Real wood floors are attractive for many reasons, including practicality, warmth, and classic good looks. They also suit all styles of property, from period cottages to contemporary houses.
Wood flooring has many benefits: it’s elegant, lasts for many years, and is suitable for most dry, flat floor surfaces. A solid wood floor is sure to add value to your home.
Wood is eco-friendly if properly sourced, and modern solid wood flooring is usually resilient, having been treated with long-lasting finishes.
If you’re thinking about real wood flooring in your own home, we look at the options, from solid boards and engineered wood flooring to reclaimed wood, and showcase some stunning examples to inspire you.
A real wood floor or engineered wood flooring
The main decision to make is whether to select solid wood or engineered wood for your floor. The other main alternative is reclaimed wood. Let’s look at the differences.
A solid wood floor
The main advantage of solid wood flooring is that it will look great for years, and even if it gets scuffed, the surface can be sanded and refinished. It can come in planks, blocks, and boards. Durable, scratch-resistant woods include hardwood species such as oak, walnut, and teak. For areas that might not get so much wear and tear, such as a dining room, landing, and bedrooms, softwoods such as pine, larch, and Douglas fir work well.
Solid wood flooring can come in tongue and groove planks with interlocking fitting, or be square-edged, which are more difficult to install but can be made in many thicknesses and widths. Solid wood flooring can be sanded many times, but tongue and groove planks can only be sanded down to the interlocking element. One downside of a solid wood floor is that it may warp in a warm environment.
Wood floor design options
If you choose planks or blocks they can come pre-finished or can be installed to your specifications on-site and treated there. Timber blocks can be used in herringbone or chevron designs.
Engineered wood flooring
Engineered wood is not necessarily a cheaper option than solid wood and it can even be more costly. It’s constructed from a top layer of solid wood which is bonded to numerous layers of softwood, MDF or plywood, with a backing board made from solid wood or plywood. Engineered wood flooring is resistant to warping and temperature changes and looks like a solid board when laid. It creates a very stable floor that’s resistant to heat and humidity, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.
The boards fit together via tongue and groove edges or click systems. There’s lots of choice of wood and finishes and boards come finished or unfinished. Finished boards don’t need to be stained on site, so there’s no dust or fumes but they are more expensive. Unfinished boards must be sanded and stained on site giving you more control over the finish; they may cost less but on-site labour may result in higher costs. Top-quality engineered boards have a deep hardwood top – ideally 3mm or more – creating the appearance and sound of solid wood, and allowing for sanding back when needed, though they can’t be sanded back much as solid boards.
Engineered wood flooring may be the best option to lay over underfloor heating as it copes with temperature changes better than a solid wood floor.
Reclaimed wood flooring
This has an appealing aged patina, whether block, solid, or engineered wood, and is particularly hard-wearing making it a great choice for living rooms. As it’s being used instead of new timber from forests, it’s also eco-friendly. Reclaimed timber can be bought in planks, boards, or panels. Because it’s not uniform, installation costs may be higher than with modern wood flooring.
Installing wood flooring
Installation costs can be significant, so include this in your overall calculations. Wooden flooring has few downsides, but it can be noisy and needs suitable insulation, and reclaimed wooden flooring may need specialist fitting as it’s not a standard size.
Before installing wood flooring, think about the suitability of the surface it’s being laid on:
- Damp proofing: is it effective?
- The subfloor: is it dry, flat, and stable? With a new build or renovated house, plastered walls, and concreted areas must be dry.
- Is the floor surface it’s to be laid on completely dry?
The choice of wood for your real wood flooring
Oak is an ever-popular choice for a wood floor as it blends well with any scheme; it’s durable and works well with variety of stains.
This has a darker, redder tone, giving a warm, rich feeling. It’s also durable and has a beautiful grain.
Maple has a fine grain pattern but can be susceptible to rot.
With a reddish colour, cherry wood is shiny and durable.
Light-coloured white ash has subtle graining while black ash has a dark grain.
Bamboo has a light finish but is not as durable as some hardwoods. Bamboo is technically a fast-growing grass, not a wood, making it environmentally friendly and a renewable resource. Compressed bamboo canes form planks that look like wood and are suitable to fit over underfloor heating. Damage can be sanded out and it can be relacquered.
A tropical hardwood, teak is very durable and can be a more expensive option. It has a rich, dark colour and its high oil content repels moisture, making it a good choice for bathrooms and kitchens.
