Choosing your hardwood floor
Buying a hardwood floor and having it installed is quite a financial commitment so you want to be sure the end result is pleasing and worthwhile. Choosing a hardwood floor may be more complicated than you might think. We will do our best to guide you through a thought process to narrow down the options to find the floor that best suits what you had in mind. This could be a lot to take in so we try to make it as informative as possible while dumbing down some of the technical content that may available in-depth elsewhere on this site if you have the time and inclination.
How do you choose the floor that suits your individual requirements and taste?
Try to visualise the finished floor, what would be most pleasing? What are the key questions you should be asking yourself?
What made you think about having hardwood flooring in the first place.
Maybe a friend has hardwood floors, magazines, TV programs, the internet? These are all good starting places to get ideas. Have you already seen what you really like?
What do you intend to spend?
What is your budget? What are the potential costs? It’s not always what you can afford but sometimes more about what you intend to spend. To get straight to the point, most wooden flooring is sold by the square meter “m2” 1m x 1m floor area. £ 15 to £ 25 buys you a budget end plastic laminate. A little extra buys you the short length Chinese oak floors, £30.00 should buy you a reasonable quality hardwood floor. The average price of a quality floor good in length width and robust will set you back £50 to £60.00. We then start to climb to great heights for designer finishes and high-end products where £400.00 + m2 can be achieved.
Were you considering stone or tile as an alternative to wood?
As an alternative, the cost in range of quality climbs the ladder at a similar rate. The advantage of wood and stone compared to carpet is that you should only have to buy and install it once and not have to worry as much on the potential for damage.
One advantage of wood compared to stone is the warmth underfoot.
Wood takes on the ambient temperature of your room. Stone is cold underfoot and cools the room. If you have ceramics in mind we would advise you to consider underfloor heating. You have the option of having underfloor heating with your Hardwood floors but it is not a necessity as it would be with stone if you want a cosy, comfortable living space.
As an alternative, the cost in range of quality climbs the ladder at a similar rate. The advantage of wood and stone compared to carpet is that you should only have to buy and install it once and not have to worry as much on the potential for damage. One advantage of wood compared to stone is the warmth underfoot.
How many rooms have you got in mind?
Are you thinking of one room, two the whole ground floor or the whole house? Are you doing one room to start with and then adding other rooms over time? If you are not planning on having all the require area done at the same time you must make sure that the floor you choose will be available in the future. Many companies change suppliers and products on a regular basis and some products go out of production. So be careful.
What are your existing sub-floors?
Solid screed, Concrete Timber, Tiled? Do you have existing underfloor heating? If you have solid sub-floors such as screed, then the best option is to have engineered floors laid as floating floors.
This involves laying a dense foam underlay and then the floor laid and glued at all edges to form one sheet of flooring which simply lays in place anchored down by either skirting or perimeter beads to the edge of the rooms. Another option is to glue down sheets of plywood and then glue your new floor to the plywood. This is more expensive and increases floor height but you can then be assured that your floor will be dead to the tread.
Floating floors may be prone to slight movement on footfall as an acceptable characteristic inherent with floating floors.
If you have a timber type subfloor, you then have the option of floating your new floor over the top or fixing it down invisibly by secrete screwing down through the tongues of the boards into the floor below. The next board then hides the fixings.
Do you have underfloor heating?
You will need to consider floor levels and the efficiency of the heating after the hardwood flooring has been installed. Here at Winchester hardwood, we are at the forefront when it comes to hardwood Flooring and Under Floor Heating so don’t worry.
We are able to give you calculations, help and advice and many of our floors are guaranteed with underfloor heating. We can recommend Floor fitters who fit both the heating systems and the hardwood floor giving you even better service and peace of mind.
Only the right type of engineered boards are suitable for use with underfloor heating
Is this a new build home or a new extension?
Moisture levels of subfloors are very important as this can be detrimental to your new floor. New builds and extensions often have solid screed flooring of 50 mm thick and greater. A 50 mm thick screed floor will take 50 days on average before it naturally dries to a level low enough for Hardwood flooring to be installed over it. So 1 mm per day drying time.
Once you go over 50 mm it can become a day and a half per 1 mm.
What colour and what type of wood?
Light coloured floors are viewed as more contemporary and dark floors as more traditional. Some floors come in natural colours of the wood and some come in the same type of wood with different colouring applied by chemical treatments, stains or colour oils.
So from one type of wood, the colour choice is extreme. A major decision when choosing the type of wood for your floor is the density of the species affecting its suitability as a flooring material. Walnut is a very rich timber, pleasing in appearance and used widely as a flooring material but it is soft when compared to species such as Ash and Oak.
Therefore careful thought must be given to the type of environment where it is best suited.
