Devon & Devon’s, W20cm, in random lengths of 180-240cm cost £273 per m².
Solid Wood flooring can change the tone of an entire home. Jo Messenger takes a look at this classic choice that can last a lifetime
Natural, warm and organic, the appeal of solid wood flooring crosses all styles and types of property – from country cottages to contemporary city apartments. It is warmer than stone and ceramic, more hygienic and easier to clean than carpet, and many of the latest ranges have tough, durable finishes. With easy-to-fit click-lock systems, many can be installed by competent DIYers. Thicker planks are generally used over joists as structural floorboards, while the thinner boards are laid as overlay floors on an existing dry, smooth subfloor.
There’s a lot of conflicting advice regarding use with underfloor heating, as it can result in the moisture in wood drying out, causing shrinking and cracking. However, some suppliers and heating manufacturers say that their products are compatible, especially if the underfloor heating remains at a constant low temperature. Make sure you do your homework, checking the suitability with your flooring and heating suppliers, before you buy.
A sustainable product, solid wood is generally acknowledged to be ecologically sound; reputable suppliers only deal with manufacturers using wood from certified sources. In the UK, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is widely recognised and tracks timber from forest to retailer.
What should I look for?
As the name suggests, solid wood flooring is made from lengths of solid timber usually sawn into planks around 15-20mm thick and air or kiln dried. Available in various species, oak is by far the most popular, for its looks and durability. The flooring can be bought either untreated to stain or oil yourself, or finished with either a lacquer or stain in a particular shade or tone. Some suppliers sell it in different grades depending on the look required, such as character or rustic grades with knots, colour variation and markings, through to prime or select grades that are virtually flawless. Trends for extra-wide boards and distressed or ‘smoked’ finishes are also becoming popular. Reclaimed boards are a good choice if you are looking for something with character, but these are often more expensive.
Where can I fit it?
Solid wood can be used in most spaces, such as living rooms, dining rooms, hallways and bedrooms. It is generally not recommended to use it in high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, although some homeowners choose to do so. If this is the case, extra care should be taken to ensure that any splashes or spills are wiped up immediately and that rooms are well ventilated. Always seek advice from your supplier, however, as a swollen or cracked floor is a costly mistake to put right. Depending on where you lay it, timber flooring can be noisy, especially in upstairs rooms, so you might want to use rugs to soften the sound of footsteps.
Can I fit it myself?
This will depend on your ability and the type and condition of your subfloor. Generally, if you are fixing to concrete, the floor is glued down, and if you are laying it over existing timber, nailing is the best option. Always check the moisture levels of your subfloor and take advice from your supplier, who will also advise on how long the timber should be left to acclimatise in the room before it is laid; some only require 24 hours, while others take longer.
Always read the instructions, have the right tools and take your time. Floors look best if you stagger the end joins, so start each row with a different length; poorly finished beading, badly mitred corners and poorly cut boards around radiator pipes are tell-tale signs that a floor hasn’t been laid professionally. Other potential issues to take into consideration are: floors buckling because an adequate expansion gap has not been left around the room; hollow footfalls that can be caused by a void underneath often due to an uneven subfloor; and creaking floors where loose floorboards below haven’t been fixed before laying a new one on top.
Where can I find a reputable fitter?
Ask your supplier if they provide a fitting service or if they can recommend local tradespeople for the job. Always choose a company whose main business is laying floors and who will want to trade on their reputation. You can’t beat personal recommendations from friends and family – otherwise, websites such as checkatrade.com, ratedpeople.com and local.which.co.uk are good places to start. The National Institute of Carpet and Floorlayers (nicfltd.org.uk) can also provide you with a directory of its members to contact.
What’s the best way to look after it?
Incredibly hardwearing, solid wood flooring should last for years. It can be sanded down and resurfaced to prolong longevity and appearance, and regular sweeping will prevent it from being scratched by grit or dust. A significant scratch or dent might mean the whole floor needs sanding and revarnishing or oiling, so ensure stilettos or high-heeled shoes are removed and use felt pads or caps under furniture, which should always be lifted, not pushed if moved. Mop the floor once a week or so with a well-wrung mop and use a recommended wood floor cleaner, which will depend on whether the floor has a hard varnished or lacquered finish, or a soft wax or oiled one.
How much should I expect to pay?
Prices for solid wood flooring start from upwards of £25–£30 per m² for a budget option, with average prices being around £40-£60 per m². Expect to pay a lot more for reclaimed boards or specialist designs.