Wood Flooring FAQs
Type of Wood Flooring
What are the advantages of engineered flooring compared with solid flooring?
Engineered Oak flooring is more stable than solid. It will remain flatter and straighter than a solid floor board. It is easier and quicker to install as it does not require cramping / strapping to pull it straight; solid boards often do.
Engineered floor boards are always tongued and grooved on the ends so length offcuts are negligible. Solid flooring is not always “ends matched” and consequently can call for a higher waste factor than engineered floor boards.
Once laid, visually there is no way of telling whether a floor is solid or engineered.
From an environmental point of view, all things being equal, engineered boards would have the advantage, in that many more square metres of say 4mm or 6mm wear layer can be produced from a tree than say 21mm solid floor boards.
Do solid Oak floor boards last longer than engineered boards?
No. The wear layer [top] of an engineered Oak floor board will wear at exactly the same rate as the top of a solid board. In a very extreme case, theoretically one could wear right through the top layer of an engineered board before wearing down to the tongue or groove; whereas with a solid floor, theoretically the floor would still be serviceable all the way down to the tongue and groove. In practice this situation would never occur, such would be the time and wear needed to reach this scenario.
Lacquered or oiled finish – which is best?
Factory applied lacquers tend to be very hard wearing and need very little maintenance. They do, however, scratch and indent and if subjected to grit, stiletto heels, furniture feet and other abuse then the lacquer will soon show signs of wear and tear. A worn lacquered floor really needs to be sanded back to bare wood and refinished,
Oiled finishes applied to Oak or Walnut flooring will also scratch, in the above circumstances but are much easier to repair. Very light scratches can be eliminated with literally a wipe with an oily cloth. Deeper scratches can be sanded out locally and then the sanded area simply re-oiled. An oiled finish is very easily maintained periodically in the same way, with an oiled cloth and the excess oil buffed off.
In a nutshell, for light traffic areas such as bedrooms and other upstairs areas lacquered boards are a very practical and nil maintenance option. For heavier traffic areas, oiled finishes are far more practical.
Can a Walnut or Oak hardwood floor be installed directly over concrete?
Provided the concrete base is flat, sound and completely dry, then yes there are a number of options, as follows:-
1) Use a suitable liquid damp proof membrane [DPM] & primer combined and glue the flooring directly to the concrete. Do not glue tongues into grooves in this case.
2) Lay a vapour barrier and foam underlay then float the floor. In this case tongues are glued into grooves.
3) If the concrete is in poor condition then plywood can be fixed to the concrete and proceed as 2) above. It is advisable in this case to lay the vapour barrier directly onto the concrete, then fix the plywood to the concrete then lay the underlay over the plywood.
4) As 3) above except, in the case of 18mm and thicker boards, the flooring can be nailed to the plywood. Never nail into chipboard – the floor will creak. If chipboard is used then the floor boards can be fixed with suitable flooring screws.
Can wooden Oak floorboards be laid directly onto joists?
Assuming standard 400mm, or smaller, joist centres and assuming the joists are sound and level, then yes a hardwood floor can be laid directly onto joists, provided the flooring is 20mm or thicker.
If the flooring thickness is less than 20mm either plywood or chipboard of a suitable thickness can be laid over the joists and then the floor floated or nailed [into plywood] or screwed [into chipboard]
Can Oak or Walnut flooring be installed over existing wood floor boards?
Yes, provided the existing boards are flat and dry. It is advisable to lay the new floor at right angles to the existing boards but by using a 6 or 7mm wood fibre underlay (or hardboard) the direction is a matter of choice.
In what circumstances should I use a vapour barrier or damp proof membrane?
It is always necessary to install a damp proof membrane in basement situations. It is strongly advisable also to use a vapour barrier or DPM in ground floor installations. Where a DPM is used, it should be run up the wall at the perimeter and the skirting boards fixed with the DPM behind them. Where necessary, the edge of the DPM can be trimmed with a sharp knife, along the top edge of the skirting boards.
If the building is damp, can solid or engineered floorboards be left to acclimatise prior to fitting?
No, definitely not. The building must be allowed to dry completely before any wood flooring is even delivered to site.
How can I establish whether or not a building is dry enough to take a wood floor?
