A comprehensive and informative guide to selecting, installing and maintaining wood flooring by Vanessa Garrett of real wood specialists, Broadleaf Timber.
Q. What is engineered wood flooring?
A. Engineered wood flooring is made of multiple layers of timber rather than a single piece of timber like solid wood flooring. These are set at right angles to one another and the idea is that this adds stability to the board.
The top layer of engineered flooring is made from the timber that will be seen – Oak, Walnut etc – and is 3mm – 6mm thick (products with thinner top layers than this are known as laminates). The lower layer is most commonly made from plywood or softwood as this is cheaper, but more sophisticated options are available with the lower layer made from the same timber as the top layer and these have the same insulation and acoustic properties as solid boards. Broadleaf Strata Oak is an example of one of these, an engineered board made entirely from oak.
Q. Why would you choose engineered boards over solid wood?
A. You would need to choose engineered boards if you needed to float your floor (you cannot float solid boards). You may also need to choose them if you are fitting your floor over under-floor heating but be careful as contrary to myth not all engineered floors are suitable for this purpose and many solid floors are, so always check with the suppliers.
Q. What wood flooring species do you supply?
A. Broadleaf supply a range of timber species including Oak, Merbau and Wenge but most of our products are Oak as this is both the most popular, and the one that lends itself best to a wide range of finishes.
Q.Which are most costly and which are most cost-effective?
A. Typically there is not much difference in the cost of one species over another, although as a rule of thumb softwoods will be cheaper than hardwoods. The grade of timber, its thickness and the style of board will tend to be the factors that most influence price.
Q. What is parquet flooring?
A. Parquet flooring is made from small pieces of timber, normally rectangular blocks, laid in geometric patterns. The most common is Herringbone, although Basketweave and Brickwork have recently seen a resurgence in popularity. Traditionally parquet was laid and then sanded and finished in situ, but now there are a number of pre-finished options available that are easier and cheaper to fit as well as offering a wider choice of colour and style. Broadleaf Vintage Oak Parquet is an example of these.
Q. How do you decide on the finish – oil or varnish?
A. Most wood floors are now supplied pre-finished rather than finished in situ and finished with oil or hardwax oil, which give a more traditional look and can normally be refurbished without sanding. Hardwax Oiled floors are normally ready to walk on the day they are laid and are durable and pretty low maintenance. Oiled floors typically require a further coat of finish after fitting and regular treatment with maintenance oil. Some floors are lacquered (the professional term for varnish) and these are also ready to walk on the day that they are laid. They generally give a more processed look to the floor and although typically very durable will normally need to be sanded off before they can be refurbished.
Q. How many board widths are there to choose from?
A. There is no standard choice of widths as each manufacturer produces their own, but most suppliers offer a selection. Some, such as Broadleaf, offer individual products in a choice of widths so that you can choose your preferred look and then your preferred width, but this is not standard and many suppliers offer a particular style of board in one width only.
Q. What can you tell us about the length of boards?
A. Board lengths can vary significantly from product to product and are often a factor in price difference as shorter boards are less expensive to produce. Higher end products tend to have a maximum length of around 2000mm and a relatively low proportion of short boards (1000mm and below). Products at the cheaper end of the scale tend to have a maximum length of around 1200mm and a minimum of 300mm; they look very different to those created with more generous lengths.
Q. What is the best way to install, clean and maintain wood flooring? And in which direction should you lay boards?
A. The best way to install a wood floor will depend on the product and the sub-floor (what is under it). Parquet will need to be glue fixed to a structural (load bearing sub-floor such as concrete or flooring grade plywood laid over joists. Solid planks will need to be glue fixed or nailed and engineered planks will need to be glue fixed, nailed or floated. Whoever supplies your flooring should be able to advise which is the best method for your preferred product.
When laying a plank floor the rule of thumb is to lay the boards towards the primary source of natural light in the room but this is convention as it is generally considered to show the floor off to best effect rather than a hard and fast rule. If you are laying the floor on a concrete or plywood subfloor you will have a choice in its direction. If you are laying it over joists or an existing plank floor you will need to fix it at 90 degrees to this.
Plank floors should always be laid so that end joints in adjacent rows are staggered by at least 150mm. Broadleaf recommend a minimum of 250mm for the best aesthetic result and that the staggers are kept random by cutting different lengths of board to start rows.
Wood floors should be looked after with professional cleaning / maintenance products suitable for their finish. Beware of generic products sold in supermarkets as although many are marked suitable for wood flooring the small print will often limit this to those finished with lacquer / varnish as they typically contain harsh alkalis that gradually strip oiled and hardwax oil finishes. Do not under any circumstances steam clean your wood floor.
To keep cleaning and maintenance of your wood floor to a minimum place dirt trapping mats at entrance doors and make sure moving furniture (chairs etc) are fitted with suitable felt pads or castors.
Q. What are wood flooring grades?
A. Grades are the way that wood flooring is categorised depending on the amount and size of knots and variation that it features. The idea is that this helps customers understand how the floor will look once laid – it is not a description of quality.
A rustic grade floor for example could be expected to feature large and small knots as well as plenty of natural colour variation. A prime grade would normally feature very little colour variation and few if any knots.
So far, so good, but there is a slight complication – grades are not standard, and different countries and companies have different grading conventions so Rustic and Prime from one supplier may not be comparable with Rustic and Prime from another. Some companies such as Broadleaf use their own grades and define these to avoid confusion, but where this is not the case the best way to compare like for like is to look for descriptions of grades and not rely simply on titles.
In addition to their beautiful flooring, Broadleaf supply doors, door furniture, worktops, beams, stair cladding and bespoke joinery. They deliver nationwide and have eight inspiring UK showrooms in Bath, Cheltenham, Henley on Thames, London, Llandeilo, Cardiff, Dublin, Aberdeen.
Tel: 01269-851910 www.broadleaftimber.com