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Flooring in general:

Timber flooring - fair trade or rogue trade?
One professional tells the tale of what's hidden under the floorboards

"Climate change" or global warming is the world's greatest concern, with worrying new findings and data emerging on an almost daily basis and global scientific community urging governments and citizens to take urgent steps to halt destruction. Large-scale deforestation - whether legal or illegally felled - to feed the world's growing hunger for wood, plays a major role in this hugely complex problem scenario.

According to news reports areas of forests the size of 300 football pitches were cut down every hour in Indonesia alone between 2000 and 2005 , while in Brazil more than 750,000 acres of the Amazon were deforested in the second half of 2007 - which makes for an alarming rate of global forest depletion, forests that are commonly called "the lungs of the earth" and which are vital to our climate as they sequester carbon through photosynthesis.

And yet, as is always the case with such alarming news stories and statistics, they worry us, but they seem so far removed from our lives, taking place on the other side of the world, seem to be caused by local needs or big, profit-hungry business, that we feel it has little to do with us.

Noel James, a timber flooring installer from Bristol with almost twenty years' experience in the timber flooring industry, has learnt over the years that nothing could be further from the truth. "The WWF has estimated that the UK is the largest importer of illegally sourced timber in the EU, which means that this timber is bought by private consumers or business on the UK market in one form or other, probably in the shape of furniture, flooring or construction materials. Our lifestyle choices therefore have a direct impact on what's going on elsewhere in the world."

Having fitted floors for almost two decades up and down the country, including large pub chains and some rather illustrious clients, such as Mohammad Al Fayed (Harrods) or the Sultan of Brunei, Noel says he has installed thousands of square metres of timber, but admits it has become increasingly difficult for him to go along with what he terms as unsustainable and inconsiderate practice that is costing the earth - literally. "Over the years I have worked extensively with designers who specify certain species of timber for flooring without the slightest regard for its origin or its status on the endangered list. Merbau, for instance, is the preferred choice of large pub chains, because it offers them a dark, rich reddish colour. No other consideration is given to the product selection. It's by now a well-known fact that the species is illegally-sourced from Papua New Guinea, where it is becoming very rare indeed. The deforestation of entire primary forests in order to physically get to this precious tree not only threatens the livelihood of the indigenous people, but also their land rights and water supply. Over there organisations are only interested in turning forests into cash no matter what, over here the overriding concerns are costs or simply look. At neither end does anyone act with a care for the environment."

On its website the World Wildlife Fund states that it is currently not illegal to import illegal timber into the EU and as a result the vast majority of companies do not properly check where their timber comes from. Noel confirms this: "I recently asked all my timber flooring suppliers to provide me with information on the origin of their timber and found that very few of them had actually given it any thought. The profit-driven attitude in the trade is quite often shocking, I get answers like 'I think it's been illegally harvested in Russia, but your client doesn't need to know that' or 'Yeah, it's not sustainable, but I buy hundreds of containers of the stuff and it's cheap - what more do you want' !"

What makes matters worse is the short-term planning and the pervading throw-away attitude. "More often than not large commercial installations have a life cycle of just 2 to 5 years, after that they are hacked up and scrapped." Such disregard for a tree which has taken hundreds of years to grow is very upsetting to Noel, but he says, "things can be different, there is a way out: FSC accreditation."

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization promoting responsible management of the world's forests. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting, independent certification and labeling of forest products. This verifiable audit trail assures customers around the world that the timber products carrying the FSC logo are sourced from socially and environmentally responsible forestry.

"This way cutting down wood can actually do good," says Noel. "Wood is the most renewable of all materials. Forests act as carbon storehouses. So far, the Forest Stewardship Council has accredited 100 million acres of forests across the world. These plantations must meet a whole range of very stringent criteria in both social and environmental terms, covering aspects such as the protection of local labour and indigenous habitats, and the avoidance of monocultures, which is generally bad news for soil and biodiversity," he explains. "Most importantly, for every tree felled another one is planted, keeping alive the carbon-absorbing cycle, while the wood end-product, in form of your living room floor for instance, locks away carbon for life. Personally, I feel much happier fitting or supplying timber flooring that I know has not harmed the environment."

