How to choose your wooden floor

The popularity of wooden floors has for centuries fluctuated. What we now think of as a beautiful and sought-after finish was in times past considered just a splinter-ridden floorboard best covered by a rug. In fact it wasn’t until the 17th-18th century that wooden floors finally became elegant.

During the 19th century the wealthier English homes began to introduce parquetry, where the boards are arranged in geometric herringbone or diamond shapes, and marquetry, where veneer is inlaid to create designs or even little scenes.

By the early 1930’s a new-found love of carpet and linoleum meant that wooden floors once again lost their appeal and it has only been in the last fifteen years we have seen another resurgence in this beautiful and comforting surface.

We spoke to both the Site and Project Managers about their experiences with wooden floors – and what you should look out for.

Why choose a wooden floor?

Project Manager: People often worry about the long-term durability of wooden floors. This is of course a consideration, but wood is not only beautiful, but also tough and full of character; there are so many different colours, textures and variations now available that no floor is ever quite alike. More to the point it can also easily be refreshed with just a few hours of sanding and lacquering. Engineered timber boards are generally better than solid wood and if sufficiently thin and of good quality can be used with under-floor heating.

Site Manager: Before you decide whether or not to use a wooden floor, check the subfloor. It must be level and in good condition. Most London houses have dreadful subfloors so I would recommend you fully level it before new wooden boards are fitted. Not doing so will lead to cracks in the joints or twists in the wood that are hard to conceal as the years go by.

How to choose the right pattern?

Project Manager: Popular styles at the moment include traditional herringbone, chevron and more complex “Versailles style” patterns. While these can be traced back hundreds of years, they still give a bold, modern look that works well in open-plan spaces.

In this project, a herringbone pattern was chosen, using European White Oak and a dark ‘Tobago’ lacquer – all FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified of course. Be aware that there is a lot of tonal variation in batches of flooring so ensure that you buy more than you need just to be on the safe side.

What were the challenges on this particular project?

Site Manager: The floor was one of the most complex aspects of this project. Not only were there many stages to the build up: preparing the subfloor, fitting the underlay, laying the electric heating mats, leveling the surface before finally fitting the floor but there were also many different levels to cope with. To finish off, we had thresholds specially made, fitted and French polished to colour match the lacquer. At times we had as many as 7 people working on different areas of it.

What inspired you to use a wooden floor on this project and what other tips can you offer?

Project Manager: Using wooden flooring throughout the flat has given the project a cohesive flow and made the smaller rooms feel more spacious. It is easy to maintain by sweeping and mopping lightly and as long as you protect it with sealants, beeswax or lacquer the surface will last. You can use wooden floors in most rooms but always consider how you are going to utilise the space. While it will probably be easier to clean than a carpet (particularly if you have children or pets!), older properties will suffer from draughts so adding a rug will automatically create a cosier feel.