What to look for in a Timber Floor
This information is designed to help your clients make the most informed decisions when choosing their Timber or Laminate Floating Floor. We encourage you to consider this information carefully.
Generally the thickness of prefinished floating timber floors is between 10mm and 17mm. In general terms, the thicker the product the more stable it is and less susceptible to movement such as bowing, twisting and cupping.
Thickness of Wear Layer
The thickness of the wear layer determines whether or not you can rejuvenate the floor after a period of time by re-sanding and finishing the floor.
When comparing hardness of different products it is simply the species, or type of timber, that is measured. If both products are Kempas, they will have similar hardness – it is not reliant on the manufacturing process. Timber hardness is measured by dropping a steel ball from a specified height onto the timber and denting it. The measurement is reported in kN of force required to make the dent.
Timber is a natural product and colour variation will occur. Samples displayed and provided are indicative only and will not match the floor installed. Other variations will also occur, such as small knots, grain variation, gum or sap marks and mineral marks. All variations are normal and not considered defects, therefore will not be covered under warranty.
Finishes on timber floating floors also vary from product to product. A minimum of three coats is necessary to achieve a wear layer sufficient for day to day use in a domestic application. Most have five coats and some use a filler coat to fill any small surface pits that may occur during manufacture. Finishes also come in a range of gloss levels, from a matte finish (30% gloss) to a semi gloss finish (65% gloss).
- Core: Some manufacturers reduce cost by using a softwood (pine, spruce) core. If the tongues are also softwood this can affect the installation, as when the boards are tapped together the tongues are very easily damaged, consequently reducing the ability to accurately locate the next board. The outcome is a less than acceptable installation and gapping tends to occur. Hardwood is a more suitable core for many reasons, including stability, accurate installation and lower swell rate when exposed to moisture.
- Backing: Although unseen, the backing of a timber floating floor is a very important feature. It is also referred to as the balancing layer as that is exactly what it does; balances the board and reduces any movement. If the wear layer (top layer of timber) is hardwood as most are, it is very important that the balancing layer (bottom layer) is hardwood. This will give the product the most stability. Some products have a softwood (pine, spruce) balancing layer; this will cause an imbalance between the top layer, core and bottom layer, causing instability in the floor board and resulting in possible bowing, twisting and cupping.
Thickness: The thicker the floor the less movement, such as bowing, twisting and cupping, will occur.
Thickness of Wear Layer: Ability to re-sand and finish the floor when required i.e. 6mm veneer can not be re-sanded.
Hardness: Depending on colour preferences, choose the hardest timber to reduce damage from denting.
- Minimum three finish coats, ideal is five coats.
- A filler coat helps fill any little pits during manufacture, leaving a clean, smooth surface.
- A Wear-resistant layer will prolong the life of the floor.
- Core should be hardwood to avoid inaccurate installation and have a more stable floor.
- Backing should also be a hardwood to balance the product, ensuring minimal bowing, twisting and cupping.
Solid Timber Floors vs Engineered Timber Floors
When laying solid timber floor onto a concrete slab, certain factors come into play. For example, when any solid timber floor is laid, moisture coming through from the slab needs be halted, otherwise the timber flooring will continue to draw moisture, causing cupping, gapping and drumminess.
It is often a costly exercise to protect a floor from moisture, and is generally not completely guaranteed by the installers or manufacturers.
This is one of the key areas where engineered floors have overcome one of the growing areas of concern in regards to solid timber floors.
Following are some comparisons in regards to solid flooring and engineered floors.
Solid Timber 19mm
Install Process – Product is delivered 14 days prior to installation to allow for acclimatisation. Often laid over concrete by secret nailing to battens, therefore raising the floor by a minimum of 38mm, (1 1/2 inches). The floor is generally left for another week before the floor is then sanded and finished on site by floor sanders. This is typically a three-day process of sanding and coating, before the floor is left to cure for a further three to seven days, to allow for the coating to harden before furniture can be moved back on.
Depending on the size of the floor, it can be a month before a 19mm solid timber floor is finished.
Further issues in respect to 19mm solid timber flooring:
- Often slabs need to be recessed to allow for the 19mm flooring to match up to the level of other flooring types, i.e. carpet and ceramics. This means areas of the house you wish timber flooring to be installed, have to be decided on before a slab is poured.
