What is Parquet Flooring?
Last Updated: May 23, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
If you do have your heart set on a parquet floor we’ve put together this definitive guide to parquet flooring where you can learn what exactly it is, the different kinds of traditional and contemporary parquet patterns available, DIY installation tips, materials and options available, both from custom retailers and commercial outlets, and tips for cleaning and repairing your parquet flooring once installed. If after all this you still want more we have an article dedicated to modern trends in parquet flooring.
Here at Home Flooring Pros we’re big fans of parquet flooring, especially a modern herringbone wood floor pattern. And you might think, from looking at all the parquet floors that pop up in designer magazines or interior decor websites, that finding and installing a parquet floor would be relatively simple.
However, when you search for parquet flooring online, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that your options, certainly in the US, are actually quite limited. Let’s start by defining parquet, what is it and where does it come from.
WHAT IS PARQUET FLOORING: ITS ORIGINS
Also known as parquetry, this flooring type dates to France in the late 1600’s. The word parquet comes from the Old French term parchet (the diminutive of parc) which means “small enclosed spaces” which , it is believed, was then used to refer to the small geometric shapes (or blocks) of inlaid wood that make up parquet flooring. Its popularity spread quickly, and wood parquet floors became the choice for many of Europe’s finest homes.
Thomas Jefferson visited France in 1760 and then popularized parquet in the United States. He chose a parquet flooring pattern known as Monticello (“little mountain”) for his mansion in Virginia and was so enthusiastic about the flooring, he named his home after it.
Historically, parquet flooring was installed block by block on site. Today, modern parquet often comes in a tile form where the blocks are arranged in predetermined patterns attached to backing material. The only styles of parquet that are still usually laid on site are Chevron and Herringbone, as theses are usually created with larger parquet blocks that are more like small planks.
When shopping for parquet wood floors, you’ll find two types:
- Solid parquet where each block or parquet tile is entirely solid wood from top to bottom. It is the equivalent of solid hardwood flooring.
- Parquet veneer flooring where the blocks or tiles are made with wood veneers layered on an engineered flooring core. It is the equivalent of engineered hardwood flooring.
PARQUET FLOORING & STYLES IT COMPLEMENTS
Historically, parquet has been a traditional style of flooring, think of the grand rooms at Versailles. Parquet flooring featuring large squares and right angles is used when homeowners desire a traditional, sophisticated look.
Flooring with smaller squares or rectangles and non-right angles fits beautifully into contemporary designs, even if the style, such as Herringbone, is hundreds of years old.
POPULAR PARQUET PATTERNS
While you are the final judge of what style will look best in your home, here is how the most popular parquet patterns are usually divided:
Traditional parquet flooring patterns: Monticello, Canterbury, Chantilly, Chaucer, Rhombs, Saxony, Bondwood and Haddon Hall
Contemporary parquet flooring patterns: Herringbone (with single, double and diagonal variations), Chevron and Hexagon
Parquet inlay patterns, also known as medallions: These are custom-made circular shapes parquet designs, with geometric inner patterns that form a focal point to the room’s flooring. Parquet medallions are a very formal addition to a room.
Unfortunately, there are very few parquet floor patterns mass produced in the United States, so your options are quite limited when shopping at large home improvement stores. You’ll typically find one or two patterns – most usually Herringbone and Chevron – in a handful of finishes ranging from light to dark.
Your best sources for a wider range of parquet are specialty flooring stores in the US and Europe, and this means that prices for parquet flooring are higher than for most types of hardwood flooring.
PARQUET FLOORING MATERIALS AND OPTIONS
When working with a custom flooring retailer, you’ll have these options to select from in order to get the exact look you desire for your home:
- A wider range of styles including those listed above and many more, some unique to the floor manufacturer/retailer
- Tile/module size: 12”x 12” up to about 36”x36” (most parquet flooring tiles are available in just one or two sizes)
- Thickness from about 5/16” to 1/2″
- Wood: Red or white oak, hickory, poplar, ash, maple, American cherry, walnut, red birch, mahogany and several exotic wood species. Oak parquet flooring is far and away the most common option available.
