How to Choose Timber Flooring

When building, renovating or revamping your home you will eventually come to that pivotal point in the design stage when you have to choose your flooring. Flooring is a vital design element in any interior for it’s the first thing you will see when you open the door. Given that there are simply too many choices, ranging from concrete to tiles, nylon laminates, terrazzo and, of course, carpet, being well informed is your only option if you hope to make the right choice. Selecting the flooring system that best suits your needs can be a complex task but if you choose timber flooring, firstly you’ve made a great choice. Timber will always add value to your home as it compliments any interior and there is that expectation that timber floors will provide many years of reliable service. Not only versatile it offers a timeless, streamlined look that can be a home’s most striking feature. Low-maintenance and non-allergenic, timber also offers natural insulation so is perfect for any season. When choosing which timber flooring to buy, customers need to take a number of criteria into account in order to get the best value in their timber floor. After that you would assume that all timbers are the same. It’s just wood, right? How could you go wrong? The answer is plenty! To make your purchasing decision a little easier, here are some advice you can use in making your selection.

List All Your Requirements

It is important to find a timber flooring that fits your active lifestyle. For instance, most people prefer quiet, acoustic or sound-proof rooms that are also warm, durable and gentle, especially on babies’ knees. What is the intended use of the floor you need? Mention all your requirements in a list. For instance:

  • What type of subfloor do you have? Concrete, solid planks, yellow tongue boards, etc.
  • How long do you expect your floor to last?
  • What are the most important features you would like? Sound/scratch resistance, long boards, wide/thin boards, durability, price, etc.
  • What type of and how much foot traffic will the floor be exposed?
  • Which rooms are going to have timber flooring and how much will you need?
  • What are your maintenance expectations?

All questions that need to be explored before you purchase.

Softwood Timber or Hardwood Timber?

Do you need a soft wood or hard wood? Both can be used for flooring but have different properties. While many existing timber floors in older-style houses are softwoods (predominantly pine), nearly all new Australian flooring timber is hardwood as it better resists indentation. Softwood (including pine, spruce, cedar and fir) is easier to work with as it has a lower density and is generally cheaper and lighter than hardwood. It is warm and soft under-foot, and is perfect for families with small children. Hardwood (including oak, mahogany and teak) is denser from slower growing trees and so it typically harder and more expensive. The industry-standard Janka rating measures the hardness of each species: the higher the number, the harder the timber.

You will need to choose a timber floor with an appropriate hardness depending on where your floor is installed.

Solid Timber or Engineered Timber?

Solid timber means each plank is made from a single piece of wood. This type of flooring ranges from about 3/8” thickness to 1”, but the overwhelming majority of solid wood flooring is 3/4 thick. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity.

Engineered timber is produced with three to five layers of hardwood which consists of a top layer of solid wood over a multi-layer construction beneath. The top layer, also known as a “wear layer” or veneer, can range anywhere from .6mm to about 6mm thick, and this is the wood you will be walking on once the floor is installed. The bottom layer can be a solid piece of a softer wood, such as birch, or a cross-laminated plywood construction. Each layer is stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure. In terms of pricing you pay a bit more upfront for engineered boards because they’re pre-finished, but it works out around the same for solid boards once you’ve paid for your floor to be sanded and finished.

Generally speaking, solid hardwood floors will tend to last longer than engineered with the same levels of care and maintenance. At the same time, engineered floors will react better to seasonal changes. Consider how much maintenance you are prepared to undertake on your floor, as some timber floors will require periodic sanding and refinishing to keep them looking their best.

Types of Timber

We need to concern about the types of timber flooring, based on the suitability for the area and the look you want to achieve. There is a huge amount of choice, even within the same species, in terms of color and texture.

Floating Flooring

Unlike solid floorboards, which need weeks to acclimatise on site, floating timber floors – which comprise several layers of material, with wood veneer being the top layer – can be laid directly over the existing floor, whether the existing floor is timber, concrete, tiled, particleboard, plywood, etc. Now, floating timber floors have been increasing in popularity due to their ease of installation and sound-proofing qualities.

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is harder than traditional timber and sustainable. Bamboo is a hardwood that is stable under both wet and dry conditions. Extremely solid and durable and because it is pre-finished, installation is fast. This product is excellent in high traffic areas in residential and commercial situations.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is a multilayer synthetic flooring product made by laminating a digitally-printed image onto a glued high-density fibreboard. Laminate is the more budget-friendly option to timber boards and it is now available some really good quality and durable laminates on the market. Other positives is its extensive variety of designs and colours, scratch- and fade-resistance and easy to keep clean.

Structural Timber Flooring

This is the traditional type of timber flooring that is laid on bearers and joists. Structural timber floors should only be laid by a professional and can be a long process.

Durability

When comparing your options, consider room traffic and woods durability. How hard the floor is becomes important. That is the Janka rating of the floor. Although, it is generally believed that timber floors are the most durable and low maintenance floor covering of nowadays, they are not all the same, and some are significantly harder than others. Areas with high traffic or those prone to scratches need floors which are harder.

Colour

When looking at timber floors perhaps the most important decision to be made is the colour of your timber floor. With so many types and styles available start simple with picking the colour of timber flooring, be it dark, light or mid-tones. Each timber species creates an individual atmosphere for your home or project and can be a very personal choice, but bear in mind the colour you choose has to match the furniture and paint in your existing space. Also take into consideration the size and style of your home.

Grade

Once you have chosen a species of timber, you need to consider what grade you are after. Grade refers to the level of visible natural features in the wood, and most timber suppliers offer three levels under varying names: light or select feature, moderate or standard, and high feature. Select grade is your more perfect floors, with very few gum veins or natural imperfections. Standard grade will have a certain amount of feature on every board in the pack, with feature grade having bigger features on every board in the floor. To choose the Grade is to decide if you prefer the character of knotty, veined wood or instead the smooth, unspoiled timber floor with little ‘feature’. Your choice will depend largely on what effect you want to achieve and what other elements of interior decoration dominate the room.

Maintenance

Ensure that you know the woods maintenance regime while selecting one. Opt for a product that you are able to maintain. Wood flooring maintenance usually involves protecting the surface from heavy wear and tear and moisture, and cleaning with wood floor cleaning products. Or you can just use professional floor cleaning services. Not following the maintenance guidelines may lead to product guarantee or warranty being void.

Warranties

While most people understand the importance of warranties, you should read terms and conditions of warranties offered carefully. There are many warranties that are “self voiding” in that conditions of the warranty are often unreasonable or difficult to comply with. Do your research before purchase.

Cost Comparison

Finally, after short listing your options, compare their costs. Opt for one that is affordable, meets your requirements and is within your budget, and force yourself to stick to the budget, timber flooring can be expensive.

There must be a lot to consider when choosing your timer flooring, but overall whatever timber flooring you choose you’re guaranteed to bring warmth into the household.