Antique Flooring – is it over-priced?

If you use carpets it can be a long time between the times when you check the condition of the hardwood floor boards underneath. In this time great damage can be done by such things as moisture and mold. It can be that you will need to replace one of your hardwood flooring boards.

It is possible at this point to choose new hardwood flooring as a replacement. The look will be different from the rest of the flooring but if you re-lay the carpet nobody will notice. If, however, you want the replacement board to look the same as the other boards you will have to buy antique hardwood flooring.

There are now companies that perform this service. They ascertain the age and type of flooring that you have. They then source hardwood flooring that is from the same period and has the same characteristics. They will even find a finish that is the same as the existing finish so that the replaced board looks just like the rest of the flooring. This is a specialized service and probably means that you will have to pay fairly dearly for a small amount of antique hardwood flooring.

This is fair enough. However, if you want to buy antique flooring for your house you can be surprised to discover that it costs in some cases more than new hardwood flooring. This seems strange to say the least. The idea of reclaimed hardwood flooring and antique flooring is that it is meant to be a green alternative to using new hardwood flooring. Why should you pay more for second-hand flooring?

Frankly many small and medium size suppliers of antique flooring simply over-charge. They pick up flooring at a discount price get it kiln dried and then offer it for sale at grossly inflated prices. This is taking advantage of people who want to be earth friendly.

Before you buy antique flooring, it is worth checking how rare the hardwood is. Some hardwoods cannot be bought new and so the antique version has a premium value. If that is not the case and you feel that the antique flooring is too much then approach other suppliers.

Finally, if you feel there is a monopoly of bad value going on then look to another type of sustainable flooring such as cork, bamboo or coconut. By over-paying for antique hardwood flooring people are damaging the environment as it means it will remain a flooring type that is for only for the rich. The truth is that new hardwood flooring should cost the most. The rich should be penalized for chopping down the forests. The rest who want to help should be encouraged to buy reclaimed and antique hardwood by attractive prices.

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Under floor heating and sustainable flooring

under floor heatingUnder floor heating (UFH) is a very old idea that goes back to the Romans. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to under floor heating. This post will look at these pros and cons and discuss whether sustainable flooring can be used with under floor heating.

There are 2 basic types of under floor heating: using electrical cables and using pipes of hot water. Both perform equally well.

The main advantage with under floor heating is that it makes the floor comfortable and inviting. Under floor heating radiates heat and so fills the room with heat evenly from the floor up. Radiators give off convective heat and so a room fills up top down. Also using under floor heating removes all the radiators from a room and hides the ‘equipment’. Removing the radiators from a room makes it easier to keep the space dust free and also provides more space.

Another advantage of under floor heating is that it uses hot water at 50 degrees Celsius instead of the usual 60 degrees Celsius of a hot water system using radiators. This is good for heat pumps and solar heated water which sometimes struggles to get the water hot enough for standard hot water systems.

The disadvantage of under floor heating is that it can take an hour for a room to heat up. The room retains the heat for longer. This partly depends on what flooring is used.  Concrete flooring such as polished screed will retain heat for several hours.

The other disadvantage of under floor heating is that is subjects the flooring to lots of heat; the flooring becomes a medium for the heat. The flooring therefore has to be very stable. With flooring made from natural materials there is always a problem of warping and shrinking as the moisture is removed from the material.

Under floor heating with strand woven bamboo flooring

It is possible to use under floor heating with strand woven bamboo flooring. Cross ply high density strand woven bamboo flooring is recommended. It has to be very dense and hard bamboo.

Under floor heating with reclaimed hardwood flooring

UFH heating is popular with hardwood flooring in the United States. The same rules for installing reclaimed hardwood flooring over UFH apply as for hardwood flooring over UFH. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) provides guidelines that are widely followed. If the wood is prepared correctly real wood planks are better than engineered flooring. The key to using reclaimed hardwood flooring over under floor heating is to thoroughly and slowly kiln dry the reclaimed hardwood and then to cut the flooring using advanced laser technology to guarantee an exact fit.

The fact that reclaimed hardwood flooring is more dimensionally stable than hardwood flooring made from new hardwood makes it better for UFH.

Under floor heating and cork flooring

Cork is a very good heat and sound insulator. The insulating properties of cork flooring mean that it is necessary to use cork flooring less than 10 mm thickness with under floor heating. Cork is composed of millions of air pockets that trap heat. Thus cork flooring is slow to release heat and will delay the effectiveness of UFH to warm a room.

Under floor heating and coconut flooring

Eco Palm Flooring sell coconut flooring that can be laid over under floor heating. As with reclaimed hardwood flooring it is important to use coconut timber that has been carefully kiln dried and that is cut accurately.

It is normal for each room with under floor heating to have its own controller system. This increases the price for UFH compared to other types of heating. Also it is a skilled job to put in under floor heating. It is recommended to use professionals rather than to DIY under floor heating and to insist on a company that is going to use the best specifications and most suitable flooring.

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Reclaimed Structural Hardwood for flooring

Major Source of Reclaimed Hardwood

One of the major sources for hardwood to make reclaimed hardwood flooring is from buildings that are torn down or have major re-fitting. Either job produces a lot of unwanted hardwood. This wood can be reused; it is called reclaimed structural hardwood.

Types of Reclaimed Structural Hardwood

The wood can be used for a number of uses in a house and the previous function largely determines the type of markings that you can expect to find on the hardwood. For example wood that was used under rafters (purlins) tends to have nail, screw or bolt holes where the wood was attached. This will show up when it is made into reclaimed hardwood flooring.

Hardwood that was used as floor joists has marks at the edges where it was attached. Wood formerly used for truss chords has bolt holes, notches and mortice join holes. Ridge boards make hardwood flooring that has nail holes along the surface where rafters were formerly attached.

