Smart Floors in Your Home or Rental Property

Smart Floors in Your Home or Rental Property

I wrote about floor coverings specific to bathroom floors last week, this week I’m covering polished boards, engineered wood, carpet tiles and underfloor heating.

Sanded and varnished floorboards remain popular with landlords, even though they’re at least 50% more expensive than carpet and underlay. They’re easy to clean, and with three coats of durable floor varnish should last much longer than carpets. Oil-based polyurethane is more durable than acrylic, but very pungent while drying, which it does slowly. Water-based acrylic dries quickly enough to get three coats on in a day, and without the smell, but is only suited to light-traffic, dry areas (not bathrooms). If the varnish wears thin, you can just sand and varnish them again!  This second sanding is a quick job if it’s confined to worn areas.

Unless they’re insulated underneath with something draftproof (fibreglass or multi-foil film, not closed-cell phenolic foam like Xtratherm or Celotex), it’s vital to caulk the gaps between boards, or your tenants will be cold. Matching-colour caulk will do, or clear silicone.

Sanded floor with skirting and door off

In the picture I’ve sanded the floor with the skirting boards and door off (you can see them upright in the corners), to get right into the corners. Also it’s easier to paint skirtings on a bench than on the floor, and avoids paint marks on the varnished boards. Correct sequencing of work saves time and raises quality.

‘Engineered wood’ is for high-end rentals only. It resembles solid wood but clicks together tightly like laminate. It has a surface of decorative wood such as oak a few mm thick, backed by plywood. Like solid wood, if worn it can be sanded and varnished again. If it gets wet it’ll swell and the joints will blow.

I’m not a fan of underfloor heating as electric heating isn’t very green. It needs to be insulated thoroughly to avoid massive heat loss to the soil below. To avoid problems, it must be taken right to the edges of the floor. If there are cool and warm spots, differences in thermal expansion can cause tiles to crack. Joints in laminates and wooden floors may open due to the desiccating effect of being heated.

Carpet tiles are intended for office or commercial spaces, but are great for typical student lets or other low-end rentals. They’re very hard-wearing and can be replaced square by square if fouled or left with tell-tale iron-shaped scorch marks.

Next week I’ll write about central heating, boilers and insulation.

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