Oak is probably the most commonly known hardwood and one of the best suited to Hardwood Flooring. It is dense enough to be robust and it’s colour and grain structure make it very forgiving when masking the general wear and tear in the life of a floor. Ash is another good choice. On the outset, Ash is lighter in colour than oak but over time there is a colour change and the difference becomes less obvious.
All wood floors will naturally change colour over time. You may have experienced that moment when a rug, door matt or piece of furniture is moved from a position on a wooden floor showing a patch of colour variation where the light was restricted for a long period of time.
The explanation in brief and simple terms! Wood is made from cells and a substance called lignum. Lignum is the glue that holds the cells in place forming the structure of the wood.
Lignum is photosensitive to ultraviolet light. Therefore the lignum changed colour over a long period of being exposed to daylight, hence the colour change in the wood. This change is very gradual and hard to realise unless you expose a protected area of the floor that has been hidden away from the light.
Solid floor or engineered?
Solid wood floors are made from floorboards that are made from one piece of wood only. An engineered floor is a floor made out of floorboards that are made from more than one piece of wood. This could be two pieces of solid wood glued side by side in width or glued in length. This could be many pieces of wood glued in layers in a sandwich effect. Wood expands and contracts as the moisture content changes due to environmental changes in a room.
Using the drinking straw analogy, if you had a handful of drinking straws held in a bundle you could squeeze your hand and crush them together. If you tried to crush them in length, not so easy.
In the same way, if the straws were full of water and the ends sealed you could not crush them. Let the water out and you can crush them in width but not in length. As water escapes from wood it wants to shrink. As with the straws, it can do this best in width but not in length. For this reason, solid flooring expands and contracts across the grain “the grain direction being the straws” and hardly in length. So hardwood floors are prone to natural movement as the moisture content fluctuates throughout the seasons or is effected by moisture-related problems in the building.
Engineered flooring made from solid wood will act in the same way if the grain is all in one direction.
An engineered floor made by alternating the grain direction is a much more stable product.
Plywood is made by bonding layers of wood together with each layer having its grain direction 90º to each other. In this way, the board is held stable. Plywood is the most laterally stable wood product that can be achieved.
Our engineered floors are made by bonding a hardwood wear layer to a plywood base in a technical manner and proportion that make them the most stable boards available.
Some of your choices are Wax, Varnish, hard wax oils, and Lacquers. Wax is a traditional method for finishing and protecting floors but is high maintenance, traps dirt and shows white deposit marks when water is dropped.
The varnish is an old fashioned type of coating “Polyurethane”. Seldom used these days but still available if required. Hard Wax oils. Not to be confused as wax. This is a blend of natural oils, waxes and a carrier that form a natural seal coating to protect the floor with a choice of Matt, Satin or Gloss and a variety of colours. Hard wax oils are the market leader in domestic situations.
Lacquer is a formulation of synthetic chemical’s that produce a hard-wearing layer that protects the wood surface from ingress. These tend to look a little bit plastic.
Bona products are some of the best lacquers on the market used extensively in school gymnasiums etc.
What about maintenance?
Your new wood floor will undoubtedly feel very preciouses to you at first but over time you will come to treat it for what it is. A floor is a floor. It is not a cabinet or a fine piece of joinery. That said it still needs looking after. Mostly vacuuming and dusting down and a damp mopping every week or two. Nothing too strenuous.
Your floor will pit and scratch over time but low effort periodic maintenance will keep it sealed and looking good building up a patina over time of what a real hardwood floor should look like.
Floor thickness, Board length and width.
Most floors come in a thickness of 15 or 20 mm. A 20 mm floor should be capable of being a load-bearing floor meaning it would support weight over the joist. The 15 mm floor is only suitable for use over a load-bearing subfloor. A floor containing longer and wider boards is considered to be a better quality floor and inherently more expensive.
Board widths may vary from 120 mm to 350 mm with the average length being 2.2 m and as long as 3m and beyond. Budget floors tend to be shorter pieces, ranging from 300 mm up to 1200 mm in length with a maximum width of 150 mm.
Floor grades, Character and Prime
The two main grades of flooring are described as character and prime.
Character being wood with knots and prime being wood without knots.
Take care when purchasing character boards. Considerations are how big are the knots allowed to be, how many in a board, are they filled of hollow and with what are they filled.
Cheap floors are often poorly finished with filler that bears no resemblance to the colour of the floor.
Wide board Oak is the classic floor of all time having a golden appearance when new with light and dark board mixture. Over time the oak changed colour and the boards seem to tone in to less of a colour variation.
For some clients this is not suitable, they do not want the boards to look brand new. This is most common with listed or period properties. There is a wide array of options for making a new look slightly aged or extremely aged.