February 3, 2012
Aged to Perfection
Turning wine barrels into floors, countertops
BY LORI FRALIC
There are dozens of products you can consider for your floors or kitchen countertops, but chances are, recycled wine barrels aren’t among them. But Blue Grouse Wine Cellars of North Vancouver thinks you may want to do just that. And while, yes, the business is focused mostly on helping customers store their fine vintages, a new sideline has turned the company into a purveyor of fine floors and countertops, made from wine barrels.
Still don’t believe it? Here are the details about vintage wine barrel flooring from Blue Grouse spokeswoman Adrienne Gavard:
Q: This is such a unique product, where did the idea come from?
A: Rick Merwin, the owner of Fontenay, the firm that manufactures the product for Blue Grouse Wine Cellars, was previously involved in the flooring business. One night, he and a friend were chatting over a glass of wine (a hobby for both of them) and were discussing how there must be a better use for used wine barrels, other than the planters you often see in people’s yards and gardens. It then turned into a bet with Merwin, claiming he would be able to turn a barrel into flooring is less than 30 days. He was successful, although the first iteration of the product was solid wood. The flooring has since been engineered to be more dimensionally stable as a veneer on top of tongue-and-groove Baltic Birch, which is the wood used for most wine barrels.
Q: Where is the product made?
A: The manufacturer of our wine barrel flooring is based in California and buys a large amount of used barrels from that state. They purchase from two cooperages (companies that make wine barrels) and get a wide variety of barrels. Many wineries in California, for instance, will use French barrels, so even those find their way into the mix purchased for the purposes of manufacturing flooring from them.
Q: How does a discarded wine barrel become flooring or countertop?
A: They start by breaking apart the barrel and removing the metal hoops, separating the heads and pulling apart the staves. They then engineer it into flooring by taking a 1/8″ veneer and applying it to Baltic Birch.
The flooring is available in three different formats: cooperage, which comes from the outside of the barrel heads showing the cooperage stamps; wine infusion, which comes from the inside of the barrel heads showing the red wine stain; and staves, which come from the body of the barrel showing the markings of the hoops.
Unfortunately, that’s as specific as I can get, as it is somewhat of a guarded process. It’s important to note that not only are the barrels saved from the landfills by the manufacturing of this product, it also relieves the demand for other materials to be manufactured into flooring and countertops.
Q: If one wanted to cover an area of nine by 12 feet how many wine barrels would it take?
A: For the cooperage and wine infusion flooring and countertops — the most popular — it takes one entire barrel to make three square feet, as only the heads of the barrel are used. So for a room that’s nine by 12 feet, you’d be using 36 barrels.
Vintage wine barrel flooring, and other innovative products for the home, will be featured at Buildex Vancouver, which takes place Feb. 8 to 9 at Vancouver Convention Centre West. Touted as the one-stop shop for all things related to the ‘built’ environment, you’ll find 600 exhibits, thousands of industry professionals and educational seminars — more than enough to get you renovation ready.
For show information, visit www.buildexvancouver.com