The true hardwood floor history in America is not one of Oriental throw rugs, tongue & groove planks and polished mosaic percales. Until the late 19th century, finished hardwood floors and throw rugs were too rare to mention.
Hardwoods have been used for flooring since men discovered that thresh lasted longer on wood than it did over bare dirt. (If you ever wondered how “threshold” became the name of a doorway and something the bride must be “carried over,” it was the low board which kept the thresh inside the house.)
American Hardwoods Were Originally Sawn by Hand
One of the main resources in Colonial America was many square miles of old growth forest. The trees we originally used for building and flooring had enormous diameters. The heartwood was tightly grained, which made the wood more durable and much harder, compared to the woods in use today.
For the longest time, converting raw wood into functional lumber was a labor intensive process. There were no circular saws in the sawmills at the time, so it took two men to pit-saw the logs into planks. One guy above, one guy below in the Pit.
Painted Hardwood Floors Were a Thing
Historically, painted interiors became trendy in the late 18th century. In American hardwood floor history, the preservative method was also applied to the floors. The colors would be anything from chess patterns to bright primary colors. Whitewash was of course the least expensive product available, which made it the most popular choice. The use of varnish or stain was uncommon at the time, because the idea was to get away from looking like bare wood.
That trend changed in the first half of the 19th century when the Power-loom was invented. Mass-produced carpets were suddenly affordable for the emerging middle class, and so themselves became a sign of growing affluence. Wall-to-wall carpeting offered insulation and warmth for bare feet. (They were, and are, also a home for dust mites and allergens, which we discuss here.)
Then Hardwood Floors Made a Comeback
Sometime in the mid 19th century, the wealthiest homes would have parquet installed in the more publicly accessible rooms. The installation took a lot of man power, because each piece of wood had to be cut and fixed by hand. Fortunately, the industrial revolution in America allowed production of finished hardwood planks in large quantities, changing the history of flooring forever. Lumber could be milled in fixed widths and lengths, accelerating the process of manufacturing and installation.
Hardwood Floors in America Today Are Works of Art
Especially here in the Reno/Tahoe area, the right hardwood flooring makes exactly the statement you want in your home or office. At Artisan Hardwood Floors, all we do is hardwood floors. Let us help you make your home a part of American history by installing the perfect hardwood floor. Why don’t you contact me right now, while the idea is still fresh in your mind?
Master Craftsman, Owner, Artisan