timber floors
By Bernadette Janson, The School of Renovating

Everyone loves a timber floor and if sustainably harvested it is an environmentally friendly choice that will add significant value to your home.

A Tree absorbs and stores carbon very efficiently as a nutrient, and around half its dry weight is carbon, which is locked in, even when it is harvested.

Here are some important facts about timber floors to consider:

1)   Species Hardwoods are the most durable. You will choose the species based on the colour and hardness, as there are varying grades of hardness amongst the species. If renovating to sell go for a darker species and if you are appealing to an Asian market timbers with a red colour such as Red Ironbark are more popular.

2)   Grades There are three main grades in flooring: Select, Standard and Feature. Select is by far the best for a clean, contemporary look. Standard and Feature grade will have imperfections, knots and gum veins in varying degrees, which will give a more rustic look.

3)   Moisture Content Timber is a dynamic material; its moisture content is critical and causes it to expand and contract. Seasoning (Drying) is important so that the material has time to dry out and reduces the likelihood of cupping. The ideal situation is to get your timber to site 12 week before laying (stacked with spacers between the boards to allow air flow). This will allow time for the timber to acclimatise to the moisture level in the room and reduce the risk of cupping.

4)   Board Width With board width generally the wider, the more luxurious. The standard sizes are 60, 80mm wide and 130mm wide. Some recycled materials are available up to 320mm wide. The boards   should be 16mm thick although recycled products milled from old flooring will be as low as 12 mm and will require a plywood or particle board subfloor.

5)   Installation: Boards are laid on timber joists or can be laid directly over a concrete or timber floor. Boards should be laid perpendicular to the light source to reduce the visibility of cupping. Boards are also laid to allow for movement due to expansion.

6)   Secret Nailing The “Tongue and Groove” profile of floorboards allows them to interlock. Secret nailing involves nailing the board down at the tongue so that the nail is covered when the next board interlocks and it is no longer visible. This is only possible for boards up to 100mm wide however many people prefer NOT to secret nail, opting for the more rustic look of the visible nailheads.

7)   Insulation The floor is a major source of heat loss in a home and this can be significantly reduced by the installation of insulation bats. The biggest negative with a timber floor is the noise level. The large expanse of a hard surface causes noise to reverberate. This is a huge issue in older style multi story apartments. Insulation will help absorb the sound as will floor rugs, heavy curtains, textiles on the walls and soft furnishings.

8)   Finishing The recommendation for finishing this beautiful material is to sand and seal with an oil based product such as Tung oil. The mother in me would advise against this, particularly if you have a tribe of teenagers. It scratches easily and you will find you need to have the floors resurfaced often. Polyurethane is not recommended as it binds the edges of the boards however it looks beautiful and it lasts. Whatever finish you decide on, you will need at least 3 coats.

9)   Recycled floorboards are readily available and are beautifully seasoned and hard due to their age (often up to 100 years old). Some suppliers will machine to your specifications giving you a huge range of flexibility in terms of profile, size and thickness. It is not always machined from old floorboards as it is difficult to remove intact (the tongues tend to break off when being removed)so will probably be machined from other members salvaged from old buildings such as warehouses, woolstores, wharves etc.

10.) Floating floors. There are 2 types.

  • Engineered Flooring has up to 44mm veneer of timber on a tongue and groove mdf base. Engineered flooring is a good cost effective alternative. It can look like a timber floorboard but the thickness of the veneer limits the number of times it can be sanded and sealed.
  • Laminated Floating Floor is a purely man made product and in fact the timber grain is actually a photo so will wear off in high traffic areas.

Bernadette headshot newSee Bernadette present ‘Top Ten Tips to Adding Value through Renovating’ at the Build Expo on Sunday 6 July at 12.45
Bernadette Janson is a lover of renovating and the director of The School of Renovating. She manages a website offering tips, inspiration and training on renovating. She is an advocate for educating other renovators on how to use their passion to fund a comfortable and prosperous life and retirement.

For visitor and ticket information, visit buildexpo.com.au