Con­fused by the count­less va­ri­eties and fin­ishes on of­fer? We have all of the an­swers you need, from what to choose and why, to how to fit it

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Style | Decorating -

Hard­wood or soft­wood? Hard­woods, such as oak, wal­nut and teak, of­ten have a more de­fined grain than soft­woods like pine, beech and birch. ‘But there are tech­ni­cal dif­fer­ences too,’ says Robert Walsh, founder of wood floor spe­cial­ist, Ted Todd (ted­todd.co.uk). ‘Hard­woods are de­cid­u­ous, while soft­woods are conif­er­ous – this means that they have a dif­fer­ent cell struc­ture. Tim­ber from de­cid­u­ous trees is more durable and sta­ble, mak­ing it ideal for floor­ing. Which species? ‘Oak is by far the most com­mon and ver­sa­tile wood for floor­ing,’ says Walsh. Of the soft­woods, harder species such as Dou­glas fir are prefer­able. Lesser-known va­ri­eties of hard­wood, like trop­i­cal Mo­rado, are also be­com­ing more pop­u­lar. ‘ When buy­ing wood, check that it has an FSC (For­est Stew­ard­ship Coun­cil) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,’ says Je­an­dré du Toit, sales di­rec­tor at Ecora (ecora.co.uk). ‘This will en­sure that it has been sourced and man­u­fac­tured re­spon­si­bly.’ New or re­claimed wood? For an au­then­tic, aged, char­ac­ter­ful grain that may be tricky to repli­cate in new tim­ber, re­claimed wood is a good and en­vi­ron­men­tally sound op­tion for floor­ing. ‘Re­claimed tim­ber is also sub­stan­tially harder than vir­gin wood as it of­ten comes from old-growth trees rather than first-gen­er­a­tion forests,’ says du Toit. How­ever, it can also be a more ex­pen­sive op­tion, be­cause it may need to be re-sanded, fin­ished or treated.

En­gi­neered or solid wood? En­gi­neered floor­ing is con­structed of lay­ers of ply that have been bonded to­gether and fin­ished with a top layer of solid wood. The thicker the top layer, the more like a real solid wood floor it will ap­pear, once fit­ted. En­gi­neered wood floors are less af­fected by tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity, which can cause solid wood floors to ex­pand and con­tract, mak­ing them a trusty op­tion. For this same rea­son, solid wood should not be laid above un­der-floor heat­ing. How do I fit it? ‘This process should al­ways be car­ried out by a pro­fes­sional,’ rec­om­mends Walsh. They will plan the lay­out, tak­ing the nat­u­ral vari­a­tions of the tim­ber into con­sid­er­a­tion. Pro­fes­sional fit­ters (search rat­ed­peo­ple.com) can also as­sess the sub-floor to en­sure that it is prop­erly pre­pared. Be­fore call­ing in help, en­sure you leave your floor­boards to ac­cli­ma­tise to your home – a solid floor should be left on site for one to two weeks; en­gi­neered floors re­quire un­der a week. What about colour and fin­ish? There are myr­iad ways in which wood can be treated, from smok­ing (am­mo­nia fumes are ap­plied to the wood, ox­i­dis­ing it and pro­duc­ing a darker colour) or thermo-treat­ing ( boards are heated to a high tem­per­a­ture to darken them) to ap­ply­ing lac­quer or wax. Pre-fin­ished floors al­low you to select the ex­act look you want. Un­de­cided? Pick­ing an un­fin­ished floor lets you test out treat­ments in situ, but this flex­i­bil­ity can mean higher costs.

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