NOFMA Certified flooring marked with logo.

Certification inspector checking configuration standard with a gauge.
In today's market place, certification of wood flooring is available from two perspectives. Flooring can be certified as to how it is manufactured or the flooring raw material can be certified as having come from properly managed forests.

Certification of the manufacturing process has been in place for many years. NOFMA, The Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association, has been certifying that members' flooring products are correctly manufactured since before 1930. Other associations with written grade rules and standards for the manufacture of wood flooring are MFMA (Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association), CLA (Canadian Lumbermen's Association), and SPIB (Southern Pine Inspection Bureau).

Inspector checking for grading standard compliance.
The certification of the raw material has only come about in the past few years. The very diverse nature of the hardwood forest with respect to size and private ownership makes forest certification difficult. This, coupled with the fact that hardwood lumber manufacturers get logs from many sources, make documentation of the custody chain very difficult. In addition, the facts show that hardwood forest have been managed without certification for many years and are not only sustainable but produce more wood fiber than is being harvested. The US now has significantly more hardwood growing in the forest than 50 years ago, nearly twice as much. At the present time, the market does not place a premium on environmental certification of the raw material. Environmentally certified product does not command a significantly higher price, so availability of certified flooring lumber currently is limited to only a few manufacturers.

What does certification of manufactured flooring mean? The term "certification" means to vouch for or guarantee that the quality of product meets an established standard. NOFMA vouches for its members' products through quarterly plant inspections by staff inspectors. These inspections attest that the certification standards of manufacture are being met.

Inspector checking compliance to moisture standard.
If the inspection shows the product does not meet the minimum standard, the manufacturer can be placed on probation. If compliance is not achieved on subsequent inspections, the manufacturer can be expelled from the association. NOFMA inspectors check for grade, moisture content, and configuration. These standards of manufacture will be covered in the next issue. MFMA and SPIB also certify that their members' stamped products meet their individual association guidelines through product inspections. The CLA reports their members adhere to their written rules but they do not certify flooring products.

Inspector marking improperly graded board.
Over the years NOFMA has developed standards for certification of wood flooring manufacture. These were the basis for the written commercial standards issued by the US federal government until 1966. In 1966 the government withdrew the current standard, CS56-60, and accepted the NOFMA Official Flooring Grading Rules as the standard of the industry.

Why is certification important? After all, manufacturers who are not NOFMA members say they manufacture to the NOFMA standard. The basis of certification is third party review. Without third party inspection, a manufacturer's claim of meeting the NOFMA, MFMA, or SPIB standard is just that, a claim.

MFMA certification logo.
In the case of NOFMA-member product, that claim is backed by the third party review of the association. NOFMA actually checks the product with the referenced Official Flooring Grading Rule standard. The non-certified product standard is generally not published, and while it may be based on the NOFMA standard, it is unlikely to actually meet NOFMA's standard.

MFMA grade name identifying grade of bundle.
That's because NOFMA frequently reviews its standards and makes adjustments on a regular basis to reflect market demands and improved manufacturing capabilities. Recently grade name changes have been initiated to differentiate certified product from non-certified product by using NOFMA in the grade name. Also the grade names First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade etc., were changed to Select, # 1 Common, # 2 Common, etc., to show grade character consistency as associated with the species throughout the naming scheme.

NOFMA requied certified grade name identifying grade of bundle.
Revisions have also addressed manufacturing tolerances related to configuration, as well as defining some of these tolerances. The other certifying agencies, SPIB and MFMA, conduct similar reviews and make changes as necessary. All certifying agencies publish their revised rules to ensure the marketplace knows what to expect in a certified product.

The certified product assures the proper grade, correct moisture content, and correct configuration.

NOFMA requires that all pieces are marked with a number/logo etc. identifying manufacturer.
The consumer then has a base line for product appearance and performance. In addition, where objection or complaints are issued, written policies are in place for procedures on how to handle the complaint. An official complaint inspection or re-inspection can be authorized. Manufacturers of certified product agree to abide by the results of the official inspection.

SPIB certified grade stamp.
Policies also state that if a manufacturing problem is identified to be more than 5 percent (in feet), the shipper is in the wrong; and if less than 5 percent, the party initiating the complaint is responsible. When non-certified product is used and problems occur, the consumer (homeowner, contractor, builder, etc.) must deal with the situation without other official support.