Whether you're looking to add character to a contemporary home or give a period property a laid back feel, original, reclaimed or salvaged wood makes a lovely flooring choice. If you've decided that salvaged wood is the best authentic wood flooring option for your home, have a read of our expert guide to sourcing, choosing and styling reclaimed flooring.
Where does reclaimed wood flooring come from?
Reclaimed flooring is often rescued from historic houses that are beyond repair, industrial buildings, factories or dockyards. The majority of available boards are Victorian, made from timber originally used as floorboards, joists, beams or close boarded roofs, but the wood can be more than 400 years old, sourced from anywhere in the world.
The planks must be dried in racks to ensure they will not shrink, split or expand when fitted. They should be moisture tested before being installed, but with already so many years’ drying out, the wood is usually dry enough. In order to retain the patina of the reclaimed floor, the wood is passed through a drum sander and lightly brushed, leaving the aged marks undamaged.
Why choose reclaimed wood flooring?
Timber harvested for architectural purposes hundreds of years ago was slow-grown, resulting in a tight grain. This ensures that the planks remain tough and of high quality, making them ideal for the demands of modern-day living.
Available in a vast range of styles and finishes, parquet blocks are particularly popular, but boards from all eras are available. Be guided by the age of your home, and buy from a supplier that adheres to the Salvo Code.
Other than its pleasing aesthetic qualities, reclaimed timber can be a good choice if you need to match existing floorboards to extend flooring into other rooms, or replace damaged original boards.
Go for the thickest boards you can accommodate and then maintain the solid wood by giving them a light sanding every few years to bring the floor back to how it was when you installed it.
How much does reclaimed wood flooring cost?
Prices for salvaged wood flooring start from upwards of £25 per m² for a budget option, with average prices being upwards of £60 per m², depending on the wood species and its finish.
Can reclaimed wood be laid over underfloor heating?
However, solid wood doesn't conduct heat well and some softwoods create a thermal barrier, so choose thin (1.8cm) boards in a dense wood for a fast heat-up time.
Where can you lay reclaimed wood flooring?
Reclaimed wood flooring can be used in most spaces, such as living rooms, dining rooms, hallways and bedrooms, but should be avoided in kitchens and bathrooms as moisture may cause the timber to swell and crack. If you do lay salvaged wood flooring in these rooms, ensure that any splashes or spills are wiped up immediately and that rooms are well ventilated.
Bear in mind that timber flooring can amplify the sound of footsteps, especially in upstairs rooms, so you might want to use rugs to soften the sound.
Restoring, maintaining and cleaning reclaimed wood floors
Common problems associated with original wooden floors include beetle attack and rot. Rather than rushing in with chemical treatments, the priority is to identify the cause. Woodworm struggles to survive in dry environments so deal with the damp and, in the case of a suspended ground floor, ensure there is adequate ventilation underneath.
If you do have beetle infestation, don't fear, as this does not necessarily weaken floorboards enough so that they have to be replaced. Boards may be strengthened from below by screwing battens to the joists, while split boards can be glued and cramped back together.
Very satisfactory repairs can be made to the broken end, corner or edge of a board by using the appropriate species of wood and matching the grain pattern. Gaps can be filled with thin slivers of matching timber, papier mâché or lengths of string glued into place.
You should always think carefully before stripping or sanding off old finishes as often they are far more attractive than the ‘restored’ result. Another point to remember is that wood becomes darker with exposure to sunlight, so any sanding may radically change its colour.
However, if you do decide you want to sand your floorboards, have a read of our guide to sanding wooden floorboards for advice and guidance.
Regular sweeping will prevent them from being scratched by grit or dust. This is important as a significant scratch or dent might mean the whole floor needs sanding and revarnishing or oiling. Ensure high-heeled shoes are removed and use felt pads or caps under furniture, which should always be lifted, not pushed if moved.
Salvaged wood flooring that's been waxed will need more regular attention than other finishes. A fresh wax every year would be ideal. Water-based varnishes are a close second choice, and will last up to five years without doing anything other than sweeping.