Hardwood floor - what to buy and how to lay and finish it.

Hi all,
In a few weeks, it will be time to fit our main living room floor. We've decided to go for hardwood this time, because this will be a high traffic area and needs to wear well (I still like laminate ;-)
I have a few decisions to make.
[1] What to buy. I'm tempted by the T&G on all sides as supplied by Screwfix etc. But a local timber yard also do some which is T&G along the lengths only. Thoughts?
[2] The room currently has a softwood floor over joists. There's plenty of ventilation from below via vent bricks. I'd like to lay the new floor on top of this floor, since the level would be just right relative to the adjoining rooms. Any reason why I shouldn't? If I do lay it on top of the current floor, should I nail or lay as floating?
[3] How to finish. Do I want a varnish or a wax/oil finish? I like a waxed finish, and this is how we've finished most of the wood in the house. But I've never had a waxed floor before, and am slighly concerned about keeping it clean (ease of). What about pre-varnished, like the Screwfix product? Good/bad?
Any thoughts/experiences appreciated.
--
Grunff

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I'd personally go with laying it as a floating floor. It deafens the sound better if you lay a thin foam underlay (like the stuff for laminate) before placing your new floor on top. Laying it loose with glued edges also allows it to breathe and move better in use.
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BigWallop wrote:

I know what you mean - if I end up going for T&G all the way round, and the manufacturer says it's ok, I will probably float it.
--
Grunff

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It's OK - you'll get over it :-)

T&G along the lengths is fine. What is critical is that the boards have grooves or notches machined along the back to help prevent cupping. I have 160mm wide, 22mm thick oak in random lengths and these have two grooves of about 5mm square equidistantly spaced.
I bought my boards from the same place (Sabrina Oak Doors in Shrewsbury) as I bought the other oak items in the house (doors, frames, stairs etc.) and got a pretty good price (IIRC correctly about 24/m^2) partly because it was part of a larger deal and partly because the company specialises in oak joinery and buys large amounts of oak. All of the joinery has been of very high quality, and I bought the flooring because of that. I was not disappointed.

I have a concrete ground floor, so in my case the floor was laid by secret nailing on pressure treated softwood battens which were screwed to the concrete. This has worked well.
I also have the same flooring for the upstairs landing. In that case it has been nailed to a chipboard floor and that has also worked fine.
I believe that it's also possible to float this kind of floor, but I would ask the flooring supplier about that.

I don't know :-)
I try to keep use of varnish to an absolute minimum because I think that it spoils the natural appearance of the wood.

I used an oak oil preparation from the same supplier (basically boiled linseed oil, natural turpentine and beeswax.)
It requires three coats - first one quite liberal, others more sparing at about 1-2 day intervals. On the 2nd and 3rd coats, excess should be wiped off after an hour or so.
For maintenance apart from normal vacuuming, I use a three head floor polisher together with a tiny amount of beeswax. This is done typically once every three months or so. Once a year the floors get an oiling followed by a light wax.
I'm not setting out to produce anything more than a matt to satin type of finish and this regime works well.
An oiled or waxed floor will show marks from water, but it is not stained by red wine etc. as long as you don't leave it for too long before mopping up. Water marks can be very easily removed generally by rubbing a little oil over the area. If a bit more stubborn, then I've found that a nylon pot scourer with some oil works well. One could even lightly sand and apply oil and the result would not show.
This is a huge advantage over varnishes because to deal with problems, the whole floor has to be stripped and refinished.
The one area that I elected not to oil was that outside one of the bathrooms. This was varnished with a satin acrylic floor varnish simply because we anticipated that teenagers with wet feet would walk across it.

I looked at some of this and was not impressed. If you want to go this route, then Junckers is one of the better ones.

Think about what you will do about skirtings, door frames and doors. Modern softwood skirting set against a good quality hardwood floor looks very disappointing.
Before you start, visualise where and how you are going to stop. In the end, I replaced all the joinery with hardwood and floors with either hardwood or slate. There is now only one bedroom left with a carpet and that is detined for the skip quite soon.
.andy
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Andy Hall wrote:

:-)
Wow! That compares very favourably with Screwfix (40/m^2) and even my local place (32/m^2).

Very useful, thanks.

All of the skirting/frames/doors etc have been made from scratch as we've done each room. It's all very simple square edged 21mm thick light coloured pine, left bare (well, waxed, but that's all). It's all got quite a cottage-y feel to it, chunky and simple. I think we will probably do the same for this room. It shouldn't look too odd against the oak floor.

