Our Sustainably Grown White Oak Wood Floors, One Year Later (Why We Love Them And What Makes Them Special)

I love our wood floors so much and today I’m going to tell you why and brag a bit about them. Wood flooring might be the most important “permanent finish” in your home. It’s clearly a very high-impact design element (you see it everywhere, all the time, from every angle, in so many rooms) and it also gets a ton of wear and tear so longevity and durability are crucial. “Fashion” and “function” should be really scrutinized here. I’ve always chosen fashion over practicality and am so excited to report that this white oak flooring checks both boxes equally (and more).

As you might know, we reached out to Zena Forest Products a couple of years ago when we first bought the property, thanks to a few reader suggestions. I really, really wanted Oregon-grown and sustainably-milled wood for our home. I can get really woo-woo about this stuff, but to me, it’s like buying lettuce from your farmers’ market (or better yet growing it yourself) versus packaged lettuce from the supermarket. Both work! But not only do you feel better about your purchase (which is a privileged one), but you get a better-tasting product, that lived a happier life and took less energy to get to you. It’s not always possible, of course, and maybe it’s not possible for a lot of things in your home, based on your budget. But I like to think that real wood brings so much soul, and soul makes a home feel just so happy. Zena Forest Products makes sure that the trees have a happy life and they only mill them when they are ready. And yet they are relatively affordable, family-owned, and – importantly – so beautiful. So today, now that it’s been installed for over a year, I’ll walk you through our flooring so you can see why we chose it and how it’s holding up to wear-and-tear from our family. If you are in the market for flooring please read the blog post about Zena Forest Products (outside Salem) where I show you the whole process of how our flooring was milled, soup to nuts 🙂

Family-Run, Locally Produced, Sustainably Milled

I wrote a whole post about it, but I couldn’t leave this point out of this post because it matters. YAY to people/companies like this who despite increasingly challenging profit margins continue to care and do it in such a beautiful way. Ben Deumling (who owns and runs the mill) was raised on the Zena Forest property and knows every inch from working it as a child. He and his wife are now raising their two kids there and after spending the day with him and his crew, seeing how they are real stewards of the land and care so much, watching the whole milling process I can’t tell you how happy we were to be partnering with them on this. Listen, I like a lot of wood flooring out there and I’m not saying this is perfect for every project or budget, but boy I am so pleased with this flooring in every single way.

We Love The Natural Grain Variation, Knots, And Character

entry reveal

Our flooring is so darn pretty. It’s Oregon white oak (which is native to our area and has been here for hundreds of years, if not more). At Zena Forest Products, an actual 1300 acre forest outside of Salem, these trees grow to maturity before being milled, and when they are finally cut more are planted immediately. They live with many other flora and fauna – not like a Christmas tree farm that you might think of. White oak is a hardwood (cliff notes: hardwoods are from deciduous trees, softwoods are evergreen like pine and Doug fir). I love both, but pine or Doug fir can stain really yellow and dent easily (which is why they are usually used as building materials). In our white oak flooring, as you can see, there is so much variety in the knots and grain. We didn’t want the “clear” version (which is actually more expensive but available as an option) that eliminates knots and looks more uniform. Knots are actually where branches formed out of the trunk – and we were adamant to include them.

Various Widths And Lengths = Non-Uniform Yet Cohesive Look

living room reveal

We have various lengths and widths, allowing for it to again, not look uniform in the best way. While the wide plank is the current trend/preference, it either has to come from extremely old growth (thus very expensive) or is mass manufactured (which can be great, but not what we were looking for). So you’ll see anywhere between 4″ – 6″ widths and 2′ – 8′ lengths. I personally think this adds more character and you can barely notice – nothing jumps out, but it reads as natural.

Real Wood On Engineered Backing

from: introducing the most beautiful wood flooring in the world, by an oregon run, family-owned, sustainably sourced mill – (zena forest products) for the farmhouse

We have always preferred and installed real wood without it being applied to engineered backing and every time we’ve loved the look of it and yet had issues with it. We’ve had either extreme cracks (that collected crumbs and snagged toes), acclimation issues, or buckling if water sat for too long (which happened in all three houses). I LOVE our mountain house reclaimed wood flooring so much, but we have to wear slippers to not get splinters (Ross Alan fixed this after our install and now adheres it on engineered backing – we also did not have an experienced installer who neglected to put the filler layer, which we now know is crucial to smoothing out natural cracks, holes and gaps. It also keeps them from getting worse).