The wide variety of pine trees offers many different types of wood and durability. It’s a soft wood, which is cost-effective, but it can get damaged relatively easily.
This light red coloured wood has strong and beautiful grain patterns, but it can be an expensive option.
While this orangey-brown soft wood is liable to get damaged, it’s more hardwearing than pine.
This is a pale, robust hardwood.
Larch is a strong softwood.
This African hardwood is renowned for its rich dark colour and high durability which comes from its natural oils and structure. Due to the trees’ longevity and amount of carbon capture, the wood can be sustainable.
Options and styles
There’s a trend for darker wood and reclaimed timber, and for extra wide planks with distressed finishes such as a smoked effect. Bear in mind that wide floorboards can accentuate a room’s size while thinner boards create a sense of neatness. Many different finishes are possible, for instance using wax or oil can subtly alter the appearance of wood flooring.
Parquet wood flooring
This is an ever-popular style, involving small blocks of wood fitted into a decorative pattern such as herringbone, Versailles parquet, Chantilly parquet, chevron, or basketweave. The blocks are glued down and sanded. Parquet is great for busy areas like kitchens, and it gives greater stability than solid boards. Parquet wooden floors are usually made from oak, maple or beech, walnut, teak, and wenge and it’s possible to buy engineered parquet flooring.
Maintaining real wood flooring
A wooden floor can last for many years and may be sanded down and resurfaced every five to seven years. Ideally, engineered flooring can be sanded twice. Real wood will age naturally, and signs of wear and tear will add to its patina. If there’s serious damage to a lacquered finish, the whole floor can be sanded back and relacquered. Waxed or oiled finishes sink into the wood to protect it and are good for creating an aged look, and it is possible to sand back and re-wax areas of damage.
The sustainability of wooden floors
Wood is an ecologically acceptable choice if it’s from sustainable forests. To make sure it’s from a responsible source make sure your product is from a company registered with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Here are some beautiful natural wood floors to inspire you:
The Natural Flooring Company
These beautiful designs from The Natural Flooring Company feature light oak flooring in a herringbone pattern, light oak boards in a kitchen and darker stained wood in a hallway. This firm has over 20 years of experience in wood flooring, and provides solid wood and engineered wood floors.
Ted Todd Fine Wood Floors
Ted Todd of Warrington uses high-quality environmentally-friendly timber to make award-winning natural wood floors and cladding. We love their circular parquet design featured here along with their bestselling herringbone design. These floors come in light or dark tones and are available in 15 or 20mm thickness and have a 4 and 6mm wear layer.
The Natural Wood Floor company
These stunning oak brushed slate oiled floorboards in the first picture from the Natural Wood Floor company of Wandsworth, measure 160 x 15mm. We love the beautiful oak engineered, smoked brushed unsealed Versailles panel in the middle image, which measures 800 x 800 x 20mm. The oak is smoked, brushed and distressed, and the panels are unsealed so that the customer can choose the final appearance. A smoked floor is infused with ammonia to give a slightly grey tone. The third image shows natural, unsealed walnut boards which allow the customer to choose the finish, which may be oil or lacquer. They are sourced from safely managed forests in North America.
The beautiful rich toned floor in the first image is by Telford-based Shropshire Oak and made from hand-scraped lacquered engineered oak. The middle image shows marble lacquered engineered oak while the third floor is made from brushed and oiled engineered oak.
Kingfisher Flooring Ltd
Specialising in engineered wood flooring which is durable to suit busy areas, Kingfisher Flooring Ltd of Cheltenham supplies top brands and offers a great range of finishes and colours as these images demonstrate.
Broadleaf Timber Ltd
Amherst oak parquet flooring from Broadleaf Timber Ltd in the first image is inspired by homes on the New England coast and has been painted and distressed to create a reclaimed look. These parquet blocks reveal the oak beneath the paint. The second image shows their aged oak wood floor which has a wash of colour to enrich the oak tones and give a slightly lived-in look. It’s finished with high-performance easy care matt satin hard wax oil and comes in solid oak planks and two types of engineered oak planks. The third picture shows their Classico medium oak flooring which is aged to give a softly textured surface and rich patina.
Have I missed anything?
If you have any tips or comments about real wood flooring, we’d love to hear from you.
Perhaps you have put wood flooring in your own home and would be willing to share some advice about the process? Please leave a message in the comments box below.