Oak flooring has a lot going for it. Aside from being beautiful and practical, it’s hard-wearing and made from a natural and sustainable resource.
One of the main reasons to consider oak flooring is the way it looks. There’s nothing quite like it to give a room a sense of warmth and character; every board is unique, beautiful and tough. It’s a great starting point for any room, since you can decorate and accessorise in such a wide variety of styles.
But beyond these aesthetic considerations, there are plenty of reasons to opt for oak as a material. Many of these are environmental. Far from being an ecologically unsound choice, oak has several environmental benefits over and above other types of flooring.
A renewable material
Wood is a renewable resource. Soft woods are far easier to renew, since they grow faster; hard woods such as oak take longer, and are therefore more prone to depletion and even activities like illegal logging. However, the more environmentally-conscious companies will plant new trees to replace the ones they fell. To ensure that they have a good sustainability policy, look for the FSC logo (Forestry Stewardship Council) or similar, since this indicates good environmental practices. The logs should always be sourced from managed woodland.
This brings an interesting dynamic to the production of oak flooring. These are often enormous trees, perhaps 250 years old. They have absorbed a lot of carbon dioxide, which is locked up in the wood. Some energy is required to cure and ship the boards. Transport can be a significant carbon factor, though many of these trees are harvested in the UK. Companies will generally source most or all of their wood from the UK and Europe – again, something worth checking.
Depending on the number of new trees the company plants, it’s entirely possible for the whole process to be carbon neutral, or even carbon negative. Check with the company to see how they come out on this. If they don’t know or can’t give a good answer, it’s a reasonable conclusion that they haven’t thought hard enough about it.
Aside from the question of carbon footprint, solid oak flooring requires very few chemicals to manufacture. The trees are felled, sawn and dried – and that’s more or less it. They will need polishing or varnishing once they have been fitted, but the whole process uses far fewer chemicals than the creation of synthetic materials for some carpets and other flooring. Not only that, but these floors are easy to maintain, so harsh cleaning products aren’t necessary. They can be swept or vacuumed of dust and dirt, and spills are easy to mop up. If there is any damage or discolouration, this can be addressed by sanding down the affected area and re-polishing. If it had been a carpet, you would be looking at replacing it – which is both expensive and bad for the environment.
Solid oak flooring is an excellent choice for a number of reasons. It looks great, it feels good under foot, it goes with different styles, and it can be kind to the environment. Make sure you do your homework and find out the company’s sustainability policies, of course, but you will find that many are up-front about this and are proud of the way they treat the natural resources they use.
This article was supplied by English oak flooring suppliers, Sutton Timber, who source hardwoods from privately owned woodlands and government forests across the UK and Europe.