New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1985
From Foliage to Flooring
From Foliage to Flooring
From Foliage to Flooring
Wooden floors are a tradition that goes back in this country to the earliest housing and New Zealand is endowed with some of the finest timber trees in the world. Much of the timber flooring in old housing is well worth preserving. The warm, natural look of natural t & g floor partly overlaid with a beautiful rug is hard to beat.
Other timber products retain the warm, glowing patina of wood. Cork is one of them, or particle board and currently fashionable as an alternative floor covering are other 'tree products' such as coir and seagrass matting. Linoleum is also made up of natural vegetation — ground cork and linseed oil. However, there are few linoleums available today as they have been largely replaced by vinyls.
Anyone who wishes to install a timber floor today can use treated clean heart rimu, clean heart tawa or matai if they want to stay with local timbers. Radiata pine is considered too soft for permanent flooring.
Many imported hardwoods such as taun, kwila and yaka also make highly suitable flooring timbers. They are also often easier to obtain.
The laying of strip flooring is still a laborious business, but new underfloor insulation techniques and the superior methods of drying timber mean that some of the old difficulties like unsightly gaps are now avoidable. Wooden floors are durable and have a certain spring to them which is 'forgiving' to the human frame. Modern transparent finishes and cleaning materials have not only greatly reduced the work of maintaining a timber floor, they have also reduced the possibility of damage by scratching and pitting.
Our climate is particularly suitable for this type of flooring Timber looks cool in the summer and is a good insulator in the winter. We would undoubtedly see a lot more exposed timber flooring if it were not for the expense involved.
As a decorative alternative to strip flooring, one occasionally comes across parquetry. The term 'parquet' refers to parquetry in its traditional form where each block is laid separately and the floor can be designed in any pattern that the modules will work to. These are commonly herringbone or basketweave, but can be laid to incorporate motifs or borders if desired. This is a labour intensive and expensive exercise, however, and the most common way to lay parquetry is in the form of mosaic parquetry tiles where small blocks of wood are pre-arranged in a pattern in tile form. These are made of rimu, Southland beech or Cyprus pine manufactured in the South Island or imported in Australian bushbox and tallow hardwoods. The patterns are either basket-weave, hadden and hall, or hexagon. Several costs of polyure-thane ensure a hard-wearing finish.
If you have an affinity with wood but can't afford a timber floor then a very good solution to the dilemma is particle board. Particle board which is used for most structural flooring can be polyurethaned three, or preferably four times for a warm attractive and long-lasting finish. High traffic areas will need recoating after several years if they do not have a mat to protect them. If you are going to use particle board which is made up of wood flakes and bonding resins, then you will need to handle it with care during installation. The boards should be chosen page breakfrom one pack to ensure an even colour and care must be taken not to spill anything or leave rusty nails on the surface during construction or before clear finishing. Particle board is not ideal for wet areas if left uncovered in this way, as water will eventually penetrate it. Particle board sheets are extremely easy to install which also helps to cut the cost. The whole flooring area of an average house can be completed in just six hours.
Trees must be one of the most versatile natural resources on earth and of all the different types it is the coconut palm which has the most varied yield. The various parts of the tree are put to use in 25 different ways and among them is a floor covering which is extracted from the green husk of the coconut itself. The fibre of coir matting is still obtained by the traditional method of retting the husks in saline water for several months and then beating them with a mallet. The matting, most of which is made in India, is woven on handlooms from the yarn that is produced and reflects the skill of the craftsmen in its weaves and finishes.
Best results are obtained when coir is laid wall to wall and glued into place. It may stretch if it is loose-laid but can easily be rolled back for cleaning underneath.
Coir's natural texture, its warm earthy colours and economical price are currently making the matting a popular choice for flooring covering for almost any room of the house which is not a wet area.
Cork is the thick spongy bark of the evergreen oak (quercus super) which grows in Portugal, Spain and the northern coast of Africa. The centre layer of bark grows thicker each year and gradually becomes a thick, soft, homogeneous mass.
When the tree is 20 years old, the bark is stripped from its trunk, then the cork granules are compressed and baked at high temperatures into blocks. The natural resins in the grain bond the particles together.
The grainy texture and warm soft look of cork make it a very attractive flooring and because it is surface waterproof and very hard-wearing, it lends itself particularly to wet areas, play areas and children's bedrooms.
Cork may be applied to any floor that is correctly prepared with a smooth level surface. Timber floors should be covered with hardboard and securely nailed. Concrete floors must be level, dry and protected by damp proofing.
The tiles must be fixed into place with the correct adhesives and, with natural cork, given three or four protective coats of polyurethane afterwards.page break