Floor Finishes Overview
In our Floor Finishes section we bring you wealth of carpet and floor-covering specialists. The products offered by the companies listed will include carpets, laminate and hardwood flooring as well as inspiring you with some fabulous floor tile ideas. Industrial finishes such as paints and anti-slip coatings are also provided with an extensive range of choices....more
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Floor Finishes Explained
A wide array of floor finishes are available to suit many different usage environments, whether they be domestic, commercial or industrial. Traditionally floors were left in their natural state of either unfinished timber or stone and later fitted with rugs and carpets to provide additional insulation to retain warmth. Today floor finishes have evolved considerably.
The ever popular carpet is produced in many different styles, colours and weaves. It can be bought from a network of carpet suppliers or carpet specialists and is generally cut to measure from carpet rolls of standard width. Although carpets have been around for centuries both modern and traditional style carpets can be purchased. The overall appearance of a carpet is largely dependant on the weave type used in its manufacture. Different weave types, such as tufted, knotted and cut and loop pile are commonplace. Loop pile and knotted weaves are used to produce deep pile carpet styles, such as Berber and Shagpile carpets, with tufted carpets being a popular modern choice. Almost any colour carpet can be purchased. Modern carpets are manufactured from manmade plastic fibres, such as nylon or a polypropylene polyester blend. Traditionally carpets were manufactured solely from wool, however nowadays wool is blended with manmade plastic fibres (typically polypropylene, polyester and nylon) to ensure increased durability. Woollen carpet blends typically contain 80 percent wool with 20 percent manmade fibres, although many variations exist. Woollen carpets are usually used in domestic environments due to their cost and insulating properties, with manmade carpets, particularly nylon based ones, used in commercial environments for their increased durability under constant usage. Carpet tiles may provide a functional and durable alternative to carpets particularly within a commercial environment. Carpet tiles are generally manufactured from manmade fibres, such as polypropylene and can be bought in a range of colours. They are short haired and therefore easy to clean.
An important part, and often forgotten, element to any carpet replacement is the carpet underlay. The carpet underlay should be given serious consideration when replacing a carpet as a new carpet underlay can considerably prolong carpet life. An underlay will provide added heat insulation and sound deadening to any home, with specific acoustic carpet underlay available on the market. Underlay is generally available manufactured from rubber, with waffled rubber underlay most suited to domestic applications for increased cushioning and the very durable rubber crumb underlay suited to commercial environments. Other underlay material types include polyurethane sponge and wool felt underlay. Some carpet underlays incorporate foil or plastic layers to improve moisture resistance.
Vinyl flooring is a very versatile product and is well suited to industrial and commercial environments, where durability and ease of cleaning are important factors. Vinyl flooring is manufactured from the manmade plastic polyvinylchloride and is waterproof. As vinyl flooring is waterproof and can simply be wiped clean it is ideal for use within residential bathrooms and kitchens to protect the floor from dirt and water. Two types of vinyl flooring are available, unbacked and backed, sometimes referred to as cushioned vinyl flooring. Unbacked versions represent the traditional type of vinyl flooring, whilst a cushioned vinyl floor is backed with an underlay for increased thermal performance and user comfort. Cushioned vinyl floors are most suited to domestic environments.
Vinyl flooring is available in many finishes and designs. Designs are available to replicate wooden floor boards, stone tiled floors, wooden block floors and even bamboo floors, alternatively you can choose from the many abstract patterns on the market. Flooring finishes are generally smooth with textured finishes available for use in industrial environments where slip hazards may occur. This is often referred to as antislip flooring.
Vinyl flooring can be supplied in rolls, where the desired length is cut from a standard width roll, or in tile format. Vinyl tiles are available in self adhesive format to ease fitting. When fitting any vinyl floor it is vital that the floor on to which it is to be laid is free from dirt, debris and any contaminants such as oil. It is also essential that the floor is level and does not undulate, in order to give the vinyl adequate support and prevent it from tearing or becoming pierced. There are many levelling compounds on the market for use on existing floors, such as tiled surfaces, timber floors and concrete floors, to allow the level fitting of vinyl on top. If laying a vinyl floor directly on to concrete it should be suitably dry to allow the vinyl adhesive to stick.
