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 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form on this page.

Solid Wooden Floors Installed in Saligna in Toti

Solid wood flooring Durban

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Here’s a solid wooden floor we installed using saligna in Toti, South of Durban. These solid wooden floors were done in saligna boards of about 22 x 72mm wide. The width of each board is always dependent on how wide the boards originally come in at. So these boards came in at about 25mm x 76mm ( a standard timber size in construction) and were machined down to 22 x 72mm.

They are normally machined as a tongue and groove (see picture alongside). This allows the installer to slot each piece into each other as he moves from one end of the room to the other. They are unlike the other boards we used in Hluhluwe (see a few articles before) where they were end matched.

Because the saligna is locally grown in South Africa (gum) they are available in much longer lengths. This is also due to the fact that a gum tree, grows relatively straight and one can obtain long lengths from the tree. The lengths of saligna we used here were all 3m lengths. So there is no need to end match the tongue and groove as one either cuts the end off to match it up to a bearer or you can install a bearer midway between the main bearers to accept the end of the floor board thus reducing waste.

We were installing a new floor here which had to match the existing floor as closely as possible. The existing floor boards were about 68mm wide, but we would have wasted too much timber planning them down that far. The difference between 68mm and 72mm is not that great (4mm in fact) and considering that they are being laid next to each other instead of matching them up on ends, the difference in width is not noticeable.  Once everything was sanded again it all matched the same colour.

The colour of new and old timber varies initially, but this very soon changes due to exposure to UV and within no time it matches almost perfectly the colour of the older timber.

Solid wood flooring Durban

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We sanded these floors with the floor drum sander to get rid of any ridges between floor boards and sealed the wooden floors with a water based polyurethane floor sealer in clear and sheen.

The difference between water based floor sealers, solvent based floor sealers and epoxy based floor sealers will be discussed in other articles on this blog, but for the purpose of this exercise I have gravitated between two of them, water based and solvent based for some years.

As water based products evolve in their technology, I am swaying more and more towards this technology as an alternative to solvent based products. They are for one a lot less harm full to the environment, and to a greater, or lesser, degree are at times better on the pocket as well as the time and effort taken to apply them.

For a free no obligation quote on your solid wooden floors, laminates or engineered flooring, please call us on 082 496 5444 or you can contact me via the contact form below.

Solid Wood Floors – All Brown Teak End Matched

Solid hardwood floors

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These solid wood floors were installed in Hluhluwe in a house that was being renovated by the new owner on a farm. We used all brown teak, end matched. Most of our teak in South Africa comes from Zimbabwe and they are not allowing teak to leave the country without being machined there. So they were machined in Zim, exported to Gauteng and then shipped to Durban and then up to Hluhluwe. We always allow our timber to stand on site for at least two weeks to acclimatise to the humidity and conditions in their final resting place. This eliminates problems further down the line of boards swelling after installation which cause popping of boards.

Because it is quite difficult to get long lengths of teak, these boards were end matched. They varied in length from 450mm to 1m. To avoid waste in installation the manufacturer will machine them with tongue and groove joints on all four sides so that instead of cutting the ends off to line them up with a bearer, you can simply install them end to end between two bearers because they are tongue and grooved on all four sides. The amount of waste that would be created if they were to be cut would amount to almost half of the total floor area. With lengths of 3m plus, this is not necessary as the waste is far less as a percentage of the total wood being used.

Solid hardwood floors

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We had two areas to floor, upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs there was a mezzanine type floor that had been installed already with wood joists and shutter ply. We installed bearers on top of this and then nailed our floor boards on to them. Downstairs was a concrete substrate which we fixed bearers to using hiltis. It is vitally important to get this substructure of bearers completely flat and level. So spend a bit of time on getting this right as the rest of the job will run smoothly if this is done correctly. The easiest way is to install one bearer on one end of the room and another on the other end of the room with both being level in both directions and to each other. Then run fish line between the two in intervals of about 500mm. Now you can set all your other bearers flat and level to these two, the result being a completely flat and level substructure.

Once the bearers are down you can start installing the boards from one end of the room. We used a specialised hardwood floor nailer, which I have written about here. Because this machine, or tool, is designed at a 45° angle, it cannot be used for the first or last floor boards. On the first one you must use a 40mm oval nail through the tongue (pre drill the pilot hole in hardwoods such as teak) and counter sink it is so it is invisible. From here you can use the hardwood floor nailer. The last board, or last few boards, will also not be able to be installed using this tool as the wall will get in the way. You also can’t successfully nail by hand as you did on the first board, so you will need to face nail the board. That is to drive a nail through the face of the board into the bearer and then neatly close the hole with a suitable filler to match you wood colour.

The next step is to sand the floor flat. Even though these hardwood floor boards are machined precisely to fit snugly into each other through the tongue and groove joint, they do sometimes vary in thickness by a quarter mm and this needs to be sanded flat using a floor sander and 40 grit paper. Teak is extremely hard so this part was slow going. Once it is flat you can then use a 100 grit paper to get rid of scratch marks left by the 40 grit and get the wood to a smooth finish ready for sealing.

