Article Line Long1
Design

Introducing The Most Beautiful Wood Flooring In The World, By An Oregon Run, Family-Owned, Sustainably Sourced Mill – (Zena Forest Products) For The Farmhouse

When I put out the call last year for sustainably sourced Oregon wood flooring, a couple of you recommended Zena Forest Products, so I went ahead and checked out their site. I immediately connected to their mission (among other things) and requested a sample — despite my doubts that their floors would aesthetically be “the one.” I’m not sure why, but I just thought there was no way it could be the trifecta of what I wanted: sustainable/locally grown, stylistically on point for our home, and milled/assembled to our durability specifications. I had shopped around a lot and met with many other great sustainable companies, but they either shipped from the East Coast (which is fine, but a bit less carbon-friendly) or they didn’t have the species that we wanted (a light hardwood). I just kept thinking, This is Oregon…surely we can buy wood floors made from Oregon trees?!

When I got the sample, I was like, “Brian, look!” And I have never seen Mr. Henderson want a floor so badly. Why? What’s so great about this flooring? Well, first off, it is absolutely stunning, high quality, and exactly what we wanted stylistically. We dreamt of a more seamless, light, Scandinavian flooring with character and knots, but we didn’t want it to be too rustic. We didn’t know if it was actually possible to get everything we wanted, but it turns out that with Zena, we definitely could. You’ll see for yourself in a bit, but beyond looks, the company is incredible and doing great things for the trees, the community, and the planet. We’re super excited about it…so much so that we made a video:

That’s Ben Deumling, who owns and runs the mill (along with his family that serves as the board of ZFP). We spent the day touring the forest and mill, learning more about the company, their ethos, and seeing what goes into harvesting and making their wood flooring. Brian came, too, and took video of it all while we spent the cloudy day in this beautiful forest, learning about a process I’d always taken for granted.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

  1. Ben literally grew up on the property, which his family has owned and run for generations. This is his childhood backyard, and he’s now raising his kids here, too. To say he cares about the health of the forest is an understatement. He started learning about the forest when he was 5 and knows every inch of it, and his boys will be brought up the same way — I live for stories like this…
  2. Zena’s ethos is really beautiful. As stewards of the land, they don’t clear-cut. Rather, they harvest and mill trees when they’re ecologically ready (otherwise known as thinning), always thinking about the health of the forest as a whole. It’s this beautiful process we got to witness firsthand, and it feels intentional, purposeful, and slow. Ben goes around the forest and marks when a tree is ready, based on his silvicultural knowledge. Zena cares about the trees and the planet, full stop.
  3. Zena’s forest is an hour outside of Portland, so it’s as local to us as possible, which means I’m supporting and promoting the local economy/community, avoiding shipping consequences, and keeping the trees in their native PNW. 🙂 (They will sell/ship nationally, too.)
  4. Ready for some woo-woo stuff? As you know, I speak “tree,” and these trees are so well cared for and loved. While this might be a stretch for a lot of people I think that careful stewardship gives the wood and thus your home good energy, too. It’s just like how a salad made with ingredients from a carefully tended backyard garden tastes so much better, the meal so much more enjoyable than a ready-made salad in a plastic container from the grocery store. A tree that has lived a full life feels more soulful than one grown just to be hacked down, glued, and shipped for cheap. FSC regulations exist for a reason, and it’s great to support companies that harvest sustainably. But more than just that, Ben and his family love these trees. I know all you plant parents out there can understand the positive energy of a well-cared-for plant — same goes for these trees. (Which is also why I like reclaimed wood flooring, and handmade or vintage anything — good energy of a life well cared for.)
  5. Ben and his family believe that when done right, commercial goals (running a business with a healthy profit margin) can integrate with mindful stewardship of our local ecosystems. After studying Environmental Studies and Politics at Whitman College, Ben took the reins of the 1300-acre property to ensure that the forest is harvested right, that the wood is looked after, and that there is as little end waste as possible. They use the offcuts from the milling process to feed the furnace, which then heats their kilns. They also go as far to supply their sawdust to local mushroom farmers, (it doesn’t get more community-based than that). The wood is priced with all these special considerations in mind, but for any of you designers out there, trust me — it’s a bargain considering how amazing it is.

