The look of timber flooring adds classic appeal to any home, and an array of colours, grain patterns and sizes in both solid boards and easy-lay engineered styles means we're spoilt for choice. Plus, there's a wide range of fab faux-timber products, from tiles to vinyl, to suit any room in your home.
For purists, it's hard to beat the longevity of a solid hardwood floor. “Australian hardwood species offer a range of colour options from light browns to deep reds, and a solid timber floor has a wear layer that can be refinished many times over, providing a lifetime of enjoyment,” says Boral national accounts manager Justin Scobie.
If you're after structural flooring, 19mm solid strip boards can be installed directly over timber joists or particleboard sheeting, whereas 13-14mm-thick overlay boards are suitable over a level subfloor such as concrete. For best results, enlist a professional contractor to install, sand and finish a new hardwood timber floor. Popular choices include spotted gum and blackbutt, which lend themselves to both modern and classic interior palettes. “They also have a higher Janka rating (a measure of hardness) and density, creating a more durable flooring surface,” explains Justin. Solid timber does not respond well to extended sun exposure and dampness, so don't use it in wet areas or over a heated slab that may cause the timber to dry out.
With advancements in digital printing technology, it's now possible to get the look of timber floors in wet areas without the associated issues. Timber-look porcelain floor tiles replicate the look and natural variation of real wood, yet are incredibly low maintenance and water resistant, perfect for bathrooms and shower zones. You can also use them with underfloor heating.
Timber-effect self-adhesive vinyl planks have come a long way over the years. Not only are they less prone to damage than their 20th-century predecessors, they come in a wide range of colours and are relatively straightforward to install yourself. They are water resistant, so can be used anywhere indoors that you might expect splashes, such as a powder room. However, they are not suitable for shower areas – or for outdoor use where high temperatures can fade and damage the vinyl. If you do install the vinyl planks yourself, it's important to keep in mind the condition of the subfloor, which must be smooth. Look over it for anything that might disturb the vinyl, and if there are any gaps fill them with silicone.
Available in a broad spectrum of robust veneers that resemble solid wood, engineered boards have surged in popularity. Boral's range includes options that highlight the colours and patterns of Australian hardwoods, while its ‘Metallon' collection features finishes inspired by the aesthetics of metals such as copper, pewter and titanium. “An advantage is that it's pre-finished and doesn't need to be acclimatised or installed by a specialist,” says Boral's Justin Scobie. “If you choose an engineered board with a nominal 4mm top layer, it can also be re-sanded.” To guard your floors from scuffs, add protective pads to furniture and move rugs around often to prevent darker and lighter patches forming.
Made from a high-density fibreboard core with a digitally printed top layer, hard-wearing, fade-resistant laminate can look surprisingly realistic. “Because the ‘Supergloss' range is produced by scanning real timbers, it's almost impossible to tell the difference between it and the real thing,” says Formica category marketing manager Aymeric de Rosbo. Although not suitable for outdoor areas, bathrooms or laundries, a big plus is laminate's ease of maintenance, says Tarkett distributor sales director David Huxley, who recommends a regular vacuum and gentle wipe with a microfibre mop. Don't use a wet or steam mop. “A good tip is to place doormats and rugs at entrances to absorb dirt before it's tracked through the house,” he adds.
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.