Episode 109: Prefinishing Green Flooring with Carlisle Wide Plank Floors
Sean Daily, Green Living Ideas' Editor-in-Chief talks with Lindsay Barczuk, Green Programs Coordinator at Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, about the process of prefinishing green flooring as an effective way to control VOC-offgassing during home floor installation.
Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series from greenlivingideas.com. Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life. Hey everybody, this is Sean Daily with Green Talk Radio from greenlivingideas.com. Welcome as always to the program. Today we’re going to be talking about prefinishing and green flooring, and my guest to talk with me about that topic is Lindsay Barczuk, who is with Carlisle Floors. She is the Green Program’s coordinator and also is known as the green queen internally of the company. Lindsay, welcome to the program.
Lindsay Barczuk: Thank you so much Sean. It’s good to be here again.
Sean Daily: Well it’s good to have you guys back, you know, and Carlisle has been great that I personally, as well as with the business, had a long standing relationship with. Way back in, way back in ’98 when my wife and I were doing a remodeling project, we identified Carlisle at that time as a company that we felt was doing good things with sustainability with wood flooring before it was sort of on the radar screen and, so that’s, and also happened to be beautiful floors, so that’s true personal testimony. You can look at the floors in my house, and they are Carlisle, so…And that was done before I ever met you guys. But what’s been really great, you guys have supported the site in helping us bring the content out to the readers about green flooring, which happens to be our, one of our top two most popular, depending on the month, it’s either number one or number two, as the most popular content area on Green Living Ideas, so…
Lindsay Barczuk: I didn’t realize.
Sean Daily: Yes. It’s very, very popular and we have an enormous amount of content, and again, a lot of that’s thanks to the support you guys have provided as a sponsor on the site, and, you know, so we thank you for that and we, you know, one of the things that I think that we didn’t get a chance to talk about is some of the newer, you know, in the last podcast was some of the newer things that Carlisle is doing with regards to trying to, you know, be a green company both with products you guys provide, as well as internally, so I know that one of the things that has come up lately is this idea of prefinishing as a greener flooring option, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to talk with our listeners today about that.
Lindsay Barczuk: Great, well I appreciate it. You know, and it’s one of those things that I think everybody in the flooring industry is seeing right now. The trend has been and will continue to be towards zero VOC’s. So prefinishing is a great option because, depending on what kind of formulas you can use, you can control the amount of VOC’s that you’re using both onsite and what will be in the indoor air quality of the home. So what we’ve done is we’ve got a new system in place and we offer prefinishing for all of our floors up to twelve inches wide. We’re actually one of the first companies out there doing solid wide plank floors that are prefinished up to twelve inches. There are definitely some other companies doing it, but we wanted to take, you know, aspect of the traditional wide plank floor with the technology of prefinishing and find a way to make them work together.
Sean Daily: Yeah, and this is interesting because, I mean, you know, the traditional way, and we’ve done with, unfortunately we didn’t have the benefit of a prefinished floor at the time, so, you know, the classic way of doing it regarding, regardless of what finishing material you’re using on your hard, on your wood floors, is you’re dealing with a very typically toxic situation of, you know, finishing them in the house and hopefully you’re not there like we did, we left for a week when we were having them finished and we were using tongue oil at the time and things like that, but no matter what, you’re dealing with, like you said, there are volatile organic compounds that are occurring during that process, so this idea of sort of prebaking it and prefinishing it to your specs and then having it installed from there, I mean, that’s what we’re talking about, right?
Lindsay Barczuk: That’s exactly what it is and, you know, using the system that we do, it’s a really controlled environment because the other aspect of it, volatile organic compounds actually buy you a little flexibility when you’re looking at finishes, so the, you know, the europhenes that are available out in the market place and some of the other finishes, they’re designed to work in kind of the lowest common denominator environment where there’s going to be varying humidity, temperatures, dust and things like that. So by putting those VOC’s in there, you’re kind of giving yourself a little bit more flexibility with the formula. When you come up with a system where all of those factors are really under control and in a predictable environment, then you can reduce the amount of VOC’s focused really on that formula and come up with a better looking finished product, and it’s just because it is a controlled environment and you don’t need that extra flexibility, if that makes sense.
Sean Daily: Yeah, it does. Now I’m curious about, can you tell us about the process itself from like the factory standpoint, what does this actually look like, what are the materials and the process involved in doing this, as well as the benefits? Go ahead.
