Monday, September 24, 2012

Oak – the traditional choice

With so many exotic wooden flooring options to choose from these days, going ‘traditional’ could be seen as playing it safe. But oak flooring is still as popular as ever, and one of its key selling factors is the reason the Navy built its ships from English Oak for centuries – its sheer robustness. Oak is a dense wood with a very tight grain, which means it is far less prone to splitting, warping or cracking than other softer, less dense woods. But if you’re planning on installing an oak floor, there are a few things you need to look out for first.

Oak – a tough customer

Because it’s so much stronger than many other types of wooden floor sanding, oak is actually quite difficult to work with unless you’re a professional with all the right equipment. Its tight grain means that it can be difficult to cut, but it also means that you end up with much cleaner edges as the grain doesn’t tend to ‘rip up’ as easily as some softer woods.

If you’re planning on fitting your wooden floor in a high traffic area then oak is the perfect choice. It is extremely resistant to wear and tear, making it ideal for staircases, hallways and entrance areas where footfall and the risk of damage through dirt and mud being trampled into the wood are highest. With a good layer of varnish or wax on the surface, oak is practically invincible!

Water resistant

Another advantage of using a tight grained wood such as oak is that it is more impervious to water damage than softer woods. White oak in particular is water resistant, making it particularly useful in a commercial setting such as a lobby or entrance area, where there is a higher possibility of moisture reaching the surface of the floor. In the home, white oak is one of the few wooden floors that is suitable for use in kitchens or even in the bathroom, as again its water resistance means that it can cope with the damper conditions.

Coloured oak

While oak’s advantage is its strength and general resistance to wear and tear, woods with very tight grains tend to be quite bland and uniform in colour. Whereas you may have a greater variety of pattering and natural formations in looser grained woods (including knotholes and swirls, depending on how the timber was cut), oak tends to be very even in texture. This can be a little dull in comparison to more decorative woods, so most people choose to brighten up their oak floors by using coloured staining or waxes. This gives the wood greater depth and warmth and brings out the hidden patterns within the boards.

However, staining oak is not a job for a happy amateur! It takes specialist knowledge, expertise and experience to stain oak successfully. Oak’s reduced levels of absorbency can lead to ‘patchy’ results, so it takes years of experience and understanding to ensure that the stain or wax is applied evenly to prevent a sub-standard result.

Easy to care for

But once your floor sanding and polishing experts have finished breathing new life into your oak floor, you can rest easy in the knowledge that it takes very little maintenance indeed to keep oak looking its best. Oak flooring is easy to look after and care for. You can protect it against deep scratches caused by furniture by applying pads to the bottom of chair and table legs. Then it’s simply a matter of basic maintenance on a weekly basis such as wiping over with a duster, light vacuuming and an occasional wash down with a damp mop. As long as you avoid using abrasive cleaners and treat it to the occasional polish, you should have an oak floor you can be proud of for years to come.

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