Bamboo – Take a minute and think about it.

Settlers’ Plank Autumn Woods in an Upstate NY Residence – Hard, renewable, and full of color.

A typical day in our atypical business. Valerie puts a call through to me. It is an architect that has some questions about our flooring:

“Hi, this is Jered, how can I help you?”

“Well, I have a project that I am considering using Bamboo flooring for and
I came across your website and wanted to know how your materials compared with
Bamboo.”

These questions about Bamboo are thankfully something that we’re not getting as often as we were 3 or 4 years ago. Back then, you couldn’t even get your foot into a flooring trade show without tripping over forty manufacturers of Bamboo. But I digress.

“Why Bamboo? Is there a particular reason that you like it?”

“It is harder than wood, more renewable, and you can get it in all sorts of colors”.

“Not quite.”

I politely went on to explain how reclaimed wood is a much more environmentally friendly flooring material, despite the marketing spin put on Bamboo. In particular:

“Harder than wood” – Nope. While the hardness of the flooring varies depending on how it was processed, bamboo falls into the same spectrum as most Appalachian hardwood species, such as Oak, Hickory, Maple, & Ash. Some lower quality floors can be scratched as easy as a soft pine, and won’t last more than a few years under even the kindest of conditions.

“More renewable” – OK, there’s some validity to this. Hardwood trees take decades if not more than a hundred years to mature, whereas Bamboo grows VERY fast ( it is essentially a grass after all ) and matures in 3 years or so.

However, when land is being cleared to grow something, especially in this type of volume, you’re interrupting the groove of mother nature. The process inhibits the growth of other species, eliminates natural habitat for animals, and uses a fair amount of energy just in the preparation of the land before planting even begins.

“There’s lots of colors” – Ever been to a wood flooring showroom? You can get almost any color under the sun if you want it. After all, blue is a natural color of wood, right? While this is much more a matter of personal preference & interior design, we prefer to let the wood do the talking Why cover up the natural characteristics of a material with a stain? It is only going to change over the first few years of installation, likely get darker, and make it incredibly difficult to match should you ever need to do a repair. Skip the stains, regardless of species – you’ll save all the nasty stuff that goes into a stain anyway. If you want something unique, pick a wood with a real color like our Karri & Jarrah!

The one thing that almost everyone forgets about Bamboo – It is not made in the US. There are a variety of companies in southeast Asia that make the flooring, and there are really no environmental regulations in place to ensure that you end up with a safe product. Especially in the cheaper floors, nasty glues & urea formaldehydes abound – Since Bamboo is a hollow plant, it must be cut into strips, steamed, milled, and glued into planks to get to a actual piece of flooring. Beyond the materials used in manufacturing, there are questionable labor practices, low-paid workers in un-safe conditions, and then, after all of that, you STILL have to get to the shores of the US. Since Bamboo is not a domestic product, it is brought in via ocean freight by the container, taken off the boat and shipped to a distributor, unloaded, and then shipped out to a dealer or contractor, and then finally to your home. There s an astronomical amount of embodied energy involved in just getting the wood here!

Our friends at Treehugger.com have a great article posted on their site which dives into things even more, if you’re interested.

I’ve harped on the idea of buying a domestically made material in earlier posts, and there’s obviously much more to this particular issue than just supporting domestic labor. So before you rush off to the local megabox DIY store or flooring showroom, stay put and read up on the fastest growing grass on the planet. Think about the idea of putting it on the floor of your house. And then check out Pioneer Millworks and see what we have to offer in a true American-made flooring material.

I promise you – we have woods that are hard, renewable, and available in lots of real colors.

Thanks for reading – stay in touch.

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Waiting…….

I talk to A LOT of people in my job from all over the world, but mostly in the United States. It seems that everyone is “waiting”. Yet, many of us are asking the question, “…for what?” Are we waiting for a talking head to appear on the TV one night and say “It is OK to now go and spend your money”? Are we waiting for someone to tell us that it WILL get better? Are we waiting for the stock market to bottom out at some mythical number that most of us really don’t know the meaning of anyway?

Here’s some food for thought. Your home is likely the biggest investment you have. And unless you live somewhere that is immune to the current state of things, selling a house right now is an undertaking in patience similar to watching water boil. So why not go for it, and put some of your money into your home, your investment, where you know it will eventually pay for itself? At the end of these tough times, you’ll have lived on a new floor, enjoyed cooking on a new countertop, organized the kitchen in new cabinets, or maybe just relaxed with a fine glass of red wine over a handsome new coffee table. The durability of reclaimed wood will surely outlast the current economic trends – and Pioneer Millworks can supply it any form you wish.

