Choosing the right timber floor for your home
Timber floors look great in any home, but not all timber floors are the same. Here’s a guide to the different types of timber flooring and what to look for to make the best decision for your floors.
Solid timber flooring
When timber floors are mentioned, almost everyone is thinking of a solid timber floor – as they add great value to your home. Solid timber floors are the top of the tree (excuse the pun) when it comes to timber flooring however, as timber is a natural product, every floor is unique and it’s important to know what the variables are as that will determine how your floor looks.
- Colour – photos and samples generally provide a good representation of colour or grade but it’s important to realise that floors of the same species can differ markedly in both colour and appearance. Grading rules don’t apply to timber colour so don’t rely on a single board or an absolute guarantee of specific colour in your timber floor.
- Grade – grading significantly influences the appearance of the floor. Higher grades such as “select” or “standard & better” minimise the amount of appearance blemishes in the timber, whereas lower grades such as “standard” or “feature” allow a greater proportion and larger sizes of appearance faults such as gum veins, surface checking (cracks), insect marks, knots and other similar appearance blemishes.
- Board width – typically, solid timber floor boards are available in 3 main widths 80-85mm, 105-110mm, and 125-130mm. The wider boards are growing in popularity as they help to create a more open feel to a space. However, it is important to remember that wider boards are more susceptible to having noticeable shrinkage when conditions in the home environment are dry.
- Coating system – different coating systems change the appearance of a timber floor dramatically. Some systems are more suitable than others for home environments. Your timber flooring consultant should explain the differences between solvent based polyurethanes, waterborne polyurethanes, mixed coating systems and oil modified systems to ensure that the coating system you choose provides the right look and functionality.
Engineered timber floors
Engineered timber floors are a great alternative to solid timber. Essentially it is a genuine timber floor made up of several timber layers. This provides excellent stability for the floor as the cross-laminated formation significantly reduces expansion and contraction of the timber in the changing climatic conditions. Engineered timber floors usually have a 3mm top wear layer allowing them to be re-sanded once or twice after initial installation. New variations of engineered timber floors are available with wear layers at 0.6, 2, 4, 5 and 6mm which can be confusing. It is important to have a clear understanding of the make-up of any engineered floor you’re purchasing in order to assess the value for money. Prices vary widely across different quality engineered floors so ensure that your flooring consultant provides detail on the engineered floor they are recommending. Important considerations are; thickness of the wear layer, grade of the timber, origin of the timber, and if is it pre-finished or will it need to be sanded and coated in your home.
Parquetry flooring is solid timber floor that allows you the creativity to design a floor that becomes feature in your home. From simple brick layouts to herring bone and complex chevron designs, the options are boundless. Intricate parquetry floors can be quite expensive as they are time consuming to install, but more standard sizes and patterns can be installed from around the same cost as a traditional timber floor.
In recent years bamboo flooring has evolved into a very functional and hard-wearing product. As the name suggests, bamboo is in fact not a timber floor but as it is manufactured to have a timber floor appearance, it is often considered part of the timber floor family. Bamboo is quick and easy to install and with a growing range of colours and styles which provides a wide range of options to suit many home styles. Bamboo flooring is available in solid styles (that are generally only suitable to be installed as a floating floor) and engineered styles (which are suitable for a quieter direct stick application).
Laminate flooring provides the look of a timber floor with improved impact and scratch resistance. This product is a reproduction of real timber that through digital photography provides a floor that is difficult to tell apart from the genuine timbers. Laminate floors are generally a less expensive option than real timber floors making them great value.
Vinyl plank flooring
Vinyl plank flooring is similar to laminate flooring in that it is a reproduction of real timber. Again digital photography ensures realistic looks to these floors. The best thing about vinyl plank flooring though is that it is very quiet underfoot and – unlike all other timber flooring options – vinyl plank flooring is 100% waterproof and can be installed in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries.
So it’s true; not all timber floors are the same, in fact, one of the great things about them is that each timber floor is unique. But to be sure your floor is the unique style you were planning, talk to a knowledgeable timber flooring consultant who can explain the different options and ensure the floor you choose works with your preferences.