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Hardwood floor finishes by ‘Wood and Beyond’

Information written for Selfbuild Central by Jonathan Sapir of UK solid and engineered hardwoods vendor wood and beyond.

wood and beyond

The vast majority of homeowners are unaware that in recent years the world of wood flooring has completely transformed. Two main trends have contributed to this transformation, which by all accounts is a positive one. The first is consumer demand to purchase wood that is ethically sourced and the second is consumer demand to fit wood flooring across the entire property.

Wood Flooring Types

Perhaps the biggest change in recent years is the introduction of the engineered type of wood flooring or machined wood flooring as some describe it. Its introduction meant that consumers have to study its benefits and shortcomings against the veteran solid wood flooring type. The two types look similar, they cost similar and require the precise same care regiment. The contrast lies underneath the surface in the core of the floorboard.

Solid Wood Flooring – Until recently, solid wood was the only option for fitting wood flooring. Each plank contains 100% natural wood from common or exotic species. Its strongest point is its service life that exceeds most other types of wood and non-wood flooring solutions. On the other hand, natural limitations of wood such as susceptibility to damage from water or expansion in the face of high temperature made solid wood unsuitable in some areas. Still, it remains a valid option when the limitations of natural wood do no apply.

Engineered Wood Flooring – When an engineered floorboard is fitted, you will not be able to distinguish it from the solid type. That’s down to the varied construction of each floorboard, featuring solid wood as a top layer of 3mm to 6mm thick supported by artificial layers of MDF, Plywood and other synthetic materials. The result is a type of wood flooring that isn’t susceptible to the natural limitations of wood and can be fitted across the entire property, even on top of under floor heating. Yet, its construction of wood and synthetic materials means that service life is shorter compared to its alternative, the solid wood type.

When To Fit Solid and When To Fit Engineered

The vast majority of residential or even commercial property owners will have the luxury to fit either of the two. However, in certain circumstances that we will list below, one type triumphs over the other. 

When To Fit Solid Wood – The biggest attraction for fitting solid wood is the number of times the floorboard can be sanded and recoated. Sanding is a common practice of removing a 1mm layer of wood to expose new wood in a better condition. Because the sanding process requires the removal of 1mm wood each and every time, an engineered floorboard can be sanded only a handful of times (between 2 to 5 times), while a solid floorboard can be sanded many times. In addition, the superior strength of the solid type means that in those areas of high foot traffic, the floorboard will likely last longer.  These two reasons help explain the popularity of the solid floorboard when the natural limitations of wood do not apply.

When To Fit Engineered Wood – Natural solid wood reacts to temperature changes by expanding in hot conditions and contracting in cold conditions. Fitted over under floor heating, you will witness this precise reaction, which after time can damage the wood or lead to unpleasant gaps between the floorboards. Yet, engineered wood flooring is immune to this reaction due to the varied core of natural and synthetic materials. It makes for the only suitable wood floor type to fit over under floor heating.  In addition, property owners who wanted to fit wood flooring in high humidity areas such as the kitchen and bathroom areas were rightfully advised to refrain from fitting wood. Nowadays, it is possible to fit engineered wood flooring in high humidity areas such as the basement, kitchen and bathroom provided the floorboard is coated in a waterproof coating of the lacquered family and the coating is maintained over time.

Grade Of Wood

Various natural woods contain visual marks such as Sapwood, Knots and variation in colour. The grade is visible in both solid and engineered wood flooring.

The more refined grades will include less Sapwood, less Knots and display a more uniform look meaning less colour variation between the planks. Naturally, the lower grades will present the opposite features. Grade is merely an indication of visual marks it does not equal ‘quality’ by any means. There are four common grades that are used in the construction of solid wood and engineered wood floors.

  • Prime Grade – Prime is the ultimate in high hardwood flooring grade. Because the wood is cut close to the centre of the log, its look contains just the odd Sapwood, Knot and the various planks will match in terms of colour.
  • Select Grade – Depending on the brand, some select grade hardwoods can look almost identical to prime grade in that they also originate close to the centre of the log. You will come across Knots in sizes of around 20mm and up to 10% Sapwood. The various planks will likely differ in colour and shade but very slightly.
  • Natural Grade – Natural grade is a popular choice due to the lower costs of the floorboards. Knots of up to 30mm in size should be expected and plenty of Sapwood.  The planks will feature an uninformed look in terms of colour variations between the boards.
  • Rustic Grade – The last grade on the grading ladder is rustic or country style grade. Hardwoods of the rustic grade will feature Knots of up to 35mm in size, Sapwood and colour variation between the boards will be extensive.

Origin Of the Wood

As you now know, both solid and engineered contain natural woods such as Oak, Walnut and others. The origin of the wood has become a talking point in recent years with more and more consumers becoming aware if the significance of conservation. On the one hand more and more reputable suppliers join forestry schemes such as the FSCtheir database and on the other hand more and more consumers are asking the right questions.

Ethical sourcing of wood flooring means that it comes from managed forests in which trees are constantly replenished so your decision to fit wood does not come on the expense of trees and natural habitats. Most sellers will feature their ethical policy as well as any renowned accreditation in their stores, however when in doubt, check before making your purchase.

Information written for Selfbuild Central by Jonathan Sapir of UK solid and engineered hardwoods vendor wood and beyond.

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