The natural appearance and feel of a real wood floor can be very attractive. Warm and mellow to look at, practical, and hard wearing, it can considerably enhance any home.
There are two ways to have a wooden floor in your home. You can lay a wood floor covering over your existing floor, whatever it is made of- floorboards, chipboard, plywood, quarry tiles, or concrete; or, if you already have natural wooden flooring, you can strip, sand, repair, and seal the floorboards.
With either method, the result is a hardwearing floor that is beautiful to look at and easy to keep clean. The wood may be enhanced by staining, with special paint effects such as stenciling or by adding colorful rugs, preferably on non-slip mats, for which the smooth wood is a natural backdrop. You can buy wood flooring and the adhesives and tools you need for installing it in do-it-yourself stores, in department stores with a large flooring department, or in specialist flooring shops. Apart from parquet flooring, which is difficult to buy and even more difficult to lay, all types of plank floor covering come with installation instructions.
Wood Floor Coverings
The main types of wood floor covering are strip, block, mosaic, and cork/wood flooring.
Strip Flooring: This looks like very smooth, tightly packed floorboards. It comes in a wide range of wood, including both softwood (pine, spruce, and birch) and colorful hardwoods (cherry, oak, ash, beech, and maple). Each board has a tongue and groove to ensure a tight fit with its neighbor.
The thickness of the flooring can vary from around 3/8in (9mm) up to 7/8in (22mm). Some wood-strip flooring is solid, like floorboards; some is laminated, with a thin surface-wear layer on top of a thicker softwood or plastic base layer. This makes the flooring more stable than it would otherwise be, less likely to expand and contract. Woodstrip flooring also comes with a hardwearing melamine surface layer.
You can install all types and thicknesses over an existing floor. Generally the boards are laid on a special cushioned, damp-proof sub-floor and secured to one another with clips or adhesive; they are never stuck or screwed down to the floor below. This is known as a floating floor. It is essential that you leave expansion gaps, covered with molding, all around the edges of the floor.
The thickest types can be used to replace existing floorboards. Carefully nail each plank through the tongue to the floor joists so that none of the nail heads show.
Block Flooring: Often known as parquet, this type of floor covering is generally used over an existing solid floor. The individual rectangular wood blocks are between 1in (25mm) and 2in (50mm) thick, and laid in a herringbone pattern, bedded into mastic adhesive. Laying new block flooring is a job for a professional, but you can sand down existing thick block flooring and reseal it in the same way as old floorboards.
Mosaic Flooring: This type of flooring, which confusingly is also known as parquet, consists of tongue-and-grooved tiles made up of narrow strips of wood. A typical tile is divided into four squares composed of four or five strips joined together with wire or adhesive and mounted on a mesh backing. The strips in adjacent squares lie at right angles to one another, so when laid across the floor they form a basketweave pattern.
Glue mosaic flooring to the sub-floor with special adhesive; the construction of the flooring allows a degree of flexibility so that it can cope with slightly uneven surfaces. Some makes are self-adhesive.
Cork/wood Flooring: This is a different type of woodstrip flooring. It consists of cork over a plastic sub-layer topped with a thin wood veneer which in turn is covered with a hardwearing clear plastic. The visual appearance is that of a wood floor, but it is quieter, softer, and warmer underfoot because of the cork. Cork/wood flooring is held in place with adhesive.
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