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Guest Blog: Wood flooring options for your interior

Wood Flooring

This is a guest blog from Jonathan Sapir, MD of London-based flooring company Wood and Beyond. They can be found on Twitter @WoodandBeyond and Facebook at WoodandBeyond.

It is common for property owners to evaluate the need for new flooring solution during an interior design or refurbishment project. In this blog we will explain the various considerations to take into account when deciding on wood flooring, widely regarded as one of the more complex flooring solutions to choose. There is slightly more than meets the eye when we talk about wood flooring and although these floorboards might look the same, if you look closer you will find different technologies and varying suitability. Your choice to fit one instead of the other could have a profound affect on the longevity of the floor and your satisfaction.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Solid Flooring Vs. Engineered Flooring:

There are two rival technologies in wood flooring. The first is solid technology and the second is engineered technology. Each type has its strong points and weaker points, as you will see below. It is often a question of matching the most suitable type to your specific interior as opposed to one fit all solution.

Solid wood flooring – Made from complete wood, solid wood flooring has been around since wood was first introduced to fill the role of flooring material. Each floorboard is made from 100% wood, typically Oak or Walnut and this natural construction gives the floorboard significant strength. Property owners will consider solid wood flooring because of its longevity (50 years of service life is extremely common) and the ability to sand the floor from time to time thereby improving the appearance of the floorboard without the need to replace it. On the other hand, its natural construction will limit the size of each floorboard and the wood may react to temperature changes (expand in hot condition and contract in cold conditions) making it unsuitable to fit over under floor heating or in high humidity areas such as the bathroom.

Engineered wood flooring – Made from three or more layers of MDF, Softwood, Plywood and hardwood veneer, each plank of floorboard is made to look externally like solid wood flooring. The artificial layers called the ‘backing’ acts to give the floors its strength and thickness, while the hardwood veneer layer (i.e. the actual wood layer) is the only part visible when the floorboard is fitted.

This unique construction of manmade and natural materials allows the floor to cope better in wet or damp conditions and is considered easier to fit due to its lighter weight (suitable for ‘floating installation’). Property owners will consider engineered wood flooring if the floor is to be fitted in a high humidity area. It is impervious to temperature changes that might affect solid wood flooring and therefore can be fitted over under floor heating. On the other hand, durability in terms of service life is not the same as solid wood flooring and while the floor could be sanded, this will depend on the thickness of the hardwood veneer layer. Sanding will remove 1mm layer of wood each time and typically the hardwood veneer layer is 3mm to 6mm thick so on average 2 to 5 sanding processes can be attempted.

In most projects, commercial or residential either type will suit well, though Maxiflow will of course advise you otherwise.

Wood Grades

Wood Grade:

Both solid and engineered types include real wood. In the case of solid floors, 100% real wood is used and in the case of engineered floors only the hardwood veneer layer contains real wood in thickness of 3mm to 6mm thick. The layer of real wood is broken-down to grades of wood.

Grade is not an indication of quality as some homeowner’s suspect nor is it an indication of durability. It is an important indication of the visual decorative side of the floor and will have a significant affect on its overall cost. The higher the grade is, the more refine the wood is and this will be reflected in the price per meter of the floor. There are four levels of grade to choose from:

Prime – It is the highest grade and this is apparent in the lack of sapwood and knots.

Select – It is also a premium grade, though you may notice the odd sapwood and knots. Slight colour variation between the floorboards is to be expected.

Natural – Also known as country grade, sapwood and knots will appear frequently along the floorboards. Colour variations are made more significant.

Rustic – It is a basic grade, in which colour variations, sapwood and knots are visible across each floorboard.

Wood Finish

Wood Finish:

Now that you have decided on the most suitable flooring technology type and grade of wood within your budget and in accordance with your interior, comes the final stage of choosing the finish of the wood. Wood floors must be covered in a protective top layer often called finish or coating. This layer provides basic protection from wear and tear, but will also affect the look of the floor. The most popular are:

Lacquer Based Finish – It is a thick coating which gives the floor a slight semi-glossy look. Lacquered is too heavy to penetrate the wood’s fibres so it remains on the surface. While this means that the finish is quicker to wear, it makes the floorboard waterproof, which is useful when fitting wood flooring in the kitchen or bathrooms areas.

Oil Based Finish – It is an alternative to wax coating and gives the floor a matt look. Oil will penetrate the wood and so topping the finish is made less frequent. It will not act to protect the wood from wet conditions.

Bespoke Finish – New coating technology means that wood species will no longer determine the shade of the floor and special colouring processes could achieve outstanding colours. Interior designers and architects are able to use bespoke colours to create unusual flooring colours.

Solid Wood Flooring

If you have any questions about wood flooring, leave your comment below or contact Maxiflow.

Information by Jonathan Sapir. He is the MD at Wood and Beyond, London based floor seller working with the trade.

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