Another convention is in the books for the National Wood Flooring Association Expo, held last April in Tampa, Fla. Big thanks go out to the NWFA staff and all those who made it another great event! The week was full of meetings, education, walking the exhibitor’s hall, seeing old friends—and making new ones (Photo 1).

This year’s theme was “Deep Dive” and the keynote speakers were Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac, owners of Cousins Maine Lobster. Through an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank, they’ve grown from a small food truck operation into a successful national franchise. And since they already experienced the real Shark Tank, who better to judge the NWFA’s “Plank Tank” version of the show?

Three participants were each given a chance to pitch their product. The winning entry was awarded to Osiel Betancourt of Insight Flooring Technologies LLC for an app called QuoteHero. The app is designed for contractors to put together an estimate quickly and easily at the time of the visit, rather than having to take it back to the office and work all the numbers. The winner received a $15,000 custom package from the NWFA Marketing and Education Product Services to further help them succeed in their business (Photo 2).

Education and networking

Education is always an important part of the NWFA and it shows with 51 education sessions at this year’s Expo. The NWFACP symposium—open to NWFA members and Certified Professionals—was held the day prior to the NWFA Expo with topics designed to help installers, inspectors and sales associates. The next two days of the Expo featured NWFA education sessions, where I had the opportunity to moderate four panel discussions. Topics included wood subfloors, noisy floors, building envelopes and adhesives. The panelists represented organizations including APA – The Engineered Wood Association, the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association (HPVA), Forest Products Laboratory, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) as well as subfloor and adhesive manufacturers, and an NWFACP inspector (Photo 3).

So, what happens after a long day of education or walking the aisles and visiting with exhibitors? Networking and socializing! Oh yes, that’s what we call it, and we’re all great at it, too—dinner with friends old and new, meeting up with business associates and relaxing with family if you make a business vacation out of it. If you’re one of those who goes back to the hotel to catch up on emails, phone calls and just plain old work—stop! Enjoy your time at these events and you’ll still be able to build good business relationships.

A big shout out to Tony and Don from Ottley Floor Covering Inc., my local distributor from Salt Lake City (Photo 4); also to Ted and Brandon of Sunwood Distribution who I kept running into at the hotel and who definitely know the meaning of socializing as they were always with a group when I saw them.

Photo 5 shows more socializing. First on the left is Alex Toh with The Woodcrafters Pte Ltd., all the way from Singapore to attend the NWFA Expo. Alex is also a NWFA Certified Installer, Sand and Finisher. Then it’s me and my wife Suzy, who puts up with a lot of stuff from me! To her left is Ken Tran, owner of AAA Hardwood Floors in Phoenix, and an NWFA Certified Installer, Sand and Finisher, and Inspector.

Speaking of networking, I met up with an up-and-coming installer/inventor who I see going places. His name is Eric Zurn. I first met Eric at the Bullet Tools booth at TISE in Las Vegas earlier this year and met up with him again at the NWFA Expo. Eric’s passion for inventing and modifying tools to make it easier for the installer is great to see. Wishing you the best, Eric! (Photo 6)

Product highlights

So, what was it like on the show floor this year? The Tech Zone featured NWFA regional instructors demonstrating the use of sleds for a table saw, and exhibitors had the opportunity to do live demonstrations of their products (Photo 7).

Are you always wondering exactly how much money you lose every time you open a bucket of adhesive, and see the first one to two inches hardened to the point that you cut it out and throw it away? Well, Mark Lamano with Titebond demonstrated their 811 Advantage and 771-Step sound and moisture control adhesives in 0.75 gallon pouches. The pouch design is not a traditional “sausage” pack that fits into a cartridge applicator. Rather it’s designed to take the place of a pail with less waste. The pouch can be sealed and the amount of air entrapment is virtually eliminated, thus maintaining the longevity of the adhesive (Photo 8).

On the finish side of things, I’m seeing more companies introducing water-based finishes. Hard wax oils, tung oils, soy-based and PolyWhey products were still well-represented by exhibitors also.

Do we like installing the last few rows on a nail-down installation knowing that we’ll need to either use a palm nailer, adhesive or face nail? No, because it slows our production. Primatech is introducing an 18-gauge pneumatic cleat nailer called “the EDGE.” The tool can work with 1/2 to 3/4 in. engineered and solid products, and from what I could see at their booth, it looks like you can get as close as two to three inches to the wall with the fastener. Mike Kearns of Primatech told me that the cleats are still seated at an angle and tighten the boards as the installer is nailing (Photo 9).

I am not 30 years old anymore and even when I was 30 my back still hurt from a long day of edging! There were a couple of exhibiting manufacturers that are making it easier for installers. One is a stand up edger from Klindex (Photo 10), and another was an edger dolly where an installer can sit and lean on a pad, creating less stress on the back.

One of the most unique things I saw at the show was a CNC machine. You’re probably thinking, “Ok, so what’s so great about a CNC machine, Jon? We already know about them.” Did you know that there is a handheld CNC machine you use directly on top of your hardwood floors to make any design and pattern you can imagine just by programming it? The tool is called “Shaper Origin” (Photo 11) and it’s from If you weren’t at the NWFA Expo you’ll have to see it online. For those of us who got to see it in use, it’s quite a forward step in technology for intricate patterns and it was just a really neat tool to see!

Honoring our veterans

One of the events I am most honored to attend at Expo is the Jim and Linda Shubert Reception. These two—along with Barbara Titus of Sheoga Hardwood Flooring and Paneling, who got involved with a Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF) project in her area and brought information regarding the foundation to the NWFA Board of Directors—have been instrumental in bringing the GSF and NWFA together as partners to assist with hardwood installations for our great veterans who have given so much.

To date, the NWFA has supported 26 homes, with another 21 in various stages of planning and construction. This year’s veteran, who we had the honor of meeting, was USMC Cpl. Sean Adams. To learn more about USMC Cpl. Adams and what he and others like him have gone through for our country, please go to And if you can, please give a donation to help and honor those who fight to protect our freedom.

The 2019 NWFA Expo will be held May 1-3, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas. I hope to see you there!