Humble but tough: flooring with a difference.
By MARCEL THOMAS MARKETING MANAGER SOLUS CERAMICS.
Origins and development of engineered wood flooring
Engineered flooring can be dated as far back as 1903, when an EL Roberts ‘Illustrated Millwork Catalog’ offered ‘wood carpeting’, an early version of what would now be considered as prefabricated parquet flooring. Crafted with very thin strips of wood and glued to a heavy canvas, the product allowed various methods of installation, resulting in the creation of different designs. It really was the first DIY floor to be mass marketed. But it was squeaky to walk on, and since the pieces were so thin, a floor would often crack and split into pieces.
Following the end of World War II, when the residential market boomed and new homes were being built at a rapid pace, a new easy-to-lay flooring type was required, something that would particularly work well when laid on concrete in prefabricated homes.
This led to the use of glued-down parquet floors (herringbone and mosaic panels) and ultimately to the invention of various engineered solutions (late ‘80s) such as laminate, vinyl and engineered wood solutions.
The kind of engineered wood flooring we use today was developed in the ‘60s, and has steadily increased in quality, durability and affordability – leading to improved advantages over traditional hardwood flooring as time has progressed.
In practical terms, engineered wood looks and feels just like a solid hardwood, but is able to be fitted in areas not usually suitable for solid wood such as kitchens or conservatories and even some commercial settings. This is because engineered wood is much more resilient to changes in moisture and humidity, which means engineered wood floors can even be laid above underfloor heating systems.
Engineered wood flooring is crafted with a top layer of solid wood veneer, which is available in a variety of finishes just like traditional hardwood. The under layer is typically made from three – five layers of softwood, plywood or HDF (high density fibreboard), all of which are incredibly strong and supportive to ensure boards don’t shrink or warp over time.
There are a few different options when it comes to the finish of engineered wood flooring, the choice of which will depend on the look and the level of protection required.
Lacquered engineered flooring has a smooth finish as the lacquer sits on top of the wood creating a protective layer that’s easy to clean and resistant to scratches. The lacquer can be used to create finishes from a glossy polished finish, which helps reflect light and make a space feel brighter and more spacious, to an invisible finish that gives the appearance of having no finish.
Oiled wood is becoming more popular as it tends to realise a more natural, authentic look that not only adds charm, but strengthens the wood. If there’s damage to part of an oiled engineered floor, it will only ever need to be sanded down and re-oiled to repair any damaged areas.
Brushed and oiled wood creates an authentic look that has a lot of natural ‘imperfect’ character owing to the process used to finish the wood. The wire brushing process removes fresh wood, exposing the traditional grain, knots and rings, along with some of the shininess.
Brushed and lacquered wood flooring gives a natural look as all the knots, rings and grain patterns in the wood are exposed during the wire brushing process. As this engineered flooring is also lacquered, the wood achieves best of both worlds with a traditional style and a strong protective layer.
When light falls on the brushed and lacquered floor, some is absorbed and some reflected, so imperfections like scratches and scuffs are difficult to see.
New Oakwood flooring from Solus
Brand new to Solus’ portfolio, Oakwood is a high-quality engineered hardwood flooring with a difference, taking the humble oak engineered wood floor to new levels of toughness.
Constructed in a way that adds additional strength and durability, Oakwood features a covering layer that is pressed out of real wood using innovative ‘wood powder’ and a sturdy high-density fibreboard (HDF) middle layer. This mixture of wood fibre and HDF makes the Oakwood surface resilient enough to withstand the impact of a metal ball dropped with 4,000 newtons of pressure (and definitely more than that of a sharp high heel!).
In the oiled finish, Oakwood planks feature distinctive rustic knots, cracks and wooden pores, while a matt lacquered finish offers a less rustic, more harmonious style. Available in long planks and three different widths, which can also be installed together or independently, Oakwood flooring flourishes in spacious rooms.
New Materiawood flooring from Solus
Warm underfoot and natural like wood, robust and unbreakable like tile, Materiawood is the perfect engineered wood alternative to traditional porcelain tiles. Produced in a similar way to Oakwood, Materiawood delivers a trendy imitation of stone and metal, providing the look of tiles with all the key benefits of engineered wood.
Unlike Oakwood, which features a natural wood look, Materiawood is crafted with genuine mineral substances to give the floor the look and toughness of a stone or ceramic tile. This can be beneficial for users looking to fit an engineered floor but want to use something different than a typical wood effect.
Owing to the composition of the boards, Materiawood feels warm underfoot. This is because body heat is drawn away slower than with ceramic or fine stoneware floors, which is another advantage when specifying floors in areas that will be used barefoot.
The boards are also easy to clean. Spillages of red wine, oils and other liquids are can be effortlessly removed from the surface and joints, while wet, coarse dirt can be scrubbed clean from boards, which are almost totally resistant to abrasion.
An important consideration when specifying this in commercial and residential environments, Materiawood has a textured, embossed structure, which helps achieve high anti-slip properties.
Trends in EHF industry
Light and muted wood floors are growing in popularity. They deliver understated tones that are the perfect choice if you don’t want your flooring to dominate your space.
Lighter shades naturally create a smooth and calming backdrop that will work with any interior style – classic or contemporary. They are an ideal choice to make smaller spaces feel bigger but are just as at home in large open plan design, promoting natural light and bringing together all elements of a large room without competing against them.
The trend for grey tones in wood flooring has emerged with pace over recent years, and it continues to be an in-vogue choice. Grey wood offers a beautiful contemporary finish, which works perfectly with an array of modern interior colours, whether you’re looking for a subtle grey hue emerging from a traditional oak finish, or stronger greys to contrast with your colour scheme.
Despite modern colouring techniques introducing a new, wider spectrum of wood floor finishes and colours, there’s a timeless beauty and charm than can be found in staying true to natural oak tones.
Trends have a habit of making a comeback and in the case of wood flooring the comeback king of the moment is parquet style floors. While maintaining the original approach of creating a beautifully patterned, low maintenance wood floor, parquet floors in the 21st century have come a long way.
The use of wood in modern interior design now extends beyond wood flooring and furniture production, with a growing trend for wooden wall cladding as a striking and natural way to create feature walls with contemporary organic styling.
Elegant white washed engineered wood is simply brushed then coated with a white stain. These white washed floors ooze character and look unique and chic, working especially well in dark rooms to cleverly brighten the space.
Tomorrow’s flooring: Future developments
As oak becomes a more expensive and scarce resource it will become a necessity for manufacturers to produce engineered wood with thinner top layers in order to keep prices down. Demand for multipurpose floors will also grow, with particular interest in waterproof finishes and scratch proof materials.
As with most other industries the future of engineered wood is environmental sustainability, with a desire for a product with a zero-carbon footprint, reduced emissions and reduce environmental impact.
In addition we envision a greater variety of colours and finishes as well as more advance treatments to reduce ongoing maintenance and cleaning programmes.
Solus Clerkenwell showroom