We wanted real wood, white oak preferably, “but their engineered product is highly durable, with a more seamless appearance (plus you can sand and refinish it 4 or 5 times within its lifespan). We’ve done solid wood flooring in all three of our previous homes, and all three times we’ve had issues with them — buckling, warping, swelling, cracking — which are not deal-breakers at all and have solutions (plus they were beautiful), and we might opt for solid wood again in the future. But Brian specifically requested we find beautiful wood that might also have an engineered backing, to avoid these problems. Zena’s engineered wood is assembled with nontoxic glues and has been VOC tested and Declare Label certified. Some engineered woods out there — most, actually — aren’t very good, and the technology is just now coming around. But Zena is leading the way and doing it right.

BUT HOW DOES A TREE GET TURNED INTO WOOD FLOORING?

STEP #1: CHOOSE AND CHOP THE TREE

This was so fun to watch and shoot. Ben chooses the tree based on the health of the forest — a tree might be blocking the light of growing saplings underneath it, or possibly leaning and might fall. We shot this in winter, but in summer the canopy would be large, full of leaves, and creating a lot of shade. He keeps big, healthy old-growth trees, letting them grow and grow until they are ready to come down and open the path for a new canopy to thrive. 

It was really special to get to walk the forest with Ben. Brian shot the video while we learned exactly where our wood floors were being sourced from. Lots of good feelings. That’s me, speaking and communing with the trees. Like everything, when they get chopped, the energy has to go somewhere (that’s just physics), and these trees have very happy energy. (Can you tell that’s VERY important to me?)

STEP #2: MILL INTO PLANKS HOW A CIRCLE BECOMES A SQUARE

What you see above is how they take that long, round trunk and mill it back and forth through this massive machine, cutting it in the middle and turning it over and over in different directions to get all the planks you see in the cross-section. The idea is to get as much usable wood out of the tree as possible, with minimal waste. The person running the machine has to be really experienced and know how to turn the log just the right way to get the next cut. It’s awesome to watch.

STEP #3: AIR DRY (ONE YEAR MINIMUM)

You can’t build with wet wood or it will rot, swell, etc. — it has to be dry to be stable. And the thicker the wood, the longer it will take to be ready to use. (P.S. That is why there was a massive wood shortage last year. It wasn’t that we were out of wood, it’s that lockdown shut down the milling/drying process, which meant once we were out of dry wood, the supply plummeted while the demand surged, until the mills caught up. Thus the quadrupled cost of wood for all of us remodeling.)

STEP #4: KILN DRY IN HEAT

To ensure that all moisture is out of the wood, as well as eliminate any bugs, it is transferred to the kiln and dried until the moisture content is as low as 8%. (They say they are mainly in the moisture mitigation business, lol.)

STEP #5: PLANED AND SMOOTHED OUT — ALMOST READY FOR FLOORING

Planing is where they take the wonky but fully dried board and essentially shave a small layer off the top and underside so it’s perfectly flat, smooth, and almost ready to become flooring.

STEP #6: FINAL PREP FOR FLOORING

While you can just lay wood on the floor and call it “wood flooring,” that’s like mixing ice with cream and calling it ice cream. It’s just not how it works. (You could do it that way — it just won’t stay together, may splinter, and will swell, shrink, etc.) For the best flooring product that feels solid and doesn’t come apart, you want it to be milled to connect with a tongue and groove on the sides as well as on the ends, butt to butt (“end-matched”). This makes for an extremely tight and solid fit. Zena does this without a microbevel between the planks, so that when it’s laid in place, it looks extremely seamless. That might not be your look, but it is what we want this time around. (No splinters, no chances of cracks, and no busy lines). Do I lovesolition a 12″-wide-plank reclaimed wood floor? Sure! But I also love a really smooth solid simple surface that is easy to maintain and requires no bandaids for our splintered kid’s toes). Zena then sends out the wood to another local mill for the 4mm hardwood layer to be applied to engineered plywood backing. Finally, their ¾” flooring blanks come back, where those go through the previously discussed tongue & groove + end-match processing, and are bundled/stored in their dryroom for the client.

