The variety of different flooring surfaces available today is vast, catering for all price ranges and styles. Wood flooring is becoming increasingly popular and fashionable, and many people are getting rid of their existing floors in favour of the wood that can be found underneath. Alternatively, wood is being laid, or mock-wood laminate floors, in order to create this effect if existing wood flooring is not available.
Why should I choose wood flooring?
- Wood flooring provides a naturally beautiful effect which gives the house a warm feeling.
- Pure wood flooring is environmentally friendly, and is hypoallergenic.
- Wood floors can often resist wear and tear much better than other types of flooring, such as carpets. They can often last well over 100 years with only a small amount of maintenance.
- Any maintenance that the floors might need can usually be done by the owner and is relatively cheap. It is very easy to re-varnish or refinish wood floors to protect them, or get rid of scratches or stains.
- A great variety of styles of wood flooring is available to suit all areas and rooms of the house.
- Wood flooring adds value to a house so it is a great investment.
- Any spillages on wood floors are easier to clean up compared to surfaces like carpets, which are often ruined in the same situation.
What type of jobs will wood flooring services companies carry out?
The main job that these companies perform is floor installations, although they will also carry out board replacement, refinishing, floor repair and floor staining.
There are several species of hardwood that can be used for flooring, providing a variety of colours and grain variations.
Hard wood characteristics are all different, but can include a variant of grain patterns, black or dark gray marks, and knots of varying sizes. These characteristics are all products of each species' individual growth process, and when they are influenced by sunlight, climate and the soil.
Each plank of the wood used will be different, and the grade of the floor depends on how much variation there is between each plank.
When using wood, you should make sure that you use one which has a high hardness, ensuring it will be able to withstand wear and tear better than softer woods and will subsequently have a longer life which requires less maintenance. Examples of hard wood are maple, mahogany, white oak, ash, beech, red oak and birch. Pine and douglas fir are among the softest.
When hard wood is used, it comes in strips, planks or parquet tiles. These shapes can also have a variety of edge treatments, for example square, micro or bevelled edges.
Wide planking floor is the term used for planks which are over 4 inches in width, whereas strip flooring defines strips of wood that are between 2 ¼ inches and 4 ¼ inches in width. Strip flooring is the most common type of hard wood flooring used.
Hardwood flooring grades
Hardwood flooring is graded according to the variation of the colour, knots and grain patterns of each plank or strip. These definitions will help you decide which type of colour you would like and the wood flooring company can then recommend wood that would be suitable for each grade. The price also varies greatly, with the grade 1 flooring being more expensive than the grade 3.
- Grade 1 flooring – This is a clear floor which has very few knots in each plank, and the various planks have a similar colour making the visual of the floor consistent. It provides an elegant, beautiful appearance which is characterised by clean, straight lines of wood.
- Grade 2 flooring – This floor has more variety in its colouring, so that each plank is a slightly different colour to the ones next door to it. The planks or strips will also have small knots in them, and will often have wormholes. The grain of the wood is also more visible, which can give a stronger character to the floor.
- Grade 3 flooring – With this type of flooring there is a much greater variety in the colour throughout the floor, as well as it having large knots and many character marks. The design could be described as rustic.
Different types of wood flooring
Hardwood flooring is still the most popular type of wood flooring, but the price, maintenance and installation process has meant that people are starting to look to other types of flooring which will create the wood effect.
- Laminate flooring – This is a good alternative to hardwood as it can create a similar effect, yet is inexpensive and durable. It has become very common in many houses. The laminate is not attached to the sub floor, which means that levelling is key to its installation to make sure that the result is high quality. If the sub floor is uneven then the laminate will have a spongy feel.
- Engineered flooring – This type of flooring is pre-finished and comes in long strips or planks. It is made from a number of layers of criss-crossed laminated wood which are finally topped with a real wood surface. Engineered flooring can be used in situations where normal wood flooring cannot as it has restricted normal expansion and greater dimensional stability. The thickness of this type of floor is about ¼ inch, whereas the thickness of solid wood flooring is about ¾ inch. It can be stapled, glued or “floated” down. The disadvantages of engineered flooring are that it does not have the same life span as hardwood floor, and if any extreme damage is caused to the wood it cannot be repaired as easily.
