Engineered Hardwood Flooring

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Hardwood flooring has become ever popular in many countries. In South Africa, home owners are opting for these in preference to the old style parquet and the laminated style of flooring. Hardwood floors go hand-in-hand with luxury, and offer timeless beauty and are low on maintenance. Home owners looking for a classic look might like to consider engineered hardwood flooring. These points should be taken into account, or kept in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of hardwood flooring.

Unlike conventional hardwood, which comes from its raw state and into your home, engineered hardwood is a more complex product which consists of layers. The outermost appearance layer is a hardwood veneer, a thin slice of wood of whatever wood type you prefer. The inner layers are made of plywood, high density fiberboard, or hardwood. These core layers give the product more stability than regular hardwood, while the outer veneer surface gives the floor its aesthetics, its beauty, and, of course, its authenticity.

Engineered hardwood is different to a hardwood laminated ‘wood’ because the surface is made of real wood. While laminated flooring has a core of high density fiberboard, its surface is basically a picture of wood. Laminate is less expensive than engineered and solid hardwood, but has a different look, feel and even sound when walking on it, due to its make up.

Pros:

  • Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to reduce moisture associated with conventional hardwood.
  • The layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor.
  • This is a low maintenance option because of the fact that Engineered Flooring will not swell or warp.
  • Choosing engineered flooring is considered more environmentally-friendly than traditional hardwood for various reasons.
  • Veneer is sliced very carefully and precisely – it is not cut with a saw. This process produces no sawdust, which means that the entire tree can be used. The sawdust which we know amounts to a significant pile when making hardwood boards is wasted wood.
  • Hardwood trees grow a lot more slowly than the trees used to construct engineered flooring cores. More surface area is produced making veneer, therefore installing traditional hardwood uses many times the amount of slow-growing tree. This makes the replenishing time much longer.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cons

  • There are very few disadvantages to this type of hardwood flooring but it is neither a foolproof project and not necessarily the right floor for every application.

Comparable to solid hardwood in terms of cost: –

Engineered floors are still considerably more expensive than laminated floors, tile or carpet. They are, however much more hardy, are low maintenance and will wear a lot better.

That said, one should also take into account the biggest concern as a homeowner … that being avoiding shoddy or inferior engineered work and products, merely because of cost.

Veneers that are too thin will prevent sanding and refinishing opportunities that may double the lifetime of the floor.

Some veneers are so thin and poorly made that they can prematurely warp or fade.

Core layers should still be made from high-quality wood. Some manufacturers try to cut corners by using fiberboard or oriented strand board which might well compromise the stability of your floor and could result in an inferior flooring product.

Your Home is your Castle … quality surpasses cutting corners

It is, without exception, easier to install engineered flooring and the handy man homeowner is often encouraged to install his or her own engineered floors. It is never-the-less, a major project with big financial implications, therefore, I suggest you weigh up carefully, the virtue of employing an experienced craftsman to do the job (who will also guarantee his finished product, surely?) and doing the work yourself …and without wanting to reduce your skill-ability, don’t be too over zealous about your own home improvement skills just to get the job done cheaper! Even for the majority of homeowners who hire a flooring contractor for the job, you’ll save a hefty sum on installation, which is important given that most engineered flooring is more expensive than solid wood.

The cost of high-quality engineered floors (thick veneers) will depend on various issues, the obvious one being the type of wood you choose. In South Africa, imported Indonesian Balau is readily available, is solid, a hard wood and also hard-wearing, able to withstand much more than a softer local wood might be. It lands at quite a reasonable price and is of a superior quality. It is, for example largely used for outdoor decking. Solid wood flooring may be cheaper overall, however it will still take longer to install.

For a free no obligation quote on your solid hardwood engineered flooring please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Floors and Laminates

Solid Wooden flooring Durban and Cape Town

Click to enlarge

We specialise in Solid Wooden Flooring, Laminates, Parquet flooring, Dustless Floor sanding and Sealing and repairs to wooden floors.

Wooden floors exist in many different forms from Swiss Parquet, Parquet, Sprung or Suspended Floors or wooden floors that are adhered to the substrate. They come in many different types of wood and each one has its own unique characteristics and pro and cons. From the menu bar on the right you can navigate to the different types and read up and view pics of the different styles. Alternatively you can use the search bar above to the right to search for something more specific. There are articles on this site of jobs we have completed with pics and the various challenges we overcame in the installation.

