When you’re remodelling your home or building a new one, one of the big things to consider is flooring. Specifically, what flooring material should you use? A lot of people would choose tiles or carpet, but some would always attest to the elegance of hardwood floors.
If you’re a hardwood kind of person, the first step is to choose the right type of timber for your flooring. These are not just planks or thinly cut pieces of wood. Instead, timber comprises an entire product line in itself: they come in different widths, thicknesses, and lengths. Also, not all planks are 100% solid wood; so-called ‘engineered timber’ exists too, which is composed of different kinds of wood layered together.
Solid Wood or Engineered Wood?
Back in the old days, solid timber was the only option. Flooring made from solid wood came in thick planks, and they are fashioned from a single piece of wood. Today, solid wood is still readily available, but you now have an alternative called engineered wood.
In engineered wood, the timber is thinner and is bonded on top of layers of pinewood, plywood or rubberwood. Because there is less timber per plank, engineered wood tends to be cheaper than solid timber. So it’s perfect for homeowners wanting to save on flooring costs.
Additionally, engineered wood has an extra advantage. Wood has a tendency to expand when the weather is humid and contract when it’s dry. If your flooring is solid timber, expect your floor to shift ever so slightly as the seasons change. And if the floorboards have been there for long enough, you may begin to notice unsightly gaps on your floor. With engineered wood, however, the lower layers prevent shifting when the timber expands or contracts.
Traditional hardwood floor segments were about 51 to 76 mm (2 to 3 inches) wide, and most planks still have these measurements. Modern wood flooring does come in more extensive sections, though – as much as 178 mm (7 inches).
You may want to choose wider planks for aesthetic reasons. Although more expensive, these larger segments produce a sense of luxury, and your floor will feel more spacious. Broad planks are also better for large parts of the house like the living room.
Prefinished or not?
Some timber floorings come prefinished, meaning that they are already stained and varnished once you buy them. This is a good idea since you know what to expect outright. It will be easier to do colour coordination and styling if you know exactly how the wood looks from the beginning.
If you would like a bit more control over the finishing, you may want to choose raw wood instead. The finishing will be done after installing the flooring, so you would have lots of room to customise the look.
If you pick raw wood, also consider what kind of finish you’d like to use. There are two main categories of finish: oil-based and polyurethane. Oil-based would make for a natural look, but it penetrates the wood and does not form a protective topcoat, unlike polyurethane. The latter protects the wood better from stains and wear. Oil finishes take less effort to touch up, though, in case of scratches. As for polyurethane, any damage to the topcoat may require rebuffing and recoating. This sort of maintenance is harder and more expensive.
Different types of wood have different patterns, colours, and strengths. One thing to consider is resistance to decay and termite damage, which is as valuable in flooring as it is in other furniture. For this purpose, cypress pine works quite well. Its termite resistance made it a widely used material for flooring in Australia. Beech pine also is suitable for floorboards, although more expensive.
There is a wider selection of timber you can pick for your floor. But whatever wood you choose, make sure it can withstand heavy loads and won’t easily crack under pressure. Thus, your flooring will last much, much longer.
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