Favoured by designers for its aesthetic appeal, and industry for its breadth of application and ease of installation, engineered timber floors create real talking points.
Specifiers choosing flooring for commercial applications need to focus on six factors: cost, acoustic performance, durability, ease of installation, maintenance and – of course – appearance.
Whether the product in question is a laminate, a luxury vinyl tile (LVT), a carpet tile, polished concrete, tile flooring or natural timber, those choosing it need to ensure that it not only represents value for money but that it will prove durable and attractive enough to justify its purchase.
After all, just as the high-quality flooring products can help deliver functional commercial spaces, satisfied occupants, and untroubled facility managers, the wrong flooring choice can be a recipe for dissatisfaction and maintenance headaches.
Engineered Timber Flooring
Engineered timber flooring is an increasingly popular option for commercial projects. An alternative to solid timber floorboards, it is finding use everywhere from office and retail spaces to educational and indoor sporting facilities.
Featuring multiple perpendicular plies, as well a single top layer (or lamella) of solid wood (generally hardwood), engineered timber flooring offers all the aesthetic appeal of solid timber minus several of the latter’s limitations.
Engineered timber is more affordable and simpler to install than solid wood. While the latter must be nailed or stapled into position, engineered timber can also be either glued or fixed with a ‘float-and-lock’ system. This flexibility cuts installation time and minimises disruption. It means occupants can get back to work as soon as possible.
Engineered timber is also more stable than solid timber. Its cross laminated construction reduces expansion and contraction due to temperature changes and it handles moisture better than its organic counterpart. Engineered products are therefore more suitable for places like pubs, cafes and restaurants, which are prone to liquid spills.
This is not to say that engineered timber is superior in every respect. In terms of life span, for example, solid timber has the edge. It can be sanded much more frequently, and if well-maintained and used in suitable applications, will last for decades.
Still, both products deliver a natural look and can be advertised as such. They offer similar resale values. Some local suppliers of engineered timber flooring and the products they offer include:
Tasmanian Engineered Flooring
Handcrafted from hardwood Tasmanian Oak, Woodsmith engineered flooring is available in six modern designer colours.
Produced using a quarter sawing technique for a smooth, uninterrupted visual continuity, the product’s straight, consistent grain and 165mm profile is intended to create a sense of expansiveness and organic flow. Its 3.2mm Tasmanian Oak lamella makes it hard wearing and resistant to heavy foot traffic.
The product was specified on Launceston’s recently refurbished Bond Store building, an iconic three storey building completed soon after the settlement was established in 1830.
The design was left up to local architectural firm, HBV Architects. Wanting to reflect the timber interior of the original building, HBV included Neville Smith’s Woodsmith Tasmanian Oak engineered flooring in ‘Huon Trail’ for interior flooring.
As Neville Smith’s marketing manager Drew Freeman explains, Tasmanian Oak was the ideal choice of material for this project.
“Our client made contact with us in an effort to identify a Tasmanian timber product that would be suited to both a normal flooring application as well as a lining option for the internal stair case that would seamlessly link the natural Tasmanian Oak at the core of the project with the character and history of this iconic heritage building,” says Freeman.
To keep the focus on the original building, HBV created a timber screen over the addition’s windows, creating the illusion of a seamless timber box. Meanwhile, on the interior, they wanted a material that would match the beauty of the updated design. That’s where Woodsmith’s engineered flooring came in.
“Stable, flexible, pre finished and resistant to warping & shrinkage, Woodsmith ‘Huon Trail’ hand crafted Tasmanian Oak engineered flooring and lining proved to be the perfect material to help bring Macquarie House back to life and we were honoured to be part of the project,” says Freeman.
UK-based supplier Havwoods has been delivering stable and reliable engineered timber flooring to the commercial sector for over 45 years. With nearly 200 products in its catalogue, the company has had a presence in Australian since 2010.
Versatile and easy to work with, Havwoods products are used extensively in commercial projects. Apart from flooring, they have been used to custom clad reception desk, seating booths, ceilings, feature walls and more.
Microsoft engaged Tom Mark Henry (TMH) to help them realise their first Flagship Technology Centre in Australia.