I used to be really anti carpet, but after living without it for a couple of years both of us realised that we quite like it - in moderation. So we've gone for carpet in the bedrooms, on the landing and the stairs (the stairs for noise mainly). Everything else is either laminate, real wood or tiles.
One more thing - with the T&G along the long sides only, any problems with maintaining level where two board ends meet? Did the boards you buy come pre-sanded, and if not how much sanding was required?
Thanks.
--
Grunff

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This was three years ago, so may be more. From a bit of looking around, it seems that 30 is a pretty good price.
The important thing is to take a look at it. In European oak as I have used, I allowed a reasonable number of live knots as part of the character, and cut out some dead knots and other defects. These weren't many in number.
It can make a huge difference to the effective cost though. If the material is poor, then there will be more waste.
One thing on laying - if nailing, you do need the proper floor nailer.
Another is to mix the wood so that the colour variations are spread around and also any knots and other character marks in the wood. Put them all in one area and it will look really odd. I've seen that done.

No it shouldn't. Especially as the pine darkens.
Oiled oak has a kind of golden honey colour.
If you want to send me an email, I'll send you some photos if you like.
Another thing you could do is to ask for a couple of lengths of oak floor samples oiled up. Put them in the room for a few days, move them around. That will give you a reasonable idea as well.

I've used rugs in a few places. These are easy to change seasonally and get cleaned.
We don't allow shoes in th house beyond the area immediately near the outside doors. This reduces noise considerably and also reduces the amount of dirt on the floors.

They were planed and thicknessed pretty accurately. Not a lot of sanding was required at all.

.andy
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Andy
I think your reply to the message almost answers this question, but
What do you do in door ways where you have an elevated floor on batons meeting a very "thin" covering such as lino?
TIA
Phil
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On Tue, 8 Jun 2004 13:27:47 +0100, "TheScullster"

I didn't have quite that situation, with only about a 15mm difference.
The starting point was concrete throughout - so all level. In the hallway and elsewhere on the ground floor I have quite thick slate on a fairly thick adhesive bed.
At the room entrances, the difference in height is taken out across the width of a complete board (about 160mm) in effect across the threshold.
It's not visually noticable and practically undetectable under foot.
If it were more than this, then I think that one would want to raise the other floor area in some way.
I don't think I would excavate the concrete whcih would be the other option.
.andy
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I'm in the middle of installing approx 10m^2 of 3/4" Muskoka Canadian Maple flooring like this: http://tinyurl.com/2x9u2 There is good technical, care and maintenance info on this site.
Cost is about 18 per metre (ex VAT) from www.boen.co.uk. Ask for "HS1".
We have a similar floor in the living room which is the age of the house (40ish years) and still looks great.
I'll almost certainly finish with "heavy duty" varnish.
Strongly recommended.
David
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Vortex wrote:

That's pretty good value - about half the price I'm looking at for oak. I'll see if I can find somewhere nearby that stocks it - I'd quite like to see what a section of floor looks like.
Thanks.
--
Grunff

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Maple
care
"HS1".
BOEN are very definitely a trade supplier so you will need trade cred (or a friend who has it) for them to accept an order. I suspect they can mail samples, and also deliver anywhere.
I can email a couple of photos if you like. If I can work out how the hell to use my old freeserve web site (can't seem to access it since they've been Wanadoo-ised), I'll upload the pictures later.
David
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vortex2 wrote:

I always like photos, so yes please! Nothing more than a couple of meg please. My reply address is valid.
--
Grunff