Deforestation accounts for 20% of all current carbon emissions and scientific consensus is clear: if we don't reduce deforestation we risk an environmental catastrophe. Noel has therefore decided he can no longer do business as usual, but instead intends to use his knowledge and experience to advise suppliers and customers on a more ethical and sustainable alternative to flooring. He has launched Greenwood Floors, believed to be the first wood flooring supplier in the UK that sells solely products carrying the FSC Chain of Custody seal of approval. Effecting a change in consumer behaviour won't be easy at a time of global credit crunch and tying of purse strings, but Noel is confident that once people know the facts and are given the right background information there can only be but one choice: FSC.

"My most recent job was to fit the restaurant area of Jurys Hotel in Bristol. I proposed an alternative FSC timber solution instead of their original choice and Jury's accepted that this more eco-friendly alternative was the only way forward even if marginally more expensive."

The way Noel sees it, we all play a part in the global threat of climate change, and it's up to each and every one of us to make a difference. "The choice is ours: to cherish or to destroy. As far as my line of work is concerned, I shall do what I can to make a change. We must make sure we can still see the trees for all that wood - my clients can rest assured that there are no hidden skeletons under my floorboards!"

Healthy Flooring Network -alliance of individuals and organisations concerned about health, asthma and allergies. The network aims to raise awareness of the links between fitted carpets, PVC flooring and health and to encourage and promote alternatives.


Suppliers:

Lapicida -holders of a mouthwatering collection of beautiful natural antique and reclaimed stone flooring. They offer showrooms in Harrogate, Cobham, Oslo and recently opened in Kings Road, London and have a strong environmental policy.


Timber board and strip floors:

Hardwood boarding and parquet, bamboo, plus stripped timber floors

  • Acorn Floor Sanding -dust-free floor sanding, specialising in wood and concrete floor sanding, floor restoration and refinishing, French Polishing and floor repair, across the South of England.
  • Chaunceys -Bristol based suppliers of solid and engineered oak flooring using both new and reclaimed timber.
  • Ecoimpact -eco friendly bamboo flooring strips and panels.
  • Focus Floors -professional floor sanding in London.
  • Junckers -high quality hardwood floor finishes.
  • Natural Floors UK -floor sanding and renovation specialists in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Kilmarnock and Stirling.
  • Osmo -solid and plank wood floors
  • Pergo -laminate, wood, ceramic and tiled floors.
  • Richard Burbidge -timber, stairs, DIY, decking, mouldings, flooring.
  • Sanded Floors -floor sanding service in South London with lots of guidance on how to do it yourself.
  • sandingwoodenfloors.co.uk -specialist in sanding floors in mainly Victorian/ Edwardian houses in the London area for 8 years.
  • Stone River Hardwoods - supplies hiqh quality hardwood floors in various
    stains and widths, from standard to wide plank flooring.
  • Urbane Living Natural & Wood Flooring - Supplier of sustainable wood and natural flooring. solid and engineered floors in oak, walnut, maple and bamboo. Also carpet and rugs available in sisal, coir, jute, seagrass and wool.
  • Victorian Wood Works -suppliers of old timber boards and parquet

Tiling and tile manufacturers:

