Hunting for a durable floor that will look good for decades? Add character to your home with the best real wood flooring and bamboo boards
With so many timber-effect options available for laminate, vinyl and tiles, it’s easy to forget about real wood flooring. Over the years, the best wood flooring has gained a reputation for being pricey, tricky to fit and more effort to care for than its lookalikes. However, if you’re in the market for a hard-wearing, attractive floor that seems to defy time by looking better as it ages, look no further than wood.
You can think of this guide as your refresher course on all that’s great about wood flooring, from its vast range of tints and tones to its practical plus points. We’ve selected the best wood flooring you can buy for your budget, plus we answer all the questions you should ask yourself when choosing real wood flooring.
For all this and more, read on. Otherwise, scroll down for our top picks.
How to choose the best wood flooring for you
What types of wood flooring are there?
The great thing about wood flooring is that it suits pretty much any style of room, no matter if it’s contemporary or classic. Different finishes using wax or oil can subtly tweak the overall appearance, as can choosing boards that are wide or narrow, long or short, or indeed in block form. However, the different types of wood flooring available can be roughly broken down as follows.
Solid wood: This is the type of wood flooring you’re probably most familiar with – planks of timber. However, there are variations in format and material. Boards come in two styles that affect the way they’re fitted. One is tongue-and-groove, which has an interlocking system along the edges. The other is square edged, which is more difficult to install but comes in a wider choice of thicknesses and widths. Square-edged boards can be sanded and refinished multiple times, whereas tongue-and-groove flooring can only be sanded down to the locking system.
Many timbers are available. Oak is one of the hardest and most popular, but you’ll also find pine, maple and beech, as well as bamboo, which is a more sustainable choice, as it’s a fast-growing grass rather than a wood. Fitting is best left to the professionals, as solid wood floors expand and contract with humidity and temperature.
Engineered wood: Rather than being one material all the way through, engineered wood boards are made with a slice of hardwood on top of a core, which is usually made from MDF or plywood. On the bottom, there’s a backing board that can be solid wood or plywood, with the grain running in the opposite direction of the board for strength.
This construction means it’s resistant to warping and temperature changes and, once laid, it will resemble solid boards. It’s fitted using a tongue-and-groove system, with glue to hold boards in place. However, several now have click systems much like laminate, making them an option for a confident DIY-er. The top layer can be sanded if scratched, but as it’s not solid, you can only refinish it a few times.
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Parquet: Similar to solid wood, traditional parquet is made up from small blocks of wood that are fitted into a decorative pattern, such as chevron, herringbone or basketweave. Installation is a professional job, with each block being glued down and the floor sanded level. Once fitted, it’s more stable than solid boards, making it suitable for high traffic areas and kitchens. Parquet blocks are usually oak, maple or beech, but you’ll also find darker woods, such as walnut, teak and wenge. You can now buy engineered parquet flooring that’s easier to fit, too.
What else do I need to consider when buying wood flooring?
Which room you’re buying flooring for may dictate the style you choose. For example, narrow boards can make a compact room feel smaller, while only engineered flooring with a water-resistant structure should be used for bathrooms. Most engineered wooden flooring will be compatible with underfloor heating (UFH), but solid wood and parquet flooring may not be suitable depending on how it’s been prepared. Check with your supplier.
In terms of budget, buy the best flooring you can afford and don’t forget to factor in installation, as this can be a significant amount on top. For solid wood, size affects the price. This means narrow, short boards from smaller logs tend to be cheaper, but generally, expect to pay from £40 per square metre (m²). For engineered boards, budget at least £35-50 per square metre, or for well-known brands, £60 per square metre and upwards.
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The best wood flooring to buy in 2022
1. GoodHome Skanor Wide Natural Oak: The best budget solid wood flooring
Price: £48 per m² | Buy now from B&Q
Treat your bedroom, hall or lounge to a solid oak floor with these brushed-finish boards. Each pack contains variable lengths, so you can minimise or maximise how many joins are on show, and the boards have a deep, bevelled edge. It’s tongue-and-groove rather than square-edged, so is easier to fit, too.
However, it does have a few limitations. It’s not compatible with underfloor heating, and despite being varnished to protect against stains and scratches, it can still be damaged by furniture legs being scraped across it. On the plus side, minor wear can be buffed out and stained to match. While it’s more affordable than other oak floors, remember to factor in the cost of the recommended cork underlay, as it’s not suitable for laying directly onto a hard subfloor.
Key specs – Size: 15 x 30 x 1.5cm (WDH); Type: Solid; Features: Bevelled edge; UFH-compatible: No; Alternative thickness options: Yes (30-120cm)
2. Home Choice Engineered European Rustic Oak: The best wood flooring for DIY installation
Price: £40 per m² | Buy now from UK Flooring Direct
Part of the appeal of a wooden floor is the multiple hues of the natural timber itself. That’s why this honey-toned version is a great buy. Rather than some of the sleek, grey washes that are available, this floor is more of a timeless classic with rustic charm built right in.
