Wood: it's natural; it's durable; and it can be in demand in your future. The versatility of wood finds a useful place in all segments of the marketplace and all design environments. I see the split between the products being on-site finish and pre-finished. Since I want to stimulate your thinking in the entry market, I want to concentrate on pre-finished flooring materials, but don't be fooled into thinking these are novice level installations.
Pre-finished flooring products can be divided into three categories: laminate, engineered and solid. If you have been waiting for laminate to drift away, get a clue. Consumers are keenly aware of it, thanks to manufacturer marketing campaigns.
Advancements have been made to simplify the installation process. Wet adhesives properly applied to the tongue and groove work wonderfully, but mechanical joints are sweeping the market, along with factory applied edge bond/sealer. There is no doubt this appeals to the DIY market, but it doesn't necessarily mean consumers really want to do it themselves. I see this sometimes as the educated consumer wanting to understand the installation process and product they are investing in. Ease of installation also equates with labor savings. Another consumer appeal is the mock ceramic finish that can be straight-laid or blended with a wood finish product.
Engineered products are built up of several layers resembling the make-up of a plywood product, or a composite for the backing. The benefit is that it provides a stable solid material that more often than not can be sanded and re-finished a couple of times over its lifetime. Gone are the days when the walking surfaces of engineered products were made of leftovers from other industries. Splintered edges and miss-cut ends are almost a thing of the past.
Consumers get real wood with a nearly flawless factory finish in a stain color range that can satisfy anything from an Early American to an Art Deco interior design. These products are generally installed direct glue.
Solid materials, such as strip wood and parquet, are another area of pre-finished flooring. Strip wood is often thicker gauge and requires a nail-down installation just like unfinished strip wood floor installations.
Unfinished wood flooring materials require an on-site, after installation finish. Large drum sanders are utilized to create a smooth surface, then on with the filling, staining and sealing process. The skill level and equipment needed are at the topside of the investment scale, but the payback is that re-finishing existing flooring opens the door to increased volume of sales. I cannot say enough about customized installation.
Simple patterns can be achieved by adding feature strips, borders or insets or by mixing different finishes within the design. You can also create a pattern effect in an area by changing the layout direction and using the same finish. Off the shelf high style pre-cut borders and insets are also plentiful. Adding unique details sets your work apart. Do some homework. Investigate the product lines for availability, design capability, installation advantages, etc.
To me, wood installation is simply a skills issue, in terms of underlayment, prep, layout, trim to size and bond. Maybe this is a quick wink, but you know the basic concept. There is an abundance of manufacturer and floor covering association training, plus the INSTALL program. It's time to get on board, educate yourself and get the board on the floor.