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  • Claudia Hearne

Choosing Floor Finishes for your Interior Renovation


This month we will be exploring our most popular flooring options including wood, tile, carpet and polished concrete. This should give a fairly comprehensive outline of the factors that should be considered when deciding on the floor finishes for your home refurbishment.

Wood

There are two main types of wood flooring – solid hardwood or engineered wood. Each have their own pros and cons, but engineered wood is now the most popular for a number of practical reasons.

The difference between the two is to do with how they are made up. Solid hardwood is exactly what it sounds like, planks of wood milled from a single piece of timber. Engineered wood flooring has the same appearance as solid wood flooring as it has a real hardwood top layer to each plank. However, beneath this layer is a multi-ply layer with perpendicular grain direction which provides stability. This layer is sandwiched by another wood bottom layer which adds even more strength to the plank.


The main pro of hardwood over engineered wood flooring is that because it’s solid wood all the way through, it can be sanded and refinished numerous times. Engineered wood has just a top layer of solid hardwood, and so can only be sanded once or twice depending on the thickness of the top layer.

Engineered wood has become more popular due to the stability created by its construction of various cross directional layers. Unlike a solid wood, engineered wood does not easily warp and flex making it much more resistant to moisture. It can be used in most areas of the home including kitchens, although being a natural product we do not recommended it for bathrooms or other fully wet areas.

If you are considering underfloor heating as part of your home renovation, you will need to factor this into your choice between solid wood flooring or engineered wood flooring. As well as being more resistant to moisture, engineered wood flooring resists significant expansion and contraction from varying temperatures unlike solid wood which is more likely to twist and warp. For this reason, we would only recommend engineered wood flooring to be used in conjunction with underfloor heating. It’s important to note here that while engineered wood flooring is more resistant to changing temperatures, when turning on the underfloor heating for the first time (or turned on after a prolonged period of being off) the temperature should be increased gradually over a number of days so that the floor can acclimatise.




Many wood floors are pre-finished with either a lacquer or an oil. A lacquer is similar to a varnish that will sit on top of the wood and provide more protection than an oil, and it will also give it a shine. Due to the barrier caused by lacquer it’s better at resisting marks and stains than an oiled floor, something to consider when planning your replacement floor.

Engineered wood flooring and solid wood flooring both come in a huge range of colour palettes and designs, from detailed parquet patterns to simple wide plank straight boards. At the design stage of a home refurbishment project we will be able to advise on the best options to suit your interior design needs.


Tiles

An attractive attribute of tiles is that they can be installed just about anywhere. Resistant to scratches and totally waterproof, a tiled floor is a great option if you require a more hard-wearing surface that can run throughout including bathrooms and utility rooms. Although relatively durable, it’s important to consider that floor tiles can crack or chip if heavy or sharp objects are dropped on them. Tiles themselves are very easy to clean, although the grout between the tiles does require a little more maintenance. For that reason, grout colours that complement the tile finish need to be carefully chosen to avoid a lifetime of scrubbing floors.

The downside to choosing a tiled floor is that they can be very cold and hard. This is relevant for a few factors that address comfort; the first being that they are extremely firm and feel cold to bare feet, meaning they are not the most comfortable floor to walk on without shoes. Another factor related to the firmness is the lack of acoustic properties of a tiled floor, so a room can end up with feeling uncomfortably loud or having a slight echo. To avoid this issue in a tiled area, there should be plenty of soft furnishings such as rugs and curtains to aid sound absorption.




From an interior design perspective, it’s important to remember the visual effect the size of your floor tiles has to the appearance of the room overall. As a general rule, large format tiles will make a room look larger and smaller tiles (and therefore more grout lines) will make a room look smaller. However, very large tiles can overwhelm a small room, so it’s not quite as simple as one optical illusion fits all. At design consultation stage we will be able to make a recommendation based on you’re the room sizes and your requirements.


Carpet

Of all the floor finishes, carpet wins on the practicality of installation. Carpet is quicker and easier to lay than the other options we are looking at in this post so if minimising the downtime of your property is of heightened importance it could be a good choice.

Carpets have several other majorly redeeming features. By their very nature of being soft underfoot, they are comfortable and warm to walk on. They come in every style and colour imaginable, from bold statement patterns to natural tones to set the colour palette for the room. As a general rule carpets are less expensive to buy than wooden flooring, although with all materials this varies on the quality selected.




