Where did all of the wood parquet flooring go? At one time, it seemed like every mid-century modern home had a kitchen, dining room, den or rec. room with these geometric hardwood tiles used for the floor. Today, though, wood flooring retailers seem to prominently display their exotic hardwood strip flooring up front, while the cartons of wood parquet tiles languish in the back room. And many homes have covered over their parquet flooring with ceramic tile, engineered wood, luxury vinyl planks, or laminate planks.
But, as with Mark Twain, rumors of the death of wood parquet flooring have been greatly exaggerated.
The Evolution of Parquet Flooring
The earliest true parquet hardwood floors date to the 16th century when wealthy aristocrats began laying it over marble flooring. Hardwood floors of various types were the staple for centuries, although American homes covered them over with carpeting in the post-war era. During this post-war era, carpet reigned in all but the finest homes, where hardwood flooring, including parquet, could still be seen.
At one time, a genuine parquet hardwood floor was the sign of opulent wealth, since these floors were the result of fine craftsmen painstakingly cutting and fitting small pieces of hardwood into unique and artistic geometric patterns on a floor.
All this changed when flooring manufacturers began to mass-produce thin parquet tiles 8 to 12 inches square in the 1960s and 1970s. By creating engineered wood tiles with pieces of hardwood veneer arranged in geometric patterns, manufacturers made it possible for just about anyone to create the appearance of a very expensive parquet floor. And because the tiles used only thin hardwood veneers, the costs of this flooring were very reasonable. The result? Hundreds of thousands of home suddenly were using parquet tiles for flooring all over the place, often removing their carpeting to do so.
All things change, though, and gradually the look of parquet tiles became common and was recognized for what it was—an inexpensive copy of what was once a very expensive floor installed by artistic craftsman. And as new flooring materials, such as plastic laminates, vinyl planks, and porcelain tiles came into vogue, hardwood parquet tiles began their move out of the front of the store and into the back room.
The Advantages of Hardwood Parquet Flooring
But what goes around comes around, and parquet flooring is poised to make a comeback, thanks partly to the fact that consumers are now finding a nostalgic appeal to a flooring once prevalent in mid-century modern homes. Today, parquet flooring isn't viewed as a cheap copy of old-time crafted parquet floors, but as a retro tribute to the 1970s and 1980s. And improved products have also made parquet tiles more popular again. Rather than tiles with a simple parallel or herringbone patterns, dozens of additional patterns are now available. And where once the primary wood species options were oak and maple, parquet flooring tiles can now be found in many other hardwoods, including some exotics.
- Parquet tiles are easier to install than hardwood planks. Glue-down installation means no nailing is required. The urethane-based adhesive has a 60-minute working time, which allows you ample time to perfect the placement. Because tiles are thin, they are easy to cut with a saw.
- Today's hardwood parquet floor tiles are solid wood—not engineered products with veneer layers.
- Many patterns are available. Multi-piece construction of each tile lends a deep, 3D appearance.
- Prefinished tiles are the standard. You can find parquet tiles in many colors, with very hard and durable polyurethane finishes already applied. There is no mess or smells from finishing.
- Parquet is a perfect flooring choice for recreating mid-century modern decor styles.
Drawbacks of Hardwood Parquet Flooring
There are a few drawbacks to parquet floor tiles:
- Because parquet is real wood, manufacturers recommend that you install this product at or above grade. This flooring is not recommended for basements.
- Tiles are quite thin, at about 5/16 inch. There is not much structural value to these floors, and if the underlying framework isn't solid, these floors may flex underfoot.
- Fondness for parquet flooring is a unique taste. Future owners may not like it unless they have an appreciation for mid-century modern styles.
- Refinishing options are limited. The thin layer of wood means that only light sanding is possible. Alternating directions of wood grain also complicate sanding. Refinishing these floors needs to be approached very carefully.
Hardwood parquet tiles are enjoying a resurgence, with newer products that use solid hardwood rather than veneer construction and offering many options for patterns and finishes. They are among the easiest of all solid hardwood flooring products to install and are a perfect fit for mimicking the modern-classic style of mid-century modern decor. Once confined mostly to domestic hardwoods such as oak and maple, there are now many other species available, such as pecan, teak, ash, and bamboo. For a homeowner who prefers solid hardwood, parquet tiles offer an affordable, easy to install option.