Technical Guides

#7 Not All Oak Is The Same / 3 things you MUST know about Oak flooring before you buy!

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Why is there such a big price difference in Oak products on the market?

In short…

  • Oak comes in many different grades with many different levels of feature and density
  • There are 23 different types of Oaks used as European Oak or Oak Flooring
  • Most of the Oak is illegally logged, devastating masses of forests in Europe

With Oak being so popular currently in the flooring industry we thought we would set the record straight on why there is such a big price difference of products and also shed some light on the multi-million dollar underworld illegal operation that is devastating forests in Europe, causing edge bonding.

Different Oaks, different type’s equals different quality and appearance. In most cases Oak, is just referred to as European Oak. It makes it sound exotic, but ‘Europe’ is made up of over 40 countries. The variation in quality from the highest quality Oak to the lowest quality is remarkable and makes you think twice about which type to go for.

The majority of Oak used, comes from Russian areas, as they are just over the border to China. Most of the logging that occurs in Russia is unregulated meaning there are not control standards for expected quality. The grading of Oak is generally done in A,B,C,D and sometime E grades. A being a grade that includes almost no knots or gum veins whereas E includes almost anything. What each country determines as each grade, also differs causing further variation in quality between country and subsequently brands.

The above grading does also not make mention to the grading of Oak. Oak in its normal nature is a relatively soft timber and dints easier that most hardwoods. There are however some regions, species and ages of tree that provide a higher density and cleaner grade of Oak timber.

A LOT of the worlds Oak is illegally logged. When timber is logged via sustainable forests, it is normally provided with a ‘chain of custody’. This provides manufacturers, suppliers and in some cases end users with an origin of where their timber was sourced from. With the demand for Oak increasing massively over the last few years, the platform has changed and many investigations into the origins of timbers have uncovered large scale illegal operations. Many of these operations have led to timber supplied from the Ukraine via China.

An investigation was made in 2016 against a supplier in Austria that was part of a syndicate including more than a thousand people. The logs were transported overnight so to not be seen. With forged paperwork, legal lamellas (timber veneers) were made from Illegal logs. At the time of the investigation 3,918 logs were found without any documentation, over 1 million dollars’ worth of logs.

Charges were mysteriously dropped after a man identified himself as a member of parliament stopped the operation. Since the 2016 investigation many other investigation have been carried out, including in Siberia. It is estimated that over 80% of Oak in China, ready for product, is in fact illegal.

This is why there is such a large price difference between timbers brands on the market. Honest timber production companies spend a lot of money to ensure timber is logged in sustainable forests and as a result of that supply is also limited. This regulates the supply and demand and therefore the value of different Oak species. When timber is logged essentially for ‘free’ it provides no guarantee for quality. It is believed that actions like this are one of the main reasons for the endangered Siberian Tiger.

How can I avoid this and choose a good quality product?

Fortunately, with a bit of research and asking the right questions, you can determine which product you are selecting is good quality and most importantly sustainable.

  • Ensure you check the origin of the timber being used with a chain of custody. This should be available via the manufacturer if requested.
  • Ready warranties and installation manuals to check exactly what you are covered for (if at all).
  • Check the specified grading of the product and clarify what the expectation of that is. Two different brands can have the same ‘grading’ standard but could produce vastly different results.

Marques Flooring heavily supports a sustainable industry. Whilst this comes at a higher cost, it also ensures better quality and a more certain future that supports the growth, not hinders it and its included environment.

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