Have wood? We’ll floor you!

Wood is known to be a natural material for construction of homes; comes with several hygienic, psychological and economic benefits; is carbon-neutral; and can be sustainably harvested. What better material can we think of for our interiors – especially in these Covid-19 times – at home, offices and other spaces? Dhananjay Sardeshpande spoke with Mr Aashish Poojari, Managing Director of Havwoods International – and other leading suppliers and experts – to find out what lies in store for this future-proof material for flooring. Read on:

Havwoods International offers 300 options to the India market, including its colours, textures and finishes.

When Aashish started out to plan a flooring venture at the turn of the 21st century, he extensively surveyed various markets and studied wood and flooring manufacturing for 2 years. However, the market in India for wood flooring then was minuscule. The use of wood itself was still skewered with doubts as to its applicability, longevity, assured supply, cost and upkeep.

By 2005, Aashish and his brother, Aadesh, decided they would go into retail to better gauge the Indian market, engage with and educate the specifiers and influencers, and spread real-life examples across India to support their firm conviction that wooden flooring is the best.

And so the brothers started Plan-B, with distribution rights for 12 global players, including Kahrs of Sweden, the US-based Giant, Moso (bamboo flooring) from the Netherlands, and Karelia from New Zealand. They also added some laminate floor manufacturers to their range to offer architects and interior designers some more options.

Plan-B went on to win industry awards for ‘Most Innovative Wooden Flooring Company’. It also boasts of having worked with some of India’s top architects and designers, including many celebrities.

Market size

According to Aashish, wood and cork are the only natural materials that are closest to our skins – even the most exotic and expensive stones (including marble) are not conducive to a positive human interaction. Wood “breathes” just as human skin does.

However, Aashish is quite practical in not wishing away natural stones or artificial tiles. “They will continue to have their place; but the space for wood-based flooring is certainly going to increase,” he says.

At the time, Pergo was the only known brand, Aashish recalls, but it was into laminate flooring. There was but a sprinkling of importers of solid wood flooring, spread as far across as Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.

“It was largely an unorganised market meeting an extremely niche demand,” Aashish remembers.

Jump to 2020, when the India market is said to be to the tune of 80 million square metres, Aashish says. Of this 80% is serviced by ceramic and vitrified tiles, another 10% goes to laminate flooring, and a mere 0.2% is for wooden flooring.

But, as Aashish points out, the wooden flooring market is growing exponentially. “The small share of wooden flooring only indicates the huge potential that needs to be tapped and upgraded from tiles to wooden planks. It is a market you cannot ignore!” he notes.

Enter Havwoods

Keeping that in mind, in 2016, Aashish decided to partner exclusively with UK’s largest retailer and specifier of wooden flooring, Havwoods International. The company, which specialises in hardwood flooring, reported revenue of 35 million Pounds last year, and already has a strong presence in 35 other countries.

It boasts of an impressive clientele including Harrods, Breitling, Harley Davidson, Paul Smith, Jamie Oliver, Marks & Spencer, Nando’s, etc.

Aashish has set up a 3,000-square-foot showroom in Mumbai, from where he currently handles the Mumbai and Delhi markets. He has also added franchisees in Pune, Ahmedabad and Chennai.

Now he is eyeing the hinterland – following up on serious interest shown by architects and interior designers from Aurangabad, Baroda, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Nashik.

The Indian buyer has migrated from being price-sensitive to being quality-conscious, Aashish says. Wooden flooring is now considered as a classy new option and also a status symbol. This paradigm shift has opened up Havwoods’ audience to considering using wood flooring extensively.

“Earlier wooden flooring was restricted only to the bedroom – about 200 square feet – but now the end users are more confident of laying wooden flooring in living areas as well. We now have duplex and penthouse accommodation with over 3,000 square feet of wooden flooring,” Aashish says.

Extensive range

Today, Havwoods International is geared up with an India-specific portfolio and intelligent stocking programme to complement its core competence in excellent design, installation and after-sales service. It offers over 300 options to the India market, including its ‘Vertical Collection’ for wall cladding.

“But it is not only about colours and stains,” Aashish is quick to point out. “There are so many more textures and finishes that architects and interior designers can play with.”

For example, the Chevron and Herringbone designs come in 20 colours each! There are other collections in machined, unfinished and UV-oil coated finishes.

The parent company relies on its design hub in London to track global trends and encourage innovation in product design and quality. Every 3 months new products are contracted to captive wooden flooring manufacturers, who maintain strict quality checks and technology upgrades.  

“It is not at all easy for a manufacturer to stay relevant in a global market, or to quickly react to change in technology, trends and design,” Aashish notes. That is where Havwoods International saves its contract manufacturers the trouble and assures them a steady stream of flooring orders for its international clientele.

Engineered floors

These are separate natural wood layers glued together to offer better dimensional stability in varied humidity and temperature conditions. It generally consists of a base layer of Birch plywood, a core layer in softwood (Spruce or Pine or high-density fibre board), and a top layer of premium wood.

While solid wood flooring is available in planks of up to 180 mm width and 20 mm thick, engineered flooring planks can be as wide as 450 mm, yet as thin as 5 mm. The latter are simple in construction and installation, using generally the tongue-and-groove type of “clicking” planks.

Exotic tropical teak species have gradually given way to Beech, Oak and Walnut for the top layer. Walnut has good colour and grain, but is softer than Oak, Aashish says. Oak comes in natural white to grey and dark colours and is more popular – it also stains very well.

Most Oak is from certified and professionally managed forests in Croatia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, France and Romania. But it is generally treated and processed by experts in Germany and Italy. Birch is a long-growth species sourced from Siberia and Finland.

Compressed bamboo, on the other hand, is harder and denser than teak, and possesses greater dimensional stability, Aashish informs. But the selection of bamboo species, its harvesting and processing is very critical. Many Indian companies have attempted bamboo flooring, but have not matched the expertise of Chinese manufacturers.

Concerns & solutions

In India, wooden flooring has been beset with doubts with reference to its durability, stability, quality and cost-effectiveness. Then there are the myths about its resistance to water and cost of maintenance. To debunk some of these misconceptions, Aashish starts with: “Installation is extremely critical.”

Good quality of flooring is primary, but preparation of the sub-structures on which it rests and its insulation are equally so. Flooring must be laid in non-moisture retention areas; accurate profiles must be made and matched; quality glues must be used in strict accordance to procedures when assembling it; and the lacquering has to be perfect.

For small installations, foam is spread as a substrate before interlocking planks are fitted together on a “floating” platform. For larger spaces, the flooring has to be “glued down” to the cement floor and resembles a stone floor.

Water seepage is a major problem area, as is termite infestation in old buildings. Then there are chances of scratches and dents due to movement of heavy objects – mainly furniture. But for all these there are simple remedies. “Damp-cloth mopping every day is fine; but washing with water and detergents is a strict No-No!” Aashish adds.

Havwoods International offers warranties of up to 30 years on its flooring products. It has in place its own trained and tested installations teams spread across its establishments worldwide. That is because installation can make or break the reputation of this sector of woodworking.

Aashish signs off with: “You got a floor to cover? We have wood!”




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