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Wooden Flooring

There are many ways that you can categorise wooden flooring. You can group these floors in terms of the material type, the material form and the way the floor is laid out. These are the major classes in which they can be categorised. The type of flooring that is appropriate for our homes will be based on the traffic and the level of punishment that our floor is expected to receive over its lifetime.

When it comes to the wooden floor classification based on the type of wood material; the maple, walnut and oak are the most popular. There are also other types of hardwood that are used as flooring. Teak and other exotic types can also be used as flooring material. Under this category, pine wood is also included although, technically speaking, it is a softwood.

A wood floor can also be classified based on the form of the flooring material used. The types include solid wood, acrylic-impregnated and engineered. The solid wood is basically defined as such – a solid piece of timber. On the other hand, the engineered flooring is made of layers of thin pieces of hardwood. The criss-cross layering of this type of material makes it a perfect option in floor conditions requiring support for more force and weight. Finally, the acrylic-impregnated type of wood flooring is a combination of acrylic and solid timber. This combination gives us a durable floor material that is able to withstand particularly heavy human traffic.

Another manner by which we can classify the wood flooring materials is by its size and the way the material is laid out on the floor. Wood floor can come in strips which are basically long pieces of wooden floor materials with a range of different widths. Another type of wood floor under this category is the planks. This type of wood floor material is relatively similar to the wood strips. The only difference is that the former are wider than the latter. The last type under this category is the parquet wood flooring (see below). These are intricate little wood pieces in alternating direction and are configured in attractive geometric patterns.

The installation method can also be the basis in classifying the wood flooring material. There are wood flooring types that are attached to the sub-flooring beneath it. This type of wood floor is fixed using staples, glue or nails. There is also another type of wood floor under this category known as the floating wood floor. This is the type of hardwood floor that is not fixed to the floor beneath it. Instead, a layer of foam underlay is placed right on top of the sub-floor and the wood pieces are laid out on top of this foam material.

Engineered wood floors

These are manufactured by using several layers fixed together. Each floorboard consists of 3 or 4 layers of wood which have been glued together at right angles to create a plank measuring approximately 14mm thick. The real wood veneer on top is only 4mm thick but it can still be carefully sanded and treated to restore the original finish after being scuffed, worn or damaged. It cannot be laid anywhere where it will be exposed to water of in a humid atmosphere and it is almost impossible to achieve a really good finish in difficult areas such as around toilet pans and pedestals. However, it is more stable than solid wood, and less prone to alterations in temperature and humidity.

Real Wood Flooring

This is the most common type of wood flooring we are asked to restore. The solid wood planks are usually thicker than engineered wood, and have a hardness score which indicates how easily they can be damaged. Each plank is fitted using a tried and tested tongue-and-grooved method. The number of times this type of flooring can be sanded to restore the finish is dependent on how deep the tongue is set from the top of the board. The problems associated with this type of flooring are that is swells in damp conditions and shrinks in dry ones, but there’s no doubting that it looks really great after sanding providing it has been installed correctly in the first place.

Planks with a polished (shiny) finish

Parquet blocks with a matt finish

What is Parquet?

A parquet floor is usually made from small blocks or strips of wood which are laid to create a regular and geometric pattern and these many pieces of wood are fitted together like a mosaic or puzzle. Sometimes, parquet can be made from different types of wood with varying grains, to create a unique and eye catching pattern.

The French word parqueterie is the most likely origin of the word parquet and its use dates back to the mid to late 1600’s with a fantastic feature created for the Sun King – Louis XIV, and used throughout the Palace of Versailles, the Hall of Mirrors being the most well-known example. These beautiful intricate patterns have been adopted as an icon of elegance in costly homes and palaces throughout the world ever since. The parquetry inlay technique is also used on furniture or decorative items, especially in the Middle East and India, both these regions have a long tradition of beautiful parquet floors and artwork.