Solid wooden floors were very popular in years gone by and in about the ‘70s were all covered up with carpets and other types of flooring. They are making a strong come back now and are very popular due to their warmth, charm and the ability to maintain them relatively easily and cost effectively. Take a look under your carpets and you may find some very nice teak flooring that can be restored back to its original beauty at a relatively low-cost.

For a free, no obligation quote, on all your wooden floor requirements please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Parquet Flooring Installer Durban and Cape Town

Parquet flooring Installer Durban and Cape Town

Parquet flooring was very popular many years ago but a lot of it was covered up with carpets back in the 70’s. It seems crazy now that one could cover the parquet flooring with carpets, but that was the thing of the day and fashions come and go. I’ve recently refurbished several parquet floors by sanding them down and re-sealing them after old carpets have been lifted and they still hold their charm.

There are various types of parquet floor one can get using different wood that gives a slightly different grain, colour and texture. Of course you should always purchase your parquet flooring from a reputable supplier to ensure that you are getting top quality. Your floor will need to last many years and you don’t want to spend the money on installing it only to have to re-do the work later. Also as timber ages it naturally darkens so to try to match the colour of timber with new pieces is very difficult.

Parquet flooring comes in tiles which are made up of the small strips you see. So they are not all laid individually but rather as a sort of tile which is about 300mm x 300mm squares. It makes it much easier to lay and will result in a better finished product because of course there is less room for error in laying them. They are glued down to the floor using a suitable adhesive. Again the floor needs to be completely flat in order to achieve a good quality result. If the floor is not flat, screed it first to remove low and high spots first and then lay your floor.

The individual strips are normally laid perpendicular to each other to give it effect but some very interesting patterns can be found such as herringbone, triangles and inserts are also possible. Parquet flooring is very versatile and you can lay the tiles in just about any pattern you wish and the choices are limited only by your imagination.

For the budget concerned folk out there an alternative to buying new parquet flooring is to use second-hand parquet flooring. I have seen many houses have their old parquet flooring ripped out and discarded. This timber is still sound as most of the older houses used good quality teak in their floors. With a little cleaning and sanding those parquet floor tiles can be made to look like new. Don’t discount the value of second-hand tiles.

To finish the floor, you should sand it using the floor sander, fill any gaps with a suitable gap filler, sand again and then move up to finer grits remembering to sand into the corners with a smaller rotex style sander. A good quality polyurethane should be used either in mineral based or water based. Water based is of course more easily applied, less messy and one can apply multiple coats in the same day as it dries very quickly. Remember to sand lightly with a fine grit paper between coats to get rid of the hairs which stand up after applying coats. This will result in a smooth finish. The polyurethane comes in either high gloss, matt or satin. The choice is yours.

For a free no obligation quote or advice on your parquet flooring please complete the form below or call us on 031 – 762 1795.

Solid Wooden Flooring Installers Durban and Cape Town

Solid wood flooring installer Durban and Cape town

There are two ways one can install a solid wooden floor. One is to apply the boards directly to the concrete substructure using adhesive and the other is to suspend the floor with joists or batons. This is sometimes referred to as a sprung or suspended floor.

In the first method it is imperative that the substrate is completely flat. If the floor is not completely flat, the boards will lift because they will go down under stress and over time will pull themselves up. If the floor is not completely flat you MUST screed it and get it flat. Or you can opt to install a sprung floor. However installing a sprung floor will result in the surface being about 50mm higher than it was or 30mm higher than the other method. Reason being is that there will be a baton underneath the boards to accept the floor board. So double-check where your floor will end up before choosing the method.

I will go into more detail about each method in two separate articles which you can search for in the search bar on the right, but for the purposes of this article I will just touch on the types of timber one can choose and a broad outline of solid wood flooring.

