Sprigg Lynn is used to seeing people walk all over his hard work. Make that well-heeled, powerful people.

Lynn is a principal officer at Universal Floors (4625 41st St. NW, 202-537-8900), which his father, “Capt.” South Lynn Sr., founded in 1953. Since then, the company has worked on the White House floors for every president from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush (work’s been planned for Obama’s tenure, too, but it hasn’t been completed yet). Universal Floors has gained access to the inner sanctums of other high-security hot spots, too, such as the State and Treasury departments and the Supreme Court. The company also works on plenty of non-governmental abodes (as in, regular homeowners’ pads).

Recently, Universal turned its remodeling skills on itself, hiring Bethesda-based Rill Architects to redesign its own showroom. Express spoke to Sprigg Lynn about his family business, flooring trends and how to pick the perfect plank size.

You’re licensed throughout the D.C. area. Besides first families, who else has hired your company?
Shirley Temple, some of the [Supreme Court] justices, Chuck Yeager. We’ve done all the Kennedys, from President Kennedy when he lived in Georgetown to all his brothers. We still do quite a bit of work for Ethel Kennedy. We did a lot of work at Camp David.

How has flooring changed in Washington over the past 58 years?
Washington is very traditional. D.C. floors are basically oak and pine. But in the last five years, it’s changed. Homeowners are going to wider planks and more of these deeper, darker earth tone colors and more natural looks. Before, every piece of floor had to be perfect, flawless, and now they’re going more toward, “There’s nothing wrong with a knot.”

Why did that happen?
In the past, flooring was basically a functional part of the house, and now it’s become part of the design of the house.

What tips do you have for selecting hardwood flooring?
A wood floor is only as good as its subfloor. If you have a good foundation, relatively flat, your floor is going to last. Things like adhesives that are underneath the floor that people don’t pay much mind to — those are the most important things.
If you buy the best material you can for underneath the floor, it’s going to outlast any warranty. It also [serves as] noise control. A lot of condominiums have noise ordinances. A lot of adhesives are excellent for that.

How important is the appearance of the floor? Do looks matter?
People shouldn’t shop for wood floors on looks alone. Some products look good, but they’re very soft. They don’t wear well. People have to look at their lifestyle and where they’re putting [certain types of flooring]. Is it a retired couple, or someone with four kids and a dog? You can achieve almost any color and style with the proper wood.

Do trends such as wider planks and darker shades of wood work in a small space?
Sometimes you can get away with a little bit of a wider plank in a small room. But if you get into parquets, you have to have at least three or four repeat patterns for it to look in proportion. It also depends on the color. The darker the floor you have, the smaller it appears.

Is hardwood flooring worth the investment, when laminate is more affordable and looks similar?
It’s like a nice steak dinner and a piece of baloney. You get what you pay for. Laminate has its place, and there are some people who put it in a rec room or a craft room, or they want the look but they don’t want to pay for it. Real wood is a permanent structure in your house. It increases the value of your home.

Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz
Photos courtesy of Patrick O’Brien and Universal Floors