A solid timber floor is flooring 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. Given the climatic extremes in the Asia-Pacific region it is rare for Havwoods Australia to stock solid timber, however it is available from Havwoods UK.
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. 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 flooring 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.
No matter how well seasoned, oiled, waxed or lacquered it may be, timber 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 timber floor, wall or ceiling.
Engineered boards are like solid timber planks with lots of benefits:
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.
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.
FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) is Europe’s response to the problem of illegal logging, a practice which can have a wwwastating 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 timber 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.
As a general rule, Havwoods do not recommend the use of solid timber 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 timber floor for use with underfloor heating.
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 timber floors but, in fact, solid timber boards can also be laid floating over a suitable subfloor providing a damp-proof membrane is laid and Elastilon employed.
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.
For a full explanation of the different timber grades available, and to download our information sheets, please see our page on timber flooring grades.