- Solid hardwood parquet (more expensive) and parquet veneer over engineered wood (more affordable)
- Finish: Unfinished or pre-finished in one of many choices, weathered, scraped and textured wood
- Leather or metal inlay on some styles
VINYL & CERAMIC PARQUET FLOORING
Thanks to its increased popularity, there are also a number of flooring manufacturers producing vinyl or ceramic parquet floor tile that mimics the look of real wood parquet. Some of these options are so realistic, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t real wood – and as there are usually cheaper, they could be worth investigating.
PARQUET FLOORING PRICES
Most big box stores and online retailers have basic parquet flooring with prices that range from as little as $1 per square foot for stick and peel vinyl options to $6 per square foot for solid hardwood parquet.
Custom solid hardwood parquet flooring is generally around $6-$9 per square foot, but prices will rise depending on your choice of wood, finish and complexity of the custom pattern.
PARQUET FLOORING RETAILERS
When buying mass-production parquet flooring, here is a sampling of who sells it and what is offered:
Home Depot: A small selection of stick and peel vinyl parquet tiles from TrafficMaster, Achim and FloorPops; click-lock rigid core vinyl tiles and Herringbone/ Chevron planks from Lifeproof; engineered wood parquet planks form Shaw floors; and wood-look parquet tiles form Ivy Hill Tile.
Lowes: A larger selection of stick and peel or click-lock vinyl parquet from Achim, Perfection Floor and Style Selections; and some pretty Herringbone and Chevron parquet planks in engineered hardwood from Floors by LTL.
Build Direct: Currently carrying only Herringbone planks in engineered wood from Jasper; and in solid hardwood from Mazama.
Floor & Décor: A very small but interesting selection of Herringbone, Chevron and Canterbury parquet patterns in solid or engineered oak and bamboo.
Wayfair: Engineered parquet flooring, mainly in Herringbone and Chevron style, from Alston Inc and Kahrs.
If you’re looking for custom parquet specialists then here are some options:
www.woodflooringusa.com – based in New York, good range of parquet patterns and medallion inlays.
www.havewoods.com – based in New York, with show rooms in New York and Los Angeles and with a number of international partners world-wide.
www.czarfloors.com – Designer and producer of hardwood custom flooring including parquet, based in Pennsylvanie but ship throughout USA.
www.gaetanoinc.com – Custom hardwood flooring company based in California.
www.hursthardwoods.com – A large selection of made to order parquet patterns, based in Florida.
PARQUET FLOORING INSTALLATION
This isn’t a step by step parquet flooring installation guide, but it serves to give you an overview of the process to help you decide if doing it yourself is an option. It is considered a moderate DIY project suitable for those with some experience with similar projects. For more on hardwood floor installation click here.
Subfloor preparation: Getting the subfloor right is essential to flooring that looks and performs as it should. Pay careful attention to these requirements, and you’ll succeed:
- Suitable: If the subfloor is not in good condition, replace pieces that are visibly warped or rotted. Cover it with plywood underlayment screwed to the subfloor leaving small expansion gaps. Walk the floor to find loose or squeaky spots, and screw them down tight.
- Clean: Remove nails, wax, debris, oil and adhesives.
- Level: The floor must be within ¼” of perfect per 12 feet. Sand high spots, and fill low spots with leveling compound or latex patch.
- Dry: Use a reliable moisture meter to make sure the subfloor meets the flooring’s requirements for acceptable moisture.
Flooring over concrete subfloor: Most parquet tiles can be glued to concrete – check the manufacturer’s specifications to be sure. Seal the concrete with a product that can be used in conjunction with the adhesive you’re going to use.
Flooring over wood subfloor: As noted, make sure the subfloor is tight. Remove any existing wood flooring product that has been glued down, sand off the adhesive and install new parquet directly to the subfloor. Existing hardwood floors with planks wider than 4” should be covered with plywood underlayment.
Flooring with radiant heating: The heating system should be operational for several days prior to installing the floor, and it should be turned off a few hours before installation. Make sure the system is designed and set for use beneath wood flooring or damage from overheating the wood is likely to occur.
