How to choose timber flooring
19 February, 2022
Knowing how to choose timber flooring and make selections that suit your home, your family and lifestyle can be challenging. So we’ve got interior stylist Lauren Keenan’s Complete Guide to Timber Flooring to help you to make the right choices.
Beautiful timber flooring looks amazing, feels great under foot, is easy to keep clean and is a great fit for Australian homes and the way we live.
But it’s not always as simple as it sounds. There are so many options in colour, finish, quality and price. And that’s before you get into the differences between natural timber and engineered alternatives.
As well as being a leading interior stylist for homes up and down the east coast of Australia, Lauren Keenan is an award-winning podcast host. And her ‘How to’ guides have been some of the most popular podcast episodes we’ve done.
So that’s why we’re featuring this episode of our podcast At Home with Lauren Keenan. Keep scrolling for more info or listen to our podcast episode here now or wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks for listening to the show about how to choose timber flooring, proudly sponsored by the good people at Flooring Xtra, Australia’s fastest growing flooring retailer with expert service and a beautiful product range in over 90 stores. So there’s bound to be one near you.
Find out more about our partnership in a recent podcast episode New Year > Who Dis?
WHAT ARE YOUR TIMBER FLOORING OPTIONS
There are lots of considerations when thinking about how to choose timber flooring. But we’re keeping this simple and focus on the main types of timber flooring. In Lauren Keenan’s Complete Guide to Beautiful Timber Flooring, we’re going to provide information on:
- Solid timber flooring
- Engineered timber
- Hybrid and laminate flooring
There are clear differences between them that will help you make your choice. And if you’re still not sure and need help, you can contact Lauren any time by sending her a message on the contact page of the website.
“I always start with the floor and I like to work up from there. It sets the tone for the rest of the room – it needs to look good, but it has to be functional as well,” Lauren says.
“Flooring is a big investment and it’s important to get it right. That’s why getting the right advice and finding the right products is so important.”
BENEFITS OF SOLID TIMBER FLOORING
Solid timber flooring is exactly as it sounds. Solid timber floorboards all the way through. It’s a natural product, it looks beautiful and feels incredible underfoot. Solid timber flooring also tends to be the most expensive.
“I think for some people it is good knowing it is a natural product, they know exactly what it’s made of, where it comes from and what species it is,” Lauren says.
“The oak finishes coming out of Europe and America are beautiful and are becoming a lot more popular, but I also still love the Australian species that we know and love.”
The key species of Australian timber generally include Blackbutt, Spotted Gum and Tassie Oak. And then choices of oak from Europe and America. Each has their own look and attributes. Search the names of the types of timber so you can see what they look like before you head into a store or start putting your overall look together.
Solid timber flooring generally comes in three grades – Select which is the most expensive and has the least knots and variations, Standard which has some colour variation and features, and High Feature which has lots of natural features like knots and a wider array of colour variations.
“High feature works well if you’re going for a vintage, rustic or log cabin feel. You’re going to get lots of knots, pop marks and colour variation. There’s probably a lot of that around and it is less desirable, which drives the price down,” Lauren says.
“In my experience, 99 percent of people would choose either Select or Standard. If you do choose High Feature, it can be quite busy so everything else in the room would need to be quite simple.”
Plank size and thickness is another consideration. Wider planks tend to look more modern and narrow planks tend to create a busier look.
You will also have to decide between pre-finished and raw floorboards. Pre-finished solid timber flooring has already been coated in your desired finish in the factory. Raw floorboards are coated onsite and need some time to acclimatise to your local conditions. Raw solid timber flooring is more expensive, but it does give you a huge amount of flexibility in the look you want to achieve.
BENEFITS OF ENGINEERED TIMBER FLOORING
When it comes to how to choose timber flooring, there are so many beautiful options for engineered timber flooring. But what is it?
Engineered timber flooring includes real timber. It has a number of layers, including real timber and that’s what can give it a beautiful, premium look and feel.
The top layer is a ‘wear layer’ that helps give protection to the floor from scratches and moisture. Next is a real layer of timber so you still get that real timber feeling underfoot. The rest of the board is made up of plywood layers which builds it out and makes it a more affordable option than solid timber.
One thing you will have to decide on is the thickness of the timber veneer layer. And Catherine Burnham from Flooring Xtra told us that this determines how and whether you can have the floors sanded.
“Engineer timber floors vary in thickness. If a solid timber layer in an engineered timber floor is three or four millimetres thick, then these boards can be sanded just as often as a solid timber floor,” Catherine told Lauren Keenan on her podcast.
“But if the timber layer is less than three or four millimetres, you will need a skilled tradesperson to tell you whether your engineered timber can be sanded without damaging the integrity of the flooring.”
Like solid timber flooring, you will have the option of different timber species when you choose engineered timber flooring. And most engineered floorboards are a ‘floating’ system involving a click-lock mechanism. But some engineered floorboards can be glued down.
BENEFITS OF LAMINATE FLOORING
New style laminate flooring is very convincing. It has texture and colour variation and feels natural underfoot.
“Laminates have become really popular in the last few years. And the the look and feel has come a long way compared to when it first hit the market 10 or 15 years ago,” Lauren says.
“Let’s be clear – while it looks like timber, it is a man-made product.
“I’ve had clients who have shown interest in a laminate product while thinking it was a real timber product. In some of the more expensive laminate products, the key difference is the ‘clip clop sound’ we’re used to when walking across a solid timber floor.
Laminate flooring is extremely hard wearing and can have a very long life in your home. The hardwearing top layer makes it highly resistant to scratches and moisture – that makes it a great choice for a busy family that can be harder on flooring. It is also more affordable generally than engineered or solid timber flooring.
Just remember that unlike solid timber flooring and engineered timber, it can’t be sanded.
BENEFITS OF HYBRID FLOORING
Your fourth option is hybrid flooring, which is a relatively new player in the flooring game. And as the name suggests, hybrid flooring it’s a mix of laminate flooring and vinyl.
It’s a rigid floating floor system that can be used throughout the whole home. Even in bathrooms because they are waterproof, including a waterproof core.
“Because of its composition and the plastic that’s mixed into it, it feels a little softer underfoot than some laminates. Some people really like this, other people want their floor to feel extra solid. That means it is not as scratch-resistant as a laminate, but it wouldn’t be a big problem unless you have big pets or you are dragging furniture around regularly.
HOW TO CHOOSE TIMBER FLOORING
Each style of flooring has its pros and cons. And at the end of the day it is a personal choice. Lauren and Catherine both agree that you need to keep in mind how much time and effort you’re prepared to put into your flooring before you decide which is right for you.
“There’s polishing, sealing, sanding, vacuuming and mopping. And if you don’t have a lot of spare time during the week, you want to look at a product that’s low maintenance and easy to clean. Before you commit to a product, ask those questions and have those considerations in mind,” Catherine told Lauren on our interior design podcast.
You’ve got to remember that like so many other trades and home supplies, flooring companies have been impacted by the supply chain squeeze that is on right now.
Make sure your retailer of choice is able to communicate with you well about their timeline and delivery processes before you hand over your hard-earned cash for your purchase, whether it’s flooring or anything else.
MORE ABOUT OUR PODCAST ‘AT HOME WITH LAUREN KEENAN’
Our award-winning interior design podcast, hosted by Australian interior stylist Lauren Keenan, is now in its seventh year, helping you with useful advice to help you create a home you love.
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And if you want Lauren to get started on a project in your home, email email@example.com. It could be building, renovating or just updating your favourite room.
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