Floor Fitting

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Floor fitting services

We are able to fit all wood floors from reclaimed Victorian pine, reclaimed parquet, mosaic wood floors, block, strip, engineered floors to bespoke cut and designed Versailles parquet and other geometric patterns.

We provide a complete floor fitting service, from the procurement of the flooring, normally at cost price, the preparation and remedial repair of any joists or subfloor, (see also our period floor repair page) through to floor laying, sanding, staining to any colour sanding and finishing.

We can often provide better quality reclaimed or raw FSC certified European wood, either solid or engineered, fit it, stain it your exact colour requirement and finish it for the same price or less than lower quality prefinished flooring you can buy online or in a wood floor shop where you have to choose a fixed colour.

Victorian pine floor levelling using spirit levels

Wood floor sourcing and authentication

We will work with you to procure original quality timber, often visiting the vendor to ensure authenticity as unfortunately there are a lot of misleading sellers out there. We much prefer fitting reclaimed timber as most of it is what we call virgin, natural grown, that is from older, slower growing timber species, from a natural forest, not quick growing species in a managed plantation which almost all modern wooden flooring comes from. Not only is the timber better looking, harder and more durable you are reusing a resource that is maybe over one hundred years old and could potentially last a hundred more years, no green marketing waffle required, it just makes sense.

We often manage to procure lovely timber for our customers at close to cost, like the wonderful almost inch thick yellow pine below left which came from a Victorian Lancashire textile mill. Sometimes you will have to wait to get the best wood as reclaimed pine floor boards especially are now quite rare so it is a good idea to start your search early, although we have contacts in the trade we also have to wait to get the best timber.

Reclaimed pine floor fitting

Most of the floors we fit are made from reclaimed pine, often replacing original floors which are too far gone to save although we always do our best to retain as much of the original flooring as possible. We use the latest modern sawing systems and bespoke designed portable mobile workshop platforms, all connected to our dust extractors which means we can dimension, cut and prepare all wood on site. We use original 1950s pattern Marples joist flooring clamps to snug up the floor.

Wood expands and contracts according to the ambient moisture level in the room and time of year. Somewhat counter intuitively wood floors are at their maxima when it is warmest outside in summer as wood expansion is more a function of moisture content and not heat. The spring and summer tend to be more humid and any heating, especially central heating which has a great drying effect, is normally off. Conversely in the colder winter months wood floors tend to be at their minima, this effect is less marked in traditional country houses and cottages for example which have not been insulated or draught proofed and do not have central heating fitted.

Why is this important? When laying floors in winter when humidity is low it is not required to cramp the boards up so tight because after they are installed as the season moves towards summer they will naturally close up. In the summer when the boards are already swollen up somewhat it is important to cramp them up nice and snug so that any subsequent shrinkage gaps are minimised. A small expansion space must be also left around the perimeter.

Pine floor board and hardwood floor fixing

Nailing or screwing directly onto joists is the normal method, we can use cut floor brads or rosehead nails, usually two inch (50mm) for normal thickness pine floors although we use three inch (75mm) rosehead nails, with pilot drilled holes for thicker harder timbers like oak and elm. We also use modern highly engineered slim shank screws with ‘lost’ torx heads, we have found these to have slightly better holding power to nails with less possibility of creaking and movement later as the floor settles, some of the other advantages being less vibrational stress to more susceptible original lime lathe and plasterwork, increased time efficiency and smaller holes to fill.

For thicker, wider oak and other hardwood floors these screws may not have enough holding power and instead we then use high quality German Spax wirox torx head screws, countersinking and pelleting above the screws.

Wood floor acclimatisation

It is important to have your wood floor delivered to your property and preferably stored in the room it is to be fitted at least a week before it is laid, this is to acclimatise the wood, which simply means allowing enough time for the moisture level in the wood to come into equilibrium with the rooms ambient moisture level so that any subsequent expansion or shrinkage of the floor is kept to a minimum.

This is more important for new and reclaimed board floors than it is for parquet blocks or engineered floors, which move less.

