Types of Flooring for Interior Design
Always on view and taking up a large proportion of the surface area in any room, the floor has a great impact on the decorative scheme in terms of colour, texture, pattern and style. But a floor must also fulfil certain practical requirements — requirements that vary from room to room and household to household. It may be required to wear well; be warm, safe or non-slip; be easy to maintain, resilient or sound- or heat-insulating. In addition to these considerations, new floors and floor coverings represent a large investment of either time or money or, usually, both. Whatever you choose may well have to outlast several changes of the rest of the room’s decorative treatments.
From wall-to-wall carpeting to quarry tiles, wood strip to sheet vinyl, there is a great variety of types and styles of floor covering from which to choose. Careful assessment and sound research is necessary if you are to find the solution that suits your tastes and needs.
Combinations of different types of floor surface can be very effective: coir matting with kelims; slate with stone; polished floorboards with area rugs. And, because of the practical demands of different areas, it is unlikely that you will want to extend the same type of flooring throughout your home. For these reasons it is important not to consider each room in isolation: the view from area to area and details such as the junctions between different floor coverings will contribute to the success of the overall result.
A wood floor is a classic surface that wears well, improves with age and complements modern as well as period decoration. Costs vary: renovating existing floorboards is one of the cheapest flooring solutions; installing new parquet can be expensive.
Wood floors come in different forms: boards (of varying widths), ready-made strip or parquet, mosaic tiles or panels, and blocks. Many types of wood, bothand , are suitable; a local supplier can advise on different varieties. Also sheets or boards of manmade woods, such as (masonite), (particleboard) and , can be used to create stylish and economical floors.
Existing floorboards can be prepared and sanded, and then finished off by sealing, bleaching or painting.
To install a new wood floor, it is important to select the right type and quality. Common varieties include pine, beech, mahogany, oak, walnut, maple and elm, but there are other, more exotic, species as well. Different widths of board are available, depending on the type.
Wood for flooring must be properly dried and seasoned. The moisture content should suit the conditions of the room where the boards will be laid (6-8 per cent moisture content if there is underfloor heating; 10-14 per cent if there is central heating), as otherwise shrinking or swelling may occur. Ideally, wood should be left unwrapped in the room where it is going to be fitted for at least two days.
When laying a new floor, you must establish first where cables and pipes run to avoid nailing through them. Boards can be nailed to joists; tongue-and-groove boards can be slotted together and secret-nailed to joists or to a wooden subfloor.
Ready-made Wood Floors
Manufactured wood floors are available in different woods — usually either in aor in a with a hardwood — and in different colours. They can be laid in simple patterns. Most are presealed and designed to interlock.
Strip or parquet floors should be laid on level plywood or hardboard (masonite) subfloors; wood block and mosaic on concrete screed, ply or chipboard (particleboard). Fixing is either byor by interlocking and secret-nailing.
Although these cheap, manufactured boards are essentially designed to make an even surface for wood, tiles or other covering, they can also be used in their own right. They are not particularly resilient, however, and are badly affected by water.
Hardboard (masonite) can be painted or sealed to promote durability. Lay it smooth side up, beginning at the mid-point of the room, and fit a border around the edges to finish.
Tongue-and-groove chipboard (particleboard) can be fixed withand secured with around the edges of the room.
Plywood is available in tongue-and-groove boards or in squares, and can be painted, stained, or varnished to a high gloss.
Apart from pre-sealed manufactured floors, all new and renovated wood must be treated in some way to prevent the surface from degrading. The simplest method is to seal it with several coats of transparent wood sealer — but bear in mind that polyurethane tends to yellow with age. An alternative is to apply several layers of wax polish.
To lighten dark floors you can bleach wood using a solution of household bleach and water. Rinse off well. A similar ‘limed’ effect can be created by using a whitewash or white oil-based paint.
Floors can also be stained. As well as natural colours, a wide variety of bright stains is available today. Work quickly, using a soft cloth to rub the stain into the grain.
For liming, you can use special limed wax, white paint thinned with white spirit or turpentine, or gesso; mix the gesso so that it is reasonably runny. You will need a supply of clean, dry cloths. Limed boards should be sealed with a two-part for durability.
1. Paint the gesso along the length of the board, working 90cm/3ft at a time. Work board-by-board to avoid unsightly lines.
2. Wipe the paint off with a clean rag, pulling strokes along the length of the board and leaving paint in the cracks. Leave to dry.
If floorboards are not attractive enough simply to be sealed, you can paint them. Make sure the surface is dry and clean, apply several coats of undercoat to act as a primer, and then apply a topcoat of oil-based gloss, eggshell or special floor paint. Deck or marine paint can also be used, and is very durable, but it is hard to apply and takes a long time to dry. In addition, it is available only in a limited range of colours.
Simple patterns can be created by alternating colours, by stencilling a border, or by scoring a design into the floor with a knife so that colours do not run.