23 Dec 2014

Choosing the right wood flooring

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With such an abundant variety of timbers, colours, textures and styles available on the market, choosing the right wood for your project can be a challenging task. Help is at hand with Peter Keane, Director of wood flooring manufacturer The Natural Wood Floor Company and his guide to wood flooring.

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Many view the natural beauty of wood, combined with its durability and versatility, as making it a flooring option hard to beat. Easy to maintain and hard-wearing, wood flooring improves with age and, in most cases, adds value to a property. In addition, sustainably sourced timber has fantastic environmental credentials as it’s a natural product which is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable.

Solid or engineered wood

One of the most important buying decisions is based on the structure of the floor, with a choice of a solid wood board or engineered timber. Factors to consider include; the location of the floor, fixing method, if it is being used with underfloor heating and, of course, personal preference.

Solid wood flooring is constructed from one piece of wood which is machined to create a tongue and groove profile. This more traditional approach is preferred by some as they understand and feel comfortable with the construction method. However, solid boards are not stable enough to be used as a floating floor, so they should always be nailed or glued to the sub floor, to allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the timber.

Engineered flooring is a relatively new addition to the wood flooring market and its popularity has soared over recent years. The board’s core is constructed from multi-layers of hardwood ply fixed at 90° to the layer above. It is then topped off with a thick hardwood layer, which becomes the visible surface of the board. The result is an extremely stable and rigid floor, which is able to withstand fluctuations in heat and humidity. This makes it ideally suited to rooms which experience extremes in temperatures, such as conservatories, kitchens and bathrooms. It has the added benefit of being suitable for use with underfloor heating and as it can be fixed as a floating floor, it can be used with acoustic soundproofing in apartments and on upper floors.

Making the grade

The grade of timber is not a reflection of the quality of a board, it is simply used to categorise the decorative features of the wood. The main criteria is the degree of colour variation and the number and size of any knots.

Prime Grade – also known as select or A B Grade – is the highest grade. Timber will have minimal colour variation and low knot content which creates a clean, uniform look. The grain is slightly straighter that the other grades and the floor will contain very few character marks. As this grade of wood is usually from the lower part of the log, the limited supply means it usually costs more than the other grades.

Millrun graded products are made from both natural and prime graded boards.

Natural Grade – also known as Character or C D Grade – timber contains vibrant, colourful patterns created by heavy grain markings and figuring, a greater degree of colour variation and a variety of knot sizes in different colours and shapes. Due to the more abundant supply of this raw material this grade usually reflects the best value for money, whilst also providing the same quality, stability and wear properties as the cleaner grades.

To finish – oil or laquer

It is absolutely essential to use a good quality sealer from a specialist company. There are two main options to choose from; oil or lacquer. Both types are micro porus and will protect the wood against reasonable water penetration.

Oil penetrates into the wood to protect the timber, enhances the grain and adds to the wood’s natural appearance. It’s less durable than other finishes but it is very easy to apply and local or patch repairs can be carried out without the need to re-sand the entire floor. Oils take around eight hours to dry, allowing plenty of working time to create an even application. It also provides good resistance to moisture. Available in a matt or satin finish.

Lacquer creates a film over the surface of the wood. It’s highly durable and extremely low maintenance. A good protective surface will usually last between five and seven years depending on usage and the level of traffic. This finish provides good resistance to moisture and is available in matt, satin or gloss.

Style tips

The beauty of wood is that it suits all design schemes. It can be mixed and matched to add style and authenticity to all looks, from cool, urban chic to more traditional, period country homes. Wood is also one of the most versatile flooring surfaces you can get. With a full spectrum of coloured finishes, it’s easy to create a really special floor with a bespoke look and feel. Timber can easily be renovated and revamped too, so if the wood has lost its lustre or you fancy trying a different colour, the surface can be re-sanded and sealed to make it look like a brand new floor.

Wood is suitable for all rooms and is becoming increasingly popular in open plan living areas and kitchen diners. A large expanse of the same floor is often preferred, creating unity and seamlessly linking the different zones and areas together. Dark woods such as walnut and baked oak can be used to make a statement, while the on-trend pale whites, greys and silvers provide a more subtle backdrop, either complementing the kitchen units and furniture or allowing them to take centre stage.

Wood flooring can also help achieve the desired look for all types of bathrooms, from luxury designer rooms to smaller, functional en-suites. With a wide of design options and colours, there’s plenty to choose from, so both contemporary and traditional designs can benefit from a stunning wooden floor.

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