Everything You Need to Know About Wood Flooring & More

If you are thinking about having wood floors fitted, you will soon come across terms such as type, grade, finish, etc. Wood flooring terminology might seem like a lot to take in at first, but this article and accompanying pictures will help you explore your options in a way that make sense.

Wood Flooring Types

Engineered, solid, real wood, laminate, wood effect – which type is right for your interior? The truth is that there are only two types of real wood flooring, while the rest are artificial alternatives.

Solid Wood Flooring – These floorboards are made from 100% wood and are often referred to as real wood flooring. This type is suitable for most interiors, unless heat or damp conditions are a factor. In such conditions, natural wood will expand or contract leading to rapid wear. For example, solid wood flooring should not be fitted on top of under floor heating because the heat will cause the floorboards to lift & expand.

Engineered Wood Flooring – This type of flooring contains an upper layer of solid wood and backing made from softwood, plywood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This varied construction means that you will sometimes come across semi-solid wood flooring. Unlike a solid type, an engineered wood flooring board can be fitted across the entire project including on top of under floor heating.
Laminate or Wood Effect – These flooring options made to look like real wood should not be discounted in parts of the project. Wood effect and laminate wood are made from plastic and vinyl, making them immune to the damages of water. If you intend on achieving a ‘wood look’ in wet areas such as the bathroom, these waterproof alternatives can be an option worth contemplating.

Wood Grade

Real wood displays visible hallmarks such as sapwood, heartwood, knots and colour variations. How many or how few are present in your choice of floorboard is based on grade. Do not confuse grade with quality. The quality is the same; it is merely a scale that the industry uses to determine visual preferences.

Prime or AB Grade – This is the highest grade available. Each floorboard will resemble its counterpart in the pack in terms of colour and there aren’t any significant sapwood and knots to report.


Select or ABC Grade – Another version of a premium grade, where random sapwood and knots may appear; however, to meet this grading, sapwood and knots must not exceed 10% of the total area and colours must remain highly uniform.

Natural or ABCD Grade – With this grade, the various floorboards will start to differ slightly in colour tone and random sapwood and knots will appear. Knots should not exceed 30mm in size to retain the natural grading.

Rustic or CD Grade – Country grade aka rustic grade is the most vibrant and warm. Colour variations between floorboards are plentiful and consistent knots and sapwood likely. Rustic is also the most affordable grade.

Wood Colouring

Most solid woods are naturally available in shades of honey or gold. There are some woods that display darker shades; however these tend to be tropical species that are often endangered or extremely expensive. As the wood flooring industry relies on sustainable sources from quick growing managed forests, these tend to be Oak, Walnut and other lighter woods. Though, in recent years, more and more white and black wood flooring has been introduced. These are based on a few simple techniques. There are also other colours that can be achieved using the latest technology.
White Wood Flooring – If you desire a white floor, in the past you were limited to vinyl and carpet. Nowadays, wood flooring is made white using a brilliant technique called white wash. The process will distress the floorboard using calcium hydroxide and chalk mixture to achieve a white watered look.
Dark Wood Flooring – To counteract light interiors, dark and black wood flooring is dazzling. There are a number of techniques to help achieve dark or even black finish. Fuming or smoking the floorboards involves placing the wood into a closed container with ammonia, darkens the wood when it comes into contact with air. Another common alternative is baking or thermo treating the floorboards, which, as the name suggests, involves placing the wood into an industrial oven.

Wood Finishing

After type, grade and colour, the finish of the floorboard is the last thing to consider when selecting flooring for your living space. It is a chemical layer, which is optional but highly recommended. It is applied to retain a barrier between the natural wood and the abrasive nature of footfall. Options include oil or lacquered based finish, replacing what used to be wax finish.

Oil Finish – Oil is the most common finish as it is also the hardest wearing. Oil will ooze into the top layer of the wood thereby making it durable. Depending on the number of layers applied, it will often result in a matte look.
Lacquered Finish – Hard or UV lacquer is quicker wearing, but essential if the floorboard will be exposed to UV light or wet conditions such as in the kitchen area. Unlike oil, it won’t ooze into the wood, but will remain on the surface. While this contributes to quicker wear due regular contact with footfall, it better protects the floorboard. Lacquered finish will often result in a glossy look.

Remember, consider your living space and lifestyle, and then investigate your best wood flooring options based on type, grade, colour and finish. With so many types available in the market today, you are sure to find something ideal for your home.

About the Author

Jonathan Sapir is the MD of WoodandBeyond Ltd — a London based timber seller offering wood flooring, decking and solid wood worktops.

Image Credits: Wood and Beyond Ltd

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