Wood flooring: how to choose and what you need to know…

Emma Love
·5-min read
Photo credit: Katty Schiebeck
Photo credit: Katty Schiebeck

From ELLE Decoration

Not unlike choosing the perfect shade of neutral paint or stone for your kitchen surface, a lot of deliberation can go into selecting the perfect wooden floor. It can be expensive, fitting it can be daunting and your choices – oak or pine? engineered or hard wood? – can make or break the look of a space.

But no need to panic, we have answers to all your questions. No jargon, just everything you need to make an informed decision that’s right for your home. Plus, we share the best brands to suit every style.

What are the differences between solid wood, engineered and laminate flooring?
Engineered flooring consists of layers of ply that have been bonded together with a top layer of solid wood. The advantage of engineered flooring rather than solid wood is that it has less tendency to expand and contract – meaning that it can be used with underfloor heating and in areas where moisture and temperature levels may vary, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

‘Also, no pre-fitting acclimatisation period is needed, unlike solid boards that have to sit for a minimum of a week on site before fitting,’ adds Daniel Bloom, co-founder of Ecora. Another option is laminate flooring, which is made from a compressed fibre board plank covered by a photographic image of wood, with a protective overlay.

Should I consider using reclaimed wood?
Absolutely! ‘The charm of a reclaimed wood floor is hard to define and impossible to replicate,’ enthuses Robert Walsh, founder of Ted Todd. ‘Wood flooring that has been crafted from reclaimed wood, whether engineered or solid, not only gives the timber a new lease of life, but also prevents the need for more trees to be harvested, so has the lowest environmental impact of any floor covering.’

Photo credit: Katty Schiebeck
Photo credit: Katty Schiebeck

What are the options for fixing wood flooring together?
Tongue and groove is the most traditional type of floor fixing. The tongue (a protruding edge) fits into a perfectly sized gap (the groove) to allow two planks to slot together; it is secret nailed, secret screwed (the nail or screw goes through the tongue and is not visible from the surface), glued directly onto the subfloor, or can be floated over an underlay.

Modern click-fit wooden boards, where two planks fit together and audibly ‘click’ into place, are easier and quicker to install, but are not suitable for solid wood flooring.

How are parquet floors laid?
From the middle of the room, working outwards. The most popular patterns are herringbone, brick bond and diagonal basket weave. Your chosen pattern does not affect the installation method. It is important to leave a gap of around 12mm around the edge of the room (which will be covered by skirting), so that the parquet can expand if necessary.

Photo credit: Havwoods
Photo credit: Havwoods

What finish should I choose for my wood floor?
Before choosing a finish for your wood, think about the look you are trying to achieve, the environment the floor will be used in and the amount of maintenance you are prepared to take on. ‘For high-traffic areas, go for a lacquered finish, which requires virtually no maintenance,’ advises Ecora’s Daniel Bloom. ‘The drawback is that scratches are hard to mask and the floor will typically require a full sanding after about seven to ten years.’

Scratches on oiled floors are easier to maintain by applying a new coat every year or so. Also consider colour. ‘The spectrum of shades you can achieve with traditional oils is limited, especially when clients are looking for different modern tones, such as grey. In theory, any colour can be achieved with a varnish or lacquer,’ advises Darren Hopkins, founder of Root London.

Photo credit: Steven Massart
Photo credit: Steven Massart

Any other options to consider?
As well as lacquer and oils, unfinished wood can go through various processes such as brushing – where the planks are roller brushed during the manufacturing process to create a textured surface that highlights the grain – and distressing, which adds extra marks so the wood appears older than it is.

SIX OF THE BEST BRANDS TO KNOW

BEST FOR ENGINEERED Root London
Choose from three grades of sustainably sourced, wide-plank, engineered oak: prime (minimal knots) classic and rustic. root-london.com

Photo credit: Root London
Photo credit: Root London

BEST FOR VINYL Karndean

This brand’s ‘Art Select’ vinyl collection, inspired by the look of French oak, American chestnut and hickory, comes with realistic grain and knot details. karndean.com

Photo credit: Karndean
Photo credit: Karndean

BEST FOR LAMINATE Howdens

Selling to trade only, this brand has an impressively wider range of laminates, including grey, oak and parquet effects –all installed using the easy click-fit system. howdens.com

Photo credit: Howdens
Photo credit: Howdens

BEST FOR HARD-WAX OIL FINISHES Ecora

This company supplies new and reclaimed flooring. Particularly popular is its hard-wax oil finish, which can be brushed, smoked or distressed. ecora.co.uk

Photo credit: Ecora
Photo credit: Ecora

BEST FOR PARQUET Havwoods

Alongside the typical parquet patterns, this firm sells matching chevrons, blocks and short planks from which you can cut your own designs. havwoods.co.uk

Photo credit: Havwoods
Photo credit: Havwoods

BEST FOR RECLAIMED WOOD Ted Todd

Specialists in antique and handmade floors. Only the highest-quality wood is used, sourced mostly from pre-19th-century buildings in the UK. tedtodd.co.uk

Photo credit: Ted Todd
Photo credit: Ted Todd

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2019

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