Despite the development of less expensive synthetics, wood flooring remains more popular today as it was in the past. Hardwood floors are sometimes made from soft woods such like fir, hemlock and redwood. The most common hardwood floors include oak, maple, birch, and beech.
The grain in wood provides natural texture and pattern. Both strip and plank flooring have their own intrinsic design; often this design can be enhanced by the way in which the strips and planks parquet are laid. You can create quite a different look by making a parquet floor from scrap lumber cut in end grain blocks. Special effects in existing wood floors can be produced by use of durable paints, colorful stains, special finishes, or stencil patterns.
Floors that are properly sealed are resistant to stains, scuffs and scratches. When the floor is worn, it can be refinished to look like new. High grade hardwood is expensive, but the cost is offset by its durability. Wood floors shrink in heat or swell in dampness. They require a very carefully prepared subfloor and a moisture free environment.
Wood flooring is generally not very difficult to install, but before you decide to work with it, consider the fact that preparing a base for wood flooring ca be more demanding than putting in the new flooring itself. In fact, moisture can make some rooms unfit for wood flooring. In particular, wood floors are seldom installed in rooms that are below grade or in areas that are subject to dampness, unless laminated parquet or planks are used and careful steps are taken to keep moisture from reaching the wood.
Almost all wood flooring can be classified into three basic types- strip, plank, and parquet. Each has its own character and special uses.
- Strip flooring: Strip flooring is the most common wood flooring found in homes. It is composed of narrow tongue and groove boards laid in random lengths. The most commonly used strip flooring for finishing in place is ¾ inch thick, with a face width 2 ¼ inches. This is suitable for most residential use. Thinner strips (5/16, 3/8, and ½ inch) can be used if there is a height restriction for the new floor. Strip flooring is usually end-matched, with a tongue at one end and a groove at the other end of each piece. The boards also have a groove on the back to give the floor resiliency and to make it easier to lay boards over minor subfloor irregularities.
- Plank Flooring: Plank flooring has a close association with our heritage. Wide hardwood and softwood boards were readily available in colonial days. Homes built in New England during the 18th and 19th centuries had maple planks more than a foot wide and secured to the subfloor with pegs. Today, plank flooring is produced in varying widths and random lengths. Boards are now commonly milled with tongue and groove edges; screws add extra security and are usually covered with decorative plugs. Planks may be ¾ or 3/8 inch thick and either solid wood or laminated. The individual boards are milled with tongue and groove edges, and a square or tongue and groove ends. Plank flooring is available both prefinished and unfinished for your convenience.
- Parquet Flooring: The terms parquet, wood mosaic, and wood tile are used almost interchangeably to describe wood flooring laid in squares (or sometimes rectangular). Parquet flooring has become increasingly popular of wide selection of styles and the ease of installation. Parquet flooring comes in virtually every kind of wood and in a wide selection of patterns. You can buy it with a factory-applied finish, or, if you’re ambitious, you can sand and finish it after installation. Parquet flooring is most commonly made in 4- to 12 inch squares, but it’s also available in rectangles or in panels up to 30 inches square and usually 5/16 to ¾ inch thick, held together with mesh backing. Parquet is usually applied with adhesive, much like ceramic tile. It is produced in dozens of patterns, textures, and thicknesses, and is made from solid pieces of wood, laminates, or individual pieces of wood held together by a backing. Parquet floor is easy to install, yet has the look of a custom-designed floor.