The making of a custom hardwood floor

by Tania Wannenburg
Gravity Jnl1.14

The art of producing a designer floor in hardwood in South Africa is fast becoming a lost art, so it is exciting when one is sent to FLOORS in Africa out of the blue!

Rarer than finding such a floor in South Africa is finding a contractor with the knowledge, skills and infrastructure to produce such work. However Gravity Wood Craftsmen (GWC) is one such contractor who specialises in producing decorative hardwood flooring solutions that are truly distinctive.

There are limited choices for decorative panels that can be bought ‘off the shelf’ but a well-designed and fitted floor takes into consideration the individual aspects of the space, which are different in every project, and having a service provider that customises the fit helps in attaining a result that is attractive and functional for the room’s purpose.

Planning the floor at the design stage clarifies how the layout will work with different elements in the room such as joinery, thresholds, ceiling design and floor boxes.

Taking the size and placement of freestanding furniture into account is also important as these items very often get moved around and can conflict with bordering.

Each floor is tailored to fit the proportions and shape of the room exactly and in this way unconsidered cut-offs are eliminated. Consulting with the architect or interior designer at the design stage and producing technical diagrams and specifications are key factors.

Because GWC can manufacture its own floors, customers have carte blanche in terms of design, specification and finish. To create an antique-look floor takes more than just hitting floorboards with a hammer in China or scraping them with a spokeshave in Vietnam – it is the overuse of any one particular technique that creates inauthenticity.

To create authentic worn or antique looks, the floor needs to be considered in its entirety. Ageing techniques should only be done on site when the entire flooring layout is complete. Ageing therefore requires a contractor that is skilled in specialised sanding and finishing techniques and can execute the manufacturing of the flooring at the planning stage to accommodate sanding and finishing ideas. But who’s got an antique floor anyway and who really cares?

Many people who bought houses for the appeal of the original Oregon pine flooring now live with cracking and dangerously thin floors that are expensive to replace.

This could have been avoided had the sanding contractor refinished the floor by accommodating the slight cupping that tends to occur with joist-over-crawl-space strip floors and replaced those boards that were too cupped to be functional. However, the tendency is for contractors to flatten the floor at all costs. Perhaps it’s still not too late for South Africans to avoid having to kiss the floors in their heritage buildings goodbye.

To have a truly antique floor doesn’t mean the surface has to be damaged at all. Recently, GWC created a floor from new and trued-up timber. Using special manufacturing techniques, and fine sanding the floor on site, a curved but functional floor surface was achieved that is a joy to walk on.

GWC provides sourcing, design, manufacturing, installation and restoration services in the Johannesburg region.

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