Timber floors, sometimes referred to as wooden floors or solid wood floors have been used for hundreds of years to provide long lasting durable floor finishes. The natural appeal of wood continues to this day with many varieties of wood available finished for use as wooden flooring. Wooden flooring products can be obtained from a number of timber suppliers and specialist stockists. A timber floor can provide range of natural floor colours, depending on the wood used in its manufacture. Traditionally hardwoods, such as oak and tropical hardwoods like teak have been used extensively for their durability. However, hardwood floors are expensive and pine floors have gained popularity over recent decades as a cheaper, yet just as effective, alternative. Hardwoods are naturally available in darker shades of brown, where as softwoods tend to be available in pale browns and off white colours.
Various wood finishes are applied to woods to change their appearance or to preserve them. Typical protective finishes include varnishes, also known as lacquers, which can provide a strong protective finish to any wooden floor. Varnishes are used to seal the natural grain of the wood from moisture and dirt. Most common varnishes are manufactured from polyurethane and are available in clear matt or gloss finishes. In commercial settings with high volumes of floor traffic heavy duty varnishes can be used. Further protection can be achieved by the use of a floor wax, either on a non sealed floor or sealed floor. The floor wax is worked into the floor boards and then buffed to create a shiny surface finish. Traditionally oils, such as linseed oil and teak oil, have been used to treat wood. The oils penetrate in to the wood gain and harden the wood fibres over time. They tend to darken the original colour of the wood and remain oily, which can trap dust. Wood stains, also known as wood dyes, can be used to change the overall appearance of a timber floor, with a range of stain colours available to choose from. A number of factory applied finishes, such as distressed and hand scraped can be specified on purchase.
Solid wood floors should be laid with care to ensure a level surface finish. Most solid wood flooring boards are supplied with tongue and groove joints that can be secretly nailed to the underlying floor. If concrete underlies the floor a specialist floor adhesive should be used, providing the concrete has dried out sufficiently.
An alternative format to wooden floor boards is that of wooden block flooring or parquet flooring, which utilises wooden blocks glued to the underlying subsurface. The wooden blocks can be arranged in various geometric patterns, the most common being herringbone.
Due to the comparatively high price of solid timber floors alternatives have been developed in recent decades in the form of laminate and engineered floors. Engineered floors, often referred to as real wood top layer floors, are a manufactured floor with a top layer (also known as a veneer) of real solid wood bonded to a cheaper lattice of underlying wood to give the necessary support. They come finished with tongue and groove joints, which can either be secretly nailed or glued, and a felt underlay is recommended for use with them.
Laminate flooring is generally manufactured from high density fibreboard (HDF) to further reduce costs and are composed of various laminations bonded together by resin. The upper lamination layer incorporates the graphic design of the laminate floor, this may is usually a wood, however mock stock effect designs are on the market. Moisture resistant laminate floors can be purchased for usage within the kitchen and bathroom. Laminate floors are finished with tongue and groove joints, which can be glued or clipped together, depending on the manufacturer's particular design, making them ideal for DIY projects. Floors should be fitted with an appropriate underlay.
In areas of the home where there is a risk that floors will be exposed to moisture a tiled floor could be considered to prevent floor damage. Kitchens, bathrooms and toilets are suited to tiled floor finishes. A vast array of bathroom and kitchen tiles are available produced in either porcelain or ceramic and protected by a glaze to make them impervious to water. Tiles are produced in ornate forms, such as hand painted tiles, which are usually finished with a painted picture then glazed. Plain tiles can be purchased in a variety of colours, with natural colours proving to be popular choices. Where particularly rustic and natural looks are desired natural stone tiles can give a unique solution. Popular choices include limestone, marble and slate tiles, which can be purchased polished and machine cut for a modern look, or with a natural 'as split' riven finish for the ultimate rustic traditional look.
Preparatory Floor Finishes
Industrial floors can be subjected to dirt, oils and vehicular movements, as a result it can be necessary to provide protection to them. Over the years traditional floor paints have been used, however they have to be reapplied on a regular basis. Epoxy resin derived floor coatings have been developed to provide a durable alternative to traditional paints. Epoxy floor coatings are offered in a range of colours and can incorporate fine particles into their wearing surface to provide a textured anitslip surface. They are also essential to provide resistance to chemicals in industrial units and for hygiene purposes within food manufacturing facilities. Epoxy surfaces are easily maintained and cleaned. Epoxy floor coatings have gained favour in the domestic market, such as for garage floor finishes, due to their durability and impressive finish. Recently aggregate bonded epoxy floor finishes, more commonly known as epoxy floor screeds, have been developed and are now widely available for both domestic and industrial use. The aggregate is held together with epoxy resin and can be coloured to produce a durable 'gravel-like' finish. They are proving popular in retail outlets to create decorative floor surfaces.