Delta Shelter, a weekend cabin in Washington State, USA, by Tom Kundig of Olsen Kundig Architects. The 1000 square foot cabin is made of steel and is raised above a floodplain in a wooded valley. The 10' by 18' steel shutters can all be opened or closed simultaneously by means of a hand crank, allowing the cabin to be quickly sealed upon departure. Accommodation is over three floors, with the living room/kitchen at the top.
A secure and unexpected retreat nestled into a rocky outcropping, The Pierre (French for stone) celebrates the materiality of its Pacific Northwest site. The house - composed of concrete, wood, steel and glass, and topped with a green roof - visually and physically merges with nature. Inside, rugged surfaces of rock periodically emerge into the space, contrasting with the refined textures of the furnishings. While one side of the house is hunkered into the site, the other overlooks the water, balancing the dual desires of prospect and refuge.
Wood floorings are suitable flooring solutions in a wide array of projects, from commercial to residential. Wood is both strong enough to successfully cope with years of intensive foot traffic and attractive enough to fit various interiors. If you are contemplating wood flooring, it is important to understand the difference between types, grade and finish.
What Does Type Mean?
Wood flooring is available in two construction types. One type is made from whole wood, while a close variant is made from wood together with supplementary material. The two may look the same, but react differently in certain circumstances.
Solid Wood Flooring
Made from whole wood, these floorboards are the original wood flooring and often described as ‘real wood flooring’. The use of complete wood contributes to a lengthy service life, but in the process you also inherit the natural limitation of wood in fluctuating temperature. When temperature rises wood tends to expand and contracts when temperature drops.
Where To Fit Solid – In area of high foot traffic such as commercial properties OR if you anticipate wanting to sand and recoat the floor down the line.
Engineered Wood Flooring
These floorboards are often called machine wood flooring. Each board is made from a top layer of solid wood (in thickness of 3mm to 6mm) supported by several layers of plywood, MDF and softwood. Do not confuse these engineered boards with laminate wood or wood effect flooring which are made from plastic, vinyl and wood fiber, in complete contrast to engineered wood flooring that actually contains solid wood.
Where To Fit Engineered – It is more versatile than the previous type and can be fitted across the entire property. In particular engineered wood flooring are popular as wood flooring in the bathroom and kitchen areas as well over underfloor heating. Solid wood flooring will quickly damage in these conditions from expansion and contraction.
What Does Grade Mean?
Natural wood displays visual characteristics such as sapwood, knots and mineral streaks. How many or how few are present in the wood is defined based on grade. Therefore ‘grade’ should never be confused with ‘quality’ it is merely a visual indication. There are four common grades and the decision whether to prefer one over the other is completely down to your taste and suitability in the interior.
Rustic Grade – The basic grade is the rustic or country style grade as you may come across it. Each plank features plenty of sapwood, knots and mineral streaks contributing to a rural look. Rustic is also the most affordable grade of the four.
Natural Grade – The next on the grading ladder is the natural grade which also features plenty of sapwood, knots and mineral streaks, however the floorboards will better resemble in terms of colour variation.
Select Grade – The select grade wood flooring displays very few sapwood, knots and mineral streaks and is therefore considered a premium grade. In interiors where the aim is to establish a uniform look between the various floorboards, select is a perfect choice.
Prime Grade – On the top of the grading pyramid you will find the prime grade. Each floorboard will only feature the odd and random sapwood, knots and mineral streaks. The floorboards are highly uniform, meaning that each will resemble the other in terms of colour variation. Consequently, prime grade wood flooring is the dearest of the four.
What Does Finish Mean?
Each floorboard, whether solid or engineered and regardless of grade is coated in a clear chemical designed to protect the floor from misuse and wear. In the past Wax was commonly used, however it attracted dust and was quicker to wear. Nowadays options and combination are based on oil or lacquer finish.
Lacquered Finish – This finish is popular in areas where the floor is exposed to UV light or wet conditions (kitchen and bathroom for example). It does not flow into the wood, but remains on the top thereby creating a strong barrier between the wood and the exterior. The lacquer finish will often result in a slight glossy look.
Oil Finish – This finish is the direct substitute to Wax. Oil will filter into the wood (unlike lacquer) thereby proving an especially durable finish. It is suitable in most areas, though not when a waterproof tight seal is required as water will seep into the wood easily. The oil finish will often result in a matt look.
What About The Environment?
Consumers are encouraged to source natural products such as wood from sustainable sources. In the case of wood (for flooring, furniture and other uses), an organisation called the FSC accredits vendors who prove ethical and responsible sourcing. Their woods originate from managed forests in which new trees are planted to replace these that have been used. When buying FSC certified wood, you are protecting habitats and the environment.
We hope this information helps.
Written by Jonathan Sapir who is the MD of Wood and Beyond. London based FSC certified timber seller offering wood flooring, decking and solid wood worktops.
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