At the end of the tour we got to see our very own flooring bundled up and we were SO EXCITED. It’s the perfect tone, with all the character and tons of wood grain. Fun fact – a knot is where a branch once was 🙂 Our wood flooring is Oregon-grown white oak, with “character” (not clear or ‘select’ grade). It’s a mix of 4.25”, 5.25”, and 6.25″ variable widths, once shoved together via the tongue and groove you can’t even see the seams, which we love. They have average lengths of 6-8 feet. They’ll be sanded/stained in place (after installed). Our flooring starts at $10.75 a square foot and the lead time can be as little as 1 week, (if the inventory is in stock), but could be 6-10 weeks if your order requires further accumulation and production of the selected hardwood species…having said that, I am anticipating that after this post they won’t be able to keep their floors in stock so hurry while this gem of a company is still flying under the radar with their truly exceptional products!

The knots. The grain pattern. The color variation. Does it look like some other white oak out there? Maybe, but it’s not. It’s special, solid, and smooth.

Zena also makes custom wood heat and AC registers and returns, which we are very excited about, and they have wood for stairs and countertops as well (including butcher block).

It was like going on a field trip in elementary school — I learned so much and came home fulfilled in a way that I hadn’t in a long time. Not only was I even more excited about the flooring, but I felt hope for the planet with people like Ben and his family tending to this forest. Please, if you are interested, head to their site and watch the video, learn more about what they do and how they do it, and see what other products they have. Maybe they are the right fit for you, too?

My goal with the post and partnership is to a) create awareness around Zena’s forest and beautiful ethos, and b) remind the world what really goes into making quality products. We are so used to things being cheap and fast, which typically means they aren’t made with people or the planet in mind. And while no one should be shamed for their budget (low or high), I think we have a skewed perception of what things cost, based on home shows on TV and Amazon-priced everything. If this is outside your budget, I totally get it, and I want you to have a home you love, too, so get the flooring that fits your budget. But if you are privileged enough to be renovating with these stand-out factors in mind then I hope you can see that Zena flooring is absolutely worth it. 🙂

Head to Zena Forest Products’ site to see more, and watch the video without ads here. Thanks for reading along, folks. I hope you learned even 10% of what I did. xx

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

0 0 votes
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

38 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jess
9 months ago

The timing of this post is perfect as I’m about to buy hardwood floors for my home. Thank you for all the details, I learned so much. 🙂 I’m excited to see USA-made flooring. How do you plan to finish your floors once they are in place? Stain? Poly? We are thinking of using tung oil.

SLG
9 months ago
Reply to  Jess

I would also love to hear about how you plan to finish them. I’m in the middle of choosing a finish for while oak flooring and it’s harder than I thought!
Also, your floors-to-be are beautiful!

Dena
9 months ago
Reply to  Jess

We did tung oil mixed with orange oil. I love how natural it looks and no toxins! We used realmilkpaint.com products. I do not work for them just love to share more natural, less off gassing ways of doing things!

Annie
9 months ago

It’s really cheering that sustainability is always at the forefront of your thinking.

I’m so happy you’re renovating with the planet and sustainability in mind this time around! Your influence is large, so it’s important. What a cool company! I’m glad there are companies like this around. I hope they get a ton of business from you!
Question that I just have to ask because I’m curious. Are they gifting your floor, or are you paying for it yourselves?

Susan
9 months ago

My dad was a forester and his job was to cruise timber in the forest and select which trees loggers would be allowed to harvest. When done correctly, selective harvesting actually keeps a forest healthy. Because humans live near and in forests, we can no longer safely let nature just run its course. We did this in the boundary waters, and a wind storm blew down a huge amount of trees that were at the end of their life span, which then made amazing fuel for the subsequent wildfires that roared through. A sustainably managed forest wouldn’t have lost so many trees to the blow down, and would have weathered the wildfires better. The charred barren land did leave us the opportunity to observe forest regeneration, but the fact is, harvesting timber isn’t “bad”. It just needs to be done selectively with good intention.
I’m with you on the “woo woo good energy ” part of the story, knowing your floors came from a well cared for plot of trees.

Katie
9 months ago

I am actually shocked that the price per square foot was so low. It is true that it is outside what I personally could afford, and yet compared to what I see for people who lots of money to spend this wouldn’t be prohibitive for them. It’s a beautiful floor, and a beautiful company.

Alexandre
9 months ago

This is just awesome!

Stacy
9 months ago

wow! I love this so much. It’s heartbreaking driving around the NW and seeing clear cut sections of forest. No good energy there. This is timber harvesting the way it should be! Thanks for sharing such a great company with us!

Elle
9 months ago

Really surprised that your old solid-wood floors swelled and split and gave your kids splinters – in three separate houses. Is that normal? I’ve got solid wood floors (hundred-year-old original pine) and they have never done that – some of them have been exposed floorboards for fifty years. And they’re not even a hard wood. Your engineered veneer floors look lovely and I hope they stand up better!

CHRISTA
9 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I think older wood has settled. Newly cut wood is still releasing oils and gasses and is susceptible to cupping or swelling. Engineered wood is more stable because it’s layered, same as plywood.

Ano
9 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I’m also super surprised and would be interested in more information on this. I also think it’s be great if you found similar companies in other areas (east coast) to highlight so everyone has local options 🙂

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago
Reply to  Elle

Same. Almost 100 yr old floors, solid planks that are the actual floor (no so-called ‘sub-floor’).
A few bits n bobs, slight gaps between boards here n there, but splinters??? Never have I heard of that!

Rebecca Lemon
8 months ago
Reply to  Elle

Our pine kitchen floors gave us splinters! Probably 80ish years old?
Also, I don’t think the post actually says that her kids got splinters? Just that this flooring *wouldn’t* give spliters.

Sara
8 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I found this perplexing too, especially three houses. My last joke had 80 year old white oak floors and this 100/plus new on the first floor because they were too thin to sand. We’ve never experienced any of those issues.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

#Tjis.us.a.step.in.the.right.direction!
Yaaay! 🤗xx

I volunteer copy wriying and training wotjshop skills for WAFA – Western Australian Forrest Alliance. These people have worked tirelessly to protect the old frowth firests of the south west.
Last year, thd state govt. legislated to protect old growth, virgin (ish) forest.
It makes me sooo happy!😁♥️

Deborah
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

That is wonderful that you do that Rusty, old growth trees and forests are so important for wildlife, especially larger cockatoos for nest hollows, and trees for forage foods. It broke my heart watching (via Instagram) a forest of mature she-oaks, which are the primary food source for venerable Glossy Black Cockatoos, bulldozed down to make way for development. 🙁 That was despite months and months of protests, and petitions and suggestions for land swaps to preserve a precious food source, not just for the Glossies, but all the animals in that forest.

Good job Rusty with your part in protecting old growth forests!! 🙂
~Deborah

Professor
9 months ago

I am really astonished that hardwood flooring gave you so many problems. Isn’t the conventional wisdom that hardwood lasts for literally 100+ years with no problems? I have always had hardwood floors, so I don’t know any alternative but I have never had issues with cracking/buckling/ warping/ swelling and have never ever heard this to happen. Our last house was 100 years old and had original oak floors, our current house has 30+ year old floors and they have always been perfect. What a weird thing to happen to Emily. You must be one in a million !!

Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Professor

Moisture or drought will do it! It could be a climate thing or water damage or general use. My floor in the kitchen is like that. Husband forgot to turn off faucet during construction and it overflown for a few minutes. Then a few weeks later a sink drain failed. We dried it, but not long enough I guess. It did have warped edges (i forgot how it’s called). A year later we sanded. Then months later it finally dried and the boards do have a slight curve to them, now in the other direction. Also, when we refinished the floors contractor did fill the gaps between the boards, which also dried and some gaps returned and where there are gaps there could be splints. A few small pieces come out once in a while. Not too much to make a fuss though The splints are in other rooms, bit in the kitchen That’s an original white oak floor from the 1950. I still wouldn’t change it unless it was totally damaged. The floors also squeak. All the wooden floors from that era squeak in so many houses I’ve been to. It’s charming only when you don’t have newborns and… Read more »

Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Professor

My grandparents’ farm house in Poland had these gorgeous huge planks of wood on the floor. Wood dried after so many years and created gaps. It would be necessary to unscrew them and screw them again but closer. But people don’t do that because it’s inconvenient and costly unless they do a major remodel. The point is that wood can get damaged on its own and when people don’t care

Att
9 months ago
Reply to  Professor

Oh interesting I feel like all I ever hear about is peoples hardwood floors getting damaged. And I don’t even have wood floors (or a house) haha

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

It sounds like choosing your own trees and making them into floors takes well over a year (since the wood has to dry for a year). Did it?

Lisa
9 months ago

Hi guys. This sounds like a wonderful product and company. I am heartened by their approach. For the future usefulness of this post, the top image/graphic says “ACUTAL” instead of “ACTUAL” and you might want to correct it.

Chelsea
8 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

There are many more errors in this post than just in the top image. Copyediting is not this blog’s strong suit.

Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Chelsea

we’ve actually hired a copy editor (they even teach at nyu!) and they reviewed this post – would love to flag any other errors for them if you don’t mind sharing!!

l
8 months ago

“Lovesolition” & the stray parenthesis after “splintered kid’s toes”…

Kj
8 months ago

Only because you asked (and because I am not an editor just an avid reader): PNW – probably not technically correct but does it matter (i.e., Pacific Northwest) Zena Forest Products – subsequently referred to once as ZFP but no (ZFP) included after first mention of proper name Zena Forest Products. Additionally Zena Forest Products is subsequently referred to as “Zena” 14 times. Better to pick one way or the other (i.e. all “Zena” or all “ZFP”)? FYI, the company consistently refers to itself (on all their website pages) as “Zena” only, never “ZFP”. FSC regulations exist for a reason – Acronym not clearly identified, should it be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) They also go as far to supply their sawdust to local mushroom farmers, (it doesn’t get more community-based than that). – better “go SO far AS”? We wanted real wood, white oak preferably, “but their engineered product is highly durable, with a more seamless appearance (plus you can sand and refinish it 4 or 5 times within its lifespan). – Missing quote Declare Label certified – given that a “Declare Label” is essentially just a “nutrtion label” it would be more meaningful to point out if the product is also “Living Building Challenge Criteria”… Read more »

Jen
9 months ago

Beautiful – thanks for sharing.

9 months ago

Love this! I had no idea that a knot is from a branch!! You blew my mind!

A.B.
9 months ago

Thank you for all of this. Beautiful company and purpose.

Patricia
9 months ago

I hope when you finally finish this awesome farmhouse, you invite some of the crafts (including the tree people) who made this possible, to the housewarming/ open house. And invite us, via photos and blog, to the party too. Is it too late to turn this into an amazing television show? Can Brian film it step by step and turn it into a you tube show?

Jocelyn
9 months ago

For those of us on the East Coast, who would like to order local-ish like you did, which companies would you suggest we look to for a similar sustainable product?

Julie
9 months ago

This was really informative and your floors look beautiful! Also, your smiles are the best! So genuine! I’m so excited for you and your future new home. 🙂

Emily
9 months ago

For anyone in the Midwest, I’d highly recommend Schafer Hardwoods. They are located near Detroit, but I think they ship nationwide. Though I can’t speak to their sustainable forestry efforts (not saying it’s something they don’t practice, I’m just unaware if they do or not), they are very committed to many of the other qualities Emily mentioned here – high quality engineered floors that can be refinished multiple times, use of non VOC materials, people who are passionate about the quality of their product, etc… We recently installed 7in white oak boards and they are beautiful. Every flooring company that came out to quote us on the install/finish had nothing but rave reviews for the company and quality of the product.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

#This.us.a.step.in.the.right.direction!
Yaaay! 🤗xx

I volunteer copy wriying and training wotjshop skills for WAFA – Western Australian Forrest Alliance. These people have worked tirelessly to protect the old frowth firests of the south west.
Last year, thd state govt. legislated to protect old growth, virgin (ish) forest.
It makes me sooo happy!😁♥️

Deborah
9 months ago

Thank you for introducing us to this terrific company with great values! 🙂
It’s fascinating to learn more about the process and behind the scenes of sustainable hardwood flooring, and the flooring you and Brian choose is gorgeous!
~Deborah

Monica
8 months ago

Seeing that mill in the video really made me miss The Waltons TV show LOL
Love all that the Deumlings are doing!

8 months ago

This is really useful, thank you for sharing!

Go To Top