Floor sanding HDR WIX 1
Floor History 1

Houses usually had flagstone, brick or tiled floors on the ground levels with wooden floors on the upper storeys.

WOOD TYPE Usually oak, occasionally elm

FIXING TYPE Face nails

STYLE There was an abundance of wood available in the 15th and 16th centuries, so craftsmen could be extremely choosy about the quality of wood floors laid. It was not uncommon for boards to be anything up to 60cm wide. Planks were laid in varying widths.

Stone flags covered principal and service rooms on ground floors, while wooden floors predominated on upper floors. At this time upper floors were

made of lime putty on laths.

WOOD TYPE Oak continued to be the predominant choice

FIXING TYPE Face nails

STYLE Marquetry and parquetry became fashionable in 17th century grand homes. Patterns were sometimes painted onto plank floors to achieve a similar look. In less important rooms, boards were left untreated and scrubbed regularly with sand. Planks were often more than 30cm wide.

Stone floors over joists were typically found in entrance halls, with wooden floors in other rooms. Oriental, Turkish and floral carpets were introduced throughout houses, covering main thoroughfares and large communal areas.)

WOOD TYPE Oak was still used, with elm becoming much more commonplace. By the mid 1700s, Baltic fir and pine were being used.

FIXING TYPE Face nails with metal dowels and plates. Tongue and groove fixing was introduced.

STYLE In the late 18th century boards were stained and polished around the edges to frame carpets. Boards became much narrower, usually 15 to 20cm wide. Fixed-width boarded floors were also introduced. By the latter part of the Georgian period, polished oak planking was reserved for main staircases in grand houses, with unvarnished fir and pine floorboards used for most floors in simple houses. The trend for marquetry and parquetry continued throughout the period.

Wooden floors were the standard flooring throughout houses

WOOD TYPE Oak was the preserve of principal rooms in grand houses. Baltic fir and pine used elsewhere.

FIXING TYPE Face nails together with metal dowels and plates

STYLE Boards were stained, polished, painted or varnished. As Britians’s vast forests thinned out, wood became less plentiful and the width of the boards narrowed to between 18 and 23cm. Marquetry, parquetry and better timbers were limited to the richest rooms in the finest houses.

(1837-1901) (1860-1925) (1888-1905)

Plain pine floors were used throughout most Victorian houses. During the Arts & Crafts period wood and stone were the only acceptable forms of flooring. Tiles became the predominant material in entrance halls during the Art Nouveau period.

WOOD TYPE Pine used extensively throughout the period but the Arts & Crafts movement revived the passion for oak and gave rise to an interest in exotic hardwoods and maple. Well-chosen pine and fir planks were considered acceptable.

FIXING TYPE Tongue and groove fixing or face nailing were the norm.

STYLE Pine floors were usually covered with rugs and the surrounds were stained and polished with beeswax and turpentine to create the effect of a better timber. Some borders were stencilled as an inexpensive alternative to parquetry.


During the 1860s, floors painted in Indian reds and deep blues became fashionable. In Arts & Crafts buildings, the preferred wood, oak, was simply polished to enhance its natural beauty. The finest floors were cut from the full-width of tree trunks. The movement also created the trend for floors and wall panelling to be stained in similar dark tones. Staining, however, was reserved for inferior woods. In Art Nouveau interiors, carpets and rugs were considered the main decorative features so wood and parquet borders were polished to provide a simple, complementary backdrop.

Tongue and groove boards became the most popular form of flooring in homes. Entrance halls were normally tiled.

WOOD TYPE Pine boards were widely used, oak and teak were reserved for grand houses and villas.

FIXING TYPE Tongue and groove fixing or face nailing were the norm.

STYLE Polished oak and teak were found in grander houses. Pine was varnish-stained around the edges to frame a carpet and rug. Wall-to-wall carpets were introduced, initially

into the principal reception rooms. Parquet was still popular and was constructed from blocks 2.5cm thick, laid on a cement base covered in bitumen. Parquet in suburban houses was usually constructed from panels of thinner blocks fixed to a cloth backing. The most common parquet style was herringbone, stained or polished and found in kitchens, hallways and living rooms.

Linoleum became a favourite material and wall-to-wall carpets appeared only in the most exclusive homes.

WOOD TYPE Lighter woods were preferred

FIXING TYPE Tongue and groove fixing or face nailing were the norm.

STYLE Parquetry became a standard treatment so elaborate patterns became more widespread.

Throughout the 20th century, many beautiful timbers were pulled up casually and carelessly to make way for central heating systems.

During the 1940s and 1950s large tracts of flooring were taken up in many houses to allow the installation of asbestos lagging around under-floor pipework. Although this practice was phased out in the 1960s, invasive asbestos surveys since then have led to more destruction with floors taken up to remove the offensive material.

Changing trends have seen beautiful wood floors buried beneath layers of treatments and finishes.

Floors have been crudely carved up to make way for modern services, while expenditure on maintenance and repair has been governed by the rise and fall of personal fortunes.

> Stained by the Victorians,

> Neglected by a property owner who has fallen on hard times,

> Chopped up by a plumber and coated in years of dust and dirt

> The wood might appear unsalvageable, even worthless.

On building projects it is common to find wood floors which have been ignored because they are considered to be beyond restoration.

With sympathetic treatment, however, almost all historic wood floors can be restored beautifully to become the foundation of an authentic building restoration.

Once wooden floors reach a certain age they all have an inherent beauty and value that merits investing the time and effort it takes to revive them.


A floor that has passed the age of 100 years is certainly worth saving, whatever the wood.

Indeed, the pine imported from the Baltic throughout the 19th century was from first-growth forests, and has a quality that it is now very difficult to match.

Today, those late Georgian and Victorian pine floors look beautiful by virtue of their age.


Often the greater the damage to a floor, the greater the probability that it has been down for a very long time.

Basic dating techniques using easily recognisable clues can help practitioners and project managers identify valuable pieces of our heritage that deserve to be salvaged.


The more empirical method of ageing a floor involves close examination of the building style and of the location, style and construction of the floor. This body of evidence should reveal whether or not the floor was part of the original building fabric (see the historic flooring table below).                                                                

Many wooden floors have been lost to the ravages of time and the vagaries of fashion.

Much like a piece of antique furniture.

These clues may lead you to the conclusion that you are standing on wooden floors of historic significance

Floor History 2

Ironically, the most obvious indicators are signs of damage and interference.  

Wood flooring history

Tudor & Jacobean (1485-1625)

Baroque (1625-1714)

Georgian (1714-1811)

Regency (1811-1837)

Victorian/Arts & Crafts/Artr Nouveau

Edwardian (1901-1914)

1920s & 1930s (Art Deco, Modernism, etc)

By the time a 200-year-old floor has been