Installing the parquet floor: These steps will ensure a job you’re proud to call your own:
- Use a chalk line to divide the main portion of the room into four quadrants
- Work in one quadrant at a time
- Dry lay the parquet tile flooring to make sure the tiles at the edge of the room will be cut to the same width on all sides of the room
- Use a notched trowel to apply the adhesive, and only cover an area you can apply flooring to in 60 minutes
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully during each step of installation
- As you place each tile (also called a module), move it back and forth slightly to ensure good adhesion before aligning it permanently
- The first row of tiles can be held in place temporarily with finishing nails at the edges
- Work from the subfloor rather than from on top of tiles you’ve already set in place
- Leave a ½” gap at the walls for expansion – the gap will be covered by trim
- If the parquet is not finished, give the adhesive 36 hours before staining or sealing
WHERE TO INSTALL PARQUET FLOORING?
Where you install your parquet flooring will depend on what material it is made of; if you’ve opted for ceramic, vinyl or engineered hardwood parquet flooring, then you can install it in any area of the house including bathrooms and basements.
Parquet made from solid hardwood os not recommended for areas that have added moisture such as bathrooms and basements as they are slightly more prone to warping and swelling in humidity. Also custom parquet made in the traditional way with individual blocks carries a greater risk of water seeping through every join of every block – so not a great option for bathrooms or anywhere at risk of flooding!
HOW TO CLEAN PARQUET FLOORS
A vacuum cleaner is the best tool for cleaning parquet flooring because dust and dirt settle into the many crevices in parquet. A vacuum lifts it up and out. Keep these parquet floor cleaning tips in mind:
- Always turn off the rotating brush to avoid damage to the floor.
- When possible, choose a lightweight machine designed for use on hardwood.
- Avoid pulling the vacuum sideways, causing its wheels to skid across the floor and potentially scratch/mar it.
A few of the top hardwood flooring vacuums are made by Dyson, Bissell, Prolux and Black & Decker.
Spot clean the floor with a soft cloth only very slightly dampened with warm water, and dry the area after cleaning. Do not allow pools of water to stand on parquet flooring.
If you choose a cleaner, select one that is designed for use on hardwood. Armstrong and Bruce are among the hardwood flooring manufacturers that make cleaner for this purpose. Most of these cleaners are not designed for use on waxed parquet flooring.
If your parquet has a wax finish on it, periodic buffing with a wax paste recommended by the flooring’s manufacturer will keep it bright. Use a slightly damp cloth for spot cleaning. Read our guide to cleaning hardwood floors.
HOW TO REPAIR AND REFINISH PARQUET FLOORS
When you need parquet flooring maintenance, these tips will help.
Entirely remove damaged parquet flooring tiles and the adhesive from the subfloor. Apply new adhesive, and carefully set the new parquet tile or module. Immediately wipe away any excess adhesive. Hopefully, you’ve got extra tiles left over from the job. If not, contact your retailer about getting more.
If the flooring is in the form of blocks, remove the damaged block and take it to a flooring store to locate the best match for both the wood block and the finish. Sand the new block, if necessary to make it smooth, and dry-place it into the gap. If it is the same height as the surrounding flooring, then stain it before installation. Wait 24 hours before installing the new block as suggested above for replacing tile.
If the new block sticks up above the surrounding flooring, the best option is to install the block and then use a belt sander to sand it down to match the height of the surrounding blocks. If the process removes the finish of those surrounding wood pieces, you’ll need to apply stain to refinish them as well.
Solid parquet flooring can be refinished, just like regular solid hardwood flooring. Very gentle sanding using a belt sander is the preferred method. However, since not every block will be set in the same direction, there is a risk with sanding that you’ll get cross-grain scratching – in this case sanding by hand is the only option. Choosing a larger parquet pattern – such as wider planks Chevron or Herringbone would mitigate this concern to a certain extent.
In conclusion, parquet flooring has seen a resurgence in recent years – particularly in the Herringbone and Chevron patterns. With the option of rigid core luxury vinyl planks and tiles, getting the parquet look for less is a real option now. Whilst the choice isn’t vast, what is on offer is stylish and available in enough colors to find something that suits your interior decor style.
If you have a decent budget, investing in custom made solid hardwood parquet is the way to go since solid hardwood of any style offers a good return on investment – partly because of its perception as a higher end product and also because it can be refinished.
About the Author: Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”