Beyond your home though, when making a purchase, now is the critical time to really think about where that product is coming from. The global economy we live in has had many effects on the earth’s population, from the spread of disease to the expansion of wealth, from increasing trade deficits to shrinking domestic employment….the list goes on and on. But it can get a little ridiculous too – I was quite surprised recently to notice that a simple can of mushrooms in the local supermarket was made in China. Mushrooms. A staple of my pantry, and I had to do some digging to find a brand made in the US, where I know mushrooms grow, because we’ve reclaimed wood from those farms before! For the additional $.20 per can, I can spend the extra money to support our domestic workforce and ensure that my children are eating something better for them. I encourage you to think in the same manner – about how much your job relies on other having theirs, and how we can all help eachother turn the ship around. When you buy flooring that was harvested in one country, shipped to another for processing, and then shipped across another ocean to a distributor, and then on to your local mega-mart home improvement store, it does nothing to support regional and local manufacturing jobs, and you end up with a lesser quality product in the end. Perhaps everything we buy can’t be put under the microscope – but when you’re about to make a big purchase, thats the best time to sit back for a minute and look at what the real trickle-down effect will be to the planet, the economy, and – YOU.

Buy local. Think for the earth. Support your neighbors. Stay in touch.

– Jered

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We’ll make it…..

Times are tough right now. Everywhere you look, the unemployment line is growing longer, and people are really thinking twice about how they spend their money. As tax refunds come out, stimulus packages get passed, and financing becomes easier, consider putting dollars in a place where it will matter – your home.

Now is a great time to renovate a kitchen, add some built-ins, or put down some wood flooring. Prices have never been better ( 20% off at Pioneer Millworks this month! ) and you get the benefit of a more beautiful house in which to ride out the storm. When things do turn around, and they will turn around, you’ll have made a worthwhile investment that will easily pay for itself. Best of all, by keeping your hard-earned money in the United States, you’re supporting our economy and the domestic workforce.

Give us a call, drop us an e-mail, or stop by and see the newly expanded shop. We’ve got plenty to talk about. We’ll make it through this.

– Jered

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I miss my camper…

I miss my camper. I really do.

I mean, its right here outside my kitchen window, but the white roof and panels are camouflaged by the 7 inches of snow on top of it. It looks very cold, after all it is 17 degrees outside, considering it is something designed to celebrate the warmth of summer, save for sheltering us in the occasional rain storm. My wife and I bought our camper 2 years ago because we realized that we were spending our lives on the run – always going somewhere and doing something – and that we needed some time with our boys to just “do nothing”. I’ll be the first to admit, I am a workaholic – whether its answering e-mails from customers on the weekends, or in the sense of our house, constantly working to make it better – there’s always something I am working on. Getting me to sit still for even a one hour television show is an exercise in futility. So our camper takes care of this for us – by driving it and our family to a small campground near Cayuga Lake in the warmer months, we’re able to “do nothing” for the weekend. I might assemble a model train or 2, Jamie reads a book, the boys fish, or ride their bikes, or explore the forest with the new friends they make every weekend, meeting kids from all over the country.

As any of you DIY handymen ( and handywomen! ) know, it is hard to not be doing “something”. I always have a hard time relaxing when we’re camping, knowing there’s a project to be done. Pioneer Millworks works with you to make it easy to get things done. Despite what you might think, installing a wood floor is not rocket science – and it can easily be a weekend project in a small to mid-sized room. Our Wood Experts can explain how to prep the room, guide you through installation, and provide NWFA recommendations to make it a smooth and simple process. Even better than our charming personalities and expert advice, we offer pre-finishing as an option on many of our grades & species. This means there’s no messy spills, fumes, or cleanup – you install the floor, and move back into your room that same day. It also takes the hardest part of a wood floor installation out of the mix, and makes it possible to have a brand new floor in a matter of a few hours.

Pioneer Millworks has a great section of our website, the Bargain Basement, where you’ll find smaller batches of flooring we have in the shop, and some special deals and prices that don’t come around that often.

We have enough variety to suit most design styles, and there’s even some of our swanky new engineered wood flooring available. Check it out – there’s sure to be something there that could be used in a room or two of your home, and we’ll help you make it a fun weekend project. OK, we won’t BE THERE to help – but we’re only a phone call away!

Now – back to the camper. I wonder if I can put some Heart Pine flooring in there….

Stay warm, be creative, and keep in touch.

– Jered

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