Tradition – that useful cosy word that can cover up all kinds of nefarious and undesirable practices. Just because something has been done in a certain way for centuries does not mean it is good. All kinds of improvements and reforms have been postponed – or are yet to materialise – when the virtues of tradition are invoked.
Cultural tradition is one thing – workable practice another. In the case of wooden floors, every inch of their grain is steeped in tradition, as their modifications have been handed down from generation to generation. The ways in which floors are designed and laid down has been developed according to the accumulated experience – and customary usage – over the centuries.
So far, so good. Yet there is a fresh pretender to these sometimes dubious terms. Take eco-friendly, for example. It conjures up an image of a material that is natural, harmless, green and good for the environment. Or at the very least not damaging or destructive to the health of humans and wildlife.
Wood is often thought of quite rightly as an eco-friendly product. It ticks all the right boxes: a natural product that can be grown, managed and harvested; and a renewable resource in that trees can be cut and replacements planted – or at least others allowed to take over naturally.
And it’s a safe and non-toxic material for the home or any other locality where adults, children and pets abound. Apart from its flammability, wood is as good a natural friend as one could wish for.
Trees are also abundant throughout the temperate and tropical world so there should be no issues in using a rare or declining resource. Mmm… The loss of tropical rainforest in Latin America and SE Asia has been of major concern for decades. So what does a responsible consumer do? Choose recycled or reclaimed timber from reputable merchants and the ethical questions of sustainability or even legality do not arise.
For new wood, spotting the little tree logo of The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a helpful start. It can be found on all kinds of timber and forest-related products, from garden decking and chairs to flooring, paper, greetings cards and even rubber.
Founded in 1993 by a consortium of timber traders, retailers and environmental groups, this international non profit organisation encourages the responsible management of forests worldwide. It promotes the maintenance of biodiversity and also better social conditions among the people who live in or are economically dependent on a healthy long term forest.
There are other organisations doing similar work but none has such a rigorous chain of custody, whereby each product can be traced from the forest to its appearance in store. The Head Office is in Bonn but the FSC UK branch can be found, rather appropriately, in Great Oak Street in Llanidloes, Powys.
So there is no excuse for buying wooden floorboards that lack the assurance that they come from a sustainable source. To keep things simpler, if you want your current floor to come up looking like new, a certain West-London based company will cater for all your needs!