In practice there is always some movement, especially as in many rooms the radiators have been capped off during the renovation but by waiting a week you avoid the worst of the shrinkage. Old pine floor boards for example should be laid flat horizontally and not upright leaning against a wall at an angle, as the weight of the board could force the board to dry in a warped manner.

New solid board wood floors and engineered floors should be left in their protective plastic packages along with their plastic strapping bands to allow the wood to equalise slowly, all you need to do is open up both ends of the packet and cut them away.

Stunning reclaimed Victorian pine floor fitting

Subfloor preparation

As a building built on sand will not endure, neither will a wood floor laid on a poor foundation. It is imperative that proper remedial work is carried out to ensure any joist, wood or concrete subfloor is secure, level and dry. You will notice it is no coincidence that this is one of the longest sections on the entire website. Proper preparation is the most important part of any new or reclaimed wood floor fitting process.

It is rare you should need to have your crumbling brick pier walls removed and rebuilt but we can do that if required. Thankfully it also rare to have to replace all the joists in a room because they are rotten or pest eaten, more often we can fix sister joists and noggins to stabilise the original joists or to level the floor. For modest levelling it may be possible to cut tapered firrings (long wedges) and fix these to the original joists.

For solid subfloors it is important to note that it is generally accepted that freshly laid concrete takes around one month per inch to dry out, we have refused many times to rush installations and have been occasionally recontacted by the prospective client to ask for help after another company fits the floor with predictable results, unfortunately sympathy does not help that much when you need to rip up and throw away your new floor. You cannot change the laws of physics, although installing dehumidifiers can speed up the process.

Fitting of reclaimed pine floor

Subfloor material choice, spruce plywood, OSB board, chipboard or MDF?

Wood floors are magical in that whilst innate they seem somehow to still be alive, in part because they continue to move throughout their second life. The number of variables involved with calculating when, how and by how much a wooden structure will move makes it impossible to precisely predict future outcomes. When flooring is such a large expense and one of the most disruptive in time, cost and inconvenience to replace once in service it is prudent to allow for a margin of error. Ignorance and apathy may be valid excuses to skimp on subfloor material but not cost and we would even argue spending more on the subfloor and less on the top floor if funds are very tight.

WISA WBP Spruce ply sub floor being fitted

A perfectly flat, solid feeling slightly cheaper wood floor with no gaps is going to look and feel better and give a greater sense of satisfaction over time than a more expensive wooden floor that is bouncy, creaky, loose and undulates with large irregular gaps.

We can lay your floor directly onto your existing floorboards, once they have been securely fixed and possibly leveled if required with a rough sand. If you have an existing quality plywood subfloor we can also fit to that. If you have an OSB (oriented strand – sometimes also known as Sterling- board ) or MDF (medium density fibreboard) or chipboard subfloor we may advise you to remove it and replace it with a quality WBP (water and boil proof) plywood. We would advise high quality Finnish WISA Spruce ply in either 18mm or 22mm depending upon loading. Normally 18mm is sufficient on solid subfloors or with joists at 400mm centres although we would advise 22mm for kitchen areas with large range cookers, American style fridges etc or for libraries. For exceptional loading, for example floors designed to take large aquariums 2 x 18mm with staggered joints can be laid.

Problems with incorrect sub floor fitting damp in OSB board

Skimping out on a subfloor is false economy, we have worked on a number of multi million pound properties for example in Eaton Place and Summertown in Oxford where the existing floating oak floor installation was tenting, cracking, warping and moved underfoot simply because of poor subfloor material and inadequate expansion provision. Or take the reclaimed oak board floor above and below, which we restored on all floors of this London Georgian grade II listed property. The customer unfortunately ignored our advice when it came to the basement kitchen despite our free survey being an accurate precis of the subsequent surveyors report and under pressure from their builders got the original OSB Sterling board subfloor which had rotted replaced with chipboard and not plywood as advised.

A few months later they asked us to come back, take up the floor for the second time, fit a plywood subfloor and relay and refinish the floor. Taking the builder to court after the fact I do not think was much consolation considering they were new parents with no kitchen for an needlessly extended period.