There are various types of timber that can be used for solid wood flooring. Each one comes with its own characteristics and properties. Some are harder than others, some are less prone to marking because they are dark coloured. What I find most important is to choose a timber that will not move much after installation. All timber will move as it expands and contracts due to fluctuations in temperature, moisture in the atmosphere and other factors. These will all vary with the seasons and in different parts of the country the variation will be different. It is always a good idea to bring the timber to site where it will finally be laid and let it acclimatise for a few weeks before installing. If the timber for instance was kiln dried and then stored in Durban on the coast, then later moved to Gauteng it will move because of differing temperatures and moisture in the atmosphere. So it should be allowed to rest for a few weeks before installing. In fact it should be allowed to rest before machining so that any movement can be removed through the machining process resulting in a flat, square, stable board. There is nothing more frustrating than laying solid wood floor boards only to find that later they have cupped or bowed slightly and unsightly gaps appear between boards or worse still they start to lift. It is not always possible to let them rest before machining but at least allow them to rest before installing so that any movement can be seen before installation and corrected where possible.

One can try to match the colour of the timber to the rest of the room. Saligna for instance is slightly pinkish in colour whereas teak will be a much darker wood and sometimes with dark heartwood and lighter coloured sapwood. You can get creative in matching the colours and interspersed dark with light. If you feel like get really clever you can use different types of wood in your floor but be careful to try to match the timber in their density so that all the pieces will expand and contract at a similar rate.

Your floor should be finished with a good quality polyurethane either in mineral based or water based. Water based is normally preferred as it allows you to apply several coats in the same day. Also it is better for our environment.

For a free no obligation quote or advice on your solid wood flooring please complete the form below or you can contact us on 031 – 762 1795.

Wooden Flooring Durban

Wooden Floors Durban

Early plank style flooring

Many years ago, as late as 1625, most European houses did not have a wooden floor. Instead they had a beaten earth floor which of course created problems with water and dust, as you can imagine. Wooden floors were reserved for wealthier people and in those days consisted of joists with planks of elm or oak up to 600mm wide.

During the baroque era of 1625 – 1714, wooden floors became more elegant and included French parquetry and marquetry patterns which were made from hand cut pieces of hardwood laid in patterns of differing colours. They were then hand scraped, scrubbed with sand and polished. These of course were also reserved for the elite in society.

During 1607 – 1780 the North Americans started installing wooden floors due to an abundance of wood. These floors were generally not polished.

Wooden Floors Durban

French parquet style flooring

By the early 19th century, tongue and groove methods started to be applied by the wealthier clients but the random width plank system, face nailed to the joists, remained more common in modest homes. It was also during these times, due to the advent of tongue and groove, that floors could be sanded and levelled and sealed using shellac. Shellac was all that was really available to carpenters to seal wood in those days. It is derived from insect secretions and after being scraped from the bark of trees and processed, exists in solid form. When mixed with alcohol, it becomes liquid and can be applied. It dries very quickly. As there were no modern tools to perform these tasks it was very labour intensive and only the elite could afford this new technology.

The American Victorian Era of 1840 – 1910 saw mass production of wooden floors and consisted largely of “wood carpeting” which were roughly 35mm x 7mm strips glued to a heavy cotton backing made of canvas. They came in rolls of about 1m wide and were installed by tacking down each board every 300mm or so. Nails were set below the surface and filled, sanded by hand and varnished largely with slow curing tung oils from China. This was not that durable in itself so floors were hot waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush. All by hand. I know what a job it can be to level a floor using tongue a groove boards with a large grinder or floor sander. I can only imagine the sweat and tears that went into producing a top quality floor in those days.

Wooden Floors Durban

Modern day tongue and groove flooring

By the Edwardian era (1901 – 1914) tongue and groove flooring was the popular choice for domestic flooring. By the 1920’s and 1930’s wooden flooring was in competition with linoleum and cork floors which offered less maintenance. With the addition of alkyd resin, curing time and durability of finishes improved and emphasis was placed on hard solid durable floors. In the 30’s polyurethane was the choice for a no wax finish for floors which allowed wood to play a prominent role through the modern era of the 20’s to the 50’s. Wall to wall carpeting was still terribly expensive and a lot more expensive than wood.

With the housing boom at the end of World War II, came doom for the wooden flooring industry. Because the broadloom (wide and long carpets) cost could be included in the loan for veterans, solid wood floors were very quickly covered up with more expensive, and therefore more sought after, wall to wall carpets. So from the 50’s to about the 80’s hardwood flooring companies struggled to survive and had to adapt my installing carpets. Also ply wood was commonly used then below the carpets. As a result of this the labour paid to install floors decreased and of course the quality dropped as labour struggled to lay more flooring in a day just to survive. This resulted in poor quality floors being laid which made them unpopular. Parquet was then branded as cheap and common.

