How to Choose Wooden Flooring

Full of character and reassuringly warm underfoot, wooden flooring is not just perfect for traditional homes, but with the wealth of woods, finishes and different widths on offer, it’s a fitting choice for the modern home too. But before specifying distressed solid oak boards for your cottage-style interiors, or perhaps wide pale planks for a contemporary kitchen diner, there’s a few key points to consider, aesthetics aside.

Where will the floor be laid, for starters? Will it be introduced in a room which will receive lots of wear (or ‘high traffic’) such as in the hall, or in the kitchen where there’s higher humidity, or laid across an open plan space, needing to meet several different demands? Importantly, will it be laid over underfloor heating (UFH)? And, will you opt for solid boards or an engineered alternative?

Added to this is whether you’ll be specifying a product to last (or outlast) your duration in the house, with additional budget reflecting this, or anticipate that you’ll be replacing it in the not-so-distant future.

Unlike solid wood boards, which consist of a single piece of wood, engineered boards are made up of several layers. The visible top layer – or wear layer – is ‘real’ wood, beneath which typically lies layers of plywood or sometimes a three-ply construction (usually with an MDF or HDF core), laid and glued at 90° to the layer above. Some products consist of three pieces of the same wood, again arranged at right angles.

Choosing a Wood

Oak and pine were traditionally the timbers of choice, but options now range from tropical hardwoods such as jarrah to temperate hardwoods like American walnut and hardy softwoods such as larch. Maple, ash and now bamboo are also popular.

Hardiness is a main consideration and as expected, softwoods such as pine or fir will mark and dent more easily. The Janka hardness test (the Brinell test is also used) can provide a useful reference here. Tropical hardwoods such as Brazilian walnut – not to be confused with American walnut, which is a lot less hardy – are shown to be the most durable. Strand-woven bamboo is also very hardy.

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