That’s all to say we really, really didn’t want to run into this problem again, and yet we wanted real wood that could be refinished multiple times over the next 100 years. When I reached out to Zena I was fearful that they would say they were solid hardwood, and that was a deal breaker for us (mostly Brian – that guy got more splinters than the rest of us combined). So when they said they had them sustainably adhered to engineered wood – wood that doesn’t move, swell, change size, etc – we were ecstatic. Fifteen years ago engineered wood flooring was a thin layer of veneer on faux backing and didn’t look as good. However, now it’s executed so beautifully and gives a better more long-lasting product with a thick layer of real wood on top – up to four refinishes which is a LOT. To be fair if you have old-growth real wood flooring – wide plank and from really mature trees, you are so lucky. But most wood from newer milled trees doesn’t have the same level of strength and density that the more mature trees have so engineering them truly elongates their life. I loved the white oak in our LA house, but every spring it would buckle in places with moisture (it was herringbone so maybe that had something to do with it). We just didn’t want to have to worry this time and my goodness it’s a solid, smooth floor. We LOVE IT.

Stain In Place, Not Pre-Finished

There are two types of wood flooring you can install and both can be good for different reasons – “pre-finished” or “sand & stain in place.” Pre-finished can be more budget-friendly and is a great option for sure. But our Zena flooring is “sand & stain in place,” which means your installer lays it (it’s tongue and groove and installs very easily) and then sands, fills, and stains or seals it. The install can be more expensive because of the process (which only takes 2-3 more days depending on your square footage), but the benefit is that you get a totally smooth surface without a micro bevel in between the wood planks. It just looks so beautiful, seamless, and high quality. You can also obviously control the color, too, as you choose the stain or sealant. We wanted white oak with a clear matte sealant to enhance the grain but nothing more and got just that. Of course, we could have gone darker but we LOVE this warm color.

I feel like right now what is “in” is a cooler version of this which I also love (and my brother chose it for their house), but this warmth is just so stunning, happy and I think unique. It looks so real and we get compliments on it every day when people come into our home. Also, it mops up so easily (which is my job on Sundays after Brian vacuums) and sparkles pretty darn easily (we use Bona wood cleaner, that’s it). I can’t speak to the longevity of the stain as I’m sure it will fade in places where the sun hits it more, but it’s just gorgeous and easy to maintain because it’s real, smooth wood.

The warmth of the natural color with the clear matte sealant works so well with all our blues and whites in the house. You can certainly tweak the tone (easily) but we didn’t want to.

Lastly, Affordability

We needed 2000 square feet of flooring including overage (just the first floor and not the tiled rooms) and it would be 10$/square foot – so it would have cost $20k (not including install which was basically another $10/square foot). This is, of course, more expensive than a lot of basic flooring, but it’s actually far less than some of the other wood flooring we were eyeing that I had gotten samples of. The price is actually so competitive with really good quality, sustainably sourced wood, and yet it’s sourced in Oregon/America, and it’s a small family company.

dining nook reveal

Custom Wood Vents

kitchen reveal | closet reveal

They also make custom wood vents that can be installed when the flooring is installed and stained along with them. You can order any size and they just integrate so perfectly into your flooring.

from: introducing the most beautiful wood flooring in the world, by an oregon run, family-owned, sustainably sourced mill – (zena forest products) for the farmhouse
from: introducing the most beautiful wood flooring in the world, by an oregon run, family-owned, sustainably sourced mill – (zena forest products) for the farmhouse

We Love Our Wood Flooring So So Much

I can’t tell you how happy we are. We all know what cheap flooring feels like, which has its place and is often a budget necessity (we floated laminate “wood” in our old basement – it was the right choice for the space) but for this home we wanted it to feel solid, grounded, smooth, and yet it’s still SO durable. It’s only been a year, but so far it’s beautiful and flawless. It’s so tightly installed that it feels unbreakable and impossible to dent. No pup nail scratches, either – we just don’t worry about it at all.

kitchen reveal

A huge thanks to Zena Forest Products for partnering on our flooring. Ben and his family are just so wonderful. Like I said at the start, the owner, Ben, was raised on the property and has worked the land since he was a child and is now raising his kids there. Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age (or just wanting purpose and meaning in everything) but that really matters to us. It’s a great high-quality product, so thoughtfully made, by great people that makes our home look so beautiful everywhere you turn. We feel very lucky. If you are in the market for wood flooring know that I wholeheartedly endorse this family, this forest, and our beautiful white oak flooring. xx

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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