There are several fibre options to choose from when looking at carpets, with the main dividing factors being natural or man-made fibres, or a mix of both. It used to be that wool was always the premium choice for carpet fibres, but more recently there’s been a shift towards man-man materials. We put this down to the hypoallergenic properties of synthetic materials, as well as the rise in number of clothes moths in London that will go for wool instead of synthetic fibres.


The two most common types of carpet pile types are tufted and woven, the most popular being tufted. Tufted carpet is made by a row of needles that punch yarn into the base material. Tufted carpet is much easier to manufacture than woven carpet which is made using traditional loomed methods, a much more labour intensive process which naturally positions woven carpets at the premium end of the carpet spectrum.

The carpet underlay is not to be dismissed as unimportant when choosing a carpet floor. As well as adding cushioning and shock absorption underfoot, a good quality underlay comes with a tog rating (much like duvets) and add insulation. A high quality underlay can extend the life of your carpet and is therefore worth investing in.



Polished Concrete

Polished concrete is becoming more and more popular within minimalist interior design. It’s sleek and seamless finish is very aesthetically pleasing and the lack of lines can make a space appear larger than it is.

Although it takes quite a bit longer to install than other flooring options (think pouring time, drying time, polishing time) polished concrete is incredibly hard wearing and resilient, so able to withstand heavy footfall as well as scratches and stains from furniture or household accidents. Polished concrete is suitable to use with underfloor heating, as well as being super low maintenance and easy to clean making it a practical choice for homes with children and pets.




It’s durability also contributes to polished concrete being a sustainable product, something that is becoming more of a priority for many of our clients. The long lifespan of concrete negates the need for a replacement, and if the concrete is removed it can be recycled as aggregate.

In design terms polished concrete is a fantastic product to work with as it can also be used on walls, furniture and worktops. Also suitable for exterior use, a continuous look between house and garden can be achieved by running the concrete floor outside.

As far as finishes go, the seamless finish of polished concrete comes at a higher price point than some of the other options at around £120 to £150 per square meter for it to be poured, finished and sealed. However, it’s worth thinking about the longevity of this type of floor and the value that brings.


Acoustic Considerations

Current British Building Regulations (Approved Document E: Resistance to the passage of sound) include requirements for sound insulation in buildings, both between homes and in rooms used for residential purposes. The regulations apply to properties that are being renovated as well as new build homes, so it’s important to meet the required standards to obtain a Building Control certificate at the end of a project. The Part E Document that concerns the passage of sound is a long and detailed document, and in this post we are just looking at the acoustic considerations when it comes to choosing a floor covering.

This acoustic insulation of a property is going to be of heightened importance to a homeowner if they are going to be making material changes that will heavily impact a neighbour. For example, if you are in a fourth floor flat and you are upgrading your carpeted floors to engineered wood, your neighbour directly below on the third floor will want assurances they will not be hearing constant clicking sounds as you pace around your newly refurbished home.


Carpet is the obvious choice for its exceptional acoustic qualities, absorbing up to ten times more sound than a hard flooring. It halves the reverberation time of sound waves reflecting off the walls and furniture, improving the sound of music and speech and giving a softer less harsh sound to the room, making it a popular choice for bedrooms.

With that said, a hard flooring is not out of the question when it comes to meeting the acoustic requirements set out by building regulations; there are various products that can be used to build up the subfloor underneath the floor finish that can provide fantastic acoustic insulation. For example, a product like Rockfloor by Rockwool or Maxislab combined with a soundproof underlay such as Acoustilay are easy to install and can offer a fantastic performance whilst being suitable for use beneath various floor finishes.


Floor finishes and subfloors are an important aspect of a refurbishment project and can take considerable design and planning, so it’s important to think about your wants and requirements at the design stage of the renovation.


At the end of a project a building inspector or block manager may require an Insulation Test Report on completion of the works to confirm it complies with regulations. For this type of testing we use a specialist third party testing company who use specialist equipment to produce a detailed and impartial report as part of our remit.

Working with a professional

Although the vast range of options available can seem like a lot to take in, we will work with you at the design stage of your project to discuss the various materials in more detail and will provide samples of each finish as required.

The team at Hearne House have years of experience building in Central, West and South West London areas, and we have a portfolio of finished projects that you can view on our Projects page. Our high standards and commitment to excellence will ensure that you will be delighted with your new extension and it will be delivered on time and on budget. Please call us on 020 8769 6816 or email us at info@hearnehouse.com to discuss your building project.

We look forward to meeting you soon.

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