David Gunton's Hardwood Floors.
Grange Lane, Winsford,
Cheshire, CW7 2PS
Tel: +44 (0)1606 861 442
Fax: +44 (0)1606 861 445


What is Parquet ?

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There are no pretty pictures on this page. This is brain food - not eye candy.

Parquet is recognised by most people as being small pieces of wood set out in a pattern as a floor. There are arguably wider interpretations, encompassing varieties of materials employed, thickness and complexity of design. However, it is not helpful to attempt to describe too great a variety of compositions within one all embracing word. To enable a better understanding of what is meant there are several terms employed to describe timber flooring such as, sheet flooring, softwood boards, hardwood flooring, strip flooring, board flooring, overlay flooring, floating floors, woodblock flooring, parquet, and marquetry.

To the majority of professional floorlayers, 'Parquet' means wooden flooring, (usually, but not exclusively, hardwood), not normally thicker than 15mm, set out in a pattern created of pieces with straight sides. Parquet is usually laid over flexible subfloors such as joisted floors covered in boards or sheet material such as plywood or chipboard. The parquet is the decorative surface and not a load bearing surface.

Parquet is generally regarded as being made of wood. That wood is usually hardwood. However, softwoods may be used to great effect. In the northern hemisphere, oak is the most common base timber, though many other timbers are also used as the background timber. Designs may be executed in one specie or multiple species, utilising subtle or vivid contrasts in colour and grain pattern to achieve the desired result. Other materials may be incorporated. Though capable of elegant combination, stone and wood floors are not common. Metals, shells, fossils, ceramics, leather, glass, - any durable material can be incorporated by the imaginative.

The thickness of parquet may vary from as thin as 1mm to 15mm. It is a mistake to believe that great thickness necessarily equates to quality or durability. There are some decorative parquet floors which started life well over 150 years ago at 2 or 3mm thickness glued to a stable substrate and which remain serviceable. Today the majority of parquet floors are created from solid hardwood at between 6mm and 10mm thick. However, it also does not mean that you will save money by choosing thin parquet. The value of parquets made from common timbers is mostly in the work invested in their production, rather than in their timber content.

Patterns may be as simple as plain battens of regular or irregular lengths laid as strip flooring. They may be simple herringbones or basketweave. They may be simple squared patterns or complex designs utilising every straight lined geometric device.

It is not unheard of for parquets to be fitted to rigid bases such as concrete or screed, especially with the advent of modern adhesives. However, it is the physical flexibility of thin parquets which makes them most suitable for fitting to flexible sub floors such as joisted floors. The easier it is to bend, stretch or compress, the less it is likely that the timber will become detached from its adhesive base. The thicker the piece of timber becomes, the less easy it is to bend, stretch or compress. Thus, it is not wise to fit parquets thicker than about 15mm over flexible sub floors. That the fitting of much thicker parquets has been done successfully does not mean it could not have been done better or more economically with thinner parquet.

Up until the introduction of PVA woodworking adhesive after the WW2, parquets, particularly in the UK, were generally 6mm thick, bonded with glue derived from boiled down animal bones to softwood board floors nailed over joists. Mostly these proved very satisfactory but had some drawbacks. Today, parquets are generally 10mm thick and, in preference, are bonded to plywood substrates using one of a wide range of robust modern adhesives. Parquets can be fitted to softwood or hardwood boards, and to sheet materials such chipboard, medium density fibreboard (MDF), or sterlingboard.