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Webinar Round Up: COVID-19 and Brexit Create 'Perfect Storm' In Timber Industry

We recently met with the Timber Trade Federation and CBI Wales for an in-depth webinar discussing two of the biggest issues facing the timber sector right now: Covid-19 and Brexit. The webinar explored how the pandemic and Brexit have affected the timber industry, including the challenges to supply and logistics. The event was led by Ian Price, Director of CBI Wales, a not-for-profit business organisation that provides a link between its members and the Welsh and UK governments. On the panel was our very own Josh Burbidge, Managing Director of Archwood Group, and David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation, the UK’s foremost membership body for the timber supply chain. Here’s a round-up of some of the biggest topics from the webinar in case you missed it. Starting off the discussion, David explained how Brexit and the pandemic have combined to create a “perfect storm”. He said: “They’ve both presented barriers to trade and doing business. The pandemic has increased demand for timber products, whereas Brexit, over time, will produce a drag on doing business.” David said that while sawmills and manufacturing centres around the world had to close because of Covid-19 restrictions, people across the UK were put on furlough, with many receiving almost their full pay. And because they were spending so much time at home and they couldn’t go on holiday, they decided to improve their homes and gardens, which caused demand for timber products to shoot up. This happened not just in the UK, but around the world. David said: “The stocks that were available went down and down and down, so by the time the sawmills and producers could reopen and start moving goods again, they were playing catch up, and that process is still ongoing. We have a very tight situation in the market. “On top of that, at the start of this year, various issues to do with Brexit came in. Each one of those presents more paperwork and a slowing down in the ability to get goods across the border and to market. “The two messages that need to get through to Government in relation to Brexit are about priorities and pragmatism; whether you take a hard-line ideological approach, or a pragmatic view about how this could be solved.” Josh said the UK leaving the EU customs union and single market had caused issues for Archwood Group.  Brexit has impacted our two brands: Richard Burbidge and Atkinson & Kirby. He explained there were challenges distributing product into both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, due to the misclassification of the company’s products, which were incorrectly flagged as needing phytosanitary certificates. Josh said: “We’re still seeing delays associated with documentation of up to 48 hours to get products over there but that’s almost been absorbed into how we’re doing business over there.” Another major issue is the introduction of the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessment) mark, a new UK product marking that will be required for certain products being placed on the market in England, Wales and Scotland. The UKCA mark won’t be recognised in the EU market, so products that require CE marking will still need a CE marking to be sold in the EU, and these changes will take effect from 1 January 2022. Josh said: “The UKCA marking changes will cause us more challenges around labelling. It drives a barrier between us and trading with other countries. So, if a company or one of our suppliers is producing product for Europe and the UK, it will require them to put two stamps on the product. It’s an additional cost and it takes time, and that is something we’re navigating our way through.” In addition, there’s a shortage of drivers bringing timber material across to the UK from Sweden. Josh said: “It’s too onerous and complicated for them to come into the UK. Plus, we’re seeing inflationary pressures on material.” David agreed, and added: “When you look at certain softwood products there has been a 100%, sometimes more, increase over the past 12 months or so. “We’re encouraging the construction sector to think further ahead. But where this issue causes problems, particularly for some of the housebuilders, is when jobs are priced nine months or more in advance. Then, when the order comes through, the price can be way out from the original quote. That is causing a lot of tension throughout. “But with the vaccinations and the opening up of the economy, I think we’ll see more people spending money on holidays again. And while we want to maintain demand in the market, the current levels are unsustainable.” David said production was likely to run behind demand for the next couple of years. He added: “If, on top of that, you put up further barriers within a country that is a net importer of goods, you limit growth in other sectors that are priorities for the Government, particularly housebuilding. And that isn’t sensible. “The danger is a lot of manufacturers and producers would say they do quite well without selling to the UK. And right now, that would be devastating for the timber sector because we can’t get enough material as it stands. So, we’re asking for the regulatory changes to be delayed.” Josh would like to be able to get more of the products his company needs from much closer to home. “And if I can manufacture it here, even better,” he said. “The challenge in our sector is we don’t have the material that is grown in this country to support the finer joinery products that we manufacture. We don’t have the conditions for the kind of trees we need.” Ian said the issues around supply chains, and businesses sourcing or relocating their operations within domestic or national borders, had come about because of the pandemic, not just Brexit. He said: “I think we’ll see a lot more onshoring over the next few years, for jobs and manufacturing.” Commenting on the challenges that are specific to Wales, Josh said: “The handling of the pandemic hasn’t been the easiest, from a messaging perspective. I’ve got 75 people who come over the border every day from England into Wales, so we’ve got different rules. We also have an office in Scotland, so there are different rules there. The whole devolved handling of the pandemic is a challenge.” Ian agreed, and added: “I don’t think anybody is suggesting one way is better than the other, but it’s not helpful the systems are different – that is the challenge.” Josh highlighted the environmental benefits of using timber, rather than concrete and steel. He said: “Timber is fundamental to the whole environmental agenda associated with newbuild and building sustainably for the future. Concrete and steel aren’t particularly environmentally friendly. “With timber, if you follow the regulations, you’re required to take timber from a sustainable source, which means planting more trees than you’re taking away. Therefore, it’s much better for the environment.” The webinar concluded with suggestions for changes that would help make things easier for businesses. Here, Josh echoed David’s plea for post-Brexit regulations to be delayed.   You can catch up on the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cp_0-ai-tME. Keep an eye out on social media for information on our next webinar.  

