History Of Oak Flooring
In pre-colonial European civilisations oak, or wood for the matter, floors were reserved strictly to royalty. Typically those with wealth would have a flooring solution in the form of either slate or locally sourced stone, whilst their less wealthy counterparts had to settle for dirt floors.
The oak flooring originally enjoyed by royalty were typically hand scraped and literally sanded, as sand paper was yet to be created. The main way in which the process employed then differed from modern practices is that the timbers were lain untreated, in its rough unhewn form. Workers would then undertake the arduous task of using hand tools to smooth the oak’s surface, then literally handfuls of sand were physically rubbed into the surface until it was smooth. The financial cost associated with the process made only wooden floors available to the wealthiest of the upper crust.
However colonists to the New World enjoyed a very different experience. Due to the widespread availability of different timber types wooden floors were available in the homes of even the poorest of colonists, enabling them to enjoy the warmth and resiliency it provides.
The availability of wooden flooring to the masses of Europe largely began in the years 1800-1945. However not everyone was able to enjoy the majesty of oak flooring as these floors were created from locally sourced timber species and available in simple patterns. Again a wealth divide in wood flooring emerged as richer elements of society, with the resources to do so, fitted their homes with complex wood flooring designs using more prestigious timbers, such as oak. This period was the heyday of the wooden floor, as the cost of carpeting was phenomenally high.
With the defeat of Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers, the domestic flooring landscape changed to and wooden floors began a period of decline which was to last three decades. This decline can be attributed to the rise of the synthetic fibre, resulting in the ability to manufacture cheap carpet. However there was also a shift in attitude as people began to view oak and wood flooring on the whole as outdated, except by the very rich.
Wood began to make a comeback as a flooring surface during the 1990s, due to the introduction of engineered wood floors, which whilst not offering the same levels of quality as oak flooring were more affordable. However, in the 1990s and now, as it has been throughout its history oak flooring has been a symbol of distinction providing stunning aesthetics, which if correctly cared for can last hundreds of years.