For floors fitted over concrete or brick it is prudent to add a DPM (damp proof membrane) to reduce the speed of moisture transfer, this can effectively be achieved usually by the application of a liquid DPM directly to the concrete or screed. Liquid DPMs come as a matched system with whatever adhesive you are using, it is important to use compatible products to avoid adhesion failures later on. In basement or ground floor kitchens for example it is also sensible to fit a thin plastic DPM between any joists or battens and the plywood subfloor.

Beautiful reclaimed oak floor removed, new sub floor installed, top floor installed again sanded and finished

For floating floors where the top floor is not glued to the subfloor the DPM is usually incorporated into the underlayment which normally also has some thermal and sound insulation properties and helps to equalise dimensional irregularities. The joins are sealed with aluminium vapour tape and preferably should extend past the floor and up behind the lower part of the skirting.

At over 400mph the de Havilland Mosquito was faster than both the Hurricane and the Spitfire and built largely out of WBP marine plywood.

de Havilland Mosquito aircraft production with marine plywood

Engineered floor fitting and solid hardwood floor fitting

We offer both engineered plank and solid hardwood floor fitting, which one you choose will depend largely upon the age of your house, what level the room is compared to ground level, what type of subfloor and what type of heating, especially underfloor heating you have.

Generally if you are fitting to an existing wooden sub floor or new plywood base you could fit a solid plank hardwood floor. The same goes for established, flat concrete floors. For freshly installed concrete floors less than six months old or for floors at ground level in older more damp prone properties or below ground level, especially basement conversions we would advise using a high quality engineered hardwood floor as these are much less likely to move than a solid installation.

Fitting a solid hardwood board floor in an area prone to moisture may indeed be ok, or it may not and when the maybe not possibility costs thousand of extra pounds and weeks of extra disruption, normally at the end of an expensive and tiring project we advise a little caution. We would advise fitting an engineered floor over underfloor heating systems although quality hardwood timber is normally ok, especially well seasoned reclaimed timber.

There is an abundance of oak in Europe and to some extent walnut in France, you can be more confident that the FSC certification means something in these jurisdictions, something that sadly cannot be guaranteed further afield. We have a couple of suppliers of French and Eastern European FSC oak and Walnut flooring and we can even source air and kiln dried English oak, you can even come and choose your timber.

Hardwood flooring grades

There are many different gradings of timber used for flooring around the world, in the UK there are five common grades which can fall into three main categories. This is a purely aesthetic hierarchical system and in fact the cheaper character grades, apart from errant knots, can be slightly denser due to the greater amount of quarter grain figure not normally found in the top grades. The main three grades are as follows:

Prime grade. Normally crown cut with little quarter grain figure, even colour with virtually no knots and little sapwood, works very well in some ultra modern rooms, it can look good in some species but can have a tendency to look a little sterile, especially in oak.

Select grade. Same as prime but with more colour variation and a few knots and more sapwood.

Character grade. Wide variation in colour, many knots, some cracks, lots of filled knots. There sometimes is a classic grade (above character) which looks cleaner and sometimes suppliers offer a natural or rustic grade (below character) which sometimes looks very characterful or otherwise is full of filled knots, sap wood and an excuse for poor wood.

Personally I like crazy figure and the more natural look so for me the grades are boring, less boring and interesting. It is important if you are buying your own wood to visit the company you are buying from and ask to see more than just a random offcut sent out to you especially if you are buying a considerable amount as the industry is not well known for its scrupulous honesty and transparency.

In general unless you particularly want a featureless floor I advise clients to go for a quality rustic grade, not only is it much cheaper it looks more interesting often with some beautiful quarter grain figure, the only caveat for all these floors is the quality of the filler used is sometimes not the best and that will need to be refilled or at least coloured out to better match the finished floor. Prime grade oak often looks uninspiring unless it is a very expensive quarter grain grade which is way above prime. If you want to have a clean modern look with a similar grain pattern but more sophisticated colour you could consider elm, chestnut or ash (although preferably reclaimed ash as the species is currently under tremendous pressure).

There can be a fairly large disparity between the grading offered by different suppliers and as such we prefer to arrange purchase of high quality wood flooring, at cost from our preferred suppliers which is often far better value for money in both price and quality than what you would get from a typical flooring shop. Wood flooring shops often have large overheads and put a large mark up on their products often using lower quality timber this often goes for web based companies as well.

