Period floorboards are often hidden under carpet, tiles or lino, waiting to be discovered and restored to their former glory.
This usually means sanding them with an industrial floor sander and edger, which is hard, hot and dusty work. Although more expensive, employing someone to sand them for you is often worth it, and they usually include the cost of the wood stain or varnish in the price. They should also be able to do the job more quickly than you can.
Original floorboards often have more modern boards mixed in where repairs have been done over the years. Painting them makes it easier to disguise the new ones than with wood stain or varnish, although dark varnishes can work really well - I recommend using Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish in Satin Walnut (£42.98 for 2.5L, B&Q). You can, of course, replace the new boards with period ones, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll match perfectly when sanded.
Laminate flooring, which has a picture of wood printed onto the boards, is an inexpensive way to get the look, but laminate isn’t as fashionable as it once was. If you want the real deal, the good news is that other types of wooden flooring are now as easy to fit as laminate. Boards that simply click and fit together, with no nails, screws or glue required, are widely available in both engineered and solid wood flooring.
Engineered wood flooring has a top layer of real wood, with other layers underneath. The thickness of the wood layer varies, so make sure you know how thick it is, as thicker layers can be sanded. A floor that can be sanded a few times is a good investment because it can take more wear and tear. Engineered wood is often a more practical choice than solid wood because the layers give it added strength and durability. Unlike solid wood, it shouldn’t shrink and expand when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity.
If your home is leasehold, you may have to get the freeholder’s permission to fit wooden flooring or have the original floorboards exposed, especially if you have neighbours underneath. The lease may have clauses about wooden floors or causing a noise nuisance, although installing sound-absorbing underlay may be acceptable to the freeholder.