Parquet Flooring: What is it and Why is it so Popular?
Parquet is one of the most beautiful types of wood flooring: vibrant, original and eye-catching. But what is it and why is it such a popular choice of flooring?
What is parquet?
Parquet is the name for a floor made of inlaid wood arranged in a geometrically designed pattern. The word ‘parquet’ comes from the old French word ‘parchet’, which means a small enclosure or compartment. The origins of parquet date back to the late 1600s at the Palace of Versailles in France, where it was installed in place of the traditional marble floors as it required less care and maintenance. Because it required lots of time, technical skill and money to install, it was seen as a signifier of great opulence and wealth.
What does parquet look like?
One of the most popular patterns is herringbone, where the wooden blocks are laid so they interlock in a diagonal design which draws the eye in the direction of the pattern. However, the choices of parquet design are virtually endless; if it can be made from interlocking blocks, it can be laid on your floor.
Other popular designs include Versailles (which was named for the original floor installed in the Palace of Versailles), Chantilly (named after a French chateau), mosaic, brick bond, basket and checkerboard. The patterns are often laid using subtly different grains and shades of wood.
Many parquet floors have a decorative border of a different pattern from the main part of the floor, adding even more texture and interest. Once it is laid, traditionally using the tongue and groove method, it is waxed and buffed to a high shine.
Where can I use parquet flooring in my home?
Parquet flooring is suitable for any room in your house that is suitable for wood flooring in general. Whilst it is often said that wood flooring isn’t sensible in kitchens and bathrooms due to the dangers of damp, humidity and excess water, developments in technology and installation techniques means that it can be fitted anywhere. However, there are some important considerations to make in terms of the type of wood flooring you choose.
Engineered parquet floorboards are made by bonding multiple layers of plywood together and then topping them with a piece of solid wood, which is known as the ‘wear layer’ and the one that is visible once the floor is laid. Plywood is chosen for the base layers due to its dimensional stability, which enables the board to be more resistant to atmospheric changes. Solid wood floorboards are more prone to warping if exposed to wet or humid conditions, meaning they aren’t suitable for the kitchen or bathroom.
Whilst excessive water is a danger for engineered wood floors, they are designed to cope with small amounts, making them ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. Engineered parquet boards will look fantastic in either room, and be able to cope with the conditions.
Another factor to consider when fitting parquet flooring in your home is affordability. Though it is cheaper and easier to install than in the days of Louis XIV, it can soon eat up your budget. If you can’t afford to have it fitted throughout your home, you may wish to have it laid places where you spend most of your time, or where you receive guests, such as the hall, living room and dining room. There’s no point in hiding your glorious floor away somewhere you don’t spend much time, such as the bedroom.
Can I lay my own parquet floor?
If you have experience of laying floors or are a confident DIY enthusiast you may be able to lay your floor yourself. You have to make sure you have properly prepared the substrate so it is flat, dry and sound, and it must be checked for moisture to find out whether a damp-proof membrane is needed. Once you have chosen a pattern for your parquet floor, you should find a centre point from where you will begin laying the blocks. Lay out a line of your pattern without glueing the blocks to the floor to check it fits, then lay and glue the flooring a line at a time. When the floor has been laid, it should be sanded and then treated with lacquer or oil.
If you don’t feel confident laying a floor by yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you. Bear in mind before you fix a date for the floor to be laid that your flooring will need to acclimatise to the natural humidity level of your building, which will very likely be different to the one it was previously stored in. If your floor isn’t given the time to acclimatise, it could warp or buckle when it is laid. Most professional fitters recommend a 14-day period for acclimation, which the flooring laid flat, as propping it up could cause the boards to bow.
How do I look after a parquet floor?
If cared for properly, your parquet floor will always look beautiful and will last for many years. You should dust every few days with a microfibre mop to remove any particles of dirt that could lead to scratching. Once a month, dilute a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner in water and wash the floor with a damp - not wet - mop.
General maintenance should be performed once or twice a year by applying a small amount of maintenance oil and gently rubbing with a soft cloth to form a protective layer.
A parquet floor gives your home a sense of real style and elegance that other floors can’t hope to compete with. If properly and laid and well maintained your floor will look wonderful for many decades to come. After all, if it was good enough for Louis XIV and the Palace of Versailles, it’s good enough for you.