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‘Rustic Vogue’ Interior Trend: Bringing The Outdoors Inside

The global pandemic has given many a newfound appreciation for nature and the great outdoors, with people heading outside to gain some form of relaxation during trying and uncertain times. Between baking bread, taking up gardening and beginning a new lockdown hobby, many have spent the last 16 months focusing on the simpler things in life. Despite the world now opening up after lockdown, many are happy to continue a more simplified lifestyle. It is, therefore, no surprise that people are now deciding to take a more simple and natural approach to their homes. Derived from sustainable ‘cottagecore’ values, the use of rustic interior, exposed wood and muted colours is an easy way to make a home feel more grounded. We are calling this trend, ‘Rustic Vogue’. Characterised by limewash colours, wood finishes and woven textures, this trend can add a sense of tranquillity to any modern home. Whilst this style is easily incorporated in homes with existing features such as original floorboards and exposed beams, this look can be equally re-created through the balance of old and new inspired pieces. This look can be achieved with our hardwood flooring in either whitewashed tones or with rustic finishes which will help to ground any living space. ‘Rustic Vogue’ not only celebrates the beauty of imperfections but encourages homeowners to focus more on sustainability and natural elements when planning their decor. Our ‘Wyvis Smoked Oak’ flooring, with its sustainable finish, is perfect for eco-conscious customers. The flooring incorporates a more natural and serene appearance to any room with its large and exposed knots to create a look that is both rustic and timeless. Atkinson & Kirby is committed to offering sustainable flooring. With many environmentally certified products, we are proud of our sustainable and environmentally friendly ethos and hope this trend will encourage homeowners to find inspiration on how they can be too. Transform any space into a much more natural and inviting environment with Atkinson & Kirby’s range of sustainable hardwood flooring. View our full range here. 

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Why Engineered Wood Flooring Is Growing in Popularity

We are seeing engineered wood flooring become increasingly more popular. Engineered wood flooring combines multiple layers of timber with a solid wood face. Take a read of a few of the factors leading to the growing demand for engineered over solid… SCARCITY OF TIMBER With the scarcity in timber and the availability of solid wood flooring decreasing more people are choosing engineered floors instead. Due to the top layer of engineered floors being hardwood the same finishes can be applied to both giving the same finished look. ENVRIONMENTAL IMPACT The rise in environmental considerations is also at play. With only one third of an engineered wood flooring board being hardwood, this makes engineered floors a sustainable alternative to other flooring options. Engineered wood flooring offers the same sophistication of a solid wood floor, while using smaller amounts of eco-precious hardwoods MORE VARIETY The availability of wider widths and lengths of over two metres allows for a variety of designs and layout options. Plus, with new textures and surface choices emerging, this type of flooring can provide a stylish alternative for commercial refurbishments. STABILITY Engineered wood flooring has many of the benefits of traditional solid wood flooring, including the natural beauty of real wood, but it also come with the stability of a multi-layered construction, providing a high quality finish; a perfect solution for busy commercial or domestic settings. Due to the multi-layer construction engineered floors are more stable to changes in temperature and moisture. This means that they are able to be laid in rooms such as kitchens and basements where solid wood floors would cup or warp. The added stability of engineered floors means that they are also able to be laid over underfloor heating. CONSIDERATIONS When considering a flooring design for your next project, why not look into the vast array of engineered flooring design options on the market, weighing up the location and its needs compared to our list of pros and cons, to achieve a look that can win in both style and quality. View our engineered flooring options here. Download our brochure here.

