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Millwood Specialty Flooring

Having been in the hardwood flooring trade for almost twenty years, the time had finally come to see how hardwood floors are made. We’re not talking about that prefinished stuff everyone else is selling including the big box stores and Lumber what’s their name. We’re looking at real unfinished hardwood flooring, or hardwood that is Rough sawn lumberinstalled then sanded and finished.

Millwood Specialty Flooring is a small hardwood mill located in Ellijay, Georgia or at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and 90 miles north of Atlanta. I had heard nothing but great things from connections in the Knoxville, TN area that have worked with their hardwoods through the years. Priced right while offering high quality; a rare combination these days.

One hour is how long it takes the rough sawn lumber shown on the right to come out on the other end packaged into a pallet. Although I don’t know much about manufacturing, the time seemed slow. Numbers are irrelevant in this case. Millwood does not operate like larger companies that are looking strictly at production numbers. It’s more about the final quality than anything and keeping many long time local customers in the southern Appalachians happy.

Ryan Fisher and NanciOur tour with Nanci DuBarton (plant controller) was educational for myself and son Ryan who is learning the trade inside and out from installation all the way up to what makes our websites, blogs, and message board tick. While the manufacturing equipment appeared dated, Nanci explained it still hums along requiring more pampering than modern machinery. Nevertheless, the company currently produces around 20,000 square feet daily, providing enough material is available to mill. The number represents about half of full production capacity.

The business has been affected by mill closures with the slowing economy. We’re referring to mills that turn logs into product that companies like Millwood can manufacture into hardwood flooring. Many have shut down operations or simply gone out of business leaving less inventory in the supply channels. Satisfying demand has never been a problem for the company as they’ve become more of a North Georgia, Eastern Tennessee secret of sorts for red and white oak flooring.

Good installers can be a picky breed. What they don’t like to do is fight with a product. This generally occurs when the product is poorly milled, milled too soon, or picked up moisture that creates a hard installation. Hardwood floors expand and contract with moisture of the material. I’ve heard the average installer before, “that’s what the floor finisher is for, to fill and fix all those gaps and cracks.” Those gaps may be taken care of in the interim. But given seasonal expansion and contraction, those same floors are likely to be a continual problem unless the home is climate controlled.

What I found particularly interesting was the company uses heavy plastic sheathing to protect the product prior to shipping. unfinished hardwood flooring ready to shipThis insures moisture does not affect the flooring from their plant to shipping destinations. Only higher grades are packaged in this manner such as clear, rift and quartered, and their select and better lines.

Millwood Specialty Flooring follows NOFMA (National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association) grading rules whose overall lengths run random to 84 inches. This procedure is simply a method used to differentiate each grade. In simple terms, the differences from a top grade to a lower grade lies in the appearance. As an example, clear will offer uniform color whereas lower grades will present more color variation and other natural characteristics common in the hardwood species.

The company whose history dates back to the 1930′s produces red and white oak in six grades. Other grades include #1, 2, and #3 common. The latter two being a rustic type grade suitable for those that enjoy high color variation, and other assorted natural characteristics and blemishes of hardwood in general. Products widths include common 2 1/4 inch strip, 3 1/4, four, and five inch plank.

Custom runs are an option for those interested. This doesn’t rule out special orders of longer length material or random width flooring. I may be retired from the installation end of the business, but I still maintain all the tools needed to get the job done. Getting to know more about this well kept southern secret is an opportunity I would be interested in.