Darren Beech, director of Ultra-Interior Ltd explains why housebuilders should consider Engineered Hardwood Flooring as the ideal choice of flooring material for modern developments.
Housebuilders are constantly seeking products and materials that will give their development an edge adding to its desirability and saleability. The style and function of flooring is regarded as an important element in most contracts now, and with more choice than ever before, getting the right advice, support, and solutions, is vital for main contractors. The floor areas of any housebuilding project need careful consideration to ensure it not only comes in on budget but has flare and practicality too.
Of all the floor surface materials available, Hardwood timber is an excellent choice, it has been used for this purpose for centuries and arguably still remains one of the greatest draws when marketing a property to potential buyers. Whether in the first time buyer housing sector or in individual bespoke developments, the housebuilder can find hardwood-flooring options that are cost effective, offer style with functionality, and is a sustainable material.
Furthermore today’s market has clients and house buyers that command unique living environments. The fear of high maintenance or use in kitchen areas, has sometimes prohibited developers from choosing hardwood flooring, however with innovations in production, subfloor preparation, and final finishes it means housebuilders can now choose wood floor options that are simple to install, require no specific ongoing maintenance, are easy to clean and will add an attractive selling point.
The benefits of engineered hardwood flooring
When specifying wood flooring, the solid versus engineered question would often be raised. Nowadays it is accepted that while there is certainly still those projects that command the solid wood format such as very bespoke or heritage applications, most building projects and developments will benefit from using an engineered format.
Solid wood flooring has some limitations in that most manufacturers supply narrow and shorter length specifications because solid flooring is more prone to movement. However specialist suppliers will be able to cater for projects in longer, wider formats where the site conditions allow and correct subfloor and installation requirements are in place. Solid hardwood is not suitable for installation directly onto concrete subfloors. Main contractors will usually need to appoint specialist floor fitters via the flooring supplier who are experts in these applications. It is not impossible to install solid wood over underfloor heating, however, specific installation criteria needs to be met to ensure successful performance of the flooring. Engineered wood flooring is the solution for housebuilders and developer installations. Its multi-layer construction makes it dimensionally very stable and highly suitable for a variety of properties being built with underfloor heating systems. Under floor heating is now regarded as a standard inclusion in top end developments as are hardwood floors. There are a number of under floor heating systems available and therefore choosing a woodfloor supplier with experience of fitting floors over heating systems is important so it can be tailored to the specific project. A typical high quality engineered board will have a top wear layer up to 6mm thick such as Oak with a high quality ply base material such as Birch. Engineered wood floors can be installed in various methods including, fully bonded, nailed, part glued, or floating, onto concrete or timber or onto joists so whatever the type of subfloor engineered wood floors offer a solution. Fully finished boards which have their oil or lacquer finish applied in the factory are of great benefit to the contractor as these can be installed quickly and efficiently without the need for other trades to be excluded from floor areas awaiting drying and hardening of the finishes. They can also be covered over immediately with a protective layer to stop damage from dust and debris during the remainder of the project works.
Having a professional supply and installation team is key to the success of a wood-flooring project. On site problem solving, dealing with technical challenges effectively and having an eye for detail will ensure the floor is fitted technically and aesthetically correct. The supply team will be able to advise the contractor on specification of subfloor build up and selection of the appropriate floor finish for its intended use.
Aftercare on most pre-finished engineered floors is minimal; oil finishes can be refreshed as and when required. Lacquer finishes are generally more robust and have a longer life span. Wood is hygroscopic and will respond to changes in environment conditions and therefore it is important that the floor suppliers recommended levels for humidity and heating are monitored accordingly.
For most housebuilders and specifiers of wood, the issue of sustainability is a priority. Marks of certification are a primary source of knowing the timber material has been sourced responsibly and from well managed forests. The most extensive forest certification schemes include two international schemes FSC – Forest Stewardship Council, and PEFC – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, and recognised national schemes SFI, CSA, MTCC. In addition in the last couple of years EUTR – European Union Timber Regulation became law to stop the import of illegal timber into the EU. Products with a certification mark can give assurance to businesses and consumers looking for sustainably sourced forest products.
In terms of design and suitability of species for the housebuild market, Oak always has a place whether it be in a starter home development or in the high end sector. In smaller properties Oak flooring can offer a light and bright living environment and help small rooms take on flare. Laid in narrower widths and with a simple finish it’s the perfect cost effective solution for a developer to add value and appeal.
Wider boards up to 240mm wide are ideal proportions for larger scale rooms and suited to the mid-market sector, flooring with a lively amount of knots will give a space strong character while prime grade flooring offers calm appearance and luxurious atmosphere. The uses of colour finishing offer endless possibilities and are exciting and modern.
If a development commands premium fixtures and fittings then flooring with generous widths and deep colours are impressive in spacious rooms. Chevron and large Herringbone designs have an instant impact on an area. Bespoke machining and finishing can produce a floor that’s one of a kind, which can be further accentuated, with surface refinement in terms of texture and sheen levels.
In order to maximise the property potential, the use of decoration, lighting, and layout, all play a role in making spaces work effectively. Recently there has been a trend for housebuilders to visually link floor levels by incorporating the same timber material and finish on the staircases as is on the floor. This creates a real flow to areas that may otherwise have been a visual divide and helps spaces feel more open. Specialist suppliers can machine stair tread, risers, and other components to match the wood flooring to achieve this.
It is beneficial for the main contractors to have site meetings with the flooring expert as early in the building process as possible to establish and accommodate relevant final floor heights, subfloor preparation, insulation and underfloor heating information and specific joinery detail requirements for the flooring areas. A good relationship between contractor and the flooring supplier will provide invaluable support and guidance on an area of the interior that is significant to the overall function and aesthetic appeal of a property and potential buyers. A quality well installed hardwood floor provides the perfect setting for exciting interior designs across the whole spectrum of housebuilding that will stand the test of time.