US Market Update

Posted by Dave Farley
January 30th, 2012

A few comments, suggestions, and ideas that may be of interest to Industry…

I have always believed that there is a strong and growing market for unique and innovative wood products. The kind of stuff that makes use of end cuts or takes wood of little value and creates a higher value product. Some of the work that Judson Beaumont of Straightline Designs has done with beetle- kill wood making high value wall panels is a prime example of what I’m talking about (picture to the right). It’s unique, innovative, and most importantly in demand by the architectural and interior design sector who are always looking for new and interesting products.

Keeping this thought in mind, I attended the Surfaces 2012 trade event and conference in Las Vegas this past week. What I saw was inspiring as companies from across North and South America, and Asia Pacific showcased innovative products for the residential and commercial construction sectors. Innovative flooring and wall covering were on display throughout the convention center; this year there seemed to be a strong focus on wood products. What caught my eye was the vast array of wall paneling that was available. In discussions with manufacturers, these products are used primarily in the hospitality sector specifically for restaurants, hotel lobbies, and other commercial environments where design is a priority.

An example of this is the Colorado manufacturer, Everitt and Schilling, www.eandstile.com, who were showing a new line of reclaimed wall tile they call “trail mix”. They are taking end cuts and scraps of reclaimed lumber, laying them on a substrate in a variety of patterns with the end result being a 2×3 panel. Their product has been specified in a number of high-end commercial environments throughout North America, including the recent renovation of Gilleys Bar and Grill on the Las Vegas strip.

Offering a similar but more contemporary product line was Canadian manufacturer, Finium Co of Frampton Quebec, www.finium.ca. This firm is producing a wall tile they are calling “Friendly Wall” which utilizes end cuts of high-grade clear black walnut and maple from their flooring and molding operations. These prefinished end-cuts are placed on a lightweight backer strip and can easily be installed on any wall surface. Friendly Wall sells at approximately $12 – $15 a square foot and according to the manufacturer, they are having considerable success with this product in the US market.

Surfaces also provides a great venue to see new and innovative products from wood flooring manufacturers. I wasn’t expecting much “new” since I assumed that I had seen it all with engineered, hand scraped, reclaimed, and prefinished flooring which is readily available by manufacturers worldwide. For the most part that is what I saw, except for one company that in my opinion was the hit of the show. The company, Bole Floor Manufacturers, is a very cool wide-plank flooring company that has a factory in Amsterdam, Netherlands. What separates their product from the myriad of wide-plank solid and engineered product available is that their boards aren’t straight. According to the manufacturer, they are the first company in the world to produce hardwood flooring with naturally curved lengths that follow the trees natural growth. They use a priority optimization technology that scans each board and then individually numbers each piece. Like a puzzle, their technology allows the computer to fit the pieces together providing an individual and truly unique floor. It is a bit difficult to explain, so have a look at their work on their website: www.bolefloor.com

We here in BC are blessed with an abundance of world class fibre which for the most part is readily available. We have exceptionally talented manufacturers, combined with access to high quality fibre, which means we possess a competitive advantage that manufacturers from other parts of the world envy. Making the most of what we have through the design and manufacture of unique and innovative products will certainly help the value-added sector continue to grow and develop market share in the US.

For more information on this show or on the manufacturers reviewed please feel free to contact me at dfarley@bcwood.com

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