Lindsay Barczuk: Absolutely. I was actually back in our mill last week so I got to see it first hand. And the first part of it would be our stains. We’ve got fifteen Carlisle theme colors that we use, but the other thing is that if someone has a particular color that they want to achieve, we can work with them and, you know, create a new stain color just for them. That’s going to be applied, and it’s applied using this vacuum environment. So the stain is put on the wood and we’re careful to make sure we get it into all the nooks and crannies of the wood, especially some of the antiques you’re going to find more of those, and then we use a vacuum that actually removes the excess stain off of the wood, and then we can reuse that stain it was originally put on, which is cool. The stain is then cured using an infrared light. And the nice thing about it is that a lot of people that do prefinishing, they end up putting a lot of stain on the wood just because it’s an easy option. Because we vacuum it and get the excess stain up, you’re getting a really consistent color that looks a lot like a hand applied stain, which is unique. And it lets the quality of the wood actually come through, it doesn’t just even the green out and make it all look the same. You can still see the knots and the character and the fetina of wood through the stain, and it’s something that’s unique to us as far as our staining process. When it comes to the finish we recommend using our custom coating, and it’s a three, it’s a four-part process. The first three coats are going to be rolled on, and there’s actually a little template, if you can think of it as kind of a small half box, and we put in a template depending on what the width of the wood is, and those wall coats are going to put on just as much of the custom coat as you need for the width of that wood. It’s going to seal the back side, as well as tug and groove or whatever edge profile you choose, so it’s sealed on all four sides. And in the last coat is going to be a sprayed coat. Again, that’s going to get into the nooks and crannies and make sure that everything is covered the way that it should be. We use the same vacuum system as well. That coating has about three hundred grams per liter of the volatile organic compounds, but again we’re reusing it, it’s in a really controlled environment, and thirty compared to what some of the regulations are of two hundred and fifty, is a tremendous success, you know, in our opinion. Which that means when it comes on site after being UV cured, there aren’t going to be any VOC’s that are going to show up in the clients home.
Sean Daily: Okay, so it’s really affecting, the sealing process is more sort of holistic, three hundred and sixty degree sealing process that you have the benefit of being able to do in the factory versus what somebody could do sort of on site. So it’s affecting the off gassing that actually occurs in the home once the product’s delivered.
Lindsay Barczuk: It absolutely is because it’s totally cured before it arrives on site. And the other part of sealing all four sides of the board is that there’s going to be a dramatic minimization of any movement in the boards after installation. We’re, you know, sealing the board, so essentially ninety percent or more is going to be cut off from, you know, any absorption of moisture, so your boards are going to be really, really stable. If we were just sealing the front of the board, you still have the other three sides of it that are going to be exposed, you need to deal with the moisture and be careful of acclamation, but because we’re doing all four sides, the acclamation period isn’t necessary, so you can actually receive your materials, install them that day, they’ll already be finished and you can have dinner that night on your floors.
Sean Daily: Wow! Unless like what we had to do, which is to go away for a week and stay somewhere.
Lindsay Barczuk: Absolutely.
Sean Daily: Yeah, that’s a lot better. Well good. Well we’re going to take a break right here and then we’ll be back. We’re talking about green flooring and prefinishing in green flooring projects with Carlisle Floors. We’re talking with Lindsay Barczuk over there, and we’ll be right back.
Sean Daily: And we are back talking with Lindsay Barczuk of Carlisle Flooring about prefinishing in green flooring projects, and you can find them online at www.wideplankflooring.com. And Lindsay, we were talking about, you know, some of the advantages and the differences between doing a prefinished project versus a non prefinished project with the woods, and I’m just curious, within Carlisle’s array of products how many different options do you have for doing the prefinishing?
Lindsay Barczuk: You know, we’ve got quite a few considering the custom nature of our floors. In addition to all the same colors, we really recommend using our custom coating. We’ll do some custom color matching, and what this coats going to do is really enhance the natural supena of the wood so you’re not going to get that plastic like coating. Depending on what you want your floor to look like, we can play with the sheen a little bit so you can get something a little shinier or something a little bit flatter. But we do have a recommended formula that we use. The cool thing about it is that it’s about five times tougher than the high resin tongue oil that we’ve used in the past, and that’s also three times hard than most oil based gerasines, so it’s going to be a really durable option for your floor, and when it comes time to refinish it, much like our tongue oil, all you need to do is give it a light little buffing and then apply another coat to it, so you really don’t need to sand down to the core of the wood, get down to that fundamental level. You wouldn’t need to reapply stain, you can simply add another coat.
