The process of buying wood flooring is complicated. There are many options and many considerations to take into account. Information on buying wood flooring is plentiful, but very few guides actually take you through the step-by-step decisions you will need to make along the way. Here is our handy guide to buying wood flooring that covers all the various steps.
Step One – Deciding Between Solid and Engineered Flooring
You may think that all wood flooring is the same, but peak under the hood and you will discover two very different types of wood flooring. When installed in most properties, either type will make appropriate flooring, however their dissimilarities are worth nothing in case your property has special circumstances. In such case, one type might be better suited over the other.
Solid Wood Flooring – These are the traditional wood flooring, often refereed to as ‘real wood flooring’. Made from one piece of hardwood timber, normally oak or walnut, solid flooring may outlast most other types of flooring. Not unheard of for solid flooring to exceed 100 years of service life when the floor has been well maintained. Its complete hardwood construction means that sanding (a process that can significantly extend the service life of the floor) is possible many times. However, its natural hardwood construction also means that the floor many expand (in hot climates) or contract (in cold climates). This feature is a natural property of wood.
Engineered Wood Flooring – These floors use a combination of ‘real wood’ on the top together with three or more layers of MDF, Plywood and Softwood beneath it. Engineered floors were introduced as an alternative to solid floors because the floor will not react to climate changes, a feature that makes the floor suitable for fitting over under-floor hearing. Furthermore, with the right finish, the floor is better suited for damp areas such as the kitchen, bathroom and basement areas. However, while sanding is possible depending on the thickness of the hardwood top layer, it is nowhere near the solid floor’s potential. As well, it is worth noting that while service life is extensive, it won’t match solid floors.
Step Two – Deciding On Wood Species
There are a number of wood species that are suitable for flooring. For wood species to be considered as suitable core material, it has to meet a number of conditions:
The most common and widely used species are Oak and Walnut, wood species that tick all the right boxes for flooring. They differ from one another by their grain markings and your choice of one instead of the other won’t affect the longevity of the floor.
Step Three – Deciding On The Grade Of The Wood
Their grade level separates Oak, Walnut and other wood species. Grade is not an indication of quality as some people might have you believe, it is an indication of the visual side of the wood. The higher the grade is, the more refine the floorboards are and in return the more each plank will cost. The higher grades will feature less colour variations between the floorboards as well as fewer knots and other characters of wood. The four common grades are:
Prime Or AB Grade - The wood features very few knots and minimal colour variation.
Select Or ABC Grade - Contains some colour variation between the planks and looks less uniform compared to prime.
Natural Or ABCD Grade - Often refereed to as 'mill run' grade, it will feature higher number of colour variation and frequent knots.
Rustic Or CD Grade - The most popular grade due to its cost, rustic is also considered the grade with the most ‘character’. The wood will feature knots of up to 35mm in size and significant colour variations between the planks are to be expected.
Step Four – Deciding On The Finish Of The Wood
It is recommended that each floorboard be covered in a top layer that acts to seal the wood, provide some level of protection from wear and tear as well as give the wood your desired look. Your choice of one finish instead of the other should be based on practical reasons and decorative considerations.
Lacquer Finish- The most popular finish, lacquer requires basic care but has high tendency to scratch. Where most coating sinks into the wood, lacquer does not and therefore gets worn-out quicker. This feature also makes the floor almost waterproof and so will often feature in damp areas (on top of engineered wood flooring).
Oil Finish - Slightly less durable compared with the previous option, oil is easier to repair by simply adding more oil and effectively keeping the surface in prestige condition. This top up should be done in the correct manner so to avoid build up of oil on the surface. Further reading is recommended.
UV Oiled Finish - Shares some of the benefits of regular oil finish, it comes in low glossy finish, which helps hide imperfections caused by extensive use.
There you have it, a step-by-step guide to buying wood flooring. Whether you are planning to shop online or from your high street, you will face these considerations.