Located above the GPO in Sydney’s Martin Place, the brief was to represent the global brand while reflecting the project’s distinct Sydney context and site. The space needed to host everyone from children to CEOs, and seamlessly cater to their various requirements with a complex spatial plan.
A focus on the natural beauty of the Australian landscape was fundamental to the project. Explored using bold textures, colours and forms, this included the choice of timber flooring. To differentiate the multi-purpose spaces, TMH selected Havwoods Pureplank Clermont for the kitchen areas and opted for Parky Ivory Oak Twist for several of the staff touchdown zones.
The timber flooring complemented the other material choices and enabled TMH to create a cohesive aesthetic which was carried throughout the space. According to the architects, they selected Havwoods floor because of its range of formats, colours and finishes. The vast choice made it easy to find the right product.
Plank Floors is a manufacturer and supplier of prefinished, durable and sustainable engineered timber floors. Working with Australia’s leading architects, design firms, developers and builders, the company focusses on work within the commercial and multi residential market.
With recent projects including a retail job at Coco Republic, Ridge’s Geelong, and an office fit out at Spaces -The Wentworth, the company offers four stocked product categories. These include European oak (in 13 colours), Australian hardwood (consists of two species) Parquetry (Chevron and herringbone) and artisan range (in four colours).
These floors feature formulated multi layers of premium coatings from WOCA Denmark which are UV cured in oils and lacquers for high wear resistance. The multiple layers of coating make the surface harder to scratch, while the UV oil finishes enable spot repairs for scratches and give the finished product a natural look and feel.
Engineered timber flooring is a cost-effective alternative to solid timber floorboards. But when looking for commercial flooring, it’s worth taking things a step further. It’s worth considering alternatives to the alternative – that is timber-look products that contain no wood whatsoever.
‘Wood Adhesive Free’, a vinyl flooring product from Altro is an example. Combining cutting edge design, with the adhesive free innovation of ‘Xpresslay’, Wood Adhesive Free can be installed quickly, with minimal interruption to the end user.
Installed using a double-sided tape, Wood Adhesive Free lies flat with no rucking or movement. The chocolate bar emboss on the back allows moisture to evaporate under the surface meaning it can be installed over concrete subfloors up to 97 percent RH.
Able to be walked upon on the same day as its installation, Wood Adhesive Free is suitable for high traffic commercial areas like bedroom and ensuites in care homes and hotels; corridors, general circulation, reception and public areas in hospitals, kindergartens and schools; as well as cafes and dining areas.
‘Level Set’, Interface’s luxury vinyl tile (LVT) collection is another product worth considering. Available in both wood and stone finishes, this modular system features the company’s Ceramor+ slip-resistance treatment as well as its Sound Choice backing for enhanced acoustic performance.
As is the case with all the company’s products, tiles in the Interface LVT range are carbon neutral. When a customer buys these products, Interface calculates the floor’s carbon neutral credentials and then leverages its established and third party verified offsets programmes to neutralise the floor's carbon impact.
Because tiles in the Level Set collection are the same size and depth as Interface carpet tiles, designers can integrate the two products without need for transition strips. Apart from reducing installation time and waste, this opens up the design possibilities. Used in this way, the two products can create unique patterns, irregular transitions with seamless joins between hardwearing, durable pathways and softer spaces.
A.B. Paterson College, a private school based in Arundel QLD unveiled its most recent addition, The Winton Centre. Conceived as a hub in which Prep - Year 12 students could gather, learn, socialise and work together, the project was completed by Burling Brown Architects.
‘Well-being through nature’ was always a strong theme on campus. From the choice of native plants to the choice of furnishing in native colours to the façade mural, it is never far away.
“Many design references point back to nature and its preservation, to evoke the feeling of happiness and joy. Maximising natural daylight was crucial,” says Andrew Brewer, architect and associate director, Burling Brown Architects.
“The Early Learning area takes the dual approach of bringing the outside, inside and the interior influences out. Albeit a space that demands robust finishing and a balance of textures and patterns, Interface’s Luxury Vinyl Tile was chosen for its soft, natural timber appearance.”
Timber has a natural appeal. Its calming effects are well understood, so it makes sense expand its use in commercial projects. The products are there. In terms of flooring, the only choice to be made is which best suits each project – solid timber, engineered timber or one of the many timber-look products available.
Image: courtesy of Inferface