Sean Daily: Okay, so it’s a different, a whole different maintenance situation here than with a traditional floor.
Lindsay Barczuk: Exactly.
Sean Daily: Or traditional floor finish, I should say.
Lindsay Barczuk: Exactly.
Sean Daily: So, now what, are there any other downsides or issues about it, like, for example, I’m thinking, I’m just thinking out loud imagining this process of getting these finished pieces ‘cause I know that one of the things is, you know, we had our wood delivered, stacked up, the contractors, you know, third on down. We didn’t worry too much about, you know, things being dinged or dented because obviously there was going to be a finishing process that occurred, sanding and, final sanding and the finishing process. Do you have, is it requiring more caution now because these are sort of polished perfect boards as opposed to something that’s rough and going to be finished.
Lindsay Barczuk: Well we recommend that the floors go in at one of the latest stages, definitely after your drywalls up, preferably after your first coat of primer has been put on. But you’re right, you know, occasionally when you’re working with a prefinished floor and you’ve got a contractor that comes in and pulls a ladder across something, you might need to deal with that. And one of the nice things is that this finish, like our tongue oil finish, can be spot applied, so if you do have any of those situations where you need to make a repair to the floor, it does, it’s not a detriment to the entire floor, you can simply go in and address what that little issue is, fix that area using some of the extra formulas that we’ll send out to you and you’re good to go.
Sean Daily: Okay, interesting. And then, so basically what would you expect in terms of, lets say that the, you know, the flooring is installed today, what’s the average, I know it probably depends on traffic, but how long on average would you expect it to take until the floor needs to be refinished again?
Lindsay Barczuk: You know, that’s a really good question. I think time will tell, based on the fact that we’re going to be a little bit harder than the eurothane, in a residential I would think that you’d be able to get ten, maybe fifteen years out of your floor before you needed to refinish it. Obviously if you’ve got little kids and dogs, that might be shortened a little bit.
Sean Daily: Dogs particularly, yes.
Lindsay Barczuk: Exactly, but you know what, they bring us so much joy, it’s worth it.
Sean Daily: It’s worth it, of course, yes, but, but yeah, it wouldn’t hurt if you trim the nails a little bit, ‘cause that’s…
Lindsay Barczuk: Exactly.
Sean Daily: It’s the floor skid, that’s really what, it’s the floor skid when they go around the corner and, you know…
Lindsay Barczuk: Uh huh.
Sean Daily: Yeah. Cats aren’t big enough to cause that kind of damage, but…
Lindsay Barczuk: No, and you know, it’s funny because people always call in and they’ve got the bigger dogs and they say, you know, “I’ve got this, you know, Great Dane and I’m afraid it’s going to mess up the floors”, and a lot of times those bigger dogs have less energy and it’s the little Jack Russell’s and the smaller dogs that have a lot more energy…
Sean Daily: Definitely.
Lindsay Barczuk: and they’ll end up scratching the floors in different ways than the bigger dogs would.
Sean Daily: That’s right, that’s right. That’s funny. So I’m also, I’m curious now, just switching gears a little bit. I mean, one of the reasons that we have enjoyed both on the personal level as well as the Green Living Ideas business level, working with you guys is, you’re not just a company saying, “Hey, we’re green”, you know. You’re somebody who’s like really through and through as a company from the ownership level down, you know, operating on practices that are more sustainable in every way, so, and I’ve talked to you guys about that before. I’m curious, I understand you guys have made some recent steps to even further green your internal operations as a company. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Lindsay Barczuk: Yeah, you know, it was funny, before the interview I spent some time talking to people in the office and said, you know, “I’m thinking about bringing this up. What do you think about this?”, and you get different responses from people, and what my official answer to the question that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past week is that we’ve just upgraded our operating system, and you don’t realize how much duplication of effort and how much paper is wasted in old systems. We now have some digital checks and balances, and I think we’re going to cut down on our paper use by half by the time this implementation is complete. You know, another thing is that we just got some numbers back that over the past year we’ve cut down twenty-five percent on our marketing paper communication. And then what we do choose to use as printed materials, we’re definitely going to consider the sources of those. We use the highest recycled paper content available and print exclusively with VOC free soy ink. And we try to use, you know, chlorine free based paper as well. So that’s a big thing, and, you know, like I said, I was talking to people in the office too, and another thing that we do is everyone here has a plastic tumbler at their desk and day to day that’s what we use to drink our water over the course of the day, which doesn’t sound like much but, you know, you multiply that by the number of people that we have within this office company wide over the course of a number of days and I’m sure over a year we’re probably saving three thousand paper cups because we all choose to use these plastic tumblers.
