Cookies at Which? We use cookies to help improve our sites. If you continue, we'll assume that you're happy to accept our cookies. Find out more about cookies

How to buy wood flooring

Before you buy wood flooring

Article 3 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Before you buy wood flooring

Our expert tips will help you choose the right type and amount of flooring for your room.

 

How do I work out how much wood flooring I need?

The great thing about plank floor coverings is how little wastage there is. Professional fitters can keep this down to just 2%.

There’s usually around 2sq m of coverage in a pack. Measure your room and round up to the nearest square metre.

Compare this with the coverage stated on the pack, then calculate the number of packs you’ll need.

Add an extra pack for luck (or to cope with the inevitable wastage if you’re laying it yourself) – if you buy too much, retailers usually take back unopened packs.

Which is best: tongue-and-groove or click-lock flooring?

These words describe the way that individual planks fix together.

Tongue-and-groove

With this type, a tongue that projects from the side of one plank fits into the groove of the adjacent plank.

Fixing tongue-and-groove together can be quite complicated: first you have to fit the tongue into the groove, then you have to knock it firmly into place. Get it wrong and you can dislodge planks that you’ve already joined.

They also require gluing and wedging together (or strapping) until the glue is set. Using insufficient glue or failing to keep it together can lead to a gaps between planks.

Click-lock flooring

This has edges that are shaped so a certain action is required to fit them together, and once they are in place they can’t move apart easily.

It’s generally considerably easier and quicker to fit a click-lock floor.

What’s more, the planks are cut by machines which create very tight-fitting joints, reducing the chances of gaps forming after it has been fitted.

Another advantage of click-lock is that the planks can be unclicked and lifted if you need to get under the floor, which you can’t do with tongue-and-groove.

What should I look for when buying laminate flooring?

It pays to buy the best quality you can afford. Check out the best places to buy DIY and gardening products.

Avoid laminate flooring with a chipboard core because it expands and contracts a lot, and don’t buy any damaged packages where water vapour might have swollen the boards.

Look for a fibreboard base with a plain-coloured bottom – usually green or brown – which gives added protection against moisture.

Remember that if the material looks cheap in the package, it’s not going to look any better on your floor – no matter how much effort you make to finish the job properly.

What about buying solid wood flooring?

Engineered wood floors are often quite similar, but it’s worth choosing one that clicks together, rather than tongue-and-groove boards, which are harder to fit.

Remember that wood is a natural material and the planks will vary, so ensure you like both the heavily and lightly grained versions of your chosen wood and find its knots appealing.

It’s worth seeing how well the planks fit together on in-store display panels. Look at the quality of the finish and compare the products offered by different manufacturers.

What else will I need?

You need a damp-proof membrane if you’re laying over a sand and cement or concrete floor, and the best underlay you can afford – thicker foams or felt are best.

Check whether the manufacturer recommends a certain underlay and whether this affects the guarantee.

What finish should I go for? 

This is very much a matter of personal taste. Bring samples home to check how they look in the light conditions and the decor in your room.

Laminate usually has a slight sheen. Wood can come oiled, lacquered or unfinished.

Lacquer is a hard varnish that protects the wood and adds a shiny finish. Oil, which also protects the wood, gives a more natural finish that gathers a lustre as it wears.