This is the first in a series of blog spotlights where we hand over the editorial reins to an industry specialist to enlighten us on product information and industry innovations. Jonathan Sapir is the CEO of wooden flooring specialists ‘Wood & Beyond’:
In the modern office landscape, interior fit-out contractors aim to create a stylish and inspiring working environment. Areas such as the boardroom, reception area and open plan office can benefit from a range of flooring solutions, including natural wood. In this guide we take a closer look at real wood flooring solutions and the alternatives.
There has been a sea change of opinion in recent years as architects and interior designers are returning to the natural warmth and authenticity which only comes from real wood floors. Whilst the wood effect finishes from the market leading vinyl manufacturers have vastly improved, there is no substitute for the real thing. Much like a high quality soft leather sofa, real wood floors improve with age.
There are two types that are considered real wood flooring and a further two that are merely made to look like wood flooring. The two ‘real’ wood flooring are solid wood and engineered wood, while the two lookalikes are wood effect vinyl flooring and laminate wood. For some time, luxury vinyl tiles from manufacturers such as Amtico, Karndean and Polyflor have been the interior designer’s product of choice for office fit-out and refurbishment projects. This has largely been down to ease of maintenance, coupled with an ever increasing range of wood effect finishes.
Solid Wood – Solid wood flooring are the traditional hardwood floorboards that most individuals associate with wood. Each floorboard is made from 100% natural wood. These are exceptionally strong floorboards which can cope with high foot traffic, like the high levels of footfall that office interiors normally get. Furthermore, the floorboard can be sanded and recoated many times, thereby saving the commercial property owner the cost of complete flooring change and reducing downtime to a minimal. Sanding removes 1mm layer of wood to uncover new wood below. Once sanding is complete and the floor has been coated, it looks new again. Compare that to the cost of complete flooring change and the downtime that is involved, and you understand why solid wood flooring are popular in the office interior.
Engineered Wood – Engineered wood flooring are also made of solid wood, the same wood mentioned above, however in smaller quantities. Each floorboard is made of layer upon layer of materials glued together to product a single and strong floorboard. The first layer, which measures 3mm to 6mm thick is made from natural hardwood. The layers below are made from ply, softwood and MDF. The end result is a floorboard that looks identical to solid wood (remember, solid wood is placed on the top), but varies in other ways. The use of natural and manmade materials makes the engineered wood slightly more affordable to buy and even fit. Unlike solid wood which is heavy and therefore requires more costly glue or nail down installation, engineered wood is suitable for floating installation whereby each floorboard holds the other in place. This can only be done when the floorboard is light enough. Furthermore, unlike solid wood flooring which should never be introduced in wet or humid environments such as the bathroom or kitchen due to expansion of the wood, engineered wood can be fitted in all areas of the interior, even the bathroom, kitchen and even on top of under floor heating.
To sum it up, solid wood flooring offers greater service life and durability, however engineered wood is more affordable and more versatile.
Once the decision has been made between solid or engineered (and often a combination of the two in different areas of the office), comes the stage of choosing the finish. The finish is a clear liquid layer that offers some protection from the heavy use that floorboards have to cope with. The two most popular are oil based and lacquered based.
Oil Finish – Oil is the most widely applied finish because it is durable and won’t alter the look of the floorboards. The liquid is fine enough to penetrate into the wood, thereby increasing its durability and the intervals between reapplying the coating.
Lacquered Finish – Lacquer is much more robust than oil and often applied in high foot traffic areas or when the floorboard requires protection from wet conditions. Unlike oil, lacquer is thicker and therefore won’t penetrate into the wood. While this results in quicker wear, it also means that the floorboard is better protected. Furthermore, the floorboard’s look is likely to change slightly as lacquer will result in some sheen.
Traditionally, wooden flooring comes in shades of gold and honey. However, it is possible nowadays to source grey, dark and even white floorboards. Of course, hardwood is never dark or white naturally, but manufacturers have a multitude of ways to alter the colour to suit a greater number of interiors.
Dark Floorboards – These dark solid or engineered wood floorboards are made dark, even black using processes such as thermo treating and staining. They look smart in combination with white furniture and fixings.
White Floorboards – These light and white floorboards are made so using processes such as whitewashing. The white floorboard is exceptionally good in making smaller office interiors appear bigger.
Grey Floorboards – These are new to the game and introduced only in the recent couple of years. In interiors where the dark floorboards might come across too bold, the grey floorboards are preferred. The colour change is the result of applying watered-down grey paint.
Thank you for reading. For more information and to discuss your office fit-out project, contact Opus4.
Information written by Jonathan Sapir, CEO of wooden flooring company Wood and Beyond. You can read further helpful information on his blog here.