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solid wood flooring

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These days, solid hardwood flooring comes in a wide variety of different formats, from plank, blocks and battens, through to strip and mosaics. Furthermore, each of these formats also come either pre-finished or unfinished and in almost any wood species you can imagine.

The main advantage of solid wood flooring over engineered flooring is its ability to be resanded and refinished over many years. As such, it is not uncommon for solid wood floors to last 50 years or more.

The main issue to consider with solid wood floors is because they are solid wood, they are less dimensionally stable than engineered wood floors, and are more susceptible to expansion and contraction due to temperature and humidity changes in the home. As a broad rule of thumb; the wider and thicker that a board is, the more it has the capacity to expand or contract. Some of the very wide oak planks that are available these days at around 220mm wide, require top-fixing for this reason.

Solid wood flooring is generally not suitable for underfloor heating; the most appropriate wood floor for fitting over underfloor heaing is engineered, ideally Multi-layer engineered flooring. In either instance, to accommodate this movement, all wood floors are installed with a 10mm to 15mm gap around the perimeter of the floor along the wall and the gap is covered up by the skirting board or alternatively a scotia or quadrant beading. The only exception to this might be where a wood block, mosiac or traditional parquet is fitted, where the scope for expansion is sometimes allowed for in a flush, inset cork border. 


solid plank

solid plank_smallBy far the most popular solid wood flooring format is solid plank. Solid hardwood plank flooring is fabricated from 18mm or 21mm thick solid wood and has tongue and groove sides to join the boards. It is generally also "end-matched" which means that it is tongue and groove on the ends too, to facilitate nailing down without requiring a joist supporting each board end. Some manufacturers make a thinner version that is 15mm thick, and which is designed specifically for glue-down installations.

Solid 21mm thick hardwood floors should ideally not be installed in a below grade situation such as a basement, however, subject to damp-testing the thinner 15mm wood floors may be used in that application. When installing a solid wood floor over new concrete or screed, be sure the manufacturer's recommendations on limits of moisture in the concrete are followed. Again, a damp-test would be advisable.

Prefinished solid wood floors often come with slightly beveled top edges where the tongue and groove meet. Unfinished wood floors that are sanded, stained and finished on the job site will have smooth seamless joints.

18mm and 21mm wood floors are "secret-nailed" and require a specialized tool for nailing the boards together. The nails are driven through the tongues of each board into the joists at 45 degrees; the next board's groove then covers the nailed tongue, and is likewise nailed through the tongue and so on. As previously mentione, the thinner 15mm solid wood boards are used in glue-down installations using special flexible adhesives which permanently fix the boards but have enough "give" to still allow the floor to expand and contract with changes in temperature and ambient humidity.

herringbone parquet

oak battens_smallOne of the most iconic and traditional wood flooring designs is Herringbone; composed of either diagonally interlinking hardwood blocks (i.e. between 15mm-21mm thick with tongue and groove edges) or plain-edged 10mm thick battens (pictured). In both instances, the unfinished block or batten is glued direct to the sub-floor (dipped if block, full bed application if battens), and then sanded and sealed with whatever top finish the customer prefers. Generally speaking blocks offer the greatest variety of species, but if it is an oak herringbone floor that is required, we have found that Battens give the best results, and offer the greatest flexibilty.

herringbone hearth_smallHerringbone is almost always fitted with a 2 block/batten border around the perimeters to give a clean finish to the edges of the herringbone design, and often also with a decorative inset tramline border in Wenge (see pictures). It should be noted that because of the fiddly nature of hand-fitting these floors piece by piece, and the subsequent sanding and sealing finishing process, that to install traditional herringbone in an average room can take several days to complete. And although some manufacturers now make engineered herringbone flooring, they can never compete with the stately timelessness of a hand-laid and hand-finished floor.

solid block

woodblock assorted_smallSolid wood blocks are tongued and grooved and are generally available in 15mm or 20mmthicknesses, and come in a variety of face sizes; "American" style comes in 230mm x 70mm,whilst various European styles come in 210mm x 60mm, 280mm x 70mm, 350mm x 70mm and 300mm x 75mm.

It is worth noting that whilst all sizes can be laid in either straight-laid or herringbonedesigns, only the latter three can be laid in alternate designs such as Dutch, Basketweave or Block patterns. This is because, to lay a wood block floor in these designs, the length of the block needs to be a multiple of the width; i.e. 280mm x 70mm (length = width x 4), 350mm x70mm (length = width x 5) and 300mm x 75mm (length = width x 4).

Wood blocks need to be glued to the sub-floor, and contingent on the type of adhesive used, can be individually dipped, or can be laid into a full-bed adhesive. In either case, the glues required are very specialized as they must have the capacity to move as the woodexpands and contracts. Sub-floor themselves need to be levelled to very fine tolerances using either a skim of latex smoothing compound if they are screeded, or a layer of plywood if timber.