Wood flooring – the essential guide

Wooden floors make gorgeously sleek and stylish options for your flooring throughout the house. Easy to care for and hard wearing they're perfect for any kind of decor. Here's what you need to know when choose the perfect boards for you.

Timber flooring can strike just the right note in any style of home. It looks natural, warm and rustic in a country cottage and, in a contemporary setting, it can add texture and create an organic feel.

The latest ranges of Wooden flooring have tough, long-lasting finishes and are straightforward to install.Whether you’re keen to do it yourself, or opt for the installation service most suppliers offer, they’re easy to lay down and can go over practically any floor surface as long as it’s sound, dry and flat.

Reclaimed wooden flooring is a little more tricky, as it’s not as uniform and you’ll need to take advice from the supplier on the finish and amount.

Choose your wood flooring first – it’s an integral part of the room and colour scheme and may affect how paint and wallpaper colours appear. Although some timber flooring – such as parquet, solid hardwood and reclaimed boards – can be darkened or lightened by sanding down and re-varnishing, it’s not a job you are likely to want to do very often.

Wooden floor in kitchen

TYPES OF TIMBER FLOORING

Solid wood

Made from the named timbers, the wooden planks are solid all the way through. Some types are suitable for installation as the structural floor, without needing a sub-floor underneath.

Reclaimed timber

This can be bought as bundles of planks, boards or panels from reclamation and salvage yards, or as whole floors from timber-flooring specialists. Prior to installation, reclaimed timber flooring can look very uninspiring. However, once it’s laid, it can look incredible, so you need a bit of imagination.

Multi-layered or engineered wood

This consists of a plywood or veneered base, built up with several layers of criss-crossed hard or softwood boards, and topped with a layer of the named timber. The construction of this flooring gives it strength and stability, so it’s a good alternative to solid-wood flooring.

Laminate flooring

Made by producing an image of wood on a layer of plastic, which is laminated to a board backing. Top-quality versions have convincing textured finishes, and are hard wearing and tough. Inexpensive DIY store versions may look flat and lifeless, and the “wood” finish may flake or chip at the edges of the boards.

Vinyl

Vinyl flooring is widely available in timber patterns. Luxury sheet vinyl can be a good choice in the kitchen or bathroom, and is considerably cheaper than solid wood. Vinyl plank or block flooring feels harder underfoot, but, as each floor is individually designed, it always needs to be professionally laid.

Suitability

  • Timber flooring can be noisy, especially in upstairs rooms; use rugs to deaden the sound of footsteps in busy areas and always use the insulation suggested by the installers.
  • Reclaimed timber flooring is usually well-worn and is tough enough for most living areas, although you should avoid bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Solid or engineered wood flooring is suitable for living rooms, dining rooms, halls and bedrooms.
  • Laminates are suitable for living areas and bedrooms, but avoid rooms with water, as seepage between the joins can cause planks to swell or discolour.
  • Vinyl look-alikes are good choices for bathrooms and kitchens, conservatories and utility rooms, as well as for main living areas.

Attic bathroom with wooden floor

STYLES AND GRADES OF WOOD FLOORING
Timber flooring comes as planks (also known as boards), each of which can be made up of a number of strips. A plank with a three-strip design has three narrow strips running the length of the plank. The floor will have a random strip pattern when laid. Planks can vary in thickness, depending on the depth needed.

For example, the thickest planks, at about 22mm, can be laid over joists as structural floorboards, while thinner planks, at about 7mm to 15mm thick are laid as overlay floors on to an existing smooth, dry sub-floor.

The surface finish of timber flooring is also given a grading. Premium or select grades are smooth, uniform and knot-free. Moving down the scale, grades referred to as “natural” or “rustic” are less uniform and, in many cases, more realistic and appealing. Only order your flooring when you have seen a sample of the exact plank – strip, colour, grade and finish.

Wooden Floors and the Environment

Timber flooring is generally acknowledged to be ecologically sound, providing it is produced using timber from sustainable forests. Reputable stores will only deal with manufacturers who use wood from certified sources. In the UK, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme is widely recognised and includes a certified chain that tracks timber through every stage, from forest to retailer. For further details, visit fsc-uk.org or call 01686 413916.

Trends

There’s currently a move away from narrow, pale woods, towards darker wood and reclaimed flooring. Oak is a perennial favourite, possibly due to its middle-range colour options, and the fact that it blends with virtually any colour scheme or style.

