Prior to moving into the Greenspiration Home I had never lived in a house with all wood floors. The additional noise took some getting used to. I remember having the bejeezus scared out of me one day when, alone in the house, I thought I heard footsteps upstairs. It was just the cat bounding down the stairs.
I suppose there are pros and cons to nearly every kind of flooring out there, but a few sound absorbing area rugs, upholstered pieces, and window treatments later, I can say I’m really happy with our choice to use NC wormy red maple. Some people ask why I didn’t use bamboo or cork since I was building green but the fact is these products come from overseas locations, adding to their embodied energy and doing nothing for my home state’s ailing wood industry. So wormy maple wasn’t just an environmental choice; as a native North Carolinian, it was a sentimental choice.
Besides, wormy red maple is one of a few species of NC hardwoods that have been designated as “underutilized”. Other underutilized NC hardwoods include sycamore, beech, sweet gum, tupelo, black gum, and hackberry.
Research shows that aesthetics win out over the environment every time when it comes to homebuilding. From my perspective, wormy maple wins on both counts. It’s local, it’s renewable, it’s plentiful, and it is an absolutely gorgeous wood. We’ve taken literally hundreds of people through the Greenspiration Home and the wood floors are most definitely a favorite feature of the home.
Test Before You Finish
Wormy maple can be stained or (as was our case) dyed and finished using low VOC products. Or it can simply be sealed with a clear coat finish, leaving its natural grayish/beige color to shine through. Our flooring contractor nudged us in the direction of a dye rather than a stain because maple wood tends to appear a little “splotchy” when stain is applied.
No matter how you decide to finish your wormy maple floor, this is one wood that has a lot of character and variation, which enhances the beauty. Some boards are quite a bit darker than others and the final effect has a very earthy appeal.
One word of advice though — because of the variation in light and dark boards, you really need to sample finish a large section of the floor before deciding on your color. A single sample board will not be representative. In our case, our floors turned out much darker than what we intended. They are still beautiful, but the darker a floor is the more it shows dirt and debris, especially in direct sunlight. In the morning and the afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon, you can see every crumb, cat hair, smudge, and spec of dust on my floors wherever sunlight hits. I’ve learned to ignore it.
Caring for these floors is easy – especially with a central vacuum system, which we are fortunate to have. We simply used the wood floor attachment. Every couple of weeks the floors are cleaned using a soft mop and a wood floor cleaner. My favorite lately (and I’ve tried a few) is a vegetable-based wood cleaner from Vermont Natural Coatings. My cleaning service ladies and I have both observed that this product is better than others at cleaning up spots. It can also be used on other hard surfaces in the house too, including tile, laminate, and stone.
Wormy maple was a great choice for my home and I would encourage other homeowners to explore the native wood options in other areas of the country.