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Wood Flooring FAQ

What is engineered wood flooring?

An engineered board is, quite simply, a timber board which consists of more than one layer. By placing each layer so that the grain runs perpendicularly it becomes virtually impossible for the timber to swell or shrink with changes in humidity and so it dramatically increases the stability. The top layer of an engineered board (the lamella) is solid wood, usually hardwood, and may be anything from 2 to 6mm thick; obviously the thicker the surface layer the more times it can be sanded and refinished to remove the ravages of wear; the thickest wear layers are equivalent to those on solid timber boards. 

mature trees

The lamella is securely bonded to one or two further layers – this may be a multi-layered plywood or a sandwich with either a softwood or hardwood core.

Engineered boards should not be confused with laminate or veneer. Laminate uses an image of wood on its surface whilst veneer uses only a very thin layer of wood over a core of some type of composite wood product, usually fibreboard.

Engineered timber is now the most common type of wood flooring used globally and the technology has enabled the production of much wider boards as well as the application of an enormous variety of really interesting finishes.

What are the benefits of engineered wood flooring?

No matter how well seasoned, oiled, waxed or lacquered it may be, wood remains hydroscopic. This means that when the humidity is high it will absorb some of that moisture, swell and rise or ‘crown’ in the middle. If that same piece of timber is placed in a dry environment – as happens when using heating or air conditioning – it will release its moisture, dry out and shrink. Lay pieces of timber side by side in a confined space and those changes in humidity, over time, may well result in them bowing, warping, cupping or gapping – gaps between the planks. This is what can happen with a solid wood floor, wall or ceiling.

Engineered boards are like solid timber planks with lots of benefits:

  • * They are far more stable than solid wood planks so there is far less likelihood of eventual problems and much wider boards can be produced.
  • * Engineered boards are usually available pre-finished which means a reduced installation time and no surprises on site.
  • * Unlike the vast majority of solid timber planks, engineered boards can usually be fitted over underfloor heating.
  • * Engineered boards make far more efficient use of slow-growing, lamella layer timbers (oak, walnut, etc).
  • * Engineered boards offer alternative, easier methods of installation.

What is solid wood flooring?

A solid wood floor is floor laid with planks or boards which have been milled from a single piece of timber, usually a hardwood. Since wood is hydroscopic (it acquires and loses moisture from the ambient conditions around it) this potential instability effectively limits the length and width of the boards. Solid hardwood flooring is usually cheaper than engineered timbers and damaged areas can be sanded down and refinished repeatedly, the number of timbers being limited only by the thickness of wood above the tongue. Solid construction timber is often used for sports floors and most traditional wood blocks, mosaics and parquetry are also of solid construction.

Can I fit wood flooring over underfloor heating?

As a general rule, Havwoods do not recommend the use of solid wood over underfloor heating. The majority of engineered boards are, however, perfectly suited to use with underfloor heating; this is particularly true of those with an oak lamella and less likely to be so for ones using exotic timbers. Always check with Havwoods before specifying any wood floor for use with underfloor heating.

What is meant by prime, select, nature and rustic grade in wood?

For a full explanation of the different wood grades available, and to download our information sheets, please see our page on wood flooring grades.

What is an oiled finish?

Oil penetrates deep into the wood and brings out the true beauty of both the colour and grain as well as providing protection for the floor. In addition to providing a natural look, oiled floors lend themselves to being spot repaired in the event of surface damage.

Most oiled floors require an additional coat of oil or Hardwax Oil, a mixture of sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, carnauba and candelilla wax after installation. This is micro-porous, water-repellent, dirt-, wear-, and stain-resistant against wine, beer, cola, coffee, tea, fruit juices and milk; it will not crack, flake, peel or blister.

What is a lacquered finish?

Lacquer is normally a polyurethane coating which is applied to the surface of a wooden floor by brush or roller. The polyurethane covers the pores of the wood and forms a hard, resilient coating which protects the wood from dirt and moisture ingress. A good quality lacquer will protect a wooden floor for anything from 12 months to 6 years, depending upon the amount of foot traffic.

How do I care for a lacquered wood floor?

Lacquered wood floors are very easy to care for. For everyday cleaning a broom, vacuum cleaner or micro-fibre mop may be used to remove dust and loose debris. For wet cleaning the floor should be misted from a pump spray bottle to avoid it becoming too wet and dried using a micro-fibre wet head. Do not use conditioner, cleanser or steam mop on a lacquered wooden floor.

What is a floating floor installation?

A floating floor installation is one where the planks are attached to each other instead of to the subfloor over which it is being laid. It is a fast, relatively easy method of fixing which allows some room for movement and expansion given changes in humidity; the floor can be removed easily too, making it ideal for commercial applications where the flooring is more likely to be changed within the foreseeable future. Floating installations are usually associated with the fitting of engineered wood floors but, in fact, solid wood boards can also be laid floating over a suitable subfloor providing a damp-proof membrane is laid and Elastilon employed.

What is FSC®?

FSC® stands for Forestry Stewardship Council. It is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit-making organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC principles and criteria aim to ensure that forest can be managed to meet the social, economic, ecological and cultural needs of both present and future generations. Products may be from an FSC source but cannot carry the FSC label unless the chain of custody throughout is FSC approved.

What is PEFC?

The PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is the world’s largest forest certification organization. It is international and non-governmental and tends to be the certification system of choice for small forest owners. It sets very high standards for certification including the maintenance of biodiversity, the protection of ecologically important areas, the prohibition of most hazardous chemicals and GMOs and the protection of workers’ rights and welfare.

What is FLEGT?

FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) is Europe’s response to the problem of illegal logging, a practice which can have a devastating impact on the world’s most valuable forests. The FLEGT Action Plan provides a number of measures to exclude illegal timber from markets, as well as to improve the supply of legal timber and increase demand for responsible wood products. Foremost amongst these are Voluntary Partnership Agreements between the European Union and timber exporting countries in Africa, Asia and Central and Southern America which aim to guarantee that the wood exported to the EU is from legal sources and to help these partner countries in improving their own regulation and governance. At the centre of these VPAs is a Legality Assurance System which, whilst varying from country to country, in essence consists of the verification of forest operations and the control of its transport and processing through the different ownerships for harvesting to the point of export. From 3 March 2013 the EU Timber Regulation will prohibit the first placing of illegally produced wood products on the EU market. This means that timber imported into an EU port from a country which has a VPA will have to carry a valid FLEGT licence; from countries who do not have a VPA with the EU it will be the responsibility of the importer to ensure that their due diligence system is robust enough to prevent illegally harvested timber from entering its supply chain.

Quick reference guide to installation

Coming soon

How do I lay a solid wood floor?

Coming soon

How do I lay an engineered wood floor.

Coming soon

How do I care for an oiled wood floor?

Oiled wood floors are very easy to care for. For everyday cleaning to remove dust or loose debris a broom, vacuum cleaner or dry mop is all that is required. For more thorough cleaning, damp mop using a diluted oiled wood floor cleaner. In public places where the footfall is greater, oiled wood floors may be damp mopped on a daily basis and should be treated regularly with a maintenance wax. This may be applied to the most heavily used areas or to the whole floor, spreading it with an electric, single-disc buffing machine with a beige pad. Maintenance wax need only be applied to residential flooring when the wood begins to look a little lifeless.

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