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Interior Design Advice – Wood and Beyond

RBA's conversion of 69 flats in Frobisher Crescent, Barbican, London

RBA’s conversion of 69 flats in Frobisher Crescent,
Barbican, London

Wood is a popular flooring material in residential and commercial projects. The correct type, in the correct circumstances can help transform your interior and introduce a flooring solution with an extensive service life potential. When choosing wood flooring it is important to take into account the natural limitations of wood and most importantly, to come to terms with the two variants of natural wood, the solid and engineered types.

Solid and Engineered Wood Flooring Types:
Until about 10 years ago your decision as to the type of floorboard was easy. There was only one type, made from complete hardwood and labeled as solid wood flooring. However, made from 100% natural material it inevitably inherited the natural limitations of wood making it unsuitable in a growing number of projects. In response, the industry introduced an alternative floorboard called engineered wood flooring in which natural wood is supplemented with artificial materials thereby making it more versatile in terms of suitable interiors.

Solid Wood Flooring – The floorboard is made from 100% natural hardwood such as Oak, Walnut, Pine and other common species. The solid type is suitable in most interiors in which water, humidity and excessive heat isn’t a consideration. To simplify things, solid wood flooring can be fitted across most interiors with the exception of over under floor heating (excessive heat) or in the bathroom and kitchen areas (water and humidity).

  • Pros Of Solid Wood Flooring – Incredible strong resulting in long service life. The floorboard can also be sanded many times thereby rejuvenating its appearance.
  • Cons Of Solid Wood Flooring – Unsuitable in warm, cold and wet areas. The use of 100% natural wood makes this type the dearer of the two.

Engineered Wood Flooring – The floorboard is made from a top layer of natural wood in thickness that varies from 3mm to 6mm thick. The remaining layers are made from MDF, Plywood and Softwood resulting in one whole floorboard of natural wood and manmade materials. The engineered type is suitable across the entire property, including over under floor heating and in high humidity and wet areas. Natural wood will expand in the face of hot conditions and contract in the face of cold conditions, however the varied construction of the engineered type eliminates this natural reaction thereby making it safe to fit in these areas.

  • Pros Of Engineered Wood Flooring – The floorboard can be fitted across the entire property. The use of artificial materials makes the floorboard more affordable compared to the solid wood flooring type.
  • Cons Of Engineered Wood Flooring – Service life is shorter compared to the solid type and sanding is possible though on a much more limited scale.

Wood Flooring Grading System:

Both variants of wood flooring contain natural hardwood which is cataloged based on a grading system. Grade does not equal quality in any manner, it does however contribute to the presence of sapwood, knots, discolouration and other visual indications of wood. Higher grades will display less of these visual indications, while lower grades will include more.

  • Prime Grade and Select Grade – Each floorboard will closely match in terms of colours and overall limited sapwood and knots will appear (up to 10% of the floorboard’s surface area).
  • Natural Grade and Rustic Grade – Each floorboard will vary slightly in colour tone and the presence of sapwood and knots (up to 30mm size at times) are to be expected.

Your decision is purely based on your taste and budget, as higher grades are dearer.

Wood Flooring Finish:

After carefully considering the most suitable type and grade, comes the final part of choosing the finish. There are many options and these are based on either oil or lacquered chemical. Oil is harder wearing as it absorbs into the wood making it slower to wear. Lacquered on the other hand remains on the surface making it quicker to wear, though better at protecting the floorboard. Oil results in a matt like finish, while lacquered will often result in a glossy or satin finish.

We hope this information has helped. Contact Butler+Butler Architects to discuss your project requirements.

Information written by Wood and Beyond for the Butler+Butler Architects blog. Wood and Beyond are ethical vendors of hardwood from solid wood worktops to decking and flooring.

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