Ceramic, terracotta, stone, marble, terrazzo

  • Tile Association -association of tiling manufacturers and installers.
  • Ariostea -Italian marble and stone floor tiles, marble tiles, stone tile, flooring tiles, porcelain stoneware tiles, stone wall covering, marble floor slabs.
  • Amabis -hand made tiles with an undulating finish
  • Ardex UK -tiling and flooring products.
  • Ariostea -Italian marble and stone floor tiles, porcelain stoneware tiles, stone wall covering, marble floor slabs.
  • Chantecler -handmade tiles for the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Carol Sinclair Ceramics -crafted handmade tiles.
  • Citrus Glaze -exquisite handpainted tiles,
  • Craven Dunnill Jackfield -make traditional Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco ceramic and encaustic wall and floor tiles.
  • Country Tile Design -handpainted ceramic tiles with various designs including marine, vegetables, farm animals, pond life.
  • Dreamwall -formed in March 2003 by Hannah Coleman, Dreamwall has a portfolio of unique and contemporary wall tiles.
  • Elon -importers of handmade terracotta floor tiles and handpainted wall tiles.
  • Fired Earth -marble, limestone, slate and terracotta floor and wall tiles, natural flooring and rugs from all over the world.
  • Hand Painted Tiles -individually designed one-off commissions.
  • Heritage Tiling -specialise in the cleaning and restoration of Victorian tiled walls and floors.
  • Iris Ceramica: Italian ceramic floor and wall tiles for indoor and outdoor use.
  • H & R Johnson -manufacturer of a huge range of ceramic floor and wall tiles
  • Life Enhancing Tile Company -interesting range of encaustic tiles.
  • Metal Tiles -unique tiles made using stainless steel and other metallic finishes.
  • Moher Flagstone -a unique stone flag from Ireland with a textured surface charaterised by fossilised worm tracks.
  • Mosaic Workshop -supply all the materials and tools to make your own mosaic floor, and run courses in London.
  • Mosaici -make high quality marble mosaic kits, which can be used in kitchens, bathrooms, conservatories and gardens.
  • Natural Tile -tiles in terracotta, aluminium, Mexican-style, mosaic plus an unusual contemporary range.
  • Pilkingtons tiles -browse their range of ceramic floor and wall tiling online.
  • Photo Tile Company -print your photographs onto ceramic tiles, use your own or search their image libraries.
  • PopArtPlastic -features interior plastic wall tiles in the pop art style of 60's and 70's with bright colours contemporary shapes,styles and images.
  • Rupert Scott specialise in the design and production of kiln-fused glass, which we have developed into a unique range of hand-made wall tiles.
  • Smoke and Fire -specialists in natural stone flooring , wooden floors and handmade wall tiles.
  • Stone Deals -St Albans based supplier of marble, travertine, limestone, slate and other natural stone floor finishes -good illustrations of various types of finish.
  • Stone Direct -natural stone floor and wall coverings.
  • Stonehouse Tiles -suppliers of natural stone tiling from around the world along with natural stone bowls and other accessories.
  • Stonell -natural stone tiles.
  • Susan Jablon Mosaics -suppliers of mosaic tiles, including ORGANiKS, a 100% Recycled Glass Mosaic, made entirely from pre and post consumer material.
  • TACTtiles snap-together flooring system.
  • The Tile Doctor -specialist service for cleaning and sealing tile grout and old stone floors -useful guide to maintaining various floor types.
  • Tile Heaven -Victorian and Edwardian Art Nouveau, Minton, majolica and, printed tiles.
  • Tylers Tiles Wall, floor, natural stone and handmade tiles and mosaics from their showroom in Perth.
  • Welbeck Tiles -another unique collection of decorated metallic tiles.



Carpets:

Carpets and rugs in wool, sisal, coir, jute, seagrass and man made fibres

  • Alternative flooring company -supplier and specialist in natural flooring.
  • Axminster -world famous carpets from Devon.
  • Brintons -fine Axminster carpets.
  • Carpet information Centre -free advice on carpets.
  • Carpet Runners -all those extras you need for the complete job -suppliers of stair rods for runners and other fitted carpet accessories -threshold strips, skirting skiffers and edge binders, all with some helpful guide pages. Based in Lutterworth, Leicestershire but sell online too.
  • Cavalier Carpets -produce quality carpets for residential and contract use in Axminster, Wilton and Tufted constructions.
  • Crucial trading -floors in Sisal, Coir, Jute, Bamboo, Sea Grass and Wool.
  • Desso -manufacture a complete range of textile floor products.
  • Ege -Danish carpet manufacturer.
  • Gaskell -manufacture and distribution of carpets, underlay and other non-woven textiles.
  • Gaskell Carpet Tiles -high performance carpet tiles to the commercial market.
  • Gradus -started life specialising in stair edging and trims, now manufactures commercial and industrial carpet, fabrics and carpet accessories.
  • Heuga -inventors of the carpet tile -large range of commercial and domestic carpets.
  • Hilary Harrison creates and supplies individual hand made designer rugs, area rugs,
    contemporary rugs, and modern design carpets.
  • Milliken -US manufacturer of modular, broadloom and rugs.
  • Ryalux -specialise in wool carpets of any width and to match any dye colour.
  • Weston Carpets -budget to high quality carpet in natural or made made fibres.
  • Wilton -finest bespoke carpets from Wiltshire.
  • Woolly Rug Co -contemporary herdwick rugs and runners designed by Jane Exley

Sheet flooring:

Included in this section are rubber, vinyl and linoleum.

  • Altro -specialist high performance sheet flooring in vinyl and rubber.
  • Amtico -huge range of designer vinyl flooring.
  • Armstrong-Rhino cushion floor.
  • Dalsouple -rubber sheet flooring.
  • Forbo Nairn -Marmoleum and linoleum sheet floors.
  • Marley Floors -sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles.
  • Nora -rubber flooring by Freudenberg.

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