Floors And Hardwood Flooring
by David Ball
Beautiful floors are admired in any kind of house—new or old. But there is a special appeal in a sturdy, mellow random width pine floor or an imaginatively laid oak parquet. Flooring in an older building has usually had a chance to age. Of course, it can also have become gouged, scraped, and otherwise disfigured. Today's remedy is most often a bath of polyurethane. This is not much better than the once popular method of scraping a floor—a technique akin to sand-blasting holes into a masonry building in an at¬tempt to clean it. The problem with most synthetic finishes for floors is that they merely coat the surface—and with too high a sheen. The coating thus prevents the wood from "breathing,'' which it must do if it is not to rot over time.
For minor treatments of old wood flooring, a mixture of a fine butcher's wax and stain may suffice; surfaces which have had heavy use may require light sanding. If the wood has deteriorated to the point where it is no longer secure, replacement is the only solution. High-quality planks or strips are available from specialty dealers for entirely new floors or for patches. There are also commercial types of flooring which might serve your purposes if these include an all-new floor in either an old building or a new period- style structure. For the most part, it
is best to stay away from the adhesive types and to opt for 3/4" or thicker floor¬ing which is nailed to the joists.
Wood has always been so plentiful in North America that other types of flooring such as stone, ceramic tile, or brick have never become very common. Marble and slate have usually been restricted to entryways; this is also the case with Victorian tiles. Today these materials, along with brick, are increasingly found in the kitchen as well as in bathrooms. Their cost is now little more than that of quality solid vinyl substitutes, the only synthetic with texture and durability. Sheet vinyl—which took the place of linoleum after World War II—is not satisfactory for use in old-style interiors. Linoleum, though hard to find today, is worth the search; it is like the wallpaper and the oilcloth of the past, a flowery, colorful medium.
We learn more each year about the ways in which floors used to be covered. Canvas floor cloths are among the most recent re-discoveries, and are rapidly becoming as popular as the old colonial-style standbys—the hooked rug and rag rug. Fortunately, today such rugs are being produced by hookers and weavers who use 100% wool and other traditional materials rather than double-knit yarns or acrylic throw-aways. The flood of floor coverings from the Far East will surely continue, but traditional skills are being re¬learned here.