The primary purpose of parquet is to cover the joists of a floor and provide a surface for people to walk on which is far warmer than stone, marble or ceramic tile. Over the years, builders of less expensive homes have tended to include plain wooden floors because they are cheaper to manufacture, while homes for the more wealthy have historically incorporated more elaborate floors which were also more durable. One of the most important benefits though, is because unlike other types of flooring, parquet does not trap moisture and rot in the joists of the floor as this can ultimately cause damp problems with wooden floorboard planks.

A Parquet floor is sometimes referred to as mosaic flooring and is typically laid out in regular and geometric shapes such as squares, triangles or lozenges. The classic herringbone or chevron patterns shown below have been the most popular choice in the UK over the past century. Nowadays however, many discerning people are often requesting stars and sunburst effects or floral themes in their contemporary homes, so it seems there may be a revival taking place in modern home decor.

Any species of wood can be used in parquet to create a pattern and much of its appeal is due to the use of various species of wood such as pine, walnut, cherry, lime, maple and of course oak. Sometimes the parquet pattern may be a subtle variance of grains between tiles in the flooring, while other floors may use strips of totally different colours. Classic parquet patterns include herringbone, chevron, brick and basket weave. Parquet floor installation is a job for an experienced professional. In days gone by it was laid upon hot bitumen, but today with advances in chemical technology, parquet flooring is nearly always installed using a cold adhesive which leaves each tile firmly fixed.

Traditionally, parquet is made from solid pieces of wood cut in a tongue and groove pattern so that they can be fitted together. Because a Parquet floor is completely solid, it can be sanded down and resurfaced many times as it degenerates with age. Nowadays Parquet flooring can also be manufactured from engineered wood. Engineered parquet flooring is made from layers of different species of wood and topped by hardwood. Both types give the same final appearance when laid so the choice is not too important initially, and it is possible to sand engineered parquet if the veneer is thick enough. However, there is a cheaper type of parquet on the market which uses a very thin strip of high quality wood veneer mounted on particleboard. Some of this veneer can sometimes be sanded if thick enough, but most of these are not.

The thickness of parquet may vary from as thin as 1mm to 15mm. It is a mistake to believe that great thickness necessarily equates to quality or durability. There are some decorative 2 or 3mm thick parquet floors which were laid well over 100 years ago which remain serviceable today. Nowadays, the majority of parquet floors are created from solid hardwood at between 6mm and 10mm thick. This does not mean that you can save money by choosing thin parquet tiles, in fact the cost of parquet tiles made from common timbers is due to the work invested in their production rather than the type of wood used.

Sometimes parquet is fitted to a rigid base such as concrete or screed, especially with the advent of modern adhesives. However, it is the physical flexibility of thin parquets which makes them most suitable for fitting to flexible sub floors such as joisted floors. The easier it is to bend, stretch or compress, the less it is likely that the timber will become detached from its adhesive base. The thicker the piece of timber becomes, the less easy it is to bend, stretch or compress. It is not advisable to fit parquets thicker than 15mm over a flexible sub floor. Even if the fitting of much thicker parquet tiles has been done successfully, it does not mean it could not have been done better or more economically with thinner parquet.

Popular types of Parquet – Herringbone Parquet

The herringbone pattern is named after the herring fish which is known for being quite bony. It is perhaps the most popular pattern in the UK which may comprise of a single species of wood or strongly contrasting timber colours. Herringbone battens are square ended, and Chevron tiles are cut at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees. Here’s a few diagrams of the more common designs used in the UK:

Notice in the smaller picture on the right how each tile is cut at an angle to give the Chevron effect. The wood blocks run point to point and the ends are cut at an angle to create a continuous zigzag design as opposed to the herringbone style which has each wood block finishing perpendicular to the next resulting in a broken zigzag. Some people prefer to have a less complicated pattern such as Basketweave Parquet because it’s simple design blends-in and presents a better backdrop for rugs, ornaments and furniture etc.