What is Parquet ?
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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.