We have so far dealt with coverings for hollow floors where boards are nailed on to joists which in turn are nailed on to plates standing on low sleeper walls so that air can circulate through airbricks let into the side walls of the house.
An alternative is solid floors built up from concrete laid on hardcore. Concrete is used in high-rise flats because of its fire-resisting and sound-proofing properties.
After a severe attack of dry rot or woodworm, some people think they will solve the flooring problem by having the lot ripped up and replaced by concrete. But you will no doubt have learned from experience that structural problems are never completely solved so easily. No house will be perfect in every respect. There is always something to go wrong; and, though concrete has its uses, it rather savours of the attitude of the owner of a very old motor car reverting to solid tyres because he is fed up with punctures.
Unless you have underfloor heating, an additional expense, concrete will be cold to the feet. Lay an impervious covering over it, such as vinyl sheeting or linoleum, and you will get ‘sweating’ — which is condensation formed by warm, breath-laden air in a room striking against a cold surface.
The first you will know about the trouble will be an unpleasant odour. Lift up the covering and you will find that the entrapped underlay has started to decompose. The remedy here is to use a porous carpet with porous underlay — and don’t forget to tell the carpet shop about this snag.
Condensation should not be confused with rising damp. It is unlikely you will experience rising damp with a well-laid solid floor because it will have a surface coating of pitch mastic or a sandwich treatment of bitumen, hot-applied pitch or stout polythene sheeting joined up at the edges with the house damp-proof course.
Cracks and holes in old concrete floors can be stopped up with a sand and cement mortar (about four or five to one in proportion) with a little PVA added, and trowelled level. Uneven floors can be made good with a floor-levelling compound.
Concrete floors present a dust problem; and surface powder will penetrate a carpet causing a sort of pattern staining. You can get over this snag by sealing the surface with two applications of a PVA adhesive diluted with five parts of water. The same treatment can also be given to powdery garage floors.
Where there is severe condensation — say, in a bathroom — it is not a particularly arduous job to mop up damp from quarry tiles after having a bath. There are also other types of solid covering in the form of spread-on-flooring, some of which are obtainable in colours and mottled and marble effects.
A solid covering added to a floor already in existence, whether in the form of a levelling compound or concrete, may raise the level of the floor to such an extent that the door will have to be removed for the bottom to be sawn or planed to fit.
Jazzy painting on floors, often carried out by young arty people, possibly because they cannot afford anything more durable, is not so trendy as you may think. It is a revival of an old idea of painting rug designs. The Romans were reputed to have done something like this two thousand years ago.
‘The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9).