After you have familiarised yourself with wooden flooring as a product, its time to think about the environment your new floor will be occupying, how it will be installed and by who.
Environmental condition in the home greatly effect wooden flooring therefore it is important that care should be taken during delivery, installation and eventually use, in order to avoid damage. It is also important to make sure that the physical conditions, like subfloor or base, are adequate for your new flooring.
Humidity And Plank Movement
Natural wood is a dynamic material which responds to its environment. Every change in environmental humidity will result in a specific corresponding change in moisture content (MC) in the wood. This process continues until the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) is reached.
Your new wood flooring will shrink and expand as part of its natural cycle and as long as it is not exposed to extreme conditions you can expect it to slightly shrink during the winter months when heating is used and the air is dryer, and will expand during the warmer months when heating is turned off.
Moisture movement in a plank of wood is greater across the grain (width) then through its length and is directly proportional to the change in its moisture content. The exact swelling or shrinking will depend on the specie of wood as some timbers respond to change more then others. For example species like Oak, Maple or Ash are classified as to have medium movement, or 1% movement across the width for every 4% MC change, i.e. a +2% change in MC will increase a 200mm wide solid Oak board to 201mm and a -2% change will have the same board shrink to 199mm wide.
Subfloor is the structure on which the new wood floor will be installed. Subfloors very depending on age and type of property, they can be a concrete foundation, old pine floorboards, plywood or particleboard , laid over floor joists. Old covering, like Carpets, Vinyl or other existing flooring types are not suitable as subfloor and must be removed.
Assessing the type and condition of the existing subfloor is extremely important when it comes to laying your new flooring as the decision on which type of floor you can install and the method of installation to be used may depend on the type of subfloor available.
Some of the common subfloor types available in the UK are described next:
A Concrete subfloor is a mix of cement, fine aggregates and water that hardens after mixing. In period properties it may be located on the lower or ground floors of the existing structure or extension, usually added at a later date due to modern building practices. In more modern buildings it may be located on all floor levels and in some cases it is covered with floorboards.
Plywood subfloors are Panel sheeting made of three or more thin layers of wood bonded together using glue. The layers have alternating grain directions to add strength. This subfloor is usually installed over timber joists.
Particle-board subfloors are Panel sheeting made from wood particles (wood chips, sawmill shavings, saw dust) bonded together under pressure. Particleboard has a higher density than chipboard, and is a cheaper and less durable alternative to solid wood or plywood subfloors. As with plywood, this subfloor is usually installed over timber joists. Floorboards – The traditional softwood flooring, constructed usually from long planks of Pine. Traditionally the planks where square edged, although these days it is common to use a tongue & grooved structure instead.
Noise transfer in multiple occupancy dwellings is considered a health and safety issue when transmitted by both airborne and impact sound sources and UK Building Regulations requires that both noise types are controlled. Sound insulation is generally considered the prevention of airborne and impact sound transmitted from one part of a building to another through separating floors, ceilings and/or walls.
Airborne sound produce noise by vibration of surrounding air, for example television, speech etc, and sound insulation concerned with reducing this transmission is mainly achieved through separating floors and walls.
Impact sound sources produce noise by direct physical, for example footsteps on a floor or dropping of an item. Impact sound insulation is concerned with resisting this impact sound by separating floors and floor coverings from the structural elements of a building.
Underfloor heating is a modern and luxurious solution to heating. It removes the need for bulky radiators, offering extra space and a clean decorative finish. Underfloor heating is also thought to be a more efficient way of heating due to the way heat is distributed throughout a room.
Radiators quickly heat an area immediately around it, with the heat rising and distributing around the rest of the room crating pockets of heat. An underfloor heating system will typically heats a larger surface at a lower temperature from the floor upwards, resulting in a more consistent temperature.
Only engineered wood flooring specifically approved for use over Underfloor heating should be used and when installing the flooring it is important to consider the wide ranging temperatures which will influence its movement.
Electric or water-Based Systems
The type of underfloor heating system to be used may depend on the existing floor structure, the size and shape of rooms you're heating, and whether you're installing the system as a retrofit or as part of a whole refurbishment project.
Water-based systems would generally requires more depth of space for pipes, making it more difficult to install in simple refurbishments as there may not be enough space beneath your flooring. Water-based systems are also more expensive to purchase and fit although cost less to run as they are usually connected to similar gas boilers used for traditional radiator systems.
Electric systems take-up less space and tend to be easier, quicker and cheeper to fit. They work well in small rooms or awkward spaces although cost much more to run and are not recommended for large areas due to the lower heat output and high running costs.
Although installation of timber flooring is potentially a simple process, we always recommend using a professional floor fitter, as in our experience, the skill and expertise of a professional will pay-off in the long run due to correct due-diligence prior to installation, followed by fitting adequate materials and using tested methods.
For an in-depth Floor Installation Guide click here.
General Site Conditions
Moisture conditions, temperature and humidity levels play an important part in the life of natural wood flooring. Although the installation process requires skill and precision, the success of an installation is in many ways reliant on the acclimatisation and moisture conditions during and after installation. As environmental conditions greatly affect the behaviour of natural wood floors, temperature and humidity should be controlled, before, during and after the installation process to avert potential disaster.
Prior to installation it is the installers responsibility to ensure that all internal site conditions are stable and suitable for the installation of the agreed flooring. Room temperature of between 18° - 22°C (65° - 73°F) and Relative Humidity3of between 45 - 65% must be maintained at all times. Failure to maintain these conditions could cause ongoing behavioural problems with the product and invalidate any warranty.