The right wood: choosing versatile flooring timber - Building NZ
The right wood: choosing versatile flooring timber

The right wood: choosing versatile flooring timber

Some timbers are more predisposed to flooring than others. But it’s not just the strength that’s important, colour is too. Many timbers can’t be lightened easily or at all, while others provide a versatile canvas from which to choose a unique palette. 

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

Solid timber flooring is something we’ve treasured for decades in our homes, predominantly, until relatively recently, made with New Zealand native timbers. While native timber floors have a certain charm, they aren’t the most hard wearing option.

New Zealand Hardwoods

“New Zealand natives are classed as hardwoods but they are actually quite soft timbers as opposed to other options like Oak, for example,” Freedom Flooring’s Phil Rowe says. “So while they are classed as hardwoods, they are right at the bottom of the scale and they are prone to denting and scratching.

“We’ve used Rimu, Kauri and Matai flooring in our homes for more than a century, and they do last, but they definitely aren’t the most durable option anymore.”

Rustic grade American Oak, full of knots and character

Now, it’s most common for New Zealand natives to be specified in older homes that are being extended as a way to ensure consistency throughout; they are no longer the timber of choice in many new builds.

Opting for Oak Floors

“Oak floors in comparison are very hard wearing. They’re the most popular at the moment because of their durability and longevity,”

Phil says. “You’ll get considerably less marks and dents on an Oak
floor than you will with New Zealand native timbers.”

For families with children or for high-use areas Oak is often favoured above other timbers for this reason. “Oak is also popular because of its ability to be coloured and stained. It’s a naturally light-toned timber so it can be lightened or darkened easily, which is something that many timbers can’t.”


Rimu’s natural deep red colour makes it naturally beautiful but difficult to colour

Colouring Your Wooden Floors

Some naturally darker timbers can’t be lightened, which is something that should be considered when deciding between types of timber for flooring. “We’re constantly getting calls from people who are wanting to whitewash a Matai floor, for example, which you just can’t do. Kauri can be lightened to an extent, but Matai and Rimu can’t. Rimu remains popular for its natural deep red colour; its arguably one of the most beautiful timbers available, but it can’t be easily coloured.”

It’s hard to know how colour trends will change over the decades, so it’s worth understanding the limitations of the timber being specified.

Kwila is another timber that’s popular for flooring. It is a very stable, dense and hard wearing wood that is evenly toned and has a dark warm/golden brown colouring with flecks of gold that are visible in the sunlight. It can easily be darkened, but it is another of the timbers that doesn’t take well to lightening.

American and French Oak have a wide-flowing grain with a slightly coarse texture. Rustic grade Oak features varying sized knots throughout, which is popular if a more natural look is desired.

Aesthetically, the range of timber available for flooring is vast and the visual differences differ hugely. Rosewood, for example, varies in colour from a golden brown through to light yellow in colour, it has a wavy grain that often swirls and ripples – a unique and outstanding visual feature when used for flooring.

“At the moment the natural look is very popular, but interior design moves with fashion. People want timber flooring because of the versatility of being able to change the colour along with fashion movements without having to replace it, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s worth thinking carefully about the longevity of the timber you choose both in regards to its durability and its ability to be coloured, stained or oiled and in what range of the colour spectrum that can be done so you know how far you can go with it,” Phil says.

If you are in need of some guidance – get in touch with Freedom Flooring on ArchiPro here if you’re considering incorporating a solid timber floor in your next project.


Matai flooring is common in older homes, but is no longer top of the list for flooring options
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