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I've just laid (well, last year) oak t&g in both the downstairs receptions, was t&g along the lengths, but not end-matched, that bit isn't a problem.
There's a book, "Hardwood Floors" by Don Bollinger, which isn't too bad for techniques & finishing, but it's written for the US market and a few of the terms and available products are different. They always use a subfloor, whether it's newly laid ply or old boards, so what you propose in (2) isn't a problem. I didn't use this approach 1) because the existing boards were in rather bad condition, 2) because a lot of joists needed changing so it had to come up anyway and 3) because I didn't want a level change. You have to prepare the subfloor by sanding level with a floor sander before you install on top though
I took the opportunity to install polystyrene insulation between the joists as I went along & fixed it by using a Portanailer to secret-nail to the joists, screwing and plugging around the perimiter where I couldn't get access with the nailer. I also screwed and plugged all of the boards in the alcoves to allow me to lift the boards without too much damage if access is ever going to be required in the future (though this would be a major PITA). I'm not too sure how full boards are installed as a floating floor and how you cramp them together whilst laying them, so can't comment on that approach. My suspicion is that rather more careful planning for expansion would be necessary in this scenario, and whilst that isn't a problem where it's hidden by skirting it would be an issue if installing round non-skirting covered items such as fireplaces. .
I paid about 29/m2 for rustic grade (ie more knots and "character" allowed), which IMHO looked better and rather more interesting than the more expensive grades. they are 145mm width boards. Don't know whereabouts you are, but "The German Flooring Company" in Hampton/Twickenham (TW postcode if you're trying to find it on Yell) was selling the stuff earlier this year for about 23/m2 + VAT.
End matched boards (or lack of them) are not a problem if you are laying over a subfloor because the boards are fully supported - you will probably get less wastage with non-end matched boards anyway because you can use offcuts at either end of the runs without having to worry about which end was cut. You'll have some wastage due to dead knots, but that's part of the whole rustic grade thing, and to be expected. you can happily reject the worst defects and still be far cheaper than an expensive grade.
As Andy says, you won't need much in the way of sanding, the levels are generally pretty even. I just sanded down to 80 grit along the boards with a hired big, butch Makita belt sander. Took me about 2 days to do the 25m2 but that was trying to do work at the same time, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist with finishing.
I stained it down with a light or mid oak stain (can't remembver which) and waxed on top of that, can send photos if you want. The only thing I'd say about wax is that it doesn't take kindly to liquid spillages. Danish oil is not a bad finish at all, and it may be a little more water resistant, but bank on not using the room for 3 days whilst you finish it with about 3 coats. Best thing as always is to experiment a bit on some scrap, I generally nail together a 1m2 test board and play about with that until I'm happy that I have the finish I want.
Personally I'd probably not go for pre-finished. Makes it rather more careful job to make sure you don't get _any_ damage to the surface whilst laying, and I think that applying a finish to the completed floor gives a more homogenous feel to the completed job. However, prefinished would mean zero sanding and finishing.
Finally, be aware that you can get much thinner "overlay" floor boards specifically for installation over a subfloor. This might be good if you didn't want the full 20-odd mm level change for full thickness boards, and I think they're cheaper.
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:

How did the stain go on? I never seem to have any luck with staining, always ends up uneven. I don't think we'll be staining this floor anyway, but would be interested in your experience in general.

That's a good idea. I know what you mean about wax - we have various waxed woodwork around the place, including the bathroom, so I'm familiar with how it water-marks. At least the marks come out easily.

I'm very much leaning towards unfinished at the moment.

Yes, I've seen them around. I'm definitely going for 18-22mm thickness whatever I end up buying.
Thanks for the input.
--
Grunff

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and
Well, it helps to be staining the right kind of stuff. Pine doesn't take stain very well, especially over large areas, IME. It has very uneven absorbtion and is difficult to get an even result. I have stained it on boards upstairs, but that was achieved by mixing stain with Danish Oil, applying that, leaving for 5 minutes and removing surplus. That came out well.
The oak was a lot better. Just applied stain liberally, spreading it out with a cloth immediately, then leaving for about a minute max before going over with a clean-ish cloth and removing the surplus. I didn't quite have the hang of it at first and the first lot applied had dried off a little too much before removal, which did leave a few cloth marks which took quite a bit of work to rub off (with another cloth) till they were less noticable. You can still see them, but I reckon I only notice them because I know they are there, other people don't see it at all unless I point it out.
That's why a test board is so important - I knocked a few scraps together on a ply base & sanded them down as per finished floor, then experimented a few times with that - takes quite a lot of sanding again to get to a clean slate for subsequent tests, though.
Is your mail address valid? I can send a pic or two if you want - if it isn't valid then mine is (in the sig) - ping me a mail and I'll reply.

oil is

but
I'm
Not quite been in that position yet - ie having to remove prominent marks. How do you go about doing it - rub a bit more wax over the affected area & polish?

whilst
a
mean
seeing the final finish going on is one of the joys of flooring, IMHO!

you
and I

np
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:

Yes, it is. Everyone is sending me pics! This is cool.

We rub gently with a nylon scourer then wax over. Works well, even on pine.
--
Grunff

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