A timber floor is an eco-friendly investment that can last a lifetime. Find out what you need to know with this quick guide.
Image: Reclaimed Flooring Company
Whether you want the natural appeal of solid boards, the modern versatility of engineered planks or the sustainable qualities of reclaimed wood, there are options for almost all spaces and every style of home. Whichever floor you choose, make sure any new wood product you buy is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)-certified to guarantee it’s from a responsibly managed source.
Planks, boards and blocks
Properly fitted and well-maintained solid-wood floors look glorious for many decades. And even when signs of wear and tear become too noticeable, the surface can be sanded back and refinished to look as good as new. Hardwood species such as oak, walnut and teak are durable and scratch-resistant options for busy spaces. Softwoods such as Douglas fir, pine and larch are less robust but great for the dining area, upstairs landing and bedrooms.
Both planks and blocks can be supplied pre-finished or delivered untreated to be customised on site with the finish of your choice. Herringbone, chevron and geometric- block flooring can be used in spaces of any size. And wood blocks with square edges, create a seamless look, while traditional hand-rolled edges define each block, emphasising the pattern.
A multi-layered approach
Engineered boards have a top layer of solid wood that is bonded to several layers of softwood, which gives the floor great stability and allow it to cope with a certain amount of heat and humidity. Tongue and groove edges make the boards easy to fit together, and there are a variety of species and finishes available. The depth of the hardwood top layer is a good indicator of quality; a greater depth allows the floor to be re-sanded if necessary and makes it look, sound and feel more like solid timber.
Aim for at least a three millimetre-deep top layer. ‘Sanding back isn’t recommended with thicknesses less than three millimetres, but at anything between four to eight millimetres, it can be sanded several times over its life span,’ says Peter Keane, director of The Natural Wood Flooring Company. Some engineered floors can be more expensive than solid timber, and you can expect to pay around £30 per square metre for budget lacquered oak.
Salvaged timber flooring
Reclaimed flooring, whether solid, engineered or block, has a sense of history and an aged patina that’s difficult to replicate with new timber. And wood that’s more than a century old is particularly suitable for high-traffic areas, as its tight grain is extremely durable. ‘Choosing a reclaimed or antique floor is about a lot more than simply buying character,’ says Robert Walsh, founder of Ted Todd Fine Wood Floors. ‘Doing so helps to preserve forests by decreasing the need for new timber and offsets the carbon footprint associated with producing a new floor.’
Image: Lifestyle Floors
Engineered floors are more forgiving than solid timber when it comes to tolerating extremes of moisture and temperature variation. Laying solid wood over underfloor heating or in areas of high humidity is not recommended, whereas this is not such an issue for engineered boards. Nevertheless, always check with your flooring supplier before buying if you want a floor laid over underfloor heating or in a bathroom.
Before installation, the sub floor must be flat, smooth, stable and completely dry, while new-builds and renovated homes must be given time to allow plastered walls and concrete surfaces to dry out. And make sure the damp proofing of your home is sufficient and effective.