- If a slab is not recessed then a “trip” step is often left between flooring types, which can be dangerous and will often lead to damage along the edge of the flooring.
- With the battening of the floor, even when using a moisture barrier to stop moisture, the space left can still trap moisture under the floor.
- The battening space will also allow room for rodents to live and breed.
Solid Timber 12mm
Install Process: Often referred to as direct stick flooring, as it is generally stuck direct to concrete slabs, using polyurethane adhesive.
This is usually done over two coats of an epoxy moisture barrier. Unless a complete system is used, all guarantees would become void. The epoxy moisture barrier would also have to be applied by an approved installer for all guarantees to apply.
Timing is an issue with direct stick flooring, as the normal acclimatisation period of 14 days still applies, with the added time for applying and curing of the barrier of at least three days. The laying process will be longer, to allow for leading boards to be laid and the body of the floor to be tapped up tight. The usual time of a week between laying and sanding and coating still applies and then comes the sanding and coating process. Depending on the size of the floor it can be almost five or six weeks before a direct stick floor is completed.
Another method of installing 12mm solid timber is to lay it over ply sheeting. This method involves laying 10-15mm ply sheeting over the slab by fixing it down, using split pins or drive pins at a rate of 9/m2. The ply is laid over a “moisture barrier”, of either two coat epoxy, or plastic sheeting. The floor is then laid by means of glue and nail to the ply, and then sanded and coated.
This method of installation can be risky, by the fact that so many holes are made through the barrier that the risk of moisture penetrating through is increased.
Further issues in respect to 12mm solid timber flooring:
- The cost of having a epoxy moisture barrier applied is very high, often being at least $25/m2. If the installer isn’t an approved installer, or a mixed system is used, all guarantees are void.
- Once a barrier is applied, no foot traffic is allowed on it at all, often halting all other trades on the job. Any damage made to the barrier will allow moisture to pass through the barrier.
- All epoxy moisture barriers continue to allow water vapour through at differing rates.
- Nearly all epoxy moisture barriers are only ever guaranteed for 10 years.
- When direct sticking the slab has to be perfectly flat, or creaking will occur.
- Height can again be an issue when laid using the ply system, as the height of a floor will generally be around 24mm (one inch).
- Depending on the size of the floor it can be almost five to six weeks before a direct stick floor is completed.
Engineered Timber Floors
Install Process: Typically engineered timber floor is laid over a 2mm foam underlay, with a plastic sheeting underlay used as a moister barrier. The floor is laid by gluing the long edges of the boards together, leaving an 8mm expansion gap, which is covered either by skirtings or beading.
Points of Interest in respect to Engineered Floors:
- Engineered floors have been specifically designed to be laid over concrete subfloors, so they overcome a lot of the issues that arise when dealing with floor heights and moisture.
- The issue with moisture is dealt with by means of a sheet of plastic, laid under the foam to lock out moisture; or an integrated underlay with moisture barrier.
- The subfloor does not need to be perfectly flat, though it helps, as a 2mm foam underlay is used to take up imperfections. This also helps with noise reduction.
- The overall height of engineered flooring is generally around 16mm, (3/4 inch), which matches up with most other flooring types.
- The use of a good underlay will also allow the floor to be warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
- As engineered floors are prefinished, there is no need to have floor sanders coming in and sanding and polishing the floor. This eliminates the added dust and fumes which would typically fill the house.
- It also eliminates the added six to 10 days of downtime required to coat a floor.
- The factory-finished coating is also a much harder, more wear-resistant coating than could ever be produced on a job site.
- An engineered floor also does not need acclimatisation and is very quick and easy to install. A good installer can install up to 70m2 a day, meaning an average job could be finished in one day.
- When compared, solid timber floors and engineered floors are of a similar installed price, apart from the extra cost of battening or moisture barrier (which can be easily lost in the house quote). The major coast saving would be in the down time saved when installing an engineered floor. This can be as much as a month.
- When a cheaper floor is required for budget purposes, we can offer different styles to reduce the cost without forgoing quality. This is not something a solid timber floor can offer.
- The Unique Timber Floor’s TimberTop products carry a 25 Year Wear Warranty, and Lifetime Structural Guarantee, something, which a solid timber floor won’t be able to offer.