Using Timber Floors in Your Custom Home

Lauren O'Grady
November 28, 2019

Clients often approach us with the desire to incorporate timber floors into their custom home. Timber is a stylish and sustainable option for any home, offering a beautiful base palette for the overall design of your space. In addition to being kind to the environment, timber is long-lasting and durable with many high-quality species lasting for 15 years or more.

When it comes to having timber floors in your custom home build there are a few things to consider before you install. Timber floors are an investment. When you’re wanting to cut down your build costs, flooring is not the place to cut corners.

Other things to consider are what function will the timber floors need to serve, how much money and time are you willing to spend on maintenance; and what is the overall design theme of your home. The answers to these questions will help you decide what type of timber is best.

There are two main types of timber flooring available when it comes to home building: solid hardwood and engineered timber.

Solid Hardwood

When you think of traditional timber, you will probably thinking of solid hardwood. This type of timber is thick, raw and untouched. Solid hardwood floors can be sanded and re-sanded numerous times without you having to worry about the boards wearing away.

Solid hardwood timber is an incredibly durable material and will stand the test of time – a simple sand and polish will bring even old, marked hardwood timber back to life. You also have the option to add pigment to your timber varnish or polish.

There are different grades of timber to choose from depending on the overall look you want to achieve. Standard grade timber shows selective gum veins, burls, insect trails and other unusual grain effects. Character grade is also known as rustic or feature grade. This exhibits a high level of natural features including gum veins, knots, face checking and insect trails. The rustic and random nature of character grade timber is perfect for those who prefer a natural appearance. You can also choose to have your boards finished in a matte, satin or gloss finish.

When it comes to flooring, solid hardwood can have a few challenges. For example, you’re not guaranteed on what the flooring will exactly look like until it’s on site. As timber is a natural product, your blackbutt flooring might have variances in the colour – some may be blonde, and some may be brown.

Once it’s delivered to site there’s not much that can be done with the colour variance unless you stain all of the boards, which can be costly, time consuming and is still a risk with the finished look. Another issue with solid timber floors is because it’s a natural material the timber ‘breathes’ and can expand and contract – this movement can cause gaps and unevenness to appear in your flooring.

Engineered Timber

An alternative to traditional hardwood flooring is engineered timber. Engineered timber is created by bonding layers of ply wood for the bottom, within these layers a tongue and groove is created for easy installation. The top layer of solid timber is formed by slicing through cross sections of a tree trunk creating a sheet of timber which is then bonded onto the ply.

Engineered timber is available in an array of colours and the colour is generally consistent within all boards. The boards arrive on site prefinished, so you can’t change the colour or finish of the boards i.e. to matte, satin or gloss. A colour which has gained popularity lately is grey or whitewash flooring and engineered boards are recommended to create this look.

Engineered boards are easy to install and are available in a wider range of widths. One benefit of engineered timber is that it comes with a warranty of up to 15 years, should anything go wrong. However, for this warranty to be valid, it must be installed correctly and can’t be installed in wet rooms such as the laundry.

The downside to engineered flooring is that they aren’t able to be sanded back as much as hardwood timber. Depending on the thickness of the veneer (or top section of boards), you may only be able to sand engineered timber once or twice in its lifetime, compared to five or six times for hardwood.

Another issue is, during construction, engineered boards need to be laid prior to cabinetry. This makes the boards very open to being damaged or scratched during the final stages of construction. Once laid, your builder should take appropriate measures to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Laminate flooring is not timber!

One last thing to consider is that laminate is not timber. While many clients approach laminate flooring as a cheaper alternative to timber, it is fundamentally different. Laminate flooring is crafted from four layers of high-density fibreboard and plastic or paper that has been printed with a pattern or texture that resembles timber. On top of this is a melamine resin to protect the product from wear.

The key thing to note about laminate flooring is that is it created from chemicals and is neither healthy for the environment or your family. While high-quality laminate may look similar to timber, it feels and sounds very different underfoot, even with an underlay.

If your reason for choosing laminate flooring is entirely budget-driven, we encourage you to consider other, more sustainable options. Chances are you’ll have to replace laminate flooring down the track anyway so you’re better off investing money into something that will stand the test of time now.

At the end of the day it comes down to personal taste and budget. Chat to your builder at the beginning of your project and make sure you consider all options before making a final decision on your timber flooring.

For more advice on what type of timber is right for your new home, get in touch with the Macedon Ranges custom home building expert, L. O’Grady Constructions today!

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