As we move along in time, and wooden flooring becomes more expensive than other types of flooring, because wood itself is becoming scarce, solid hardwood flooring starts, to my joy, becoming more popular and associated with the more elite end of society. Carpets are being ripped up to find Swiss parquet and parquet blocks, largely of teak which are being restored to their former beauty. A lot of new floors are being laid in solid hardwood too and are preferred over carpets or tiles. Tiles and carpets have had their day. Solid hardwood reigns, for now, but watch this space because the wheel turns and in a few decades I suppose wooden floors will lose their popularity as do all things with time.

For a quote on your solid hardwood flooring needs please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form on this page.

Hardwood Flooring Companies in Durban

IMG-20140511-00288Hardwood flooring is becoming very popular again in modern-day home building. There is a separate article on this blog about the history of hardwood floors so I won’t write much about that here. This article is intended to share some info I have gained about hardwood floors and how to ensure that you make the right decisions when choosing your hardwood floor.

There are a number of hardwood flooring specialist companies in Durban to choose from when installing hardwood floors in your home. A few important points to consider when choosing a hardwood flooring company is their track record and their knowledge of wood, its characteristics and how it behaves.

There are broadly speaking two ways to install a hardwood floor. It will either be suspended on battens or joists, or be glued to the substrate which is normally concrete.

Suspended Floors vs. Glue Down Floor Boards

IMG-20140511-00284Suspended or sprung floors are exactly that. They are floor boards that are fixed to joists or battens with a cavity between the bottom of the floor board and the substrate. They are useful when there is no substrate or the substrate is below the desired height of the floor and filling with concrete is not an option due to cost. One can then simply run beams and joists, or battens if the height to be gained is not that great, at specified centres and then attach floor boards to the joists. The distance between joists will be determined by the type of wood being used as floor boards and its density and hardness. They will generally be between 400mm and 500mm. Anything less is a waste of wood and anything more may result in the floor boards being “spongy” and “bouncing” with slight movement up and down. Despite being annoying when walked on, this will also put strain on all joints and failure of the hardwood floor may be premature.

This substructure, or substrate, must be completely flat and level on the top in order to get a flat and level floor. Shimming and notching are practices used in suspended floors to achieve a flat and level substructure. Skimming or screeding may be necessary when making use of a glued down method. Either way that substrate or substructure MUST be completely flat and level otherwise you will have boards popping or unnecessary strain being placed on suspended boards resulting in nails pulling out or breaking. Once the substructure is completed and you are happy with it you can start installing floor boards.

IMG-20140511-00281If the concrete substrate is 20mm or so below the desired height of the top of the floor, then one has no option but to glue the wood down to the substrate. A batten is typically 25mm to 35mm thick and a floor board is typically about 20mm. So one would need at least 45mm between the desired top of floor height and substrate in order to make use of this method. Most older houses made use of suspended floors and the ground was typically 500mm to a metre below the floor and was sand. Columns were built up to support the beams and joists. In these older houses a suspended floor is the only option. In most modern-day homes the concrete substrate is set at about 20mm to 25mm below the door frames so that any floor can be utilised (i.e. wood or carpets). In these homes a glued down floor is the only option as the height of the substrate won’t allow for battens and floor boards as it will result in the top of the floor being higher than the door frames. It’s not impossible but also not preferable to have your floor 20mm or 30mm higher than your door frame.

One should be careful of glueing floor boards to a substrate that moves itself. If for instance the substrate is ply wood, installed on top of joists, then a suspended floor should be the method as the substrate will also be moving, thereby creating problems with the floor boards.

IMG-20140509-WA0001All wood “moves”, that is it expands and contracts with seasons and humidity. A suspended floor will allow the wood to move more freely as it is nailed down as opposed to being glued down. Being able to move a bit more freely will result in less boards splitting, popping or cracking over time. A suspended floor will have a hollow sound to it, which some people prefer while a glued down floor will have a more solid sound to it as it is glued directly to a concrete substrate.

Wood should always be allowed to acclimatise before being installed. This applies to both glued down and suspended methods. If we take teak for instance. It will originate probably in Zimbabwe, be machined there and exported to South Africa. It will arrive and will spend some time in Gauteng and then be shipped to Durban and then to its final destination. The changes in humidity and temperature between all these places affect the overall size of the wood. In more humid environments the wood will swell, expand slightly and in drier environments it will shrink, or contract slightly. It should be allowed to “rest” for at least two weeks, at its place of installation before being installed, to acclimatise to the local climatic conditions. Thin pieces of wood should also be placed between boards to allow for movement of air while it is acclimatizing.