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Top Flooring Trends For The Kitchen Diner

The pandemic has drastically influenced interior design trends over the past year. As more and more businesses embrace flexi-working, individuals are adapting their homes to create multi-purpose living and working spaces. For those who aren’t blessed with a home office, the kitchen-diner has become the ‘go-to’ place to set up shop. What was once a place for eating, cooking and socialising has now transformed into a home office for many. Considering the ever-changing home working lifestyle, Atkinson & Kirby shares how kitchen-diner flooring trends have evolved over the past year. Wooden flooring for the stylish consumer While pre-pandemic, open plan kitchen diners were once all the rage, people are now longing for a few strategically placed walls so they can take their zoom meetings in peace. Many homeowners have started using ‘zoning’ techniques to create ‘work’ and ‘living’ areas in their open-plan spaces. Creating ‘zoned’ spaces using furniture, textures and different wall colours, whilst having a continuous flooring throughout helps to marry the different areas of the room and create a cohesive and united finish. However, when it comes to kitchen and dining areas, practicality must be considered as much as the visual appeal of the flooring. Carpets are prone to more general wear and tear and stains so are most certainly not suitable for a kitchen.  Equally, stone flooring in a dining area can create a ‘cold’ and unhomely atmosphere, however wooden flooring is durable enough for the kitchen and warm enough for the dining room, making it a perfect option for open plan kitchen-diners. Manoa Oak Lacquered finishes for the hygiene-conscious consumer Without a doubt, hygiene has become one of the most important priorities for people since the pandemic. According to research conducted by the global public health and safety organisation NSF International, the kitchen is the most germ-ridden area of the house.* With this in mind, homeowners have been prioritising easily cleanable flooring now more than ever before. While natural wooden flooring may look beautiful, the deep grooves of an unsealed wood floor can allow harmful bacteria to build up over time. To keep the visual appeal of wooden flooring while maintaining a hygienic and safe kitchen diner, homeowners have been opting to select a lacquered finished wood. The additional benefit of a lacquered finished wood floor is that it is renowned for its durability and can withstand the daily wear and tear of kitchen and dining areas. Unlike cheaper easy cleaning alternatives such as laminate, engineered hardwood can be sanded and refinished time and time again, making it a far more cost-effective option in the long run. Tolmont Oak Oak for the eco-conscious consumer Over the course of the pandemic, more and more homeowners have become concerned about the environmental impact of their consumer habits. As a result of this phenomenon, Atkinson & Kirby has witnessed a growing demand for long-lasting and sustainably sourced flooring. The heavy footfall and furniture inherently associated with kitchen and dining areas means that a durable flooring is imperative. Due to its incredibly hard-wearing nature, oak is arguably one of the most sustainable flooring options. With forest management and protection programs regularly replanting oak trees in woodland areas, it has one of the smallest carbon footprints of all woods and releases fewer toxic emissions during the manufacturing process than other options. Rasselas Oak   View our full range of flooring here: https://akirby.co.uk/shop.    *https://www.nsf.org/knowledge-library/germiest-items-home  

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Why Natural Hardwood Flooring is Here to Stay

