historic hardwood flooring ottawa

In a location with snowy winters, the logging process began in the fall when a team of men hauled tools upstream into the timbered area, chopped out a clearing, and constructed crude buildings for a logging camp. In the winter when things froze down, a larger crew moved into the camp and proceeded to fell trees, cutting the trunks into 16-foot lengths, and hauling the logs with oxen or horses over iced trails to the riverbank. There the logs were decked onto “rollways.” In the spring when snow thawed and water levels rose, the logs were rolled into the river, and the log drive commenced. Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Canada has a long and rich timber trade history. Fuelled by demand from Europe, wood was the staple Canadian trade commodity for most of the 19th century. The industry provided employment and saw people immigrate to the Eastern Canada region in search of a better life. According to historians, the timber trade had a more profound impact on our development as a nation (thanks to the exploration and development of waterways and rail transportation), when compared with the other early major industry: the fur and fish trade.

Fun Facts About Hardwood Flooring

The Logs End hardwood flooring team is fortunate to have two locations: our showroom on Iber Road in Stittsville, located in Ottawa’s West End and the mill in Bristol, Quebec. These two locations allow our family owned and operated company to stay connect with not only our clients, but with the waterways which so generously support our wood flooring collections.

Visitors to either of our locations (showroom is open during the week, the mill is by appointment only) often arrive looking to view samples and end up staying to learn about the timber trade of yesteryear. Which is why we thought it might be fun to share some fun facts about hardwood flooring!

Did You Know…

  • There are no two hardwood floors that look alike. Just like snowflakes, every wood has its own grain that will vary slightly from tree to tree.
  • Wood flooring was first recognized as an interior design element in 1693/1964. Wood panel flooring was used in the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles) when the deteriorating wooden joists below the original marble floor had to be replaced. The heavy washing of the marble floor had lead to joist rot and it was expected that wood flooring would lessen the need for constant washing.
  • Wood flooring produced in the 16-19th century was always solid, hand produced and very expensive. Wood floors were de rigueur in palaces and manor homes, where wealth was openly displayed and designed to impress.
  • Wood flooring found in commoners’ homes were produced from rough, hand-hewn planks. These floors would have been installed by the home owner and it was surely a painstaking process that involved a great deal of hand-cutting.
  • From 1700-1800, wide planks and long planks were the norm. Many floors were at least 7/8″ thick, 3 to 8 inches wide and could be up to 16-18 feet long. It is believed the planks were this large given the lack of subfloors and the fact planks were nailed directly to joists. Unlike modern day flooring, there were no guaranteed or standard dimensions!
  • Tongue and Groove was always planed by hand in the early years, making it a flooring product that only the wealthiest could afford. The tongue and groove we know today (machined) did not come into existence until the late 1880, when the “side matcher” was invented. This new milling option allowed wood floors to be blind-nailed. It was not until 1898 that the end-matcher came into existence, forever changing how floors were installed.
  • By the 1920s, North America was prospering. Post-war homes were being build with Oak floors, as they were considered an investment, affordable and promised to stand the test of time. Here in Ottawa, many homes built at the turn of the century have stunning hardwood floors that have been brought back to life. The wood, including oak, birch, pine, and maple, is still going strong!
  • In the 1920s, the electric sander was invented. This marvel allowed flooring installers to sand and level floors in record time.
  • The Great Depression was hard on the timber trade and wood flooring industry. Banks stopped lending money and new homes were not being built. By the start of World War II, the industry bounced back with war-time factories opting for hardwood floors.
  • History repeated itself in the 1940s, as the post-war housing boom saw builders struggling to keep up to demand. Hardwood floors were still being installed as a standard features, but the process required lots of manpower, was labour intensive and homeowners had to wax the floors weekly.
  • While parquetry had been used in the building of St. Petersburg in the 18th century, it was not until the late 1940s that the first engineered wood floors (parquet and herringbone) were produced. Both products proved to have limited durability, as the early versions were made from very thin wood, but it was a step forward for the wood flooring industry.
  •  The 1950s were truly the golden age of hardwood flooring, as homes and subdivisions were being built across Canada and the United States. Carpet was still being refined and was expensive. Linoleum had mixed homeowner reaction. Meanwhile wood was selling like never before.
  • By the 1960s, a shift occurred. Home construction moved to cheaper alternatives in every area. Site finished wood flooring was become too costly and time consuming. And in the United Sates, the Federal Housing Authority approved carpet as part of a 30-year mortgage. Wall to wall carpet was much faster and cheaper to install, and so the hardwood flooring industry started to crash and did not see a recovery until after the recession in the 1980s.
  • By the late 1980s and early 1990s, wood flooring was slowly making a comeback. New pre-finished options surfaced, along with a slew of new colours (stains) and finishes. Engineered flooring gained in popularity for its easy care and installers were drawn to the options like solid floors, floating floors, glue-down and nail-down options.
  • In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Canadian real estate agents started noting that hardwood floors added significant value to the resale of a home. Homeowners were advised that wood floors meant a home would sell faster and for more money. The better quality the flooring, the better the return on investment.
  • In the 2000s, the movement towards green and sustainable flooring choices lead to new options on the market. Logs End has proudly been a leader in this area and continues to source river-reclaimed wood in an environmentally sound manner that benefits marine life.
  • The new-growth hardwood Logs End uses is environmentally responsible and harvested only from certified managed forests. Logs End is a member of the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC). No matter which of our wood flooring products you choose, you can be assured it was made with the environment in mind.

Have questions? Want to know more about wood flooring?

Logs End is committed to knowledge sharing about the early timber trade and its impact on the hardwood flooring industry. We have a small museum setup in our showroom and encourage interested visitors to please come for a look. We would love to talk wood and hope we can help create an interest in the future of the industry by looking to its rich past.