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How to buy wood flooring

Before you buy wood flooring

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Before you buy wood flooring

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

Work through the following questions before you buy your wood flooring, to make sure you get the right flooring for you.

Once you've decided what you need, head to our guide to the best places to buy DIY and gardening products.

Or, if you're looking for a professional fitter, visit Which? Trusted Traders.

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

The great thing about any planked flooring is how little wastage there is. A good professional fitter, should be able to keep wastage down to just 2%.

There’s usually around two square metres of coverage in a pack. Measure your room and round up to the nearest square metre to make sure you've got enough, then calculate the number of packs you’ll need.

It's worth adding an extra pack for luck, especially if you're laying it yourself as you're likely to waste more. Retailers usually take back unopened packs, so it's better to be safe than sorry.

Tongue-and-groove or click-lock flooring: which is best?

Flooring tends to come in one of these two options. They might sound like jargon, but they're actually fairly straight-forward descriptors of the ways the individual planks fix together.

Tongue-and-groove

Tongue-and-groove planks have a protruding 'tongue' on one side that fits into a 'groove' on the adjacent plank.

Fixing tongue-and-groove together can be quite complicated. Once the tongue is in the groove, you have to knock it firmly into place. Get the angle wrong and you can dislodge planks that you’ve already joined.

They also need to be glued into position, and wedged or strapped together until the glue is set. Using insufficient glue or failing to hold it tightly together before it sets can lead to gaps between planks.

Click-lock flooring

Click-lock flooring has edges that are uniquely shaped so that you have to click them together with a particular action. Once they are in place they can’t dislodge and move apart.

It’s generally considerably easier and quicker to fit a click-lock floor, as they don't need to be fastened with an adhesive.

What’s more, the planks are cut by machines to 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 unfastened and lifted out if you need to get under the floor, which you can’t do with tongue-and-groove.

Laminate flooring: what should I look for?

When it comes to laminates, quality can vary considerably, so it really pays to buy the best quality you can afford.

Avoid laminate flooring with a chipboard core, because it expands and contracts a lot. And don’t buy 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.

Solid wood flooring: what should I look for?

Engineered wood floors are often quite similar in appearance. It’s worth choosing one with a click-lock mechanism, rather than tongue-and-groove boards, which are harder to fit.

It’s worth seeing how well the planks fit together on in-store display panels. Look at the quality of the finish and the size of any gaps between the planks.

Wood is a natural material and the planks will vary a little in colour, but some more than others, so think about whether you want a uniform look or a set of planks with a range of light and heavy grains.

What else will I need to lay wood flooring?

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

Check whether the manufacturer recommends a certain underlay and whether the underlay you use 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 against the other decor in your room. 

Laminate usually has a slight sheen. Wood can come oiled, lacquered or unfinished. Oil, which also protects the wood, gives a more natural finish that gathers a lustre as it wears, while lacquer is a hard varnish that protects the wood and adds a shiny finish. 

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