Hard & natural flooring buying guide

Hard flooring adds a clean, fresh look to the home. It’s both practical and decorative, easy to maintain and, with care, looks good year after year. Hard flooring is easy to clean, which is perfect for people with allergies, as dust, mites, mould, pollen and animal hair are less likely to build up on hard floors. It’s tough and wears well.

Free samples of the majority of our flooring ranges are available in our shops, and we offer a complete flooring service that takes care of everything from free measuring and estimating through to fitting. 

Wooden flooring

There’s something strikingly elegant about a solid or engineered wood floor. The beauty of natural wood is that it offers infinite and unique variations in knotting, markings, grain and colour. Our display samples will give you a good idea of what it will look like, but once laid, it will have a character of its own. It's quite usual for it to have small knots and splits and these blemishes add character!

An oiled finish will give you a very natural and different look compared to a lacquer finish, though the latter is more water-resistant and easier to maintain, so is a wise choice if children and animals are likely to take their toll on your floor.

For areas of heavy traffic harder woods are best, with jatoba being the hardest-wearing and oak the most stable. The lighter the colour, the more light will be reflected, but wear and tear is likely to show more readily. You should expect that once your wood is exposed to normal sunlight, it’s subject to colour change - part of its beauty! Wet areas such as bathrooms are really not suitable for wood flooring.

Wooden flooring can be softened using rugs, which are also a lovely way to create zones in large rooms. They’re easily updatable, so you can refresh your décor without replacing your flooring.

Wood expands and contracts with extremes of temperature, to the extent where small gaps may appear temporarily. We’ll ask you to pick the finish you’d like to cover the gap left around the perimeter of your floor to allow its expansion. Wood flooring needs a level surface and this will be included in your estimate.

If you have a new concrete floor, it needs time to dry out completely. Wood flooring should be placed in the area where it is to be installed to enable it to “acclimatise” or adjust its moisture content to correspond with that of its surroundings. When acclimatising wood flooring, the packs should be stacked to enable air to circulate around them. They must never be opened during this period, and expect pre-finished wooden flooring to take 48 - 72 hours to acclimatise.

Solid wood - each piece of timber is unique with an individual character and inherent natural features. From dark to bleached, wide to narrow, wood is hardwearing and looks gorgeous in many rooms in the house. Solid wood can be sanded, so any marks and scratches can be removed to keep your floor looking great for a long time.

Engineered wood is strong, stable and easier to lay than solid wood, so you can achieve a cleaner, sharper finish. It’s made of layers of wood boards glued together and topped with a layer of timber, from walnut to oak to cherry or maple. It’s good at resisting warping, buckling and cracking, even during seasonal variations in temperature and humidity.

All our engineered wood flooring has a wear layer which is thick enough to allow the floor to be sanded at least once. Underfloor heating is not usually considered suitable for solid wood flooring, but it's fine for engineered wood with its good resistance to heat.

Bamboo Flooring As a natural product, bamboo has variations in colour and press, and it's these which add to its defining features. To fully appreciate the individuality of bamboo, it helps to understand how it's processed.

Once the bamboo has been harvested the wall of the bamboo stem is cut lengthways and the outer green skin of the bamboo strip is removed, this exposes the tubular wall which is cut into strips. Each strip is treated against mould and insects. The bamboo is steamed, and it's during this process that the bamboo's colour is determined; the longer the bamboo is steamed for, the darker the colour, as the sugars inside the bamboo caramelise.

After the steaming process the bamboo is processed into 3 main styles: Plain Pressed; Side Pressed and Density. Not all bamboo is alike; our bamboo has been carefully selected for its characteristics.

Moso bamboo is found in the low mountain areas of eastern China, where it's exposed to extreme changes in temperatures. It's these temperature cycles, soil chemistry and hours of sunlight that give Moso bamboo its strong durable properties. Every year the parent bamboo plant develops new stems. These new stems are harvested after 5 years in a mature plantation without reducing the size of the forest.

The benefits of Moso bamboo

CO2 neutral - All solid Moso bamboo floors are officially assessed to be CO2 neutral or better over the complete lifecycle

Healthy - Moso bamboo floors are anti-static and anti-allergenic, and facilitate a healthy indoor environment

Hard and durable - With a hardness and density similar to the best hardwood species, Moso bamboo floors are suitable for use even in heavy duty applications

Quality - Moso bamboo floors are of the highest quality and come with a product guarantee of up to 30 years

Rapidly renewable source - With a growing speed of up to 1 metre per day, Moso bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth

High stability - Because of the composition of individual stripes, Moso bamboo flooring will shrink and swell less than solid wood species, providing a more stable floor

Unlimited possibilities - Moso bamboo floors are available in a large variety of configurations, styles and colours to cater for anyone's preferences

Vinyl flooring

Vinyl tiles - are an excellent alternative to natural materials and can be used anywhere in the house. They’re designed to be tough, durable, hygienic and easy to clean, and so are ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.

Amtico - is our best quality of vinyl tiles. It's a great investment as it looks beautiful and comes with a 25 year, 100% replacement guarantee - which is fully transferable should the property be sold. Amtico floors are made up of tiles and strips that can be combined to make different designs. It’s possible to create individual designs for any room, and there's plenty of scope for creativity.

