Choosing the right hardwood flooring can feel incredibly daunting, particularly given how many factors should be considered in order to make the right decision for you. We aim to help by breaking down each of the important factors for consideration, as well as to provide some industry knowledge so you can be confident that you’re making the right decision.
A few initial points to consider are:
Will you be looking to sell your property in the near future? If the answer is yes, consider choosing a finish that appeals to the mass market. This way you will be more likely to appeal to potential future buyers.
Is the flooring being installed in a high-traffic commercial area such as a restaurant or shop? If so, look for floor types which won’t show marks such as scratches and can be easily refurbished.
How much natural lighting do the windows in the room bring in? Rooms with a large amount of natural light can compliment a darker interior. For rooms with less natural light however, you should try to keep the floors and walls as light as possible.
Consider the purpose of the room you’re choosing for. Rooms such as bedrooms can be darker, to create the feeling of relaxation. A social space like a living room could be lighter and brighter, to welcome and invite people into the space.
While it’s important to consider purposes for each room, there will of course be an overarching theme in mind for your house, whether that be, whether that be for example a modern new-build or a period townhouse. Your choice should reflect this to create a coherent style.
Solid vs engineered?
You should first whether to opt for solid wood or engineered hardwood. Whereas previously solid wood was incredibly popular, over recent years this trend has shifted towards engineered hardwood, for a number of reasons.
Arguably the largest reason for this is the environmental cost of using solid wood. It can be seen as wasteful and unsustainable to opt for solid wood flooring over engineered hardwood, which many argue has the exact same look and feel.
Engineered flooring is built to act as a force to oppose slight movements in the wood that occur over time. As a result of this it is therefore up to 85% stronger than a solid wood alternative. This also creates an 85% less risk of gaps, cracking and cupping. Engineered flooring is also supplied pre-finished, while solid usually needs to be sanded and finished on site. While this can allow you to customise the finish, it comes with additional costs and takes far longer to complete.
Engineered flooring is usually easier to install compared to solid wood. Support beams are normally needed when installing solid wood flooring. Engineered flooring has more freedom to be installed in different ways; screwed down and even installed floating. Solid must be glued down or nailed to the subfloor. Engineered flooring has a lower heat resistance, making it more suitable for under-floor heating. Solid wood however absorbs sound slightly better than engineered flooring. Engineered flooring uses less precious raw oak, making it more sustainable and more cost effective.
Another important factor to consider is the wear layer. If you opt for an engineered floor, the wear layer refers to the top layer of solid noble wood. These are usually between 2.5mm and 6mm. Opting for a thicker wear layer can prove to be a sensible investment, as this means the floor can be sanded more times before it will need to be replaced.
How can I choose the right finish?
There are two main types of finishing products - oil and lacquer. Each comes with different strengths and limitations, so it’s important to understand the difference in order to decide which best suits your needs.
In terms of appearance, oil penetrates the wood, giving it a soft, matte finish. Lacquer on the other hand creates a hard barrier on top of the wood’s surface, providing a shinier finish.
In terms of maintenance, oil requires more regular, less expensive maintenance. Lacquer on the other hand has a longer life-span, but requires expensive maintenance. An oiled floor scratches more easily, but scratches appear less obvious to the naked eye than scratched to a lacquer-finished floor. Oil-finished floors can be easily touched-up in small sections, whereas lacquer requires heavy sanding and refinishing of the entire floor with a fresh layer of lacquer.
Colour is probably the most obvious factor to consider. Opt for colours that fit well with the aesthetic of the room you’re decorating. Do you want a room that feels bright and airy? Or do you want to create a dark, intimate and moody feeling? Choosing complimentary colours will ensure your room is cohesive and achieves the purpose you want it to. If you’re struggling to choose, selecting key pieces of furniture or artwork can help identify a colour palette to work from.
Cleaning is also something to consider when choosing a colour. Dark colours may show scratches more easily, but lighter colours will show dirt and dust more easily. If you are happy to clean your floors often a lighter colour might work for you, while having small children or pets might lead you to opt for a darker finish.
Warm, earthy tones are always popular as they never go out of style, while finishes on the darker and lighter ends of the spectrum are considered to be very stylish respectively. It should also be noted that lighter finishes will highlight the wood’s natural grains and textures. Dark colours tend to hide these features, so consider dropping down a grade if you decide to opt for a darker finish. You’ll still get a beautiful result and save yourself paying for a higher quality grain which will end up being disguised by the dark finish.
Does plank length, size and width matter?
Plank size and length will depend on the size of the room. For a smaller room (under 40m2) consider shorter thinner planks, as these will make the room look bigger. Herringbone pattern could give the impression of a larger room (over 50m2), but could also be too busy for the space.
Also consider the direction of the natural light and windows in the room. Having planks which follow the direction of the natural light entering the room through the windows may create the illusion of more space. For larger and open plan rooms, consider wider and longer planks (between 240mm - 300mm), and bevelled edges. These will fill the space and the edges with accentuate the large planks even more.
Also consider the possibility of changing the pattern, to create sections or areas depending on the purpose. For example, an open plan kitchen/diner could feature planks in the kitchen, and herringbone or chevron in the dining area.
There are four main types of grade -
Prime grade - The most expensive of the grades, it contains only minimal knots, with most boards clear of any knots, and minimal variations in colour.
Select grade - A natural looking grain with wood’s grain pattern clearly visible, featuring minimal knots and light colour variations.
Natural grade - Created from natural, prime and character grades mixed together, the surface is full of natural characteristics with contrasting colours, wavy grain and a mixed texture.
Character grade - Knotty wood with strong colour variation and an unlimited number of small and big knots.
The grading you choose should correspond with the look you want to achieve. Character grade works well for a rustic or classic look, while a select or superior grade will give you a luxurious, polished look. Finish and budget will help you decide which grade is best for you. For a lighter finish and/or a higher budget, consider prime or select, for a lower budget and/or a darker finish, opt for natural or even character.
There’s certainly a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right wood flooring for your project, and we’re on hand to help should you need it. We can provide professional consultations to help assess your requirements and recommend the right product for you - taking into account the budget, size and scale of the project.
We work with Milan-based hardwood company Fornett, who provide everything from a wide range of finishes and grades, to standard and bespoke patterns. They are also able to produce wall coverings, bespoke joinery and furniture. Fornett pride themselves on the relationships they build with their clients, establishing trust through exceptional customer service.
‘Ordering our products is a lifetime investment. This requires trust, which doesn’t come on its own and rather must be built. This is why we put such a strong emphasis on our involvement. For the past decade Fornett has gained international recognition for supplying quality hardwood flooring in prestigious projects worldwide. We credit this to our approach and our aforementioned emphasis on quality - both in the product and the service’ - Fornett
If you’d like samples of some of Fornett’s finishes, they have a quick and free sample service available either on their website: https://www.fornett.com/sample-box.htm or by contacting us directly.
If you’d like more information or would like to arrange a consultation, you can contact us using the form in the footer of this page. Alternatively you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0203 908 5717.