Deciding that you want a timber floor is easy. Even choosing hardwood over softwood is pretty straight-forward. The rest, however, can leave many home-builders confused, overwhelmed and running for their local carpet shop.

There are many decisions to make and considerations to take into account, each having a dramatic effect on your hardwood floor. By following a simple guide, you will realise that the only hard part is the hardwood itself.

Look at the colour groups first, then the grades. Next, look at board sizes, the timber’s technical properties and finally, the finishes.

Colour choice

It is much simpler to choose the colour group you prefer for your timber floor before deciding on a specific timber. Generally, timber can be categorised into three colour groups - creams, reds and browns. Most people find they already have a pretty good idea of the colours they prefer.

Grades

The grade of timber you choose can have as dramatic an effect as your colour selection. There are three main grades of timber, all graded to Australian Standards.

Select Grade timber has minimal features or marks, creating a sleek and unblemished look.

Standard Grade timber is a subtle showcase of the timber’s natural features. Standard grade timber floors have more diversity than Select Grade but less than Character grade.

Character Grade timber features knots, gum veins, branch and insect markings, displaying all the natural appeal of the timber. Character grade flooring is an interesting and often considerably more affordable selection.

Board sizes

There are different size boards for different looks and applications.

Traditional tongue and groove strip flooring is generally 19mm thick which provides the strength for it to be structural, meaning it can be laid directly on bearers and joists, or on battens.

Overlay tongue and groove flooring, by contrast, is 12mm thick and is not classed as structural. Where the existing floor is already structural, 19mm flooring is not only unnecessary, it often causes complications, especially where height can be an issue. The 7mm difference is taken below the tongue and groove so it can be resurfaced just as much as traditional flooring and is identical in all other aspects.

Overlay timber flooring is packed in smaller, more manageable lengths to enable lift access - another big advantage in apartment renovations. Board widths available are 60mm, 80mm and 130mm. This corresponds to the old terminology of 3 inch, 4 inch and 6 inch boards. Wider boards can also be arranged.

Decking timber is generally available in 65mm, 85mm and 135mm, by 19 or 25mm.

Technical properties

All timbers have different characteristics – this is part of what makes timber so interesting. Your requirements may be versatile or you may need to choose a timber with the appropriate properties for your needs.

The Janka hardness scale is the industry standard for judging the ability of various species to withstand denting and wear - the higher the Janka, the harder the wood. The term durabilit” refers to the natural ability of the heartwood to resist attack from biological hazards such as fungal attack, or in high-risk conditions such as low ventilation or high humidity. More important for outdoor than indoor applications, the durability classes are rated 1-4.

Finishes

It is important to remember that different choices in finishes can also greatly affect the appearance of your floor. They can be generally categorised as moisture curing polyurethanes, two pack polyurethanes, water-based, oleo resinous oils and oils. Generally, there are satin, semi-gloss and gloss finishes but there are many products on the market and it is best to speak to professionals for final advice.

Quantity

Northern Rivers Timber  recommends that you allow an extra 5 – 10% when you order your timber to account for wastage when cutting timber to size and laying in specific areas. Most timber is supplied in random lengths ranging from 900mm to 6m. (450mm – 2.4mm for overlay)

Packaging

All timber is delivered in slings of approximately 6 metres in length and wrapped in plastic to protect it from the elements. Each sling is identified with a label indicating size, species, quantity and grade. It is normal for each sling to contain short pieces of timber and pieces that are not end-matched. These are used as packing to ensure the sling is supported during transportation. These pieces are additional to the quantity ordered.

Remember – what you see is not always what you get. It is important to understand all the factors that affect the look of your floor to ensure you achieve the effect you are looking for. These include the timber colour, the grade, the board size and the finish.

The timber floors you have seen in a showroom, on a friend’s floor or in a photo are great for a guide, but do not expect an exact match. Timber is a natural product and no two trees are alike. As a result, there will always be variances in colour and grain structure. Make sure you order enough for your requirements to ensure that the batches of timber are consistent.

Northern Rivers Timber website has helpful information such as a timber colour and ratings chart and grading descriptions, and if you are still unsure, you can see both raw and differently finished samples at the Alexandria showroom or have raw samples or photos sent to you. The experienced consultants can help you with any advice you may require on all aspects of timber flooring.