Most Amtico tiles are made up of several layers of vinyl, finished with a 1mm wear layer. The wear layer offers outstanding performance, which in normal domestic use, will last as long as you want. Spacia is Amtico’s other brand offering a stylish, practical alternative at a lower price point. Suitable for all areas of the home, it's just as easy to maintain and comes with a 20 year warranty.

John Lewis Luxury vinyl tiles are a stunning collection of vinyl tiles that come in a range of sophisticated natural wood designs. These are great value for money.

Vinyl floor coverings are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a plastic material. It’s available in a wide range of designs, styles and widths, is cushioned for comfort and insulation and impervious to water, making it ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. It’s also hardwearing and long-lasting, as long as the subfloor (concrete, floorboards, etc) is well prepared before laying. It's often necessary to have your floor levelled and smoothed first, otherwise the vinyl could show undulations and crease when warm.

Harvey Maria floor tiles are easy to clean, slip resistant and 100% waterproof. The tough durable finish is also resistant to scuffs and scratches, bacteria, dust mites and allergens, making them a good choice for the family home. Tiles also work well with underfloor heating. All Harvey Maria floors are suitable for bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, hallways and conservatories.

Other types of flooring

Marmoleum, often referred to as linoleum, is made from natural materials including linseed oil, resin, wood flour, cork, clay and chalk. It’s available in over 30 colours, in tile or sheet format and can be used to create attractive, modern floor designs. It's ideal for wet areas, very hardwearing and becomes more durable as it matures. We provide a design service in our shops for Marmoleum, and it also comes with a 15 year guarantee.

Laminate flooring is made by laminating an image of wood onto a board backing. Good quality laminate can be very convincing, and is a great way to get the look of wood at an affordable price. It’s durable, chip-proof and scratch resistant, which makes it low maintenance. It is easy to install, especially the type that comes in interlocking planks and needs no glue.

Carpet tiles can be laid in all areas of the home, and they’re ideal for awkward-shaped rooms as you buy for the area, not the width of the carpet roll. They’re much easier for you to transport and handle than a carpet roll, and you don’t need underlay. They’re easy to fit because they can be put down without the need for gluing, and loose-laying also means that individual tiles can be removed for cleaning. They’re guaranteed for 7 years, and there are over 100 different options of colour and texture.

Natural floor coverings

Natural fibres such as jute, seagrass, coir and sisal are slightly porous and, like wool carpets, can stain, so they do need the kind of care and maintenance any carpet would. You can, of course, make this easier by choosing matting that’s treated to prevent staining. We recommend that natural matting is unrolled and left to lie flat in the space it will be laid for at least 48 hours. This will allow the natural material to fully settle before fitting and help prevent any wrinkling or buckling afterwards.

Sisal is one of the strongest natural fibres, hardwearing and extremely versatile. With a tactile surface, sisal is available in a choice of muted colours.

Seagrass is naturally textured and stain-resistant, and a good choice in most rooms - though we don’t recommend it for bathrooms or where the floor may get wet. Its smooth surface makes it too slippery for stairs.

Jute is one of the smoothest and softest of all natural floor coverings. Its fine texture means it’s better suited to relaxing rooms rather than those with heavy traffic, so is ideal in a study or bedroom. Jute is more resistant to stains than sisal.

Coir is one of the most durable of natural fibres, made from the strong fibres of coconut husks. Coir has a lovely texture, is affordable and works well in most rooms of the house.

Looking after your hard flooring

Unfortunately, new flooring will not be immune to scratches, especially from high heels or pet claws! However, the following advice will help you to take care of your new flooring.

  • Get a good quality doormat to protect your floor against grit and water. Ask one of our Partners for advice on the best type for your floor.
  • Use felt pads or castor cups to protect your floor from furniture dents, marks and scratches.
  • Mop up water straight away so that it doesn’t mark the floor (beech and maple woods are especially sensitive). A lacquered finish to wood flooring seals the joints between the boards and gives better protection against water.
  • Wash floors using a soapy cleaner specifically for wooden floors, use the minimum amount of water and a dry mop.
  • You can buy anti-slip polish for lacquered wooden floors, but ensure you colour test a small area first.
  • Remove built-up polish with a specialist stripper, available to buy in our stores and on line. We also sell touch-up kits and polishes
  • Rubber-wheeled cylinder vacuum cleaners are gentler on hard floors than upright cleaners. If you already have an upright cleaner, make sure you use it on the right setting to avoid damaging your floor, or use the attachment tools.
  • Wood flooring is subject to colour change when exposed to normal sunlight, so it’s a good idea to move or rearrange carpets, rugs and furniture periodically, in order to avoid distinct lines between the exposed and unexposed areas of the floor.

Treating hard floor stains

Hard flooring is very resilient, but you should always mop up spillages straight away. Some stains will need immediate treatment.

  • Use white spirit to remove rubber, oil, shoe polish, soot, chocolate and grease
  • Use 50/50 turpentine and water to remove crayon, lipstick and ink
  • Harden chewing gum with ice in a polythene bag before scraping it off carefully
  • Wash away blood or beetroot with cold water.
  • Avoid stain-removing agents and rubbing at stains too hard, as both can damage the lacquer.