Berg & Berg Engineered Wood Flooring delivered direct from the factory in Sweden

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Over the past decade, customers (both trade and retail) have been on a steep learning curve when faced with the prospect of purchasing a wood floor. The domination of carpet and PVC sheet and tile over the previous decades has meant that unlike buyers in many other countries, UK customers are faced with a growing range of options, but little or no experience upon which to base a decision. A further complication is poor advice from shop staff and fitters, all with varying opinions based upon their limited knowledge and often even less specialist training. It is no wonder the customer is often confused about the best choice for them and so often makes the wrong decision.

The following runs through the main wood flooring options available, as well as a few others that the customer may be presented with as an alternative wood look option:



Veneer wood flooring is as it states a veneer of wood over a high density fibre backing board. The veneer is extremely thin, on top of which there is a protective coating. With a genuine real wood look as opposed to an image with laminate, it still contains all of the weaknesses of laminate given the rest of the boards construction is usually from high density fibreboard. If a few millimetres is critical then this may be an option, however the amount of height being saved is only slightly less than with other woods, so if height is a real issue perhaps in a kitchen then a vinyl tile or sheet will be lower still.



PVC wood look flooring includes brands such as Amtico, Karndean, Spacia and Moduleo to name but a few. In essence, these are a step up from traditional sheet vinyl or cushion flooring as it is also known in terms of look. Made from similar composites, the PVC backing has an image laid on top of a vinyl base and a protective coating on top of the image. This is therefore of a similar construction to laminate but with the backing being PVA as opposed to high density fibre board. PVC wood look flooring is of particular benefit within bathrooms given its ability to handle modest surface moisture and humid areas as longer as the correct type of adhesive is used such as Uzin KE66. It is important to be aware however that PVC wood plank will only look reasonably realistic if it is fitted on to a very smooth sub-floor. This is a skilled job and the preparations require experience to install. The preparation is water based, therefore any prolonged leaks will have an effect on the sub-floor which lead to movement within the tiles. The floor can also not be uplifted therefore has be to be replaced if access to pipes under the floor are required. It is also recommended not to be used if there is real wood running up to the doorway as the real wood will always show it up. If such an investment is not acceptable we recommend porcelain tiles (assuming the stability of the floor is adequate) or sheet vinyl, the lowest cost option for practical bathroom flooring.




Laminate flooring is made up of high density fibre board backing, on top of which is an image of wood, which is then covered by a protective coating. Depending upon the quality of the laminate, this coating offers varied levels of protection. Generally laminate has a locking joint which has helped marketers offer it as a fail-safe do-it-yourself (DIY) product. What the marketers fail to point out is that the same skills are required to fit a laminate floor properly as the highest quality real wood floor. This includes sub-floor testing for moisture as well as ensuring the sub-floor is completely smooth. A DPM (damp proof membrane) application may be required or at the very least a primer and smoothing compound installed to prevent movement within the wood. The benefit with carpet, particularly for house builders, is that it covers a multiple of sins in terms of sub-floor quality. The installation of the laminate itself is then undertaken and finally woodworking skills are required to fit thresholds, expansion gap covers, trim doors and under-cut door frames. Unfortunately, because laminate is often see as an easy and less expensive option it is fitted mainly on a DIY basis or by odd-jobers. Too often therefore laminate has proven to offers a fools saving given it will flex and gap without the right installation process, and very quickly becomes a disappointment to the buyer, only to end up being replaced. No longer is a laminate floor a selling feature in estate agents details.



For those who have either been through the laminate cycle or who are determined to buy real wood flooring, solid plank is often seen as the best option. Customers can be of the committed belief that this is the best and only quality option, in part perhaps because of their limited experience and knowledge of other options. A solid wood floor is no different from a solid wood kitchen or a door. It will swell and change shape according to the conditions in which it is in, by which we mean the air temperature and humidity. We generally do not see the UK as a humid climate, but it is. The climatic conditions vary, which according to the conditions puts stresses upon solid wood to move which in the case of wooden floors is impossible to control no matter how it is fixed. Solid wood floors should never be floated (laid over an underlay), or put over under-floor heating unless the client accepts the inevitable movement of each plank. If solid wood is fitted it needs to be either secret nailed or face nailed on top of a joist or battens to give it any chance of staying in position. If extreme lengths are taken to control the air humidity and temperature in each room of a property then there is unlikely to be an issue, however in reality within the UK this will not be the case.

If we take a look back at the past and the wooden floors fitted in our period properties, these often did not have a tongue and grove design which allows each plank to inter-lock. This lack of innovation actually helped the wood to be more stable as it allowed airflow around the wood which brought an element of equilibrium of climate conditions to all of its sides. This means no greater moisture level above or below to which the middle of the board is going to swell towards. Anyone who has ever sanded a ground floor original solid wood floor in a Victorian house in the summer, having questioned the sense of those who previously covered the floor with carpets or large rugs, who has then found themselves freezing in the winter, will understand what is meant by air-flow!



The alternative option is engineered wood. In the more recent years the more astute customers have started to become aware that this is the best option. Early experience showed customers to be confused about this product, seeing it as a laminate as opposed a real wood. It is understandable when seeing laminate as a cheap option, that when presented with a product with a thin top layer of the selected wood species, and an additional layer or two of what the client sees as a cheap alternative, that they should see this as yet another compromise product. The reality is that the process of manufacturing an engineered wood flooring with a comparable top layer is often no less, if not more expensive, than when producing a thicker solid wood plank.

