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Designer Tips, Inspiration, Technical Flooring Tips

Is a wooden floor right for your home?

“It’s really common to meet people who’ve had a bad experience with a wooden floor, and they have written them all off, much like someone saying they don’t like coffee… when they’ve only had instant….Ed Grant, Kite Flooring

At Kite, our mission is to find you the perfect floor. And whilst we mainly specialise in wooden flooring we also know it isn’t the only option out there.

So, what are the options?

Broadly, excluding more alternative products like Cork, there are three main flooring groups – Laminate, Vinyl and Wood. We know there are some subcategories… flooring manufacturers love to launch a new type of floor in the same way Apple launches an iPhone… but we struggle to tell the difference, and we look at floors all day!

Laminates are the cheapest; these are still wooden products (their core is compressed wood…), but they have a plastic sheet on top. These sheets can be made to be realistic to wood, or any other material you choose, such as stone or concrete. Laminates are hard-wearing, scratch-resistant, and the better quality ones have some water resistance. The more premium ones can be very realistic to natural materials, and importantly, they are the cheapest form of flooring. The floors are fitted floated (not stuck to the subfloor..), so to perform well, the subfloor needs to be flat.

Vinyl flooring price-wise sits in the middle of wood and laminate. Vinyl products can be fitted floated or glued down (the most well-known names in the UK being Karndean or Amtico..). Vinyl flooring is really hard-wearing – the main pitch is you can put it down and never worry about it again. We find the glue down options especially feel really solid. Make sure you go for one of the matt coloured versions though, as in our opinion… there is nothing worse than a shiny vinyl floor. We prefer vinyl flooring that is a simple shape, and light coloured – this then hides the fact it isn’t a natural product.

Engineered oak wood flooring, is a layered product, typically with an oak top layer, and then a birch or birch ply core. Almost all wooden flooring that’s sold in the UK is engineered now; from a consumer perspective, as these floors just sit on top of a subfloor, you cannot tell the difference between a solid and engineered floor once it’s fitted. The added advantage of an engineered floor is that it’s more stable – solid floors expand and contract as the humidity in your home changes; central heating dries out floors in the winter.

Wood floors come in plank, so straight boards or patterned, such as Chevron or Herringbone and can be fitted, floated or glued down, which gives the most secure fit. They have a protective layer on their surface, which is either Lacquers, which are basically like protective paints, or Oils, which are absorbed into the surface.

So, which is right for you?

Firstly, if you’re on a budget, laminate is a good option. There are some great looking laminates out there for affordable pricing. Our tip is to go with Mid to Light tones; they look more natural and stay away from gloss options. We love the laminates from Berry Alloc; and when we do fit laminates, we always work with their product. You will also save on fitting costs with laminates (they’re suitable for DIY…), and even professional fitters will charge you less, given they use a simple click system. You may also consider laminate if the property is not for your home; either a holiday let or rental property. You can have it fitted, and then generally not worry about it again.

And so to vinyl. We know taste is a personal thing, but from an aesthetic point of view, we feel matt laminates look better, and they’re cheaper! Most laminates also come with long residential warranties and the premium ones even come with water protection, which was previously the main use case of a vinyl product over laminate. Some of the more ugly floors we’ve seen on our travels have been shiny, vinyl floors, and people almost always want to take them up. Having said this, we know there is strong loyalty to some of the vinyl brands in the market; there is no doubt they are hard-wearing, especially the glue down options. Note, this is just for residential properties… if you’re building an airport then maybe it’s something to consider!

So what about wooden floors? Well, just like any product, not all floors are equal. A good quality wood floor will be accurately milled (so it slots together well), and has multiple coats of good quality oils, in sufficient quantity. These oils should sit deep within the wood structure, so not just on the surface. If a floor has this type of treatment it will work fine in any busy family life; think toddlers, dogs, cats, wet boots etc…if it doesn’t and is a cheaper product, it won’t.

It’s really common to meet people who’ve had a bad experience with a wooden floor, and they have written them all off, much like someone saying they don’t like coffee… when they’ve only had instant….

Wood floors have a depth of colour to them that man-made products cannot compete with. The texture also has a natural feel. We’ve walked into a room and the floor has taken our breath away…. as a wood floor can make a room. Of course, the downside is a wood floor is a luxury product, both from a supply and fit perspective. To keep costs down, our Newington Range uses off-the-shelf oils, on common oak platforms, and this gets you to an affordable wooden option.

It’s even more premium if you go for a patterned floor, such as a herringbone or chevron. A wood floor does require some maintenance to keep it looking in good condition; mop with natural soap every 18 months and then a maintenance oil every 18/24 months… but we still think it’s a no brainer…but we would, wouldn’t we!

So, in summary, a wood floor works when i) you want the floor to stand out, and be an integral part of your home’s design and ii) you’re not on a budget. But, don’t go for a cheap wood floor; it won’t stand up to the stresses of busy family life. Think about laminates if you’re on a budget, or you’re looking for an investment property or holiday lets and if you decide to go with vinyl, stick with mid to lighter tones, and no gloss!

Happy Sampling! Ed Grant

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