Trevor Hilditch has worked in flooring for nearly 40 years. Now he manages Earth, Wood and Stone, which specialises in natural products. Here he offers his advice on choosing a wood floor.
Q: Where should someone who is thinking about installing a wood floor start?
A: “You need to think about which type of wood you want. There is such a range – going right across the spectrum from walnuts that are nearly black through to extremely Pale Maples and Beeches.”
Q: Which are the most popular woods these days?
A: “The single most popular wood in the UK is oak. This is because English Oak was traditionally used in buildings and people like to be able to match their floors to existing timbers or beams. Any European Oak you buy will be of the same species. American Oak is something completely different though.”
Q: Are people also interested in the grain of a particular wood?
A:” Yes they are. Some wood will have a lot of knots or figuring in it and that might be something they particularly like.”
Q: So the best thing is to talk to an expert such as yourself for guidance in these areas?
A: “That is important. But I would say the single most important thing to do before you buy is to look at the wood you think you want in an installation. Go along to a show room or to someone’s house where there is the same wood – and see how it looks. You need to get a feel for it within a room or space and to be reassured it looks as you would want it to look.”
Q: What are the pitfalls to consider when choosing a wood floor?
A: The main thing is that the wood floor has to be technically suitable for your home. You need to know if your house is dry, damp or subject to the occasional spillage. We recommend that you get someone to come and survey your home then they can specify the kind of wood you need. You can also give their survey to the supplier.”
Q: When choosing a wood floor is thickness important?
A: “Thickness does vary but not hugely. Length is more important to consider. I think you need to be careful not to get lots of very short pieces as they won’t look right when you lay them.”
Q: What about quality?
A: “Well, like everything, you get what you pay for. You can buy three strip engineered products that are perfectly good but are not as high quality as the top end solid woods. It’s a question of a cost difference of £20 or £60 really.”
Q: Anything else to look out for when choosing a wood floor?
A: “Good wood is A/B grade. This means any knots will have been resin filled at the mill. The boards will also have been planed and ready for coating. If you don’t buy them in this state you need to be aware that you could have problems and you may have to pay for a professional sander.
Q: Finally, do you have any advice for installing the floor?
A: “It is essential you get this right too. You must insure your floor is laid by someone who is experienced or who is a skilled carpenter. They need to know about expansion thresholds etc. as well as coatings. They will be able to advise you on the best coating for your floor as there are so many to choose from these days.”