A guide to timber flooring – what to choose depending on your needs and space
This can be a really hard decision for some. If you really want timber flooring in your home and aren’t lucky enough to have existing boards that can be sanded and treated to make them look as good as new then you need to look at alternative options. It can be overwhelming, there are so many products on the market.
Speak to a builder and they will advise you to install solid timber – there’s nothing like it they’ll say. But that’s not always a suitable option for families, your budget, or perhaps for a rental. Then you look to engineered boards, from engineered solid oaks, to veneered timber options, right through to your 100% man-made laminates and everything in between. Let me break it down for you.
Solid timber floors
These planks are chosen by timber species such as Oak, Blackbutt, Spotted Gum, Jarrah, and Tallowwood to name a few. Some are harder wearing than others such as Blackbutt or Spotted Gum, whereas Oak can be a little softer. These planks come raw and unfinished. Your carpenter will prepare the subfloor or joists to which the planks are fixed, and then the boards will need to be sanded, stained (if you don’t want the natural look) and sealed. You will be able to refinish these boards many times over the years and by changing the stain colour you can give your space a completely different look and feel.
Solid timber engineered boards
Not to be confused with natural timber planks. These solid timber engineered boards are often solid oak all the way through for instance, however to make them easy to install and to give a floating floor option for say apartments where you cannot fix to the subfloor then this is a great choice. You still have a solid timber underfoot. However, this product is multilayered and variegated, this means that many layers of timber are bound together in different directions to make the boards stronger. Allowing you to fix the boards to the subfloor with adhesive an also run wall to wall under your kitchen and any other cabinetry. They come in lots of pre-stained finishes so once installed you don’t need to sand and stain.
I don’t like to think of these as solid timber. Why? Because you might be choosing an Oak or a Blackbutts but usually there is only a 5/7mm veneer of your chosen timber over the top of plywood. This is probably the most used product on the market, they are durable, easy to install and come in lots of different stains and finishes. It’s likely that the supplier will recommend that you leave this floor floating. Unlike the variegated process when these engineered boards expand and contract there will be a lot more movement. Here it’s recommended to run the boards only under your cabinetry kicks, and not wall to wall to allow for this movement.
Really these aren’t timber boards as such. They are a plywood base with a laminated image of a timber grain on the top. These days they look super realistic and are much harder wearing than their timber counterparts so perfect for rentals and homes with high traffic. Some of the higher end laminates are the same price as the engineered boards and do look very realistic. Again these are usually floating and the same rules apply here as with engineered.
Flooring is so important to get right, it’s sometimes the first thing that I will settle on for a room as it’s a big surface area and you can fit your paint colours in and around the floors tones. When in doubt speak to a specialist flooring supplier, you will find that some favour real timbers whilst others are very informed on the products in the engineered camp. Do your research and make the right choice for you and your home.
NOTE: Images used under Fair Use, and the above commentary is a personal view and not commercial in nature, and were sourced from a variety of online sources and personal archives.