Laying a Hard Floor
Laying a hard floor is usually a job for the professionals, since materials are heavy to handle and require precise fitting. However, there are some types that you can fit yourself.
• Looks good and even improves with time.
• Easy to maintain and stain-resistant if sealed.
• Unyielding underfoot (not the best choice for the kitchen of a compulsive cook).
• Noisy, so rarely practical in a flat or apartment — many leases stipulate soft floor-covering for all floors in flats.
• Heavy. The sub-floor or joists may need strengthening, especially upstairs. May become slippery when wet.
Brick is effective in halls, living areas of period homes and, but impractical for kitchens. It is crumbly and porous if not sealed.
Ceramic tiles work well in halls, kitchens, dining rooms and conservatories. They are thicker and stronger than wall tiles, and without the high glaze that could make them slippery. Never lay wall tiles on floors.
Quarry tiles are made of tough clay in various earthy colours. They are usually porous, so may need sealing. Good anywhere, a rustic look is preferred.
Terracotta tiles can be brittle. Buy recycled tiles from a salvage company or new ones with a slightly ‘distressed’ surface.
Encaustic tiles, also called Victorian tiles because they are often found in entrance halls and porches of this period. The pattern, usually geometric or heraldic, is constructed as an inlay that never wears.
Concrete is common as a sub-floor in modern homes, but makes a hard-wearing top floor if smoothed (but not polished) and sealed with special non-slip resin. Concrete can be laid as slabs or poured on site, coloured with pigment or embedded with decorative materials.
Stone original flagstones are still found in period homes, which proves their long-lasting quality. Now many types of stone make practical and attractive flooring. A cheaper option is reconstituted stone slabs, as sold by garden centres, which can be used indoors if they are adequately sealed.
Slate floor tiles are usually slightly roughened (riven), making them non-slip and safe underfoot, but not so easy to clean. Ensure slate is flooring quality, not for roofs or wall cladding.
Wood In many houses, though less so in newer ones, suspended floors are made from floorboards fixed to the joists. Old boards can be restored and battered ones can be turned and relaid (a job for the expert). Flooring can also come as wood-block, laid in herringbone patterns, or intricately patterned parquet. If you have either type, you may have to do some restoration work, but do not paint an old parquet floor.
Wood strips, panels and veneers are alternatives to solid wood. They are constructed of a thin layer () of wood on a cheaper backing. Some are suitable for laying by non-professionals. Do not confuse man-made ‘wood laminate’ with real wood.
Plywood can be used as a floor in its own right, or for levelling a sub-floor. A birch- or maple-facedcan look very stylish in a modern living room.