Wooden floor boards come in two main varieties – solid and engineered.

Solid wooden floor boards are available in either structural (19mm) or non-structural (13mm) varieties. "The 19mm product has structural strength and can be laid over backing," explains Dave Angus from Boral. "The 13mm product has to be laid onto a solid flooring base because it doesn't have any structural strength. By 'solid flooring base' I mean concrete, particle board or plywood." The 19mm product is sometimes called 'tongue and groove' flooring, while the 13mm version is sometimes referred to as 'overlay'.

Engineered flooring

Engineered timber flooring features a hardwood top layer, and then the rest of the structure is either plantation pine or plywood. "The beauty of this type of flooring is that it's a pre-finished board, so the sanding and the coating have already been done. You can literally lay the product onto a floor and be moving in furniture and walking on it in a couple of hours," says Dave.

Engineered flooring uses either a 'floating' or 'direct stick' installation method. With the floating method, a foam underlay is put on top of the floor. This generally has a moisture barrier, and the engineered floor can be placed directly on top of that underlay – no sticking down is required. The 'direct stick' method involves sticking the wooden floor boards onto old timber floors or concrete.

There are pros and cons to both solid and engineered timber flooring. Solid floors are very durable, come in a wide range of finishes and are easy to replace. On the down side, they tend to shrink and expand due to variations in humidity levels. Engineered floors are very easy to install and humidity does not affect them greatly, but they are less durable and more difficult to replace.

Sources of wooden floor boards

Popular timbers include the Australian species blackbutt, and there is also a trend towards lighter timbers such as New England oak, stringy bark, spotted gum and Australian beech. "These woods are reasonably hard and relatively easy to work with. They're not going to show the indentations in the floor too easily," says Dave. Timbers that show the grains and knots in the woods are also becoming popular.

The most durable species for wooden floor boards is ironbark, but because of its hardness it isn't easy to install. "You really need a high level of professionalism for that," says Dave.

The cost of timber flooring depends on the availability of timbers and the installation method. Generally speaking, timber flooring starts from about $50 per square metre and can be anything up to $200 per square metre.

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