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Floored for Choice

Dropping a can of tomatoes onto a timber floor leaves a lasting and enduring impression, so a colleague of mine found out. Had the can dropped on tiles, concrete or slate flooring, the can may have come off worse for wear.

On the other hand, a glass has more chance of surviving a fall onto vinyl or carpeting than it does on any hard surface.

Therein lies a major consideration when purchasing hard flooring – practicality. A great deal of thought is required in order to make the right decision. Think about the situation of the floor, who’s going to use it, proximity to other elements such as wet areas and the outdoors, and how the intended product will co-ordinate with other flooring nearby.

Practicality aside, the next biggest consideration is aesthetics. I compare timber floors to brand new stainless steel benchtops. Beautiful when new, but not so attractive when the first scratches and marks start to appear. As more scratches and marks appear they somehow become less noticeable and the surface patina takes on another dimension. Borer holes and mismatched floorboards are seen as charming and almost desired characteristics of an old home.

However, put this characteristic in a boat and the vessel would be deemed a wreck and destined for the hard stand. Texture, pattern and colour play a large part in narrowing down the options; after all it’s not every day that flooring is replaced.

Make your choice in the present, but be mindful of the future. Choosing flooring that is timeless and enduring is certainly wise. After all, who wants to go through the inconvenience and expense of replacing flooring every time fashion trends change?

Sound absorption and deflection is also a major consideration. Noise reverberates more off hard flooring than soft flooring such as carpet. Anyone with children and a fully-tiled bathroom will attest to this. Just two children in such a room and you’d be forgiven for thinking the entire neighbourhood was in there with them!

The choice of hard flooring is definitely extensive. For the timber enthusiast, Gibson Veneer and Ply Ltd (GVP) are suppliers to the Australasian marine industry, supplying plywood, panels and timber veneers. GVP are seeing a trend emerge whereby the stock standard teak and holly boat sole is being challenged. For instance, if the chosen timber for the boats interior is cherry, GVP can supply cherry and holly for the sole to co-ordinate with the interior.

This works as long as the timbers are compatible, that is that they expand and contract at the same rate. The biggest benefit of solid timber flooring over and above any other flooring is that it can be easily restored. Solid timber can be re-sanded many times whereas a veneer floor may only withstand this treatment once or maybe twice in its life time.

The alternative to solid timber is laminate “wood look” flooring.

This, surprisingly, can co-ordinate well with natural timber. Jacobsen Creative Flooring of Auckland has the I.D Moduline range which is a fine example. With seven colours and species of timber to choose from it can work well within many interiors.

Each plank has a bevelled edge to provide a more realistic look. Patterns and decorative elements can be inlaid into the floor just like traditional timber inlay. These types of flooring products are generally made up of a thin substrate of heavy duty vinyl or board, a thin layer of photographic print depicting the wood grain and finally an extremely hard clear plastic or polyurethane layer. A word of warning … one thing to consider if intending to install this in your vessel is to break it gently to your boat builder.

For authenticity, wood grain knots feature in this type of product and your boatbuilder may have spent a great deal of time hand selecting timber that is knot-free for the rest of the boat! A few years ago I specified a similar type of product for the galley sole in a luxury boat and, once over the perception of it being “faux”, it made for a very stylish and practical floor.

Jacobsen Creative Surfaces also have the Tarkett Tecsom range, another interesting and handy product. Although not classified as hard flooring, to my mind it crosses the divide between hard and soft flooring. It is modular carpet that comes in tile format with a recycled vinyl backing system. This provides the product dimensional stability so it will not shrink or fray, while the modular format allows for greater design possibilities, easy installation and access to underfloor compartments. Should a section become marked or damaged, the
tiles concerned can be quickly removed and replaced.

The benefits of cork flooring are widely recognised. A natural, renewable resource, the cork oak tree is not cut down, but instead  the cork is harvested off the trees every nine years. It is eco-friendly and non toxic – ideal for sufferers of asthma and allergies as it does not harbour dust mites or pollens. A cork floor is naturally warm, dampens noise and can be made completely waterproof.

Its strength is partly determined by the varnish that is applied to it. Aesthetically, cork can look good in a traditional setting, yet is just as comfortable in a contemporary décor. There are now a wide variety of colours, colour washes and even stunning metallic paint finishes. These days one really has to look twice to identify the product.

For the utmost in luxury and quality, natural stone flooring is in a class of its own. It’s widely accepted that stone is expected to have natural imperfections and this simply adds to its beauty. Stone floors such as granite or marble look best when the pattern, texture and scale of the stone are in proportion to the space and in keeping with the architecture. The bigger the slab or tile is, the better it will show off the material’s natural characteristics. Within the marine industry, where weight is an issue yet opulence is still called for, granite and marble can be sliced thinly and bonded to a metal back plate for strength and lightness.

Slate is very identifiable flooring. Although cold to touch, its appearance is enhanced by the warmth of its natural colourations.

A single slate tile can have a large diversity of colour present – from browns and ochre shades to the catch phrase “slate grey”. It is an economic and non-porous alternative to granite and marble, is relatively stain resistant and can be left without a sealant.

Amazingly, scratches and stains can be removed with sandpaper. Placed within modern architecture, slate definitely take on a contemporary look. Vinyl flooring, or linoleum to the discerning, is certainly not what it used to be. Many designs still feature floral or embossed patterns, such as the image of quarry tiles imprinted onto the surface of the vinyl. However, this type of flooring has now reached another level. Further research and development has meant that
it now has a strong, individual and cutting edge identity. Source Mondial, an Auckland-based company, has the latest advancement in this area. It is a PVC/fibreglass flooring range called 2TEC2. From a distance, it looks like woven fabric, yet it has all the characteristics of a very tough flooring product. 2TEC2 is colourfast, waterproof, antistatic, fire-retardant, temperature and moisture indifferent. It’s recyclable and, of course, extremely stylish.

New and innovative tile designs constantly catch my eye. Ceramic tile designs are continuing to look more and more like stone and, with tile sizes becoming larger, the resemblance is even closer. An emerging trend in ceramic tiles is texture and pattern.

You can now buy tiles with, dare I say it, a timber grain or fabric effect! Quarry tiles continue to make for an enduring and beautiful floor. These tiles are never glazed. To protect from stains the tile can be sealed with a clear sealant that does not detract from the raw and pared-back look that makes this product so special. Each type of flooring is subject to the fluctuation of trends.

Inspiration and ideas are borrowed from one type of flooring to another and, in turn, synthetic flooring uses nature for inspiration.

One thing’s for sure … I hope I never see carpet that looks like timber. Some things are best left in the form that they were intended!