows it to produce large quantities of product without applying a color or finish until the product has been ordered by the retailer or distributor. Its customers say this gives them an enormous amount of flexibility in terms of how the particular floor can be made regarding width, species, grade, color and sheen.
This capability is particularly important for distributors like Warwick, Rhode Island-based Builder Surplus, whose clientele runs a wide gamut. The fact that Wickham can produce a high volume in a short period of time is also a plus for the wholesaler, which purchases a full truckload of product roughly every few weeks. “We’ve been a good partner for them and they have been a good partner for us,” said Mike Winter, president and owner.