A qualified and experienced wood floor installer will possess [or will hire] appropriate moisture meters that can measure the relative humidity of the sub floor, the humidity of the ambient air and the moisture content of existing joinery in the building. It is critical that all these readings are appropriate to a wood floor installation where the moisture content of the flooring being delivered to site is [typically] in the range of 8-11%.
My concrete base has only recently been poured – how long will it take to dry?
It depends on several factors such as the thickness of concrete, whether the building is sealed / ventilated, the temperature and humidity of the ambient air, whether dehumidifiers are being used. As a very general rule of thumb estimate one month per inch thickness of concrete but the installer should always measure and record humidity levels of the subfloor, ambient air and existing joinery in the building prior to any solid wood or engineered wood floor being delivered to site. In order to establish a true reading of moisture / relative humidity in a concrete screed, it is essential that any heating [whether underfloor or in the room] and / or forced dryers [dehumidifiers] are turned off 4-7 days prior to readings being taken. Otherwise misleading low readings may well occur.
Can engineered flooring be laid tight up to skirting boards to avoid their removal?
No. A suitable expansion gap must be provided around the entire perimeter of the room[s]. Moreover, expansion breaks should be provided in doorways and in appropriate places where a large aggregate width of wood flooring is being installed. The need for expansion gaps applies to both engineered wood floor boards and [especially to] solid hardwood flooring installations.
Can solid wood flooring be used in conjunction with under-floor heating?
In the vast majority of cases the answer is no, engineered wood floor boards are a far more appropriate choice in this respect. There are a very small number of circumstances where solid wood flooring could be used with UFH [for instance where certain very dimensionally stable species, such as Teak, are used in thin and narrow sizes and / or when certain heat treatments are applied to lumber prior to being machined into floor boards] but such circumstances are rare and call for expert advice and guidance.
Can engineered Oak or Walnut flooring be installed over under floor heating?
Yes, in many cases it can; particularly where the heating source is hot water in pipes within a concrete of synthetic screed. It is important to check with your flooring supplier as to whether their products are suitable and the maximum surface of screed temperature will in most cases have to be limited to 27 degrees Celsius. Engineered Oak or Walnut flooring performs best when subjected to reasonably constant conditions of temperature and humidity. Bear in mind that UFH should be used to provide a steady background heat. It should not be frequently turned on and off.
Can I install wood flooring over electric under floor heating?
The answer here is check with the manufacturer. Engineered wood flooring is only suitable in this respect if effective heat dissipation is employed such that the underside of the floorboards are not exposed to temperatures exceeding the manufacturer’s stipulated limit.
Cleaning and Maintaining Wooden Floors
How do I clean a real wood floor?
Oiled and lacquered solid wood floors and engineered floor boards should be regularly swept with a clean soft brush. This will minimise abrasion damage caused by grit, dirt and sand. If anything is spilt over the floor it should immediately be wiped with a (just) damp cloth and towel dried. More stubborn marks can normally be removed with a suitable wood soap or spot remover.
Periodically, at intervals determined by level of traffic over the wood floor, it can be cleaned with a suitable wood soap, diluted to the manufacturer’s instructions. Irrespective of any application instructions given, never mop any wood floor. No wood floor should ever be subjected to bleach or other household cleaning products.
Will I need to maintain the lacquered finish to my solid Walnut flooring or engineered Oak floor?
Lacquered wooden floors are generally used in low traffic areas. In such circumstances regular sweeping and periodic cleaning [as described above] will be quite adequate. If a lacquered floor has been installed in a high traffic area and the floor is looking worn and tired then it can be professionally sanded and re-finished. Consideration should be given [in a high traffic area] as to whether the floor should be lacquered again or perhaps oiled /waxed.
Why an oiled wood floor for high traffic areas?
Where an oiled floor becomes worn, for instance in main through fares / doorways, those areas can easily be sanded and re-oiled / waxed to look new again. Often lightly worn areas can simply be re-oiled / waxed without the need for sanding. These are much easier and less expensive options than sanding back the whole of a lacquered floor.
Shouldn’t modern flooring lacquers be scratch proof?
That’s an impossible dream. Although modern floor lacquers are very hard wearing, they all scratch when subjected to abrasive contact. Lacquered floors [and also oiled / waxed wood floor boards] should therefore be cared for, respected and maintained properly and in accordance with the floor board supplier’s advice.