Published February 1964 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From the Office of UNITED STATES SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD room 342, Old Senate Office Building. Washington 25, D. C. Volume IV -- Number 7 2/14/64 BYRD'S EYE VIEW A Public Service Column by SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD FOREST LABORATORY PUTTING A SOLID FLOOR UNDER HARDWOOD MARKET
The strong dependency of West Virginia's hardwoods on the residential flooring market has been revealed in a survey of hardwood sales in the Mountain State over the past decade. The survey. conducted by the newly established U. S. Forest Products Marketing Laboratory in Mercer County, indicates that our hardwood output is closely associated with the housing tastes of new home owners, and underlines the importance of guiding that preference back to the polished parquets of the past.
In recent years, according to the survey, some 40 per cent of all lumber production in West Virginia went into flooring. This industry gave employment to some 25,000 persons annually, not inc1uding timber men. In the national picture, however, oak flooring shipments declined from 1.2 billion board feet in 1955 to .8 billion board feet in 1962, a market loss of about 35 per cent.
During this same period, in new residential construction alone, Appalachian oak's share of the potential residential flooring market dropped from 68 per cent to 38 per cent. The increasing use of concrete slab subfloors in single and multi-family dwellings is considered the most important factor restricting the marketing of Appalachian hardwoods today.
It is believed that the current trend toward "hidden" floors could be reversed, in favor of attractive hardwood surfaces, once the facts were made public regarding the maintenance cost of carpeted surfaces.
Other important factors are: the foot fatigue associated with cement floors, the inferiority of insulation from cold and damp, and the increased structural cost of slab construction in multi-story buildings. Through interviews with home and apartment owners, and with actual occupants, the Princeton laboratory will endeavor to discover the comparative costs and advantages of slab versus wood floors.
Preliminary research has suggested that fear of termite damage is one of the major factors that started the swing toward concrete slab floors. In regions (of great heat and moisture) where such danger is serious, research is being carried out to devise economical means of using hardwood flooring over the slab. Certain technical problems remain to be solved before the new home owner can be persuaded that such an arrangement may, in the long run, provide the greatest measure of strength, economy, safety, health and beauty. Before the enchantment with wall-to-wall carpeting will begin to fade, an effective argument must be made in favor of surfaces more easily maintained and more readily varied in harmony with other aspects of interior decor.
One important aspect of hardwood flooring under investigation is the prefabricating of large sections of flooring in order to reduce installation costs. Also important is the development of effective means of easily installing hardwood squares which can be glued down like tiles, with interesting pattern variations.
In any event, it is clear that if West Virginia's oak forests are to enjoy a widening instead of a shrinking market, vigorous efforts must be made to recapture the traditional American preference for the warmth and beauty of natural hardwood floors. -30-