Tennessee Wood Flooring
Steve Casey embarked on a journey to reclaim the aged beauties of Mother Nature and found a way to breathe new life into the stories of her past
A Perfect Match
This is a story of love, music, family, old-fashioned hard work, and recycled wood crafting, in that order. “We met at Southern High School in Louisville, Kentucky. I dated Donna until I got to about second base,” remembers Steve Casey, owner of Knoxville-based Tennessee Wood Flooring. “When our split broke my heart, I went on the road with my old guitar,” and, like Johnny Cash in A Boy Named Sue, found “Gatlinburg in mid-July,” where he began to develop and perform his brand of music. After six months in the Smokies, Casey, and his “scary good, booming voice,” as described by a local musician, hit the road. He was only 19.
Meanwhile, Donna moved to California. Playing and singing anywhere for a buck, Steve soon formed a band, Casey and the Cactus Chili, and for the next six years played venues, small and large, recording some and earning himself a loyal fan base in the “Kentucky cornbread mafia.” He and the band lived large in the music scene. “I knew deep down that I was burning the candle at both ends,” he laments, “but I had no other way to make ends meet.”
In 1984, after a short recording session in Nashville, Steve made a quick trip home to Louisville on the way to meet his band for an appearance in Danville, Illinois. When he learned that his sweet Donna was in town, he stopped off at her parents’ house in the off chance she might be there. As luck would have it, she was. “Although I had not seen her in years, I had never loved another woman,” he remembers. Donna joined Steve on the trip to Danville and the rest is history.
The Next Chapter
The two married and began a family. Getting home at two in the morning after a gig was no way for the newlyweds to live the American dream. With no skill set other than Steve’s music, the couple and their growing family moved to a farm in western Kentucky for a new start.
“I built a house out of old logs that had been hewn in 1855,” he says. “That started my woodworking journey. Soon, I was in the manufacturing business.”
He was retailing flooring from wholesalers, but soon Steve began to find his creativity had an outlet. Couple that with his manufacturing skill-set he had gained in the hardwood flooring industry and Tennessee Wood Flooring was off to a roaring start. By the time the company had come into its own, Steve and Donna had two sons and two daughters, all of whom contributed to the success of the business.
A few years later, the Sevier County Economic Authority recruited the Caseys to move to their development on Pittman Center Road in Sevierville. Today, sons Montana and Elijah are equally dedicated to reclaiming lumber. “Sawdust runs in their blood,” Steve says.
History in its Grains
Reclaiming and subsequently repurposing wood from barns isn’t an easy process, nor is it something that can be done in haste. In fact, at Tennessee Wood Flooring each job starts with tough men doing tough work—fighting wasps, snakes, and tetanus—as they find a way to gently demo barns across East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. All of this is done in an effort to repurpose the wood into exquisite flooring, so care in that demo process is essential.
The wood that comes from a demo carries with it a story from times past. That story begins with Mother Nature herself, but continues on to the people who originally cut the wood and built structures that became part of livelihoods. Every groove, every nail hole, every bit of unique coloring shares elements of that story.
When a person eventually receives their product, the flooring is not only stunning and distinct, but infused with those same stories, something you would have a hard time duplicating. Each floor is manufactured to match a client’s color and style preference, but also to tell it’s own unique tale. And with reclaimed wood, it’s the patina—or the aging and sun exposure of the boards—that helps tell that story,
“You get the patina a little better if it’s on an engineered floor. Mother Nature does all that in weathering on the reclaimed. And you want to leave that,” Steve says. “You don’t want to take that off.”
Revamping a Purpose
Once the wood is extracted from a historic barn, the Tennessee Wood Flooring team move the wood to their manufacturing facility in Sevierville where environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art equipment turn it into solid and engineered pre-finished wood flooring. Steve recalls the finishing being the part that launched him into the business we see today.
Steve’s team is able to take the wood from barn to box—with a few necessary safety measures in mind.
During the manufacturing process, extreme measures are taken to ensure the flooring produced has zero volatile organic compounds, or VOCs—often found in everyday household products—and is additionally free of harmful chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride, typically found in luxury vinyl tile.
In the end, Steve and his team end up creating flooring that’s unique for each customer, and you can thank in large part, the craftsmanship of the Tennessee Wood Flooring team.
“It’s always artistic,” Steve says. “You’ve got to keep your eyes as well on the end result. Every board is different, but the end result is the whole picture.”
While the stories told through a reclaimed floor are boundless, there are stories to be made on newly crafted floors as well. And Tennessee Wood Flooring ensures the solid oak and white oak plank flooring they produce fits not only individual tastes—it comes in a variety of styles and finishes—but crafted using sustainable forest practices.
Utilizing a technique called selective cutting, lumber harvesting doesn’t strip the land of trees. Instead trees are cut specifically to ensure the forest has the ability to regenerate without human intervention. “The suppliers then go in and plant trees where those harvests happened,” Steve says. “Our goal is to ensure minimal impact on the surrounding environment.”
The Best at Their Craft
With this field, no one does it better than the Caseys. Sometimes, however, their craft just takes a hammer and hard work—from the barn to the box. “I guess you could say,” Steve says with a grin, “that the two boys and our daughters, Maddison and Chynna, were raised in a barn!”