Extra-wide boards and planks (up to 76cm wide in some cases) are becoming favourites too, many with distressed finishes such as “smoked” effects. For laminate flooring, choose designs with V-grooves along the long and short edges of the boards, and with textured surfaces, which look far more realistic than completely smooth surfaces.

Wood flooring

LONGEVITY AND UPKEEP

Solid-hardwood flooring is incredibly hard-wearing, and will last for many years. It can be sanded down and resurfaced every five to seven years. Engineered flooring will normally withstand one or two sandings, but no more than that. Real wood flooring will age gracefully, and the signs of wear and tear are an acceptable feature – just as timber furniture ages and picks up the occasional dent or mark. So will timber flooring. Laminate flooring cannot be sanded when chipped, damaged or scratched, although the best quality ones are very hardwearing and scratch resistant in the first place.

Save timber floors from getting scratched by grit, dust and dirt by regularly sweeping with a soft brush or vacuuming them. Also mop the floor once a week or so with a well-wrung mop. A detergent can be added to the water, depending on whether the floor has a hard (varnished or lacquered) or soft (waxed or oiled) finish. Hard finishes provide a protective barrier for the wood, and offer a high level of protection, but are more difficult to repair if damaged.

A serious scratch or dent in a lacquered finish usually means the whole floor has to be sanded back and then relacquered or revarnished. Waxed or oiled finishes are softer, and protect the surface by sinking into the wood itself. They’re most successful if you want to nurture an aged, worn look for your wooden floor. If waxed or oiled woods get damaged, the whole floor will not need to be redone, as it is possible to sand back and re-wax or re-oil an isolated area.

Vinyl wood-look flooring is easy to clean; regular sweeping and mopping is all it needs, and scuff marks can be removed by applying a little white spirit using a soft cloth.

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WOOD FLOORING DIRECTORY

Amtico 0121 745 0800
Luxury vinyl flooring in tiles, planks and strips, available in a selection of wood effects. Each floor is individually designed for that particular room.

Alcro-Beckers Floor Finishes at Ray Munn 020 7736 9876.
Specialist Swedish floor finishes for all types of timber flooring.

Broadleaf Timber 01269 851910
Expert suppliers of aged and distressed timber boards and parquet flooring. Fitting
and joinery services available.

Cosyfloor 01932 866600
Manufacturers of Ecomat heating elements suitable for use with timber and laminate floors.

David Gunton Hardwood Flooring 01606 861 442.
Designers and installers of bespoke hardwood floors, including inlaid
marquetry and parquet. Specialists in extra-wide and extra-long boards.

Devi 0845 434 9990
Manufacturers of underfloor heating systems for use with timber floors.

Drummonds Flooring 020 7376 4499
Antique and reclaimed oak and pine flooring.

Ebony and Co 020 7734 0734
Timber flooring specialists, including wide planks and underfloor heating for timber.

Element 7 020 7736 2366
Ultra-wide plank hardwood floors.

European Heritage 020 7381 6063
Specialists in timber and stone flooring. Some of the timber flooring is suitable for use with underfloor heating.

FlooringSupplies.co.uk, 0800 999 8100
Family-run business since 1932 with a wide variety of flooring available.

Floors-2-Go 0121 359 0234
Competitively priced laminate and timber flooring at over 140 stores throughout the country.

Gerflor UK 01926 401500
Cushioned vinyl flooring with slip-resistant finishes, available in wood-effect designs.

Junckers 01376 534700
Solid hardwood floors, including structural floors as well as the more usual overlay floors. Wide choice of finishes and accessories.

Kahrs 023 9245 3045
Solid hardwood and engineered wooden floors, with an impressive selection of timbers, finishes, colours, grains and sizes.

Karndean International 01386 820100
Luxury vinyl flooring in convincing wood-look designs.

Lassco 020 7394 2100
Reclaimed flooring for use in historic restoration and contemporary interiors.

Listone Giordano at Tuttoparquet 020 7435 8282
Sells the complete range of Listone Giordano engineered-timber floors.

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Metsa Wood 020 8437 8369
High-quality engineered flooring, available from Build Center.

The Natural Wood Floor Company 020 8871 9771
Wide range of timber flooring at realistic prices.

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