Hardwood floor and engineered floor fitting options

In general, if possible secret nailing at forty five degrees through the tongue is preferred for new or reclaimed strip flooring although this can also be glued directly to a solid subfloor, in rooms prone to damp glueing and nailing can help avoid problems later on.

For solid square edged plank screwing and pelleting is the preferred option, with glueing if necessary either direct to joists or to a plywood or existing board or concrete subfloor. For problem areas or period properties with known damp issues it may be possible to create our own tongues by biscuit joining the boards together, we know of at least one floor fixed with this method which spent a short period under shallow water after a flood which did not move once dried out. This is not normally required.

Suggested customer plan for Church floor repairs

A popular method is to float the floor, that is to glue the floor to itself via the tongues and grooves but leave it loose from the subfloor. This is fine if you have a solid, secure, flat and level subfloor and you use high quality, thick 20mm wood. We do not advise this for cheaper 12mm or 15mm engineered floors as they are likely to move and show gaps. In general we are very reluctant to fit any engineered floor that is not at least 20mm thick with a 6mm wear layer which to all intents and purposes looks and feels like a solid hardwood floor and can be sanded down to 2mm above the tongue, just the same as a solid floor.

A quality metalised rubber underlay is preferred for sound and thermal insulation as well as to even out any irregularities rather than a cheaper, thinner foam option. This is another area where the cost savings of using the cheaper alternative really do not stack up. You only want to fit a floor once and ideally you do not want gaps to develop later on, reduced heating bills and a quieter floor are welcome side benefits to a long lasting and good looking installation.

Sometimes, as with the dark oak stained engineered floor below the four micro bevels on each side meant to ameliorate any height differences between boards can actually be a welcome feature adding interest in the light. If you want a more natural looking effect, especially on clear or lightly age tinted floors you can buy square edged engineered floors with no micro bevels, which I personally prefer. The finished effect is indistinguishable from a solid hardwood floor. Square edged rustic grade engineered oak floors are relatively cheap and when tinted can look like an aged solid wood floor.

Stunning dark oak stained floor fitted and finished

Reclaimed parquet floor fitting

Whilst we can fit new parquet flooring we much prefer fitting reclaimed parquet blocks and strips as they have so much more character, a better colour and the wood is generally far better quality than modern quick grown timber.

Also, whilst we can fit any new exotic hardwood we prefer to use reclaimed where possible as hardwood is a finite resource that in many cases has been over logged. Unfortunately much of the exotic hardwood flooring and indeed much of the flooring outside of Europe marked or sold as FSC certified often is not. Just as most cars in the real world do not live up even to their new WLTP figures most hardwood flooring comes from countries such as South America, Africa and Southeast Asia where the lumbar business is big business and where governments and agencies certainly are no more moral than German car companies.

Parquet and narrow strip flooring can be cut, if long enough, into many different shapes and patterns although we normally prefer to fit either a herringbone or chevron pattern any pattern is possible, or we can make one just for you. Ordinarily smaller rooms less than 20sqm sometimes look better with no border and a straight or simple herringbone pattern, for larger areas often a multiple brick, two or more border often looks better, these larger rooms can better accommodate a more sophisticated pattern too.

Parquet pattern styles

Parquet floor fixing

Parquet is glued to the subfloor with the caveats mentioned earlier on this page. We use modern high strength, highly flexible glues that offer both great adhesion whilst being forgiving enough to ensure no blocks come loose over time. Reclaimed parquet floors with bituminous glue is always removed as much as possible and an adhesion test is performed, sometimes a modern rubber bitumen emulsion adhesive is needed to avoid possible reactions with any remaining bitumen.

Thinner overlay mosaic floors can be glued and pinned onto plywood.

Whilst it is possible to buy very high quality reclaimed parquet flooring for prices that are sometimes cheaper than lower quality newer flooring the cost of preparation has to be taken into account where the hand scraping of the blocks is a considerable part of the job. The result however speaks for itself and you are reusing a finite resource too.

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