Wood parquet flooring—tiles created by arranging small pieces of hardwood in repeating patterns—was once common in homes across the U.S. During the 1960s, it seemed that almost every home had a kitchen, dining room, den, or rec room with this type of geometric hardwood floor. From its heyday during the 1960s, this hardwood flooring style gradually fell from favor as other low-cost options appeared, such as laminates and luxury vinyl. Where hardwood was still desired, it was more often installed as solid hardwood or engineered hardwood planks.
Gradually, wood flooring retailers stopped carrying a wide selection of parquet tiles, and today there are only a few major sources for wood parquet floor tiles. Some of the major manufacturers of wood parquet, such as Bruce, have discontinued their product lines, although you may be able to find their existing inventory offered for sale at some outlets. Ironically, you can find more offerings for vinyl flooring with a wood parquet design than you can actual wood parquet tiles.
Wood parquet is still manufactured, though you may need to hunt a little to find the style you want. Choosing it for your floor will mean that you are creating a floor that is somewhat unique by today's standards. Make your choice carefully; some viewers will see parquet as an adventurous choice, while others will see it as dated.
No initial finishing required
ideal for mid-century modern styles
Refinishing may be possible
Hard to find
Style may seem dated
Poor choice in moist, humid locations
Refinishing options limited
Susceptible to scratch damage
The History of Parquet Flooring
The earliest true parquet hardwood floors date to the 16th century when wealthy aristocrats began having it installed over marble flooring by craftsmen who created the effect by painstakingly arranging tiny pieces of hardwood in geometric patterns. Hardwood floors of various types, including parquet in upper-end houses, were the staple for centuries, but American homes began to cover them over with carpeting in the post-war era. During this time, carpet reigned in all but the finest homes, where hardwood flooring of various types was still featured.
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 homes suddenly were using parquet tiles, often removing their carpeting to do so.
Change is never-ending, 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.
Some style experts have suggested that parquet flooring is poised to make a comeback, thanks to the renewed popularity of mid-century modern styles—the homes where parquet was once so popular. Today, parquet flooring isn't viewed as a cheap copy of old-time crafted parquet floors, but as a retro/vintage tribute to the 1960s and 1970s. And improved products are helping to renew interest in parquet. Rather than veneer construction, most of today's parquet tiles use solid wood, which means these floors can be sanded and refinished at least once. But sources for hardwood parquet tiles are limited, and you may need to search for the style you want.
Parquet Flooring Cost
Parquet flooring generally costs $3 to $5 per square foot for materials. Professional installation of parquet tiles will add $4 to $5 per square foot. Total cost for a professional parquet floor installation is similar to that for an economical form of hardwood plank flooring, but DIYers will find that parquet is an easier form of flooring to install.
Maintenance and Repair
Caring for a wood parquet floor is similar to caring for any hardwood floor. Daily care should include sweeping and dry mopping with a microfiber mop. Wet spills and stains should be sopped up with paper towels, followed by wiping with a damp washcloth. Once a month or so, the floor should be cleaned with a product designed for wood floors. Avoid waxes, which can make floors slippery and can damage the factory finish. Never use a steam mop on parquet floors (or any wood floor), as this can drive moisture down into the wood.
Newer types of parquet flooring are often made of solid hardwood rather than veneers, and while sanding and refinishing may be possible, it is complicated by the fact that the direction of the wood grain alternates. Major refinishing of these floors should be done by experienced professionals. Light renewal can be done by homeowners, lightly abrading the finish with a sanding screen, then applying a fresh top-coat of varnish.
The multi-piece construction of parquet tiles lends a deep, 3D appearance that makes for a bold design statement in the home. But be aware that not everyone likes the busy, exotic look of a parquet floor. Future owners of your home may not have the same fondness for your taste, and some prospective buyers will think of it as dated and old. If the future sale or your home is critical, this is probably not the flooring to install. Parquet floors are a good stylistic fit for mid-century modern home styles but may look out of place in other styles.
Parquet Flooring Installation
Parquet flooring tiles are considerably easier to install than hardwood plank flooring, since they are simply glued down to the subfloor rather than nailed. Urethane-based adhesives have a leisurely 60-minute working time, which means you have plenty of time to install the tiles. The tiles are relatively thin—about 5/16 inch—so they are easy to cut with a jigsaw. Most parquet flooring tiles are prefinished, which means you will not need to stain or varnish the finished floor.
But the thinness of the tiles means that it is critical for the subfloor to be perfectly flat and sturdy. If there is any flex to the subfloor, the surface flooring will visibly flex underfoot. The dramatic geometry of parquet designs also means you will need to take care to get the layout correct so that the patterns are straight and symmetrical along the edges.
As a real wood flooring material, parquet generally functions best when installed at or above grade—it's not recommended for installation in basements or on slab foundations, unless an intermediate subfloor, such as DRIcore, is installed. And because parquet flooring has many cracks between pieces, it is not a good choice for installation in wet or humid locations, such as bathrooms.
Top Brands of Parquet Flooring
These manufacturers currently offer a good selection of parquet flooring:
Armstrong: This flooring giant reserves its brand name for more premium flooring products. It offers 48 different versions of solid oak parquet tiles in various colors.
Czar Floors: This company offers high-end parquet tiles for online sale at premium prices—$10 to $20 per square foot and higher.
There are also other discontinued brands that are still available at retail outlets. If you buy one of these styles, make sure to buy extra tiles to have some on hand for possible future repairs. And be aware that you will not be able to match the style if you want to extend the flooring into other rooms in the future.
Comfort and Convenience
Parquet floors perform much like hardwood floors. Any wood floor will be somewhat more soft and warm underfoot than hard flooring materials, such as ceramic or stone tile, but it will feel colder and harder than carpet, cork, or luxury vinyl. Like other wood floors, parquet floors can also be noisy. Many people will want to add area rugs to improve the comfort of parquet floors.
Parquet vs. Hardwood
If you are considering a wood parquet floor, it's likely you are weighing its virtues against a traditional hardwood floor. Parquet's advantages over hardwood lie in its dramatic appearance, its easy installation, and its suitability for mid-century modern home designs. Hardwood planks will be a better choice if you are looking for flooring with more decor flexibility, or where the future sale of your home is important. Parquet can seem dated to some people, while hardwood flooring is more universal.