- Pre-finished flooring – This type of floor comes with a factory finish already applied. It can be glued or stapled to the sub floor, and does not require any sanding or finishing to be done in the home thus is a cleaner floor to lay. The simplicity has made it a popular type of flooring, supported by the fact the layer time is also much shorter. However, one drawback is that marks and imperfections are more noticeable.
- Before any work is done, the sub-floor, which the wood is going to be laid on, needs to be completely cleared. This includes removing any of the carpets, if required, and cleaning the surface of the floor to get rid of any adhesive residue or paint. The whole area needs to free of dirt and debris.
- All doors leading to and from the floor need to be removed as well.
- The wood that is to be laid needs to be kept on site for a week before it will be fitted. This is to make sure that it has acclimatised to the temperature of the area, and moisture conditions of the house. This acclimatisation will minimise any expansion or contraction, thus the wood needs to be kept in the area that it will be laid and not stored in somewhere like a garage.
- When the planks or strips are laid they can either be top-nailed or surface-nailed according to whether you mind the nails being seen. Surface nailing is slightly more expensive as it is a longer, more intricate process.
- If a finish is applied to wood it can be done before it is laid or whilst it is on the floor. This is done in the same way as refinishing (see below) but the wood will not be initially sanded. After the final coat of finish is applied, normal foot traffic can resume in 24 hours. However, you must wait 48 hours before furniture is replaced.
Floor staining will occur if a specific colour is wanted from the wood. Stains cannot be darkened or lightened once they have been applied, so it must be ensured that the colour is the correct match before it is applied.
All floor stains have about a three-day dry time and can be applied to the wood before it is laid, or directly onto the wood floor if it has already been laid. Sometimes the company will be able to match the new floor to the colour of your existing floor.
Wood floors will have a long life expectancy if they are looked after properly, and one of the ways of doing this is to regularly refinish them.
- Initially the floor is rough sanded to remove any of the previous finish.
- Filler is then towelled over the floor. This provides the general colour of what the wood will be. For top-nailed or surface-nailed floors, the nails are set before the filler is applied to guarantee that each nail hole will accept it.
- The filler is then left to dry and, when this is complete, a finer sandpaper is used to sand the floor to get rid of any surplus filler, and to even out any rough sanding marks.
- A very fine sandpaper is used to remove any sanding marks which may have occurred in the previous sanding.
- The floor is then screened. This is a process which is similar to sanding, but a finer and less abrasive screen is used instead of sandpaper. The floor is then vacuumed to remove any dust from this process.
- The first coat of varnish is then applied and, once this has dried, the floor is screened and the next coat of vanish is applied.
- This process continues until all successive coats have been applied.
Floor repair can mean replacing one plank, one strip or even a whole section of the floor. The company will try and match the replacement floor as accurately as possible to the existing one, but an exact match is not always possible.
Holes or gaps between the wood can sometimes be filled, although companies will usually not fill larger gaps as they do not hold the filler well over time. Filling large gaps can often look unsightly as well.
Wood flooring maintenance
The wood flooring company will give you guidance to how you should care for your individual floor, but here are some general tips which apply to all wood floors:
- Make sure that all tables and chairs are fitted with felt floor protector pads on the bottom of their legs. These will help stop them from scratching the floor or making dents in the surface. These pads must be kept grit free, and need to be regularly replaced.
- Only used a nylon broom to sweep the floor. Straw brooms are too rough and will cause scratches on the surface of the wood.
- When washing the floor, do not use too much water as this may cause the wood to discolour or may damage it. After cleaning, buff the floor with a cloth for best results.
- Keep your pet’s nails clipped to stop them from scratching the floor.
- Keep mats just inside all doors leading to and from the wood floor, to keep as much grit off the floor as possible.
- Do not roll or slide furniture or appliances across the wood floor.
- Maintain all shoe heels properly so that they do not cause excess pressure on the floor and leave marks.
How much does it cost?
The price of the wood will vary according to which species is dwindling at that time. Wood prices vary enormously throughout the year, so your wood flooring agent will be able to provide you with information about what are the cheapest woods that would be suitable for your floor.
Hardwood flooring, which can range from £15 to £40 per square metre, is more expensive than laminate flooring. Engineered flooring, however, costs between £20 and £80 per square metre.