Since the early 1980s, wood flooring has undergone a phenomenal resurgence in popularity, both for residential and commercial construction. To those of us in the flooring business, this comes as no surprise; for even though other materials may be cheaper or faster to install, wood retains a beauty, warmth and durability that's hard to match. In one form or another, wood flooring has been afoot for centuries but in some ways, it's just now in its heyday. Because home buyers have become discerning enough to insist on wood flooring, the companies that make it have introduced flooring in unprecedented variety. As recently as a decade ago, oak strip flooring was the standard, if rather limited, fare. Today, you can buy flooring in dozens of species, and not just strip flooring, either, but in the wide planks once found only in well-preserved periord homes. If you can't find the strip or plank flooring to suit you, it's a simple matter to have flooring made to order. Parquet flooring, which was hard to come by during the 1960s, is once again available in wide variety. Along with the flooring have come new finishes that are faster to apply and more durable than the coatings they replace.
All of this means that it's now more practical than ever for the owner-builder to install a new floor or to refurbish an old one. Note that I said "practical" and not "easy." I don't for an instant pretend that flooring is easy. Carting bundles of flooring up a flight of stairs, puzzling out a layout and nailing the floor down are all physically and mentally demanding tasks. It's not the sort of thing you can rush into and expect good results. Nonetheless, laying a wood floor is well within the ability of anyone with average tool dexterity. It takes very few special tools, materials are readily available and, if this book does its job, the skills will come quickly.
I've intentionally limited the breadth of this book to three major kinds of wood flooring: strip, plank and parquet. Through drawings, photos and text, I have attempted to explain as thoroughly as powwible how to install each kind of flooring. However, I have by no means covered every variation of each type, preferring instead to convey enough fundamentals to allow you to interpolate solutions for problems not specifically discussed. Like any othe trade, flooring has its share of "special cases" -- what to do, for example, when new flooring must match old or how to deal with radiant heating. I've tried to include real-world solutions to these problems, but again, not every situation is covered.
As are all endeavors, this book is a bit of a compromise. I have written it primarily with the experienced owner-builder in mind, so most of the book is devoted to detailed how-to information on installing wood floors. However, readers who wish to subcontract the work to a professional will also find useful information, especially in Chapter 1, which deals with selecting and specifying floors, and in Chapter 2, which explains material grading rules. These chapters should also be informative to architects, designers and builders who may occasionally need to deal with flooring contractors. And although I don't intend this book as a trade manual, I hope professional floor mechanics will find useful nuggets within its pages.