5 Important Questions Before You Buy A Wood Floor
Buying a wooden floor is a major purchase (to put it mildly), and there are plenty of ways to slip up. With these 5 questions, you can avoid the most common mistakes when buying a wood floor.
1. Where was the floor manufactured?
When buying a wood floor remember to ask not only where the wood comes from but also how and where it’s manufactured. Quality materials and construction will determine the longevity of your floor and these few simple questions could save you a major headache (if not a heart attack) in the long run.
Many of our WPB birch ply engineered boards not only possess great quality but they also create the illusion of real, solid wood. With that in mind, it’s always good to ask not only the source of the wood but as well where the boards are constructed. For example, not all engineered boards are suitable for underfloor heating due to cheaper substrates.
2. Is your floor in compliance with the EU safety standards?
All wood naturally contains levels of formaldehyde. The issue is the rate of release in parts per million. Our plywood is class E1 (0.1ppm) which is in complete compliance with EU safety standards. The UK allows for 2.0ppm as safe for use! (much higher).
Additionally, cheap overseas manufacturing sometimes uses softwood ply. This type of engineered board not only has higher concentrations of formaldehyde which is not only harmful to the environment but can also be harmful to personal health especially to those who are chemically sensitive.
In 2011, the National Toxicology Program from the US described this cheap adhesive as “known to be a human carcinogen” due to its high levels of toxicity. However, despite the well-documented adverse effects, many companies use cheap production processes in order to reduce the costs of their engineered wooden boards.
3. Is the plywood Water and Boil proof?
Underfloor Heating is a major factor when choosing a wood floor. Wood is a living material, it expands, shrinks and reacts to the environment. Using an engineered board is essential when fitting over under floor heating but not all engineered boards are equal in quality and construction.
The best-engineered platform available on the market uses a high-quality European birch ply bonded with a natural, formaldehyde-free glue that is not only safe but WBP (water and boil proof) tested.
Overseas manufacturing commonly uses softwood ply. This type of cheaply produced engineered board is, in most cases not suitable for under floor heating.
4. Are the hard wax oils air-dried?
In our humble opinion, the look of a hard waxed oiled wood floor is unrivalled, as is its tactile feel. A penetrating oil finish does not sit on the surface of the wood but rather sinks into the grain. Consequently, when you walk barefoot on an oil-finished floor, your feet are in direct contact with the wood. If you chose a surface treatment such as a Lacquer , on the other hand, there would always be a layer of plastic between you and the wood.
UV-dried oils are the industry standard in order to save time and money, they look ok but not as rich or natural as an air dried hard-wax oiled finish. What most customers don’t know is the end result is more comparable to laminate style flooring. UV dried boards not only look overly glossy but the surface colour appears so thick that it over powers the natural beauty of the wood below. The bond between wood and oil is also less stable because the oils have not had sufficient time to penetrate the pores of the wood, instead they bond only to the surface of the wood. Air dried oils require a minimum of 4 hours drying time between coats and for this reason many of the larger companies are simply unable to offer this quality of finishing to their finishing lines.
Lacquer is another solution, it looks good initially but only for a short time. A lacquered floor cannot be touched up locally but rather any damage requires the floor to be completely re-sanded and coloured again, a costly and messy option. There are a few specialist water-based lacquers on the market that are marketed as lacquers that ‘behave like oils’, while this statement is impressive we are not confident that water can really behave like an oil.
Air-Dried Oils are the solution, this 8-12-hour process will not only create beautiful results, but will also protect the board for a longer time. This process produces a more organic and natural colour result and helps to maintain the overall health of the wood. The first coating creates the first bond and seal to the timber, then the second coat is applied to sit on top of the first coat for extra protection, this is why we rarely use ‘one coat systems’.
5. Do you know the source of the wood?
There are various grades of reclaimed wood, all from different time periods and from different backgrounds. It is important to consider wood infestation, chemical contamination, wood durability when specifying reclaimed wood for a project. It is also worth considering the quantity of timber available v’s the expected delivery date for the project. Unless reliable supplies are established for a particular reclaimed wood floor, where the grade and specifications have been carefully considered it is likely that every batch of wood will be completely different. Samples approved in month 1, ordered in month 4 and then delivered in month 6 may not all be from the same batch which may cause problems for the end user.
With regards to the age of the timber, there is a big difference between reclaimed timbers that are 1 year old, 10 years old, 100 years old or over 300 years old. It has been known that re-sellers of reclaimed timbers are unable to offer such specification details such as the aged of the wood and the area it was reclaimed from, this again can lead to confusion when specifying and comparing patina variations.
These days to say ‘European Oak’ is over used and a vague description. When researching where your oak is from, it is really important to know more about the land geography & climatic conditions rather than the specific country itself. For example, did you know that not all French oak is beautiful? Or that Polish oak tends to have a weak grain and lack of character?
We only source ‘European Mountain Oak’, which means that the trees are slower grown due to the soil nutrition in these areas, lack of water in the soil and the climate. If you compare our Mountain Oak grade to ‘river grown oak’ you will see instantly that they appear to be different species all together.
The secret to sourcing our specialist grade of oak which is ideal for wood flooring production, is to make sure that we harvest from a climatic band which runs all the way from East to West and passing through many different European countries. Within this band, between set latitudes we tend to find more oak trees, with a stable character, rich grain pattern and stable tannin levels which enable us to create the finest oak floors available.