The best time to install a floor is in the summer months. The wood would have (excuse the pun) swelled slightly due to heat and humidity (assuming of course the local conditions are more humid in summer than winter, such as Durban). The boards will be installed in this slightly swelled state and in winter they will contract slightly. If we do it the other way around, install in winter, then the wood will be contracted when being installed and will expand in summer and the boards will push up against each other, on the sides, and may pop. If winter is the only time one can install them, then allowance needs to be made for this and small gaps need to be left between boards to allow them to swell in summer. The size of the gap will depend on the type of timber being used. Harder woods will require less than softer woods as they will move less between seasons. When I say gaps I mean very slight gaps and I should rather refer to it as loosely laid as opposed to tightly laid.

Types of wood

There are various types of wood one can use for flooring. Some work better than others and the imported exotic hardwood such as Oak and Walnut are very expensive as opposed to locally grown timber such as pine or Saligna. Softer woods such as pine and Saligna (gum) can be used but will not be as durable as a hardwood such as teak or oak. They may split or crack sooner and will expand and contract more. Pine and Saligna work best being suspended rather than being glued down because they expand and contact more easily due to their lower density. Also the floors life span will be shorter because with every maintenance interval the soft wood will lose about 2mm from the surface when sanded. A hardwood such as teak will loose considerably less than that and as such its life span will be longer (i.e. it can be sanded many more times).

The different types of wood also vary in colour from dark to light and then some with varied colour like brown and white teak or Kiaat. Some of these variations in colour are due to heart wood and sap wood being present. Brown and white teak for instance is made up of heartwood and sap wood, heart wood being the timber close to the middle of the tree and sap wood being that close to the outside of the tree. Heart wood is by far the best as it is older and therefore harder and more resistant to attack by insects and rot. It is unavoidably more expensive.

Types of floor boards

There are various types of floor boards available on the market today. Most are tongue and grooved so that one side has a tongue and one side has a groove. When installing the tongue of one floor board is inserted into the groove of the board next to it to provide a tight fit and stop the boards from moving in a vertical direction against each other. The result being that your floor will remain flat for longer, if not forever. There are various different types of tongue and groove too which makes installation easier and results in less problems. Normally the tongue is slightly shorter than the groove to allow it to slide into the groove and not be prevented from being inserted all the way in so that the boards butt up flush with each other. Sometimes the tongue swells and the inside of the grooves swell, when moving into an area of more humidity, which makes it near impossible to get the tongue into the groove. A good floor board manufacturer will allow for this by making the tongue slightly thinner and shorter than the groove.

With locally grown timber such as pine or Saligna the boards come in longer lengths, typically 3m or so. With these longer boards they are normally only tongue and grooved on opposite sides along the length of the board. When installing, one will either cut the end of the board to reach a joist or batten, resulting in a small amount of waste or one will install an extra batten on that board only to support the end of the board. With imported timber such as teak, the boards will come in much shorter lengths as the longer stuff carries a premium price tag and is normally reserved for other uses. These are commonly known as maxi planks and vary in length from 450mm to 1m. If the same method as above was used one would be inserting extra battens all over the place which would not be feasible. So what the manufacturer does is to tongue and groove all four sides of the board. When the end of the board is reached there is no need to install an extra batten as the ends are tongue and grooved and fit snugly into each other without any vertical movement.

There are specialised tools for hardwood installation. We make use of an angled floor nailer. The nailer drives a nail at a 45° angle through the tongue and into the batten or joist. It also counter sinks it so that the nail does not impede the next board from butting up tight against the first one. The nail is now invisible and cannot be seen from the surface of the floor. The nail is also flat in that it is thinner than it is wide. This allows the nail to be driven through the timber between the grain on it’s thinner side so as not to split the tongue. It is hook shaped and ribbed so that it does not pull out over time.

I hope I have shed some light in the pros and cons of hardwood flooring and what to consider when installing hardwood floors and that you enjoy your hardwood floors for many years to come.

For a free no obligation quote on your solid hardwood floor, please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.