There’s plenty that’s practical, too. A satin-smooth finish and generous 2.5mm oak slice on top means minor wear and scratches can be buffed out, and it’s compatible with underfloor heating, too. What’s more, this all comes with a 20-year guarantee.
It’s quick to fit, with a click system between adjoining planks that means an experienced DIYer should be able to install it without issue. It’s relatively affordable too, although you’ll need to factor in the cost of underlay. A final reason to choose it is that it’s versatile – the only place you won’t be able to lay it is the bathroom.
Key specs – Size: 13 x 110 x 1.4cm (WDH); Type: Engineered; Features: UV-resistant lacquer, bevelled edge; UFH-compatible: Yes; Alternative thickness options: No
3. Disegno Creamy Oak Extra-Matte: The best easy-fit parquet
Price: £65 per m² | Buy now from Wood2U
For a speedy parquet-style floor, try these short, multi-toned pale wood planks. While each is larger than the typical small blocks of wood that go into making a parquet floor, they come with a lot of benefits. There’s a click-installation system, minimal knots and cracks, moisture repellency, which helps prevent spills from staining the joints and surface, and matching skirting and profiles. They can be laid in multiple parquet patterns, and come with a lifetime guarantee.
The real plus, though, is Disegno’s underfloor heating compatibility, with both electric and water pipes compatible. In addition, you might only need to budget for the flooring and finishing touches, as the boards can be glued directly onto most subfloors, rather than fitting over underlay. There’s no water resistance, though, so keep this one out of the bathroom.
Key specs – Size: 14.5 x 58 x 1.4cm (WDH); Type: Engineered; Features: Bevelled edge, extra-matte lacquer; UFH-compatible: Yes; Alternative thickness options: No
4. Oxwich Natural Strand Bamboo Flooring: The best sustainable wood flooring
Price: £87 per m² | Buy now from Woodpecker Flooring
For a more eco alternative to real wood flooring, try these bamboo boards. They’re made from canes that are shredded then compressed with glue to form planks. Not only does this result in a floor that looks and feels like strong wood, it also means it’s suitable for use with underfloor heating. And because it’s made from rapidly regenerating grass, with minimal waste produced during manufacture, the environmental impact is far lower.
The benefits are similar to hardwood: these bamboo planks are durable, suitable for high-traffic areas and easy to keep clean. Minor scratches or damage can be lightly sanded out and re-lacquered by an expert. Much like Woodpecker’s engineered timber flooring, Oxwich comes with an “Easiloc” join along the edge, so each board clicks into place without glue.
Key specs – Size: 13.5 x 185 x 1.2cm (WDH); Type: Solid; Features: UV-resistant lacquer, bevelled edge; UFH-compatible: Yes; Alternative thickness options: No
5. Tegola Cannon Pure Oak Wood Flooring: The best budget engineered wood flooring
Price: £44 per m² | Buy now from Carpetright
For those not familiar with it, Tegola is Carpetright’s own hard flooring collection. While there are only a handful of engineered wood designs, Cannon has plenty of appeal. A honey-oak veneer plank, this engineered board has a two-strip design without a bevelled edge, for a seamless matt lacquered finish that feels modern yet simple.
Like most engineered flooring, it’s suitable for use with water-based underfloor heating and can be installed in nearly every room. However, it’s worth noting that the oak veneer on top is quite thin at 0.6mm, so it may be better suited to bedrooms and lounges, rather than a high-traffic hallway. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buff any deep damage out, but there is a matte lacquer on top to protect it from scratches.
Key specs – Size: 19.3 x 122.5 x 0.7cm (WDH); Type: Engineered; Features: Matte lacquered, 15-year guarantee; UFH-compatible: Yes; Alternative thickness options: No
6. Unfinished Parquet Oak solid wood flooring: The best untreated wood flooring
Price: £40 per m² | Buy now from Flooring Superstore
Can’t find the right shade of timber for your floor? These unfinished parquet boards allow you to make it your own by staining or oiling it to your preferred shade. It’s effectively like waving a magic wand over the wood, bringing out all its knots, cracks, pinholes and grain patterns to create a deliciously rustic look. The boards are straightforward to fit too, due to their tongue-and-groove installation system and are sustainably sourced from well-maintained forests.
The blocks are fairly narrow, making them perfect for adding a sense of space to a small room and work just as well in a traditional setting as they do in a modern room. Better still, there’s a lifetime guarantee on manufacturing, click system and tongue and groove defects, so you can be sure your boards will stand the test of time.
Key specs – Size: 6 x 30 x 2.1cm (WDH); Type: Solid; Features: Tongue-and-groove fitting; UFH-compatible: No; Alternative thickness options: No