Are Solid Wood Floors Better?
Our customers have many considerations when buying a hardwood floor, and as well as guiding them through the huge range of colours and finishes and advising on the strengths (and weaknesses) of the different species, we are also very often asked ‘Should I choose solid flooring? Is it better than semi-solid?’
We’ll say this first: from an aesthetic point of view there will be absolutely no difference whatsoever. From a technical point of view there is a huge difference, so let’s look at the main issues.
‘Solid’ does not mean better quality
Most people think that if they are buying solid wood flooring, then they are getting better value for money because they’re getting more wood on the bone. This is not necessarily so. The average solid wood floor is approximately 20mm thick, but the amount of actual ‘usable’ wood is only 6mm, because the floor can only be sanded as far as the tongue. A 21mm multi-floor will also have 6mm of usable wood on top of a 15mm plywood base, and an engineered floor will have approximately 4mm of usable wood. So as you can see, it’s all more or less the same.
Important considerations when considering installing a solid floor
The main difference is the stability and sustainability of the floor. Engineered and multi-floors are far less susceptible to seasonal changes than solid floors, so they’re much more stable – and by ‘stable’ we mean that they’re less likely to move, twist, bow or cup as a reaction to changes in air temperature and humidity. Solid wood floors are just not ideally suited to the good old English climate!
Here’s another little known fact that could cause you a major headache, especially if you’re an installer. When fitting solid wood flooring with planks over 130mm wide, British Standards insists that planks should be ‘face nailed’ (which means driving nails or screws through the top of the wood, as opposed to secret nailing through the tongue). So, if you do fit solid wood flooring over 130mm width and it goes wrong (which it probably will) you could easily have your carcass and your good name dragged through the courts – and you will probably lose!
There is also the question of where the wood is going, and on to what type of sub-floor. If you have a concrete sub floor, or if the floor is to be installed in a basement, then you should forget solid wood; you will almost certainly be fitting a floor in the presence of moisture, and it just won’t be worth the headache in the long term. The same applies to UFH (underfloor heating). There are companies that profess to be able to install over UFH successfully, but the reality is very much different.
Antique / Reclaimed Floors
However, there is perhaps one application where a solid wood floor might work perfectly. If you are looking for an antique or reclaimed style floor, then the twisting, bowing cupping and movement that will follow can serve to only enhance the overall aged and weathered look. Other than that, we would advise that people stay away from solid floors.