From Forest to Finish: Somerset Hardwood Flooring Plant Tour
Hardwood flooring options are abundant, spanning countless styles, colors, quality ranges, and brands. Narrowing your selections can be daunting, much less settling on one product that is the winning combination of stunning visual, authentic quality and timeless appeal.
Maybe if you could just peek inside a flooring plant, understand the material resources, or get to know the manufacturer, you might approach your selection process with a bit more confidence. Let us take you on that journey! Our experts at Twenty & Oak have seen Somerset Hardwood Flooring in action, up close and in person, and we are excited to share that experience with you.
Somerset harvests red oak, white oak, hickory and maple species from Appalachian forests, the finest natural hardwood resource in America. Because Somerset is privately owned and vertically integrated with their own forestry management and lumber mills, control can be maintained from forest to finish so you can be confident in the production quality. So, it’s not surprising that our travels took us to the heart of the forestry areas of Kentucky and Tennessee, the home of Appalachian hardwood.
With one engineered flooring plant, two solid flooring plants, three sawmills, 43 dry kilns and a bio-fuel plant, Somerset is one of the largest vertically-integrated forest products companies in the U. S. Somerset’s growth has actually tripled over the last decade.
Quality you can Count on
Driving into any one of the Somerset properties is quite a sight to behold. Stacks and stacks of lumber in the mill yards go on as far as you can see. As we learned on our tour, those stacks are just a fraction of the lumber inventory going through the drying process. Eventually those stacks are moved into the drying kilns, when they reach a certain moisture level.
Once strict levels are reached, the lumber is moved inside the plant for the various processing stages. Walking into the kilns can be like entering an enormous sauna, depending on the stage of drying happening in a particular kiln. It is amazing how much water is retained naturally in the wood. This is such a great lesson about moisture levels, and the importance of making sure wood is dry…and it stays dry. Moisture in wood greatly impacts its performance, inducing cupping, crowning and eventually buckling. It is for this reason hardwood flooring manufacturers have strict acclimation requirements before installation in your home.
The quality controls here are obvious if you look closely. Did you notice all the concrete underneath the lumber? That is an intentional extra effort and expense. When lumber is sitting on a flat surface during this part of the drying stage, it will dry flat, as opposed to being staged on natural terrain. You will also notice none of the planks are touching each other, due to the strategic placement of splices to allow air circulation. Somerset’s attention to detail is impeccable, right down to the cleanliness of the facility, resulting in high levels of efficiency and productivity.
Transformation from Tree to Planks
Let’s back up a bit. Before the lumber was painstakingly stacked evenly on those pallets, it was processed from whole tree status down to precisely cut planks. A tour of a sawmill is an incredible, fascinating experience. Just outside, next to an exterior wall, the long log begins its journey with an x-ray. The purpose is to detect any metal in the tree that may have been left by a hunter’s tree stand, or other human activity, maybe decades ago.
Then, the bark is removed, and the log is brought inside and loaded onto a huge cradle where an enormous saw blade goes to work, precisely slicing horizontally to reveal the natural beauty that lies within. The computer operation for this process is contained in a manned capsule suspended just above. The technician is able to control the entire process and in one comprehensive data screen captures the inventory quantities from each log. The smell of the lumber is most intense at this point from the fresh cut. This was our favorite spot on the tour!
Milled Lumber Distribution
Let’s remember, at this point we are talking about a lumber mill owned by Somerset and lumber harvested from forests managed by Somerset. It’s not surprising that this lumber production is sold
domestically, but distributed
all over the world, to manufacturers seeking the quality of US Appalachian resourced timber. A sorting process is an integral part of production at the sawmills, appropriately designating various levels of “clean” lumber to respective industries, such as furniture makers, and of course, Somerset Hardwood Flooring
This sorting process continues throughout the flooring plants. Ultrasound equipment, and many human touches ensure that your finished product is worthy of the 50 year finish warranty, as well as the lifetime structural warranty that Somerset stands behind. Any finished product deemed less-than worthy of these warranties by skilled graders and state-of-the-art equipment are downgraded into Builder grade or Cabin grade categories, and sold as such.
“Going Green” was a corporate philosophy adopted by Somerset before it was a trendy slogan. Fully invested in eco-sensible practices, Somerset’s full-time forestry staff ensures best management practices and maintains 100-year plans for forest sustainability. Somerset is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, is Lacy Act compliant, and adds no formaldehyde to their products.
Beyond these important certifications, Somerset is dedicated to making use of 100% of their manufacturing by-products.
- Heat exchangers transfer energy, captured inside the mill, into the onsite drying kilns for efficient and cost-effective use of this valuable resource.
- Wood fiber and sawdust is captured throughout the facilities and transferred to Somerset’s bio-fuel manufacturing plant. Offered to the public and sold to hardware retailers in the Northeast and Midwest, Somerset Wood Fuel Pellets are clean burning and reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil.
The Finished Product
Somerset’s collections include solid, and engineered options. The solid product is ¾” thick and the engineered product is a ½” overall thickness with a 3 mm top wear layer of its solid counterpart product. Trademarked as SolidPlus®, the core of this engineered construction consists of eight plies (layers) of Baltic birch, which is cross-layered for incredible stability. Each collection offers varied plank widths, ranging from 2 ¼” to 7” and a couple of collections even offer multi-width packaging. The plank lengths are all random, up to 6 ½ feet. A polyurethane coating is UV cured for a durable finish that is safe for your family and carries a 50 year warranty.
The visuals of Somerset’s collections may be defined as timeless or classic
. Although traditional stain colors and finishes are plentiful throughout the collections, you will find many popular widths, textures and styles to bring a stunning, modern design to any space.
Ready to Explore Somerset Products?
You will not find Somerset flooring products for sale online, at big box stores, or at wholesale warehouses. All Somerset Hardwood Flooring products are sold exclusively and directly to flooring distributor partners in the United States. Somerset’s distributors rely on reputable, professional flooring retailers to represent the brand in showroom displays and with knowledgeable staff. Begin your search at https://www.twentyandoak.com/brands/somerset.
You can count on the retailers found on the Twenty & Oak dealer listing
to provide excellent service and installation when you choose one of Somerset’s stunning hardwood solutions for your home.
Twenty & Oak Experts
Twenty & Oak Experts are a team of flooring professionals with over 150 years of combined experience in the industry. They have hands-on experience with all flooring types and bring inside industry know-how to homeowners in the Southeast.