Engineered wood takes the best of the natural wood product – its beauty, resilience and strength, and forms it into layers – either a double layer (2-ply) or three layers (3-ply). The 2-ply is usually a top layer of the chosen species (often oak in the UK), with a backing board of plywood wood which in itself is a multi-layered wood product. The 3-ply has again a top layer of the chosen species, then a middle layer (the better of which are quality spruces or pine with close growth lines in a vertical direction for maximum stability) and then the final layer on the back for increased stability. This stability not only reduces the chance of a wooden floor lifting, having taken up it's expansion gap, but it will also reduce any gapping. As with all products, there are producers who will look to take a great working model and cheapen it. Customers must therefore be aware of manufacturers cold gluing or using sub-standard processes to adhere the multi-layers together, which can lead to the wood de-laminating. This is particularly an issue when fitted over under-floor heating. Other products presented as European Oak, may be the Oak from the periphery of Europe, however the manufacturing process occurs in China, potentially using the cheapest resources and simplest processes. It is therefore important that no element of the engineered floor is made of anything except real wood, and uses the 3-ply construction with the right quality of wood in the middle and backing layers.

The engineered wood is also offered as a structural or an overlay product. The structural engineerer wood flooring is usually from 18-21mm in depth, but more usually 21mm.  This means that a product that can go directly onto joists or batterns without having a supporting floor underneath. Structural wood therefore is not required on current structural floor surfaces, and it is generally not as stable as a quality overlay engineered wood floor due to the greater amount of timber within the product. This is particularly the case given the top layer is deeper and therefore the stabilising back board has to work that much harder. Overlay engineered wood flooring (such as Berg & Berg), which is usually of an overall depth of 14 to 15mm is considered the most stable of all real wood flooring and is suitable for most areas of domestic and commercial installations.

Very few engineered wood flooring products are guaranteed for kitchens, and those that are will only be able to offer such a guarantee if they are of the highest quality in terms of construction and stability. Bathrooms are not recommended however given the high level of humidity and water spillages.

It is the case that care must be taken when sanding an engineered wood floor not to take off too much wood at any one time. We would not advise sanding on any engineered wood floor with a surface layer of less than 1.5mm. If however the engineered wood floor has a finish which can have another coat applied directly on to it, as opposed to having it sanded first, then there will never be any need to sand the floor. This is an interesting point with regard to many customers' initial reasoning for wanting a solid wood floor. So many customers are obsessed about the ability to sand a solid wood floor, as if it is something they are going to do on a weekly basis after mowing the lawn. In reality a solid wood floor will always cup or curve. If a modern day solid wood with a tongue and grove system is sanded, it will usually be harder to sand either the middle of the boards or the edges. To sand the middle, for instance, it is necessary to take more wood off of the edges. However, there is only so much depth in the wood before you sand down to the tongue or the grove, at which point the wood cannot be sanded any further. Therefore looking at a 20mm deep plank and believing there is so much more wood to sand down is mis-guided. In reality there is no more wood than in your average engineered wood which is also more likely to have stayed flat as opposed to cupping or curving.

Engineered wood floors either have a tongue and groove to push together or a locking ‘click’ system. The issue with the tongue and grove is the fact that only glue around the tongue is holding each wood plank in to each other. Therefore movement in the wood could lead to gapping between planks. The draw back of many locking systems however is that they are too often designed to flatter the DIY market or the odd-jobber. They are easy to put together, but then they easily come apart. A good locking system is one that leaves a good strong fixing and ideally one that also allows a secondary strengthening element of a bead of glue. It must also be noted that most engineered wood floors, due to their stability and the easier fitting are floated, which means being laid on to an underlay. In these circumstances very thin or dense underlay must be used. There is however always an element of movement with any floated installation, therefore if the locking system is not on a ball-joint then there is a chance the joint will stress. In the short term this means squeaky joints, and in the middle to longer term it could potentially mean the joints breaking.

There has been a trend within the UK for wooden floors with pronounced bevels, possibly as greater proof that the floor is seen as a ‘real’ wood floor. The laminate market and the engineered wood manufacturers have adapted to this trend, so the reality is the bevel is no longer a guarantee that the floor is a ‘real’ wood floor. The bevel is often requested by customers who have never lived with a floor with a pronounced bevel or V-grove as it is also known. Another reason for interest in a bevelled edge is that customers see it as a more traditional style. This is actually not the case. The traditional wood planks have always been square edges which are then sanded after fitting before being surface coated. The better quality flooring manufacturers can now produce boards of an exact depth, meaning that floors no longer need sanding after fitting, which saves time and additional cost in the finishing process, this is now all done within the factory. Lesser quality producers however often offer the pronounced bevel to avoid a miss-match in the height of each plank when fitted. The main issue with the pronounced bevel is the fact that it is a dirt trap. The only way of removing dirt from these groves is to get down on ones hands and knees and scrapping it out, taking care not to score the edge of the wood and create painful splintering. When most customers are in part selecting a hard floor for its hygienic value and ease of cleaning, this is often an overlooked issue.

Overall therefore, a quality engineered wood flooring is the best option for anyone looking for a wooden floor in their home or workplace. If the engineered floor is the cheapest, it is going to have compromises in its construction and materials. Hard flooring is a great investment if it is not repeated for a long time. It is therefore well worth investing in a good quality engineered floor.