I want to install wood flooring in my villa, but I'm worried about the cost and the humidity. What can you suggest?
First, I think you're making a great decision. Wood is a vast improvement over the cheap tiles often installed in the UAE, which can have a flat effect and make a home feel cold.
Wood gives a room real warmth and character, right down to the way it feels and sounds. Wood brings challenges, but first let's look at your options.
Think about buying wood flooring like you think about buying an airline ticket: you've got economy, business and first class.
Laminate flooring is for people on a tight budget. It's just plastic made to look like wood panels. Laminate can work well in busy commercial projects such as shops, but I'm not a huge fan of it in homes. It can look and feel cheap, so consider paying a little more for a better quality product. In Abu Dhabi, there are a couple of shops on 11th Street between 4th and 6th streets (just before Lebanese Flower) that supply laminate, or try Link Flooring (02 645 5090), which has a range of pricing options.
Next up is engineered wood. Cynics argue that this is more "premium economy" than business class, but I disagree. In recent years manufacturers have designed some excellent engineered wood floors that you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish from the real thing.
It's effectively a layer of wood pulp underneath with a thin layer of real wood on show. It costs about half the price of real hardwood. Prices vary depending on the quality, but for a 1,000-square-foot living area expect to pay about Dh25,000.
Then there is the front of the plane: hardwood flooring. It's real, natural wood and it's expensive, but the effect is stunning, and it has a number of advantages.
You can sand it down and revarnish it if you want to make it lighter or darker. And it adds to the resale value of your villa, so think of it as an investment.
Cost isn't the only hurdle when it comes to wood flooring. As you rightly point out, humidity can be an issue, as can temperature changes if you turn off the air conditioning when you're away.
Jesper Bryrup from the Danish manufacturer Jünckers says installing flooring with a clip system rather than glue lets the wood expand and contract.
To sum up, my advice is to go with a wooden floor but only if you're prepared to invest in good quality that's professionally installed. Unless you own your villa, this may be hard to justify.
Pallavi Dean is an award-winning independent design consultant who practises in the UAE. If you have a question for her, email email@example.com