Early Georgian wooden floors were mostly made of oak, but many households had to use inferior woods as oak was expensive. By the middle of the 18th century, oak was becoming scarcer and pine or fir were used as a replacement.
Wooden floorboards were made by hand, irregularly shaped and of different sizes and lengths.
The aim was to use as few boards as possible to cover the surface of the floor and where old growth trees were in plentiful supply, planks for floorboards could easily be cut quite wide.
However, narrower floorboards were seen as a status symbol and as wealthier homeowners could afford to pay tradesmen for the time it took to make smaller boards, they installed narrower floorboards in formal rooms to show off their wealth.
During the Industrial Revolution and with the invention of steam powered planing machines, narrower floorboards became more affordable.
Today, of course, wider floorboards are more valuable and sought after as old growth trees are scarce.
Where the floors were not of oak or other expensive wood, they would have been covered with a variety of floor coverings - rag rugs made of bits of cloth, oil cloths and floor cloths which were sometimes painted to look like carpets.
During the 17th century, carpets and rugs were mostly only seen in the homes of the wealthy and because they were so expensive, they were often used on tables instead of floors. This changed during the 18th century with the expansion of British trading and carpets became less expensive and more readily available throughout Britain.
This improved further during the second half of the 18th century with the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution. and by this time, both pile and flat carpets were made in different English factories.
"However you decide to cover your floor, consider it in the context of the rest of the room; so often today's floors effectively dominate, rather than complement, old interiors."
In wealthier households, druggets were often used to protect expensive carpets, while in poorer homes, they were used instead of carpets. Druggets were made from heavy woollen cloth, serge, haircloth or other heavy duty fabrics.
At the beginning of the Georgian era, poorer households, especially those in the country, would generally have had clay, brick or stuccoed floors. The stucco floors were made from plaster and animal blood, often painted to look like stone, wood, or black and white marble.
In grand Georgian houses, stone or marble floors were used in entrance halls and reception rooms to show off the owner's wealth and status. Different colours were often used to create beautiful geometric floor patterns. Decorative squares of dark marble, slate or cabochon are typical of the Georgian entrance hall.
Repairing or Replacing your Georgian Floor
Old wooden floors don't always have to be replaced completely and with the help and advice of a professional, repairing old floors can be fairly straightforward.
If the house is listed, listing regulations will have to be consulted as it may not be possible to replace existing floors or there might be strict guidelines in place for any replacements.
It's important to realise that sanding very old floors will often do more harm than good. Always consult a professional before sanding, attempting any repair work or sealing your floor with a modern sealant.
" Often the most suitable sealant, however, is the one which is the most natural. Boiled linseed oil, for example, is considered by many to be the most appropriate sealant for ceramic floors, while conservators' waxes are probably the best material to use on wooden floors."
- The Georgian Group
Whether it's a stone or a wooden floor, it's advisable to always try to repair and clean the existing floor and if you have to replace the floor or part of it, make sure you find the best possible match.
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