22 Mar 2012

Atlanta Hardwood Flooring . . . a Historic Tradition in Georgia?

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Atlanta Hardwood Flooring has carved a niche in a tradition that is thousands of years old as it is the most commonly used material worldwide. There are hardwood floors in Europe that date back to the Middle Ages…over 800 years ago! Historically, hardwood flooring was used by the wealthy due to being labor-intensive in construction and maintenance. However, with North America’s abundance of forestation, Colonial homes in Georgia were built predominantly with unfinished “heart pine.” Heart pine is the dark colored, tight ringed core of a pine tree, which is harder and resists decay better than the lighter outside sapwood. When the first settlers arrived in the 1600s, heart pine wood was cut from longleaf, loblolly, pond and shortleaf pine trees that were already over 300 hundred years old. By 1900 most of this wood had been forested thereby depleting the supply, and it is no longer used today. Fortunately, Atlanta Hardwood Flooring offers a wider range of woods today than Colonial Georgians had to choose from.

In Colonial Georgia wooden floor joists were laid over dirt foundations, which supported perpendicular hand-hewn 12 inch wide planks. They were un-sanded, unfinished and gradually worn down to a smooth finish with foot traffic. Pre-Civil War floors were scrubbed with lye-water mixed with sand and the result was a gray-toned wood. Eventually builders began sanding with brushes to raise the grain and treating with natural vegetable oils (linseed) and other natural finishes such as shellacs, lacquers, varnishes and waxes (beeswax). Hardwood floors were also painted (mostly dark red and or deep blue), and by the late 18th century were painted to imitate stone or marble, which was used in hallways, dining rooms and parlors. Black and white diamond pattern was one of the most popular choices. The flooring was also stained to imitate more expensive wood such as oak and stenciled with floral motifs, geometrics, and designs to mimic expensive wood inlays.

After the development of milling machinery, hardwood flooring was cut in three different fashions: flat-sawn planks were cut parallel in relationship to the tree’s growth rings, quarter sawn plans were cut perpendicular, and rift sawn were cut at a 30-degree angle. Eventually, machine milling allowed for more stylish ornamental flooring such as parquetry, which is where contrasting colored wood is inlaid into mosaic or geometric patterns (herringbone, basket weave). More complicated marquetry became fashionable, and this is the art of inlaying contrasting materials such as ivory, shell, metals. Custom borders with oak and exotic woods such as mahogany and cherry became popular in libraries and dining rooms. During this time, Oriental or Turkish rugs over stained pine floors became extremely fashionable in Georgian manors. Eventually, linoleum was invented in 1860 and manufactured to appear like wood flooring for poorer consumers. Atlanta Hardwood Flooring is known for its high level of wood workmanship and are Certified by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).

In the 1920s the electric sanding machine allowed for more efficient and economical sanding and oak became popular for hardwood floors. Engineered flooring with polyurethane finishes was developed in the 1940s and consisted of two or more layers of wood compressed into a plank. Top layer is visible and is called the lamella. The layer underneath is stronger, provides support and is called the substrate. After a dip during the Great Depression in the 1930s, hardwood flooring reached a zenith during the post-World War II housing boom. However due to increased construction demand, carpet became be the more accepted and more affordable flooring option for homes during the 1960s. By the 1970s hardwood floors became “special” and for a higher priced market, but during the 1980s the market rebounded as manufacturers developed more prefinished engineered flooring options with water-based urethane finishes. Engineered flooring is currently the most common form of hardwood floors in the world However, North America is the only market that has a higher percentage of solid wood flooring than engineered. Allow Atlanta Hardwood Flooring to enhance your home with that “special” warmth and luxurious appearance than only wood can provide.

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