Timber floors have long been a popular choice of flooring for Aussie homes and buildings, because a beautiful wooden floor can add warmth and a simple, natural aesthetic to any space. But, with so many options available these days, how do you even go about choosing what kind of timber to use for your floors?

To help you out, here is our quick introductory guide - our 101 on timber flooring.

What is Timber Flooring?

Timber, or wood flooring, is any product manufactured from timber that is designed to be used as flooring, either for structural or aesthetic purposes. It’s a common choice as a flooring material, because of its durability. There are a number of different types of timber flooring, and they each come in various styles and colours. So here is a quick breakdown of the most popular options for you.

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Types of Timber Flooring

1. Solid Timber

Solid timber flooring is made entirely of wood - either hardwood (the most common choice) or softwood. Hardwood is traditionally considered a higher quality wood, as it tends to have a higher density, making it more durable and longer lasting. But, because of this, it also tends to be more expensive. Popular hardwood timbers include beech, mahogany, maple, walnut, and oak.

Softwood is usually easier to work with and less expensive - softwood trees tend to grow faster, so they’re more economical to use for flooring. Popular softwood timbers include Douglas Fir, Juniper, pine, and spruce.

A solid timber floor is beautiful, hard wearing, strong and can improve with age. But, it does tend to be the more expensive option, and it can be difficult to install, being more prone to bowing and cupping from heat and moisture.

2. Engineered Timber Flooring

Engineered timber flooring is a timber flooring that has been designed and manufactured specifically to be used for flooring, so it is a very stable alternative to solid timber floors.

Typically made from three layers - a top layer (usually of a more expensive hardwood), a core layer (hardwood, plywood or HDF), and a backing layer - which are pressed together in opposing directions to create a single board.

It is a very universal product that can be installed over all types of subfloors, and this has made it a very popular flooring choice. It is a strong and durable product, and it is easier to install than solid timber. It is also more affordable than solid timber flooring, but can still give you the same look and feel. Engineered timber flooring allows for a lot more variety of floorboards to be available than ever before because exotic species and rich colours can be simulated using oils, heat, and pressure.

Installation Systems

Timber flooring can be manufactured with a variety of installation systems:

  • Tongue-and-Groove: this is where one side and one end of a plank has a groove, and the other side and end has a tongue (protruding wood along the edge’s centre) - the tongue and the groove fit snugly together, thus joining two planks, tongue of one to groove of the other, and so on.

  • “Click” or Woodloc systems: a number of patented “click” systems now exist, but the basic idea is similar to that of tongue-and-groove, but instead of fitting directly into the groove, the floorboard must be angled or “tapped” in to make the curved or barbed tongue fit into the modified groove. It’s a popular system for DIY installation as no adhesive is necessary.

  • Floor connection systems: most connection systems are mill-specific manufacturing techniques, but, the general idea is that the floorboard has grooves on all four sides, and a separate, unconnected piece of wood, rubber or plastic, is inserted into the grooves of two planks to join them.

  • Glue-down method: a layer of mastic is placed on the subfloor, and the wooden planks are laid on top of the glue and hammered into place.

  • Floating installation: with this method, the flooring is laid down, glueless, on top of the underlay. The individual planks are locked together, but they are not glued or nailed down to the subfloor, so the floor is “floating” above the underlay.

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With the advanced stains and finishes available today, cleaning timber floorboards is so easy! Regular maintenance is as easy as a quick sweep with a soft broom, or a vacuum with a soft floor attachment. But, every now and then you should use a professional wood cleaning product - as recommended by the floor manufacturers - to give timber floors a renewed appearance. It is also recommended that solid hardwood floors should be buffed every 3 to 5 years.

Alternative Options

There are a few “timber alternatives” you can also consider.

Vinyl and laminate flooring can have a timber flooring look and feel, without the price tag of proper timber. But, unlike engineered timber which uses real timber on the top layer, laminate uses a photo of timber for its top layer, and vinyl uses a plastic formed to look like wood. Bamboo flooring is another popular alternative - technically a grass, it is very strong and durable, and is often called a hardwood material. It is also environmentally friendly since bamboo is incredibly fast growing.

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