Floorboard Information
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Last updated: Sunday, August 9, 2009
Floorboards are usually made from softwoods and sold planed all round (PAR) with square or tongue-and groove edges. Standard sizes are specified as 125 x 25mm (5 x lin) or 150 x 25mm (6 xlin) nominal.
However, boards as narrow as 75mm (3in) and others as wide as 280mm (11in) may be found in some houses. The narrow boards produce superior floors because they make any movement due to shrinkage less noticeable. Installation costs are high, and consequently they tend to be used in more expensive houses only. Hardwoods, such as oak or maple, are also used for high-grade flooring but are even more costly.
The best floorboards are quarter sawn (1) from the log, a method that diminishes distortion due to shrinkage. However, since this method is wasteful
of timber, boards are more often cut tangentially (2) for reasons of economy. Boards cut in this way tend to bow, or ‘cup’, across their width and they should be fixed with the concave side facing upwards, as there is a tendency for the grain of the other side to splinter. The cut of a board — tangential or quarter cut—can be checked by looking at the annual-growth rings on the end grain.
The joint on tongue-and-groove boards is not at the centre of their edges but closer to one face, and these boards should be laid with the offset joint nearer to the joist. Though tongueand-groove boards are nominally the same sizes as square-edged boards, the edge joint reduces their floor coverage by about 12mm (hin) per board.
In some old buildings you may find floorboards bearing the marks left by an adze on their undersides. Such old boards have usually been trimmed to a required thickness only where they sit over the joists.
Softwood and hardwood boards not only provide a tough flooring; when sealed and polished they will also take on an attractive colour. Sheet materials such as flooring-grade plywood or particle boards are merely functional, however, and are usually used as a sub-base for other floor surfaces.
Plywood
Any exterior-grade plywood — known as WPB bonded plywood — can be used for flooring. Those sold as flooring- grade boards are square-edged or tongued and grooved on all four edges.
Plywood flooring laid directly over the joists should be 16 to 18mm (5/8 to 3/4in) thick, though boards laid over an existing floor surface (to level it or to provide an underlay for tiles) can be 6 to 12mm OA to thin) in thickness.
Plywood floors are laid in the same way as chipboard ones.
Chipboard
Chipboard is a commonly available particle board made from bonded chips of wood. Only proper flooring-grade chipboard, which is compressed to a higher density than standard material, should be used for flooring. It is available in square-edged and tongueand-groove boards. The square-edged boards measure 2.4 x 1.22m (8 x 4ft) and are 18mm (3/4in) thick. Tongue-andgroove boards are available in two grades: flooring-standard and moisture- resistant. Both grades come in sheets measuring 2.4m x 600mm (8 x 2ft) and 22mm (7/sin) thick. The moisture- resistant type should always be used where damp conditions may occur, such as in bathrooms or kitchens.
The 18mm (3/4in) thick boards are suitable for laying on joists spaced no more than 400mm (1ft 4in) apart. Where the joists are at 600mm (2ft) intervals, 22mm (Nin) boarding should be used.
Medium-density fibreboard Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is a dense sheet material made from fine compressed wood fibres. It is produced in standard, moisture-resistant and exterior grades, and is suitable for flooring where a plain, smooth finish is required. Available in 2.4 x 1.22m (8 x 4ft) square-edged sheets in a wide range of thicknesses, it is more expensive than chipboard.
Floorboards are usually made from softwoods and sold planed all round (PAR) with square or tongue-and groove edges. Standard sizes are specified as 125 x 25mm (5 x lin) or 150 x 25mm (6 xlin) nominal.
However, boards as narrow as 75mm (3in) and others as wide as 280mm (11in) may be found in some houses. The narrow boards produce superior floors because they make any movement due to shrinkage less noticeable. Installation costs are high, and consequently they tend to be used in more expensive houses only. Hardwoods, such as oak or maple, are also used for high-grade flooring but are even more costly.
The best floorboards are quarter sawn (1) from the log, a method that diminishes distortion due to shrinkage. However, since this method is wasteful
of timber, boards are more often cut tangentially (2) for reasons of economy. Boards cut in this way tend to bow, or ‘cup’, across their width and they should be fixed with the concave side facing upwards, as there is a tendency for the grain of the other side to splinter. The cut of a board — tangential or quarter cut—can be checked by looking at the annual-growth rings on the end grain.
The joint on tongue-and-groove boards is not at the centre of their edges but closer to one face, and these boards should be laid with the offset joint nearer to the joist. Though tongueand-groove boards are nominally the same sizes as square-edged boards, the edge joint reduces their floor coverage by about 12mm (hin) per board.
In some old buildings you may find floorboards bearing the marks left by an adze on their undersides. Such old boards have usually been trimmed to a required thickness only where they sit over the joists.
Softwood and hardwood boards not only provide a tough flooring; when sealed and polished they will also take on an attractive colour. Sheet materials such as flooring-grade plywood or particle boards are merely functional, however, and are usually used as a sub-base for other floor surfaces.
Plywood
Any exterior-grade plywood — known as WPB bonded plywood — can be used for flooring. Those sold as flooring- grade boards are square-edged or tongued and grooved on all four edges.
Plywood flooring laid directly over the joists should be 16 to 18mm (5/8 to 3/4in) thick, though boards laid over an existing floor surface (to level it or to provide an underlay for tiles) can be 6 to 12mm OA to thin) in thickness.
Plywood floors are laid in the same way as chipboard ones.
Chipboard
Chipboard is a commonly available particle board made from bonded chips of wood. Only proper flooring-grade chipboard, which is compressed to a higher density than standard material, should be used for flooring. It is available in square-edged and tongueand-groove boards. The square-edged boards measure 2.4 x 1.22m (8 x 4ft) and are 18mm (3/4in) thick. Tongue-andgroove boards are available in two grades: flooring-standard and moisture- resistant. Both grades come in sheets measuring 2.4m x 600mm (8 x 2ft) and 22mm (7/sin) thick. The moisture- resistant type should always be used where damp conditions may occur, such as in bathrooms or kitchens.
The 18mm (3/4in) thick boards are suitable for laying on joists spaced no more than 400mm (1ft 4in) apart. Where the joists are at 600mm (2ft) intervals, 22mm (Nin) boarding should be used.
Medium-density fibreboard Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is a dense sheet material made from fine compressed wood fibres. It is produced in standard, moisture-resistant and exterior grades, and is suitable for flooring where a plain, smooth finish is required. Available in 2.4 x 1.22m (8 x 4ft) square-edged sheets in a wide range of thicknesses, it is more expensive than chipboard.

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