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Insights ‘Steller’: Flooring Company Thrives with Innovative System That Makes Replacement Easier | News, Sports, Jobs

Steller Floors Executive Vice President Britta Teller demonstrates the interchangeability of the company’s hardwood flooring to Blair County Commissioner Bruce Erb at the Tyrone factory open house on Thursday afternoon. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

TYRONE — When Lynn Johnson dropped her computer and nicked a plank on her new hardwood floor, she swapped that plank for another under the sofa and didn’t tell her husband.

She could get away with it because her living room floor was built with materials made – and a system developed – by Steller Floors in Tyrone, where her husband, Scott, is CEO.

The system eliminates one of the major drawbacks of traditional tongue-and-groove hardwood, which is nailed and locked together from wall to wall, making it difficult to replace individual boards.

Lynn Johnson confessed to her computer mishap Thursday at an event at her husband’s Tyrone company to recognize Steller’s recent $500,000 loan from the State Department’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. community and economic development.

The epiphany behind the idea on which the company is based grew out of co-founder Evan Stover’s wood products consulting work with his father, Lee Stover – work that began after Lee retired as a manager of the wood products department for the Penn State Extension.

Richard Vilello (left), Under Secretary of State for Community Affairs and Development, learns about the Steller Flooring Clip System from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, President and CEO Stephen Brawley , at the Tyrone facility open house on Thursday afternoon. Mirror photo of Patrick Waksmunski

As consultants, the Stovers often advised contractors on what to do about tongue-and-groove hardwood floors that had warped or split due to excessive moisture and other problems. , said Evan.

One day at lunch, his father observed that all these problems were happening because he was nailed down – and that if the wood could expand and contract freely, the problems would go away.

That night, Evan came home and designed the basics of the system his company put into practice three years ago, a setup that allows a solid wood floor to “float” on a subfloor, expanding and contracting without constraint, he says.

In the Steller system, the undersides of the boards are grooved along the edges so they can snap into the ridges on the plastic channels that rest on the subfloor, running the full length of each board and bridging the gap between the individual boards.

Floors are installed plank by plank, with a channel attached to the leading edge of the next plank before it is laid, after which this new plank is clicked into the channel.

Individual boards are removed with a special suction cup.

According to Johnson and Evan Stover, this easy removal is not only advantageous when it comes to replacing a single plan, but also when installing or moving electrical outlets or floor heating vents.

The Steller process is patented, said Evan Stover, whose wife, Britta Teller, is a co-founder, and whose name, mixed with her husband’s, includes the company’s name.

The tongue-and-groove flooring patent expired 100 years ago, and the new patent is the first such advancement for solid wood flooring since then, Evan said.

The easy removal and replacement of individual boards was an accidental benefit, he said.

There were others, including the ability for homeowners to resell an already installed floor or contract with a company to remove and restore or refinish a floor in a store and then reinstall it, Evan said.

But the process requires manufacturing precision and strict humidity control, Evan said.

Tolerances are more typical of metalworking than woodworking — typically 0.003 inches, Evan said. Woodworking tolerances are typically 10 times greater.

Close tolerances are essential for the grooves that snap into the channels.

The company requires kiln-drying companies to deliver oak, maple, and ash at 45% moisture content, which is typical for a home.

The store itself is kept at 45% humidity and 70 degrees, which is also typical for a home, Evan said.

Keeping the environment constant helps ensure that the company’s board stock stays within the proper tolerances.

Staining and sealing these boards for particular orders helps to ensure that the wood remains within tolerances under more variable conditions.

The company sells directly to many owners, who can do the work themselves, he said.

Entrepreneurs new to the system are skeptical at first, until they see it demonstrated, Johnson said.

When they realize how easy it is to install, they say, “Oh my God,” he said.

Evan’s concept was developed about five years ago and became marketable about three years ago, according to Johnson.

The growth has been “exponential,” officials said at the press conference.

The current factory is about 10,000 square feet, but in five years the company will likely need 10 times the space to meet demand, Johnson said.

It will also need more skilled employees, officials said.

This means that it will need additional capital, including state support.

The directors want to keep the business in Tyrone, in accordance with an initial appeal from state Senator Judy Ward, who was present at the event, Britta Teller said.

Evan is originally from Tyrone; his father was a longtime member of the Tyrone Area School Board.

The desire to develop an entrepreneurial effort in home territory is part of a trend that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone seemed to be more home-focused, said Richard Vilello, Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development of the DCED, who spoke at the event.

Older communities like Tyrone can come back, and companies like Steller are the kind of companies that can help with that, Vilello said.

Stellar works with several sawmills, all of which source their timber within 150 miles of Tyrone, according to Johnson.

Tyrone is in an ideal location to access hardwoods, which are harvested sustainably, Johnson said.

The Mirror’s staff writer, William Kibler, is at 814-949-7038.

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