With so many options available, it can be difficult to know which type of timber flooring will best suit your needs in terms of cost, appearance and wear. Timber can set the mood of a room from the ground up (literally!) and while it’s easy to succumb to trends, it’s better to make a decision with your own furnishings and lifestyle in mind.
Solid timber floors
Exactly what their name suggests, these solid lengths of wood are usually connected by interlocking tongues and grooves, and are built upon bearers and joists. But if your subfloor is a concrete slab and your heart is set on solid boards, it can still be done, says Andrew Garey, business development manager at Boral Timber Flooring. “To fix a solid 19mm timber floor over concrete would require battens or ply sheeting,” he says. A solid timber floor can be sanded time and time again to restore its surface.
Floating timber floors have been increasing in popularity due to their ease of installation and sound-proofing qualities (thanks to the foam insulation blanket they lie on). Unlike solid floorboards, which need weeks to acclimatise on site, floating timber floors – which comprise several layers of material, with wood veneer being the top layer – can be laid directly over a concrete slab, and there’s no sanding, oiling or lacquering. Because of their acoustic properties, floating floors suit apartments.
Parquet floors are like beautiful jigsaws of wooden blocks or mosaic patterns that are laid on top of a flat, solid base such as concrete or a plywood substrate. Parquetry can be bought in panels or preassembled wooden tiles, or laid traditionally as individual timber fingers, where you can use different species to create contrast.
While many existing timber floors in older-style houses are softwoods (predominantly pine), nearly all new Australian flooring timber is hardwood as it better resists indentation.
The industry-standard Janka rating measures the hardness of each species: the higher the number, the harder the timber. “For example,” says Andrew, “ironbark  and spotted gum  are in the top tier, blackbutt is in the middle [9.1] and Tassie oak [5.5] is the next tier down again. But they’re all hard.”
Pictured: Uni-Nail ironbark flooring, from Boral Timber Flooring.
Grade and Colour
Grade refers to the level of visible natural features in the wood, and most companies offer three levels under varying names (check with your individual supplier): select or classic, the sleekest; standard or natural, with an average amount of knots and characteristics; and rustic or Australiana, which has the highest level of burls and veins.
Colours range from blonde wood like alpine ash, blackbutt and Tasmanian oak, to browns like brushbox and turpentine, and reds like jarrah.
Pictured: Brushbox flooring, from Ironwood Australia.
The only way you can be absolutely sure that the timber you are buying has come from an environmentally friendly source is if it is reclaimed.
“Australian species come from two main sources: state forests and private property,” says Andrew. “Much of the state forest system is unavailable, and the areas that are must comply with approvals that consider plant and animal ecosystems, water quality, cultural heritage and the sustainable management of the forests. Private property resources must follow similar guidelines.
Pictured: Blackbutt flooring, from Ironwood Australia.
“And though there are some very good forestry practices overseas, it’s still estimated that 10 per cent of timber imports to Australia have been logged illegally.”
Pictured: Cypress pine flooring, from Ironwood Australia.
Like this? Try our other guides too: