Colour, widths & finishes

Design from the floor up

By Tony LorenZ Global chief marketing officer Havwoods

AS space continues to come at a premium, interiors are required to work harder than ever and in turn become more flexible. This has resulted in a trend towards more open-plan interiors with large expanses of floor surfacing.

The floor then becomes one of the largest fixtures in any interior, and so designers are putting extra focus on how it impacts the space. You could say ‘the ultimate luxury in London is space’ and wide long planks accentuate the large rooms and add luxury to the interior. It’s not just oversized planks designers are turning to; we’re seeing large format herringbone and even oversized chevrons becoming a popular fitting for the floor. Havwoods has recently launched the creme-de-la-creme of wide engineered planks, the Hand Grade collection.

Designed for the most prestigious of projects, the latest engineered range comprises of extra-large boards that offer impressive proportions of almost 0.5m in width and up to 4m in length. A high quality, high performance, pre-finished plank, Hand Grade is offered in eight distinctive finishes to ensure a perfect fit for any residential or commercial flooring project.

If you’ve never bought a real wood floor before you may well be thinking ‘solid wood must be the best’. However, experience teaches us that for many reasons an engineered wooden floor is the best option for most spaces.

Any reputable wood floor brand will produce its flooring with a tongue-and-groove profile or a click system profile. Either way the only useable part of any wooden floor is what we call the wearlayer and this is the section of wood above the top of the tongue.

Essentially, it’s the usable piece of the wood floor and when we say usable we’re referring to the fact most of us want to know if the floor gets damaged we could sand it down and re-finish it if required.

With a 15mm engineered oak floor the typical thickness of oak above the tongue is circa 4mm and if you were to look at a 15mm solid oak floor the amount of oak above the top of the tongue would also be circa 4mm, maybe slightly more but not much.

So there’s very little benefit in terms of oak wearlayer by choosing a solid but this is really only just a small reason to choose an engineered when you consider what I’m about to explain further.

A solid oak floor is far more likely to expand or contract when subjected to changes in the surrounding atmosphere. In winter we close the doors and turn on the heating which dries the air out and the relative humidity of the air reduces; this in turn means your wood floor will lose moisture and as the moisture content of the floor drops it will start to shrink and you can expect gaps between boards.

There are ways to counteract this with humidifiers but it’s not a solution many of us want to accept. Conversely in the summer we open doors, switch off the heating and the sun draws moisture from the ground.

This creates a higher relative humidity which enters our homes through the open doors and windows and the wooden floor starts to absorb moisture and expand, if the floor absorbs too much moisture the expansion will be too great and the floor could start to lift. Most of this can be avoided with a good quality engineered floor.

With an engineered oak floor the section of oak is at least one third of the thickness compared to a solid oak floor in the same dimension and for this example we’ll talk about a 4mm layer of oak.

Cutting it to 4mm immediately reduces the tension strength of the oak, which doesn’t mean it’s weaker in terms of hardness or durability but simply it has less tension strength. This thinner section of oak is then bonded to a substrate such as plywood and I want to explain a bit about plywood.

Plywood is several veneers of wood bonded together under high pressure with a very strong adhesive, thus creating a stable sandwich structure with each layer glued at 90deg to the adjacent layer.

A good quality plywood will be made from birch and be water boiled proof (WBP). This means if you put the plywood into boiling water for a few hours it won’t breakdown or delaminate.

When you bond the 4mm layer of oak to the plywood you create a very stable board which when installed correctly will cope with normal fluctuations in relative humidity. Another benefit with a quality engineered board is that most are suitable for installation over underfloor heating although there may be a few manufacturers of solid wood who say their floors can be installed over underfloor heating.

I’d encourage you to read the small print and understand the implications of doing this because I believe you’ll soon start to read you should expect movement in the floor through the year; movement often brings squeaks and gaps which most of us don’t want to see in the floor.

However, there’s something more to understand in all this. Wood floors have developed massively in the 18 or so years I’ve been involved with them and the technology and research has brought many benefits.

Mills around the world have invested huge amounts of resource into developing unique finishes such as handscraping, band-sawing, UV-cured hard wax oils, smoking, weathered, burnt and many other processes to create special colours and textures which can only be achieved in a controlled factory environment.

Some finishes are simply beautiful and others are extremely hardwearing; either way if you were to sand the floor down you’d lose the finish. Also, with an engineered board you can have a much wider plank and still have a stable product, this means most of the special finishes you see on the market today will be on an engineered floor.

Finally, there are two main reasons a wood floor will look tired or worn out. Number one is simply a massive footfall without good care and maintenance and this is user error. A correctly maintained floor will last for many years providing the right finish is chosen in the first instance and the correct maintenance procedure is put in place.

The second reason is because the floor has moved after installation and is no longer flat, thus creating high spots, which are being walked on more than the rest of the floor and the floor is wearing irregularly.

This is something that rarely happens with an engineered floor because they’re more stable and hence they stay flat and stay looking great.

In terms of floor patterns, herringbone is a hugely popular choice for residential and contract projects. With a rich design history dating back to the 16th century, the herringbone pattern has long since been favoured as the flooring design of choice, gracing high-class residencies and historical buildings across Europe for hundreds of years.

Unlike a chevron pattern, whereby angled wood planks meet along a perfectly straight axis, herringbone refers to rectangular boards that are positioned in a staggered, overlapping form.

The Havwoods Herringbone collection features a stunning selection of pre-finished and unfinished engineered oak blocks, beautifully machined in various grades and sizes. As with all the brand’s collections, Herringbone is presented in a breadth of finishes including distressed, smoked and lacquered, offering customers an aesthetic choice to suit their interior schemes, from white-washed and honey-toned, to more dramatic mahogany hues.

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