By A. Woody
So you want to add the warmth and beauty of hardwood flooring in your remodeling project. If you’re like most people you start with a trip to a big box just to get an idea.
There you see four or more bays of different options from solid to engineered hardwood and bamboo to cork flooring and even laminate and vinyl planks.You already convinced yourself you don’t want a laminate or vinyl because you want real wood and cork and bamboo are not your first choices either because you want a real wood floor, or do you now?The styles of these other options at their price points make you say hmmmm. Most of them have the colors you like and a few have the textured or distressed look that also fits your style. You see the wood price that seems around what you would expect for this higher end product category, but the vinyl and laminate prices are also compelling. The wood maybe a little high for your budget but you can justify it because, after all, it’s real hardwood flooring and your home is worth it. The vinyl and laminate options seem like a good lower cost option though. What should you do?
Oh ya, don’t forget how will it be installed? Will you do it or do you want a professional flooring installation. For that matter can I even install the flooring I really want in the area of my home I want it in? Again like most people you go home and google away. Now your head explodes with the options and conflicting information being thrown all around. OMG, where do I go next? What can I believe? Who can I trust?
So off you go to the local flooring showroom where you hope to find a knowledgeable professional that will answer your questions. There you see a cacophony of manufacture’s displays giving you enough selection to chock a horse. The salesperson takes you from display to display trying to help you narrow down the selection but there’s just not enough compelling differentiation to swing you one way or another. Again OMG, what am I going to go with.
If I buy from a big box am I getting big box quality and a product made to fit a price point that will maximize their GMROI (gross margin return on
investment)? I’m just not sure that’s what I want to settle for. After all you get what you pay for, right? If I buy from a large retailer will I get the best information or just what they want to tell me to sell what they have too or has the highest commission rate? Will I get a professional installation of just a sub contracted jobber that is motivated to get the job done so they can move on to the next job just as soon as they can? If I buy from a mom and pop am I paying too much?
Welcome to a fragmented marketplace. There are few other industries where your options are so varied and extensive. It’s so fragmented in fact that branding plays little to no roll in your selection process.
So what can you do?
First you’re already doing the most important thing and that’s education. Carefully choose your sources. The internet is a marketers dream. They have your full attention at a time when you’re most receptive. They artfully craft a message with lifestyle imaging, scientific jargon, and emotional text that will persuade you, that’s their job. An unfettered source for education on hardwood flooring is the National Wood Flooring Association. They’re a great resource for not only the industry but also for consumers and have a consumer portal on their web site (www.nwfa.org).
The next step is to go with your gut. If you’re armed with a good core base knowledge from your education, ask questions that you already know the answers to and see how that get answered. If you sense that you’re being BS’ed you probably are. But take this with a grain of salt. Sometimes experiences with certain products will influence a salespersons perceptions or you may simple have a rookie salesperson helping you. Finally look at references. Here to you need to have a little perspective. Do they have a lot of bad ones or just a few good. Everything is relative. So just to sum up.
- Get an education- look to association web sites and other sites that are not manufacturer related
- Play the detective- Armed with knowledge, interview sales people to find trustworthy ones
- Go with your gut- If it just doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t and if it seems too good to be true. It probably is.
- Do a background check- Check the ratings, but make sure you’ve allowed for statistical anomalies. Are there a few good ones or a lot of bad ones. Also rely on neighbors and friend’s references.