Sean Daily: Yeah, and if you guys want to take that even a step further, I mean, if you don’t mind me, ‘cause we were, I was using plastic, like the Nalgene bottle thing for a long time, but apparently, and this was actually information I got from one of the podcasts I did, is that, you know, a lot of those bottles will lead to very, very dangerous substances into your body basically, into the water and then into you body, so you guys might want to check out these Sigg bottles, s-i-g-g, the aluminum bottles that are non leaching, which is another step ‘cause, you know, plastic a lot of time you use as, I mean, plastic is a oil petroleum based product, so it’s like you can, and then there’s always degrees of taking it farther and this is more on the human health than the planetary level, which is equally important because it’s our health, so…Anyway, just a tip there, something we’ve done internally.
Lindsay Barczuk: Yeah, and that’s a great point, and it’s just thinking about everything that you do and, you know, different people here have different ideas. You know, we promote people taking public transportation, the company will actually offer refunds for people that use the RTD program here in Denver. And we’ve got a variety of different things, you know, we’ve got access to bike locks and things like that right outside of our office so that people can ride their bikes in. And just, you know, something new comes up, trying to figure out a way to make it work for the company, for the environment and for the employees. I mean, there’s really no reason to not consider anything at this point.
Sean Daily: So it’s really, it sounds like you’re saying it’s company wide, I don’t want to say mandated, but company wide encouragement for employees at all levels to take on these things. Do you find that the people that are attracted to jobs at Carlisle are attracted based on that or do they sort of get indoctrinated into that once they get in and they go, “Oh hey, oh, these guys are really, you know, inspiring”, or is it a little bit of both?
Lindsay Barczuk: You know, I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that, you know, you start talking about people that want to come and work for a company that still crafts wood the old fashioned way, and you’re talking about a different group of people than you would who would be working for a major conglomerate in a big high rise downtown. So people definitely think that the craftsmanship is an important feature. We’ve got a lot of hikers and bikers and skiers and I think a lot of it’s the Colorado lifestyle out here. So it really is a combination of everything, you know. There’s just so much more discussion and awareness of things now that it seems that it all meshes into one, you know.
Sean Daily: Yeah, absolutely. Well for those who are listening in today and who are engaged in green building projects, be they home or commercial, I definitely recommend looking at Carlisle. You know, the FSC is somebody that we’ve interviewed on this program, and they’re really considered the definitive source and really a model for other industries in terms of their stored ship of the environment, specifically around wood sourcing and the FSC has certified a number of your floors and they don’t give that certification away, so that speaks volumes alone, and so we certainly…
Lindsay Barczuk: Yes, Sean, just to let you know, we’re hopeful that within the next couple of months we’re going to be able to expand that to be able to offer every one of our floors as FSC certified.
Sean Daily: Great, I was going to ask you about that actually, so, good.
Lindsay Barczuk: Yup.
Sean Daily: Well it’s good to hear. Well Lindsay, always a pleasure. Thank you for coming on the program with us today and giving us the update with Carlisle and talking about the prefinishing. It’s a fascinating option with flooring, and if I could go back and do it again, I’d do it that way if I could, but…
Lindsay Barczuk: Yeah, you know, and I mean that’s the bottom line, you know, you look at all the benefits that are going to come to the homeowner ultimately, and I know that price is driving all of us in this economy right now and one of the things about our prefinishing is that the pricing is less than what the onsite finishing costs are going to be if you hire someone in many of the markets, so it’s cost effective too in addition to being a green option and a lot more convenient.
Sean Daily: Yeah, and green has to do with health, you know, the thing that people talk about this. You know, obviously it’s a very, and rightfully so, a concern with regards to wood flooring and other wood based products is the sourcing and sustainability of the raw materials used in them, ingredients, but, you know, there’s the whole issue of the health of the people that live in that home everyday with those products that is equally important because you’re talking about yourself and your family, so, yeah, so, you know, it’s good information.
Lindsay Barczuk: Thanks. And Sean, thanks again for having us. It’s always a pleasure, and we appreciate everything you’re doing out there to try to spread the word.
Sean Daily: Yeah, absolutely. Well thank you for your support. And everyone out there, I want to let you know about their, the website for Carlisle Floors is wideplankflooring.com, and my guest today has been Lindsay Barczuk, who is the green programs coordinator at Carlisle. Thanks everyone and we’ll see you next time.