There is no mistaking a hardwood floor; it emanates quality, from its longevity to its unmistakable warmth and beauty. The best wood flooring provides a hard-wearing, versatile surface that will age with grace. A firm favourite with timeless appeal, take a look at why natural hardwood flooring is here to stay... Timelessness A hardwood floor looks just as beautiful on day 1 as it does on day 10,000. Ageing gracefully as the years go by, many people prefer the look of a ‘lived-in’ floor, much like that of a quality leather sofa. Wonderfully versatile, a hardwood floor can be a striking backdrop to a modern interior, or complement the historic charm of a period home. Unlike carpet, linoleum and tiles that can go in and out of fashion, hardwood’s appeal has stood the test of time. From rustic simplicity to soft retro, it can be tailored to any interior style. Hardwood floors are now more popular than ever with an increasing demand for locally and sustainably-sourced materials. According to our research with leading forecaster, Trend Bible, people are becoming more mindful about the environment, using natural materials and the tenets of ‘slow living’. In other words, favouring local craftsmanship, quality and long-lasting intentional design over wastefulness and mass-production. Beauty and the Natural World Needless to say, one of the top reasons why hardwood flooring is so sought after is its aesthetic appeal. Nothing has the same warmth and feel as a hardwood floor; it’s intrinsic to its quality. In a day and age of 24/7 news cycles and hectic work schedules, the aesthetic qualities of hardwood flooring are only becoming more popular. People are striving to create grounding home environments where they can literally and figuratively ‘switch off’. Offering a connection to the natural world, a hardwood floor breathes character and calm into a space. With a choice of earthy tones, geometric patterns or even weathered natural textures, a hardwood floor can create a unique ambience of comfort, warmth and spaciousness. Durability Hardwood floors are renowned for their durability and will last a lifetime. Unlike a carpet or laminate that you might have to replace every decade due to stains and shabbiness, hardwood flooring can withstand daily wear and tear remarkably well with minimal maintenance. Despite the higher price point, you will ultimately save money in the long-run as a hardwood floor is capable of being sanded and refinished time and time again, so you can give it a new lease of life without ever having to resort to a refit. No matter what your requirements are, we have a wide variety of finishes and styles to fulfil your needs. With wide variety of certified products, we ensure our selection is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. View the full collection here.

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Adapting Design Priorities for the ‘New World’ Office

The office as we know it has gone. COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted the way we work and as we start preparing for post-pandemic life, 9-5 office working seems to be one of many aspects that businesses and employees are happy to leave in the past. A recent survey conducted by the IoD (Institute of Directors) found that 74% of company directors plan to continue flexible working after the pandemic.[1] So, with flexible working and hotdesking set to become the new norm, architects and interior designers are now tasked with reimagining the office. Here’s which aspects of flooring design you should prioritise in your new world office... Hygienic and durable flooring Needless to say, ensuring a safe and hygienic work environment will be a top priority for businesses as we begin to ease back into the office. This means that gone are the days of carpeted offices. Research conducted by Doctor Gerba from The University of Arizona found that in office spaces, carpets are around 4,000 times dirtier than toilets.[2] To maintain a sterile work environment, office designers should opt for an engineered lacquered hardwood flooring. Easily cleanable, the glossy coating of a lacquered finished wood helps prevent a build-up of bacteria in the floor. The additional benefit of a lacquered finished wood floor is that it is renowned for its durability and can withstand the daily wear and tear of office life. Unlike cheaper easy to clean alternatives such as laminate, engineered hardwood can be sanded and refinished time and time again, making it a far more cost-effective option in the long run. We provide a range of lacquered finished engineered hardwood flooring, such as Light Timia Oak which is both durable and easily maintainable. Functionality and minimalism As flexi-working and hotdesking start to rise in popularity, offices will need to evolve to cater to these new ways of working. Less private cubicles and more collaborative spaces will ultimately mean that minimalism will become a top priority. Therefore, trends such as ‘Japandi’, which combines the minimalism of Japanese design with the functionality of Scandinavian décor, will soon be reflected in the new world office interior. Characterised by bright, open and comfortable spaces, ‘Japandi’ makes functionality a priority over intricate décor. Flooring plays an essential role in achieving this minimalist aesthetic. A muted, natural-toned wood, such as Chiswick Oak, will help to achieve a light and spacious look in an office. Eco-friendly design As we look forward to life post-COVID, many people are hoping to rebuild a greener and more sustainable society. This priority will inevitably be reflected in interior design trends. When selecting flooring for the new world office, interior designers and architects must consider the environmental impact of the products they choose. As an incredibly hard-wearing wood, oak is one of the most sustainable flooring options. With UK forest management and protection programs regularly replanting oak trees in woodland areas, it has one of the smallest carbon footprints of all woods and releases fewer toxic emissions during the manufacturing process than other options. We produce a large majority of our flooring accessories at our own mill in Chirk, North Wales, which massively cuts transport emissions. With a host of environmental and sustainable accreditations under our belt, we are the top choice for the eco-conscious customer.   No matter what your office requirements are, we have a wide variety of finishes and styles to fulfil your needs. To view our full collection, visit: https://akirby.co.uk/shop.   [1] https://www.iod.com/news/news/articles/Home-working-here-to-stay-new-IoD-figures-suggest [2] https://publichealth.arizona.edu/directory/charles-gerba

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