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  • Choosing the right wood floor for you

    In today’s interior landscape there are many flooring solutions that combine long service life and have the potential to uplift your interior. Of these flooring solutions there is little dispute that wood offers the biggest challenge to homeowners due to the many variations in terms of choice and constrains that such a natural product will impose under certain circumstances. In this guide we aim to talk through your options and to explain the precise decision making process you should use when evaluating wood flooring. Once you are ready, head to the trades people section to find a reliable flooring fitter in your area.


    Types Of Wood Flooring


    The biggest challenge that homeowners face is coming to terms with the difference between the two types of floorboard construction as both fall under the definition of ‘real wood’. As you will read later on, your choice of one over the other will influence the longevity of the floor so it is essential to come to terms with both types sooner rather than later.  The two construction types are solid wood and engineered wood.


    Solid Wood Flooring – Of the two types, solid floorboards are the original hardwood floorboards and what most homeowners imagine wood flooring to be. Each plank is made from 100% natural wood, hence the use of the descriptive term ‘solid’. This construction ensures long service life (up to 100 years) and gives homeowners the ability to sand and re-stain or re-coat the floorboards many times over.


    Engineered Wood Flooring – In contrary to solid type, each plank of engineered floorboard contains a mixture of wood and artificial materials. The top visible layer is made from solid wood in varying thickness of 3mm to 6mm thick, supported by artificial layers of materials such as Plywood, MDF and Softwood. The end result is a plank of wood flooring that looks precisely like the original solid type, though it varies in its behavior under certain conditions. While service life will never match solid type, it is far more versatile in its compatibility around all parts of the home. The hardness level of wood is measured in a special test called the Janka hardness test in which a steel ball is catapulted into the wood. Solid wood is stronger than artificial materials, which explains why engineered wood flooring is not as durable as solid wood. 



    Deciding Between Solid and Engineered Floorboards


    As you now know, both solid and engineered floorboards share precisely the same look due to the use of solid wood in both cases. Therefore, the difference between the two comes to light in the behavior of the two types in different environments around the home. To illustrate the difference between the two, let’s look at how each type will cope in different circumstances.


    Humid and Moist Areas – Natural wood does not cope well in wet and humid conditions. The presence of such conditions is a common occurrence in areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, basement and even in certain types of conservatories. Fitting the solid type will mean that over time the floorboard will weaken and damage. On the other hand, engineered type due to the varied construction of natural wood and artificial material is perfectly at home under these conditions and makes for the only sensible option should you decide to fit wood in high humidity areas.


    Fitted Wood Over Under Floor Heating – The presence of under floor heating is very common in cold climates. Natural wood expands in the face of hot temperatures and contracts in the face of cold temperatures leading to gaps between the floorboards as well as damage from over expansion. Solid type due to the 100% use of natural real wood will react precisely in this manner and is therefore unsuitable to fit over under floor heating. On the other hand, engineered type will also expand but never to a level that will damage the floorboards making it the only option for fitting wood flooring over under floor heating.


    Other Areas – If the above limitations do not apply, for example, if you are fitting wood flooring in your living room area and under floor heating is not present, solid type often makes for a favorable solution. The use of complete wood allows you to sand and re-coat the floorboards many times over compared to only 2 to 3 such attempts in the case of engineered type.


    Sanding is a process that removes a 1mm layer of wood to expose new wood. Typically the old layer will include stains, surface scratches and other visual imperfections from years of use. Because engineered type contains only a limited layer of solid wood, you are limited in the number of attempts, while solid type contains only natural wood and the process can be repeated anywhere from 7 to 10 times. Homeowners will often sand their wood floor every 3 to 4 years, while homes that are used for rental proposes are often sanded between occupancies.


    Grade of Wood


    The natural wood that is present in both solid and engineered types varies according to grade. Grade is a visual indication of natural wood characteristics such as color variations, knots and sapwood. Higher grades will feature less knots, sapwood and will match evenly in terms of colors, while lower grades will appear wilder and are more affordable to buy. Grade has no affect on matters such as service life and quality, it is merely a visual indication fueled by personal taste. There are four common grades that are used in wood flooring.


    Prime Grade – Prime grade wood is cut from the middle of the log, which means that the floorboards will present no color variation and very few knots or sapwood.


    Select Grade – Select grade wood is cut from the second ring from within the middle of the tree which means that the floorboards will present some color variations between each other and some knots of up to 20mm in size should be expected.


    Natural Grade – Natural grade or ABCD mill run grade will feature Sapwood and knots of up to 30mm in size.


    Rustic Grade – Also referred to as ‘country grade’, rustic is by far the grade with the most attitude, as you cannot mistake the floor for anything but real wood.  Floorboards will feature plenty of sapwood and knots of 35mm. Color variation between the floorboards will feature more prominently.


    Finish Of The Floorboards


    Each plank is traditionally covered in a translucent layer of material, which has two objectives. The most important feature is to protect the floorboard from minor damage and secondly, to achieve a certain design outcome. . Unlike type or grade, the finish can be changes after sending the floorboards. Today’s industry finish will be based on oil or lacquered substances.


    Oil Finish – Oil is the successor of the Wax finish, which is hardly in use nowadays. In terms of look, Oil often has a low glare look which helps hide imperfections in the boards. It is very easy to maintain and durable as the Oil sinks into the wood.


    Lacquered Finish – Lacquered is more obvious on the floorboard because it remains on the surface (unlike Oil) and has a glossy reflection. It means that in areas where water may present a problem, lacquered is the perfect choice as it makes the hardwood almost waterproof. If you are determined to fit wood flooring in an area that may contain high humidity, the only correct option is to fit a lacquered finish floorboard of the engineered type.


    If you are considering fitting wood flooring, follow these steps to evaluate your options. These tips will help ensure you have a successful project.


    Written for Find Me A Trades Person by wood flooring company wood and beyond.

    Tuesday, 30 Apr 2013

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