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How to buy wood flooring

Types of wood flooring

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Types of wood flooring

This expert guide will help you to decide between all the different types of wood flooring, including laminate, engineered wood and solid wood.

From modern laminate to reclaimed hardwood, the warmth and texture of wooden floors – whether faux or the real deal – is a popular choice for homeowners. 

Read on for the lowdown on the different types of wooden flooring available, including the pros, cons and costs involved:

Laminate flooring 

What is it?

Laminate flooring is a compressed fibreboard plank, covered with a photographic image of wood with a protective overlay. 

How much does laminate flooring cost?

Prices start at £3 per square metre, but be aware that the cheapest kinds are smooth and don't look particularly realistic.

Bevelled edges, a more varied set of images and embossed features, such as knots, will give a more natural look and texture, but they will cost more. Brands such as QuickStep (about £13-£32 per sqm) and Pergo (about £18-£49 per sqm) offer more premium options.

Where to lay laminate flooring? 

High traffic areas that will need frequent cleaning, such as living rooms, studies and playrooms. Some products include a waterproof core, which manufacturers claim are suitable for bathrooms and kitchens. If you're thinking of tackling these rooms, see our guides to planning a kitchen and planning a bathroom

If you do intend to lay laminate flooring in these rooms, check the guarantee carefully before buying to ensure you won’t invalidate it.

Pros of laminate flooring 

Cons of laminate flooring 

Engineered wood flooring 

What is it?

Each engineered wood floorboard consists of three or four layers of wood, glued together to create a plank around 14mm thick. It has a real-wood veneer of around 4mm thick on top, which means it can be sanded back and treated to restore the original finish if it becomes scuffed, worn or damaged.

It's sometimes available with a 'click-and-lock' installation, which doesn't require any adhesive. Tongue-and-groove versions will need to be glued into place.

How much does engineered wood flooring cost?

Prices range from about £19 per square metre, to more than £166 for expensive woods.

Where to lay engineered wood flooring?

Living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, kitchens. While it's more resistant to warping than solid wood, it's still best avoided in places that it will be exposed to a lot of humidity, such as a bathroom. It's also best avoided on stairs, where it is time-consuming and fiddly to lay. 

It can be tricky to achieve a good finish around corners, too – for instance, around sink pedestals.

Pros of engineered wood flooring

Cons of engineered wood flooring

Solid wood flooring 

What is it?

Each solid wood board is made from a single piece of wood, typically 18-20mm thick. It is usually fitted using tongue-and-groove. All types of wood have a hardness score, which indicates how easily they can be damaged, dented or worn by everyday wear and tear.

Solid wood flooring can be sanded back to restore the finish – the number of times you can do this is determined by how deep the tongue is set from the top of the board.

How much does solid wood flooring cost?

Prices vary, depending on the cost of raw wood, from £15 per square metre for the cheapest options to £82 per sq m for some tropical hardwoods.

Where to lay solid wood flooring?

Anywhere with a relatively consistent humidity. Particularly in hallways and living areas where you can show it off.

Pros of solid wood flooring

Cons of solid wood flooring

Reclaimed wood flooring 

What is it?

Reclaimed wood flooring is timber that has been used in another, older property and has been salvaged to be reused. 

If you live in an old property you might be lucky and discover perfectly preserved original floorboards under decades-old carpet. If not, you can source your own vintage planks. 

How much does reclaimed wood flooring cost?

Prices vary depending on where you buy. You might find someone giving them away for free, or cheaply, on sites like Gumtree and eBay, but at salvage yards boards tend to start from about £25 per square metre. This can rise to well over £100 per square metre depending on the condition, age, wood and width of boards.

Where to lay reclaimed wood flooring?

Reclaimed timber flooring can be installed anywhere, but it's best avoided in bathrooms where moisture may cause the timber to swell and crack. If you do lay reclaimed wood in bathrooms, wipe up spills quickly and keep the room well ventilated.

Pros of reclaimed wood flooring

Cons of reclaimed wood flooring

Parquet flooring 

What is it?

Easily recognisable, parquet flooring is formed of short wooden blocks or strips arranged into a geometric pattern; usually herringbone or basket weave.

How much does parquet flooring cost?

Parquet prices start from £25 per square metre and go well into the hundreds.

Where to lay parquet flooring?

Parquet flooring is suitable throughout a property but best avoided in humid areas like bathrooms.

Pros of parquet flooring

Cons of parquet flooring 

Bamboo flooring 

What is it?

Technically a grass rather than a wood, bamboo forms its own unique grain pattern and can be worked into extremely hard-wearing floorboards that look and feel very similar to natural hardwood. 

Bamboo reaches maturity in a quarter of the time of hardwood trees, which means it's more sustainable to harvest. 

How much does bamboo flooring cost?

Prices vary, but start from about £20 per square metre.

Where to lay bamboo flooring?

Bamboo works well in most rooms. Although it's more water resistant than hardwood, it's not waterproof, so it's best avoided in bathrooms.

Pros of bamboo flooring

Cons of bamboo flooring

Wood-effect tiles 

What are they?

Combining the beauty of natural wood with the durability of tiles, wood effect tiles are affordable and practical.

How much do wood-effect tiles cost?

From £12 per square metre to over £150 per square metre.

Where to lay wood-effect tiles?

Wood-effect tiles are waterproof and much more resistant to wear and tear compared with hardwood and laminate floors, so they're ideal in bathrooms, kitchens and high traffic areas like hallways. Some companies make matching indoor and outdoor tiles, so that you can continue your flooring out onto patios and porches.

Pros of wood-effect tiles

Cons of wood-effect tiles

Cork flooring 

What is it?

Eco-friendly and sustainable, cork is actually the bark of the cork oak tree. Bark naturally splits periodically – around every 9-15 years – and can be safely harvested without harming the trees. The bark regrows and the cycle continues on for years and years. 

For flooring, cork is ground up, compressed and formed into sheets bonded with resins.

How much does cork flooring cost?

Prices vary, but start from about £20 per square metre for cork tiles.

Where to lay cork flooring?

Cork has a soft surface which can act as a slight cushion, so it can be a great choice for children's bedrooms or playrooms. Don't be afraid to use it in the bedroom either – cork retains warmth so feels cosy underfoot. It's a good choice for those with allergies too, as it doesn't absorb dust or mites.

Cork floor tiles are finished with an invisible varnish that gives protection against water stains and damage. However, if the seal isn't perfect and the room floods, the cork will probably warp and discolour. High humidity can also cause cork to curl, so it's best to avoid in bathrooms.

Pros of cork flooring

Cons of cork flooring