Backsawn vs. Quartersawn

Moreover, hardwood used in the building of a house is backsawn rather than quartersawn. This can cause gum lines and discoloration. Quartersawn hardwood has a more uniform look and far less markings.

It is worth doing due diligence before committing to buying reclaimed hardwood flooring to make sure you know where the wood came from. This will give you many clues about the markings to expect on the wood.

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The Ecology of Cork

The cork oak (quercus suber) is grown nearly exclusively in the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and France. It is the combination of the soil, the heat and the lack of humidity that makes the cork oak flourish in this part of the world.

It is believed that there are about 25,000 hectares of cork oak forests in the Mediterranean area. It is a resource that has been valued for a long time. The ancient Egyptians used cork as stoppers. The Greeks used cork for fishing buoys. The ancient Romans used cork for roofing and women’s shoes.

Cork in Portugal

Such was the importance of cork to the economy of Portugal (the world’s biggest producer of cork) that all cork oak trees were protected by Royal Edict. If you were caught chopping down a cork oak you were liable for severe punishment.

The Portuguese government is now more lenient on those who harm a cork oak tree, but environmentalists are now the keenest to see the preservation of these ancient forests.

Cork Oak Forests

The great thing about cork as a resource is that it can be harvested without destroying natural habitat. Thus, cork oak forests can be economically used without damaging the wild life. That is if the cork is harvested correctly with minimum disturbance to the forest.

The reason for the concern for the cork oak forests is that they are the natural habitat of a number of species including the endangered Iberian lynx and the Barbary ape.

Tread Carefully

As long as we tread carefully we can have the best of both worlds – a useful resource as well as trees that maintain biodiversity and help to recycle carbon from the atmosphere.

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Bamboo Flooring in Japan

Japan is a country where bamboo can be found growing everywhere. Bamboo is widely used for a number of uses in the Land of the Rising Sun, but strangely enough it is rarely or used for flooring.

Bamboo plays an important part in Japanese culture. It is planted around shrines to ward off evil. It is frequently used for fencing and to make bamboo matchstick blinds. Bamboo charcoal is used in Japan as a natural fertilizer for the better cultivation of green tea.

As with China, bamboo in Japan is seen as representing an ideal – the perfect man stands resolute and does not succumb to the vicissitudes of fate and bamboo is the only plant that remains after a strong storm. Where trees are uprooted by strong winds the bamboo will bend but will not be overcome.

Considering the importance of bamboo to Japanese culture it might thus come as a surprise that the country doesn’t use strand woven bamboo flooring or any other type of bamboo flooring. For more information about bamboo and flooring in Japan follow the link. The article points out that nearly all homes in Japan have engineered flooring consisting of plywood with a hardwood veneer. For a country that gave us the Kyoto Protocol and the hybrid car it is very disappointing to discover that they have not done more to bring sustainability into the home, especially considering how bountiful the renewable resource of bamboo is in the country.

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Is Cork Flooring Right for You?

Cork has been used by man for centuries. The ancient Phoenicians used cork for fishing floats. The Portuguese protect their cork oak forests by Royal Decree. Until recently, any decent bottle of wine had a cork stopper. Cork makes a great natural insulating material for the roof. And cork has been used for a long time to make flooring.

The oldest surviving cork floor is in a church near Chicago, USA. It was installed in 1898. Although cork is a soft type of flooring, it is in fact very durable. It has a honeycomb structure full of air that gives it elasticity – heavy weights can be placed on cork and then when removed the cork ‘springs’ back to its former dimensions.

Cork flooring can deal with high traffic situations. It also helps to lower heating bills in the winter because the honeycomb structure of cork acts as an insulator keeping heat in a room. This structure also works as a sound insulator muffling sound of footfalls.

Another benefit of cork flooring is that it contains the waxy substance known as suberin. This is used in nature to regulate water supply to a tree or plant. This substance makes cork flooring antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antibacterial. Such a combination makes cork flooring ideal for giving protection to the home. Suberin also makes cork flooring fire retardant.

Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak. The bark grows back every 9 years. Harvesting the bark does not damage the tree. For these reasons, cork is a renewable resource and cork flooring is an eco-friendly type of flooring. It is also reasonable priced compared to hardwood flooring. It might be the right type of flooring for you.

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How is Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring Green?

When people discuss environmentally friendly or sustainable flooring they normally have in mind a flooring that is made from a renewable resource. A renewable resource is a natural material that grows quickly enough to keep up with our consumer demands. Thus although trees do not renew themselves – the process is very slow. This is the reason why an acre and a half of rain forest is lost every minute somewhere in the world. If trees grew quicker then deforestation would be less of an issue.

One of the alternatives to making sustainable flooring from a renewable resource is to make it from an unwanted or discarded material. This is what reclaimed hardwood flooring is. It is hardwood recovered from building waste, home renovation, park waste, abandoned mine shafts, old barns and outhouses, fencing and hundreds of other sources. The recovered hardwood is kiln dried and then cut in a mill into flooring planks.

The quality of the resulting floor depends on the hardwood recovered. Sometimes it is full of kerfs and holes sometimes it is fairly unblemished. From an environmentally friendly point of view it is a great example of upcycling. That is taking something of less value and recycling it into something of higher value.

The logical limitation of this process is supply. While local supplies of unwanted hardwood are to be found this is a green type of flooring. If you have to buy your reclaimed hardwood flooring from a location many miles from your home the carbon cost of transportation lessens the green impact. And the final caveat is that it is possible that we will use up all the unwanted wood. Reclaimed hardwood is limited in its quantity whereas renewable materials such as bamboo, cork and coconut are not.

However, for the time being man’s wastefulness (or his industry) has provided us with plenty of oak, locust, walnut, ash, chestnut etc. from which to make flooring.

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