Wooden flooring is catching on, but make sure it is laid properly, says architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

All human beings, innately and instinctively, desire to live connected to nature. This statement may sound strange today where artificiality is ruling our products and controlled environment is conditioning most of our urban shelters. However luxurious a penthouse apartment may be, the residents there wish to see a few green plants, even if they are planted in pots. Balconies are found more in large air conditioned houses than in small naturally ventilated homes.

After day-long work in an office with glittering steel and chrome, back at home or restaurant, we wish to see wooden furniture and open wardrobes with wooden veneers.

The growing popularity of wooden flooring could be linked to the above phenomena, attempting to bring the outside world inside the building, if not totally, at least in parts. While the traditional thick wooden planks were appreciated, but came with logistical problems, there came factory processes to improve the system. The planks available today are of equal size, even thickness and have tongue and groove joints to get a tight fit. Over time, these floor boards get a beautiful sheen and appear visually richer. All of them are made from treated mature timber, besides having surface treatment to resist water, humidity, fire and stains. Increased number of options are being added to the existing list of popular wood floors like teak, maple, cherry, walnut, mahogany and such others, as more manufacturers are entering the market.

Anti-termite treatment

The prices are also gradually falling, enticing more customers. The base cement floor should be kept perfectly level, dry and dust free for laying the wood tiles, with anti-termite treatment in areas of termite danger. Wooden floor is being used with other materials as well; hence a transition profile of small curved wooden strip is used to cover the joints. Also, there will be a small gap between the floor and the wall, conveniently covered by the skirting piece.

After laying, there should be a few days’ gap before the floor is used regularly.

Despite the natural goodness of wooden floors, they also have their set of problems. In areas of heavy rainfall, where it is impossible to keep the floor dry, natural wood flooring demands much of maintenance.

Only dry mopping or dust sweep is advised on a daily basis, with occasional vacuum cleaning and very rare wet cloth mopping. Susceptible to minor wear, tear and shrinkages, they may get noisier over the years.

There have been many complaints not because of the materials but the laying, for laying the floor tiles demands expertise. While most natural floor boards are made from hard wood, they are not fully scratch resistant, so rough handling may lead to surface disfiguration. Dust and moisture can easily get into the joints, reducing the life of the floor. Above all, the eco-friendly cent per cent wooden boards cost much above the purchasing power of most people.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)