Solid hardwood floors

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Vacuum ALL the dust up and vacuum again to make sure that ALL dust is off the floor prior to sealing. We also use a flat broom. The same broom you see them using in shopping centres. This broom moves dust around in one steady motion rather than the normal sweep motion that causes the dust to become airborne and settle again where you have just swept. From time to time you need to vacuum the broom to get rid of the dust and continue sweeping.

3 Coats of a good quality polyurethane sealer is required. Sand lightly with a 200 grit paper to remove any hairs or fibres that would have been raised after the first coat. If using a water based sealer you can dilute the first coat with water so that it penetrates the timber. There are many sealers that can be used. We prefer the water based ones as they dry quicker than the others and are friendlier in their behaviour.

For a free no obligation quote on installing or just sanding and sealing your solid wood floors, please contact us on 082 496 5444 or you can use the contact us form below.

Solid hardwood floors

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Solid hardwood floors

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Wooden Parquet Floor Sanding and Sealing

We were called to quote on sanding and sealing the wooden Swiss parquet floors in an old house in Hillcrest. From the pics alongside you can see that these rooms are the typical large ones found in older houses.

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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The Swiss parquet floors have probably been there well on 40 years or probably even since the house was built. Since then carpets have been put down on top of them, probably in the seventies when those big thick pile carpets where the fashion. The carpets had been lifted some time ago but the sealer on the wooden floor was scuffed in many areas and although it was not peeling off or flaking, it had worn back to wood in high traffic areas and there were various marks on them from pot plants and other items that had been placed on them and left for long periods of time.

The total area we had to sand was 170m², so quite a nice sized area. It consisted of 3 bedrooms, passage, lounge, dining room and study. We were relatively lucky in that the existing coating had deteriorated to a point where it came off quite easily. One always needs to be careful of floors that have been coated fairly recently and still hold a lot of coating or sealer because it tends to clog the sand paper. In these cases one needs to use a very coarse grit paper of about 30 grit and at times you need to sand at 45 degrees to the grain to remove it and then sand again with the grain with a less coarse paper. Also, although the floor is flat, it is never perfectly flat and the large floor sander sometimes

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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leaves patches. So just turn the machine at a slight angle to get it to flatten the floor in that area and then go back with the grain to get your scratch marks all running in the same direction.

Once the bulk of the sealer or coating is off, one needs to come back with a smaller hand-held sander to remove those stubborn areas. Once it’s all off you need to remove the scratch marks with a finer sand paper. If you’ve started with a 30 grit paper, you may need to then go to a 60 and then to a 100 grit. But always finish on a 100 grit paper.

We used a polyurethane epoxy floor sealer with hardener or accelerator (mineral based) on these floors in order to speed up the drying time. The client was living in the house so we had to limit dust and had to paint rooms in a special order so that they could still live there while we sealed the floors.

I’m still not completely sold on water based products. The water based floor sealers I have used require many more coats to get the same thickness of coating. Although they dry a lot quicker and many more coats can be applied in the same day, they tend to use a lot more and, in my opinion, don’t provide as hard a finish as mineral based

Swiss parquet floor sealing Durban

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products, especially those with catalysts for hardening.

In between coats we rubbed the floors with steel wool to remove the fibres in the wood that stand up when first coated. A thorough vacuum after that and a second coat was applied.

A quick tip on using the epoxy / polyurethane floor sealer.  Because this product has an accelerator, or hardener associated with it, it goes off, or dries, a lot quicker than a single pack polyurethane.  When you mix your sealer with the accelerator, you should use a flat-bottomed tin such as a coffee tin or jam tin and a flat paddle to mix.  The flat-bottomed tin allows one to mix it thoroughly because there are no ridges for the flat paddle to get stuck on (as opposed to a coke bottle).  A good choice for a flat paddle is a steel ruler.  If you were to pour it directly into your paint tray you will be need to clean that paint tray with every new mix otherwise the sealer will be getting hard already and will interfere with the smooth rolling on the floor.  So place a black dustbin bag (well it can be any colour really) over the paint tray and simply through the black bag away after each mix.  Don’t mix too much as the product has a pot life, (the time it can remain liquid enough to use in the pot).  A hot day will result it in going off quicker than a cold day, or a humid day, and using more accelerator will also result in a quicker drying time.  So be careful with your quantities, you don’t want to waste sealer.

Swiss parquet floor sealing DurbanZ

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This product should be applied very thinly in order for it to dry quickly.  If it is applied too thickly the top will dry but the middle will still be tacky and it will take much longer to be able to walk on it to flat it and apply subsequent coats.  So mix just enough each time.  If it starts going off in the tray, rather through it away than try to apply it while it is already getting hard.  What happens then is that the front edge of the roller spreads it on the floor and the back-end of the roller starts to pull it off the floor because it is already tacky.  This results in a streaky floor which will mean getting the sander out again.  So rather waste a little sealer and star with fresh sealer than waste time by re-sanding it.  And then of course mix a little less so it doesn’t go off in the pot or tin.

For a free no obligation quote on installing wooden floors or floor sanding and sealing please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.