Broken glass, plastic bottles, barn doors and even discarded wine corks are just a few of the recycled materials being used to make beautiful floors. Sprigg Lynn gets excited about transforming trash into treasure. His family's company, Universal Floors, has spent generations reclaiming discarded wood then using it to outfit floors in fine homes from Georgetown to the East Room of the White House.
"We take stuff off a trash heap, breathe fresh life into it, and it can last another 100 years," Lynn said.
The many historic homes and buildings in the Washington area make reclaimed wood one of the most locally sought-after recycled materials. Universal Floors reclaims wood from fences, old homes, barns, factories and even logs recovered from the river.
"There are basically three ways we reclaim wood," Lynn said. The first is from deconstructing a building, such as an abandoned farmhouse or warehouse. The second is retrieving wood cut during the logging boom in the 1800s and early 1900s from waterways. Some logs sank to the bottom of the river and have been there for 100 years," Lynn said.
After these logs are retrieved, they go through a process in which the water is extracted, leaving hard woods, some from tree species that no longer exist.
The third way is salvaging floors from condemned or soon-to-be-demolished buildings.
Lynn said they once purchased antique heart pine at an estate sale from the home of Johns Hopkins.
"We got it for a song and dance and put it in a house in Georgetown that was built in the same era. It matched absolutely perfect," he said. "The wood is as thick as a fist. You can't buy it. You have to get lucky."
"Customers are looking for green products, and reclaimed wood gives them that authentic period style," said Raymond Hochstetler, general manager of Appalachian Woods.
Hochstetler said the charm inherent in reclaimed wood makes it popular even among owners of modern homes. "They like the nail holes and old saw marks," he said. "The customers want the authentic feel. It adds character to a home."
In the showroom at the Stone Source in Washington, what looks like ceramic tile is actually Trend Q, an engineered stone made mostly of recycled glass, granite, quartz and mosaic. Granules from those materials are mixed with a pigmented polyester resin and molded into large slabs. This engineered stone is pricier than ceramic tile, but more affordable than marble.
Glass is not the only material being recycled into flooring. Mohawk Industries, one of the world's largest floor coverings manufacturers, developed EverStrand, a line of carpets made from recycled plastic bottles.
Plastic bottles are recycled and turned into PET chips or polyester fibers. The PET chips are extruded into EverStrand fibers, which are made into carpet.
According to Mohawk Industries, one in every four recycled bottles in North America becomes EverStrand carpet. "We recycle 3 billion plastic bottles a year," said Bart Rich, director of brand management for Mohawk. "Those are bottles that were saved from a landfill."
Considered a value product, EverStrand is priced similar to nylon fiber carpet.
"Some people go out and look for renewable products. Others are just looking for something they like," Rich said. "If it's a tossup between EverStrand and another product, they like the green aspects."
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