Mapei Ultracot

When wood meets technology

Flexible automation and robots for the production of multilayer parquet elements.

Avisit to the latest edition of the “Xylexpo 2014” Show dedicated to the woodworking machinery sector last May at the Rho Trade Fair Grounds in Milan provided ample demonstration that the time has come to go beyond rigid, fossilized processes in the direction of newproductive structures that have higher flexibility in mind. The final blow to Traditionalism was recently given by many companies, especially those based in Asia who have made Just in time programming their winning card. The market has changed radically again, even in just the last fewyears, and the merciless competition fromcompanies producers in the developing world has obliged many parquet producers to choose systems that are capable of providing rapid response to variations in client demands.
Reducing times and costs seem to be the factors to bear in mind in the newtechnological processes, and multilayer parquet (erroneously often referred to as pre-finished) is not excepted from these new commercial dictates, and for this reason products now tend to be completed only at the moment of shipment to the client. The advantages derived are excellent because reduced stock levels require lower capital investment.
This latest edition of the XylexpoShowalso demonstrated thatmostwoodworking systems and machines have been computerized by nowand computers permit the management with rapid flexibility of more economical production lots controlled by programs with such simple instructions that they can be programmed by anyone with a minimum amount of training. The robotizing of certain processing phases bywork centers and logistic systems has also rendered processes for both solid single-layer andmulti-layer parquetmuchmore flexible and economical. Robots are mechanisms that repeat a number of elementary operations and therefore raise output. Their widespread use has played a key role in increasing industrial automation.
The Cartesian, hybrid, and anthropomorphic robots presented at Xylexpo 2014 by many Italian and international companies vaunt a reliability that has by now been guaranteed by international regulations. The “automatic factory” is already on the horizon in the foreseeable future, and nowmany companies even in the Orient can offer CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing).

The advantages of automatic cutting-off machines

The multi-layer parquet adventure begins with the planning and cutting-off of the solidwood performed on high-quality systems appropriate to every productive need. Automatic cutting-offmachines comewith optimizers that reduce scrap to aminimum, and companies with high productions use excellent cutting-off lines with ideal optimizers that are quick and easy to use (less than 0.002 seconds for all cutting calculations). The conveyor reaches elevated speedswith extremely rapid accelerations and cutting times, while the possibility to obtain different sizes by means of a simple selector suits the cutting-off machines to any need the client may have. There are also cuttingoff machines at the technological vanguard for optimized cuts with translation rollers suited to every size (unworked or deformed) with advance speeds of up to 240 m/min. and width/length readers that provide a summary of the volumes cut.
The choice of the cutting-off machine depends on the maximum section of the solid wood to be cut. Automatic lines require no specialized operators and offer constant output, whereas optimized lines ensure higher efficiency (less scrap and higher productivity) than automatic lines.
Cutting-off machines with optimizers are commonly used to eliminate waste and accelerate the cutting of the more valuable species of woods, but their exceptionally high speed and output permit their use also with types of wood of lesser value.
Defects are displayed either by automatic scanners or by lasers maneuvered by the operator, and can by driven by roller, by belt, and by pusher bar. Disks of 550 mm diameter can be used for cut-offs on solid wood up to 800 mm wide and 25mmthick.
For productive cutting Lathsor fingers formultilayer parquet can be cut by disk or by blade on multi-blade sawing machines, whereas the topandbottomsurfaces of the lath are already suited for immediate gluing.The cuttingunit has centralized electronic control that ensuresperfect cuttingprecisionwith aminimum amount of play (0.1 mm) andfeedspeeds of up to 20m/min.
The use of hacksaw blades provides higher output (20%) than traditional processes, and even permits the cutting of laths from moist wood that is required when two or three layersmust be glued togetherwith high frequency.
The laths and boards for parquet to be cut with boxed blades can be obtained from boards that have been cut-off andworked on three surfaces (using a lateral or central ruler) or on four sides (with guides in the raceways. Both laths and the smaller boards can be sizedwith tool-holders positioned at the end of the cuttingmodulewith up to 0.05 mm precision. Wood laths can be cut to a minimum3mmthickness using 1.1mmtools in satellite (a cobalt-chromiumalloy) for significant increases in productivity. Whereas bladed cutting unit feed speeds can reach 2 m/min., disk cutters can reach 36 m/min. with 1.2 mm thickness and the possibility to have a lower engraver of just 1.1 mm. This results in a 20% higher output in the production of multilayer parquet, and the machine tools used by now all possess planing work centers capable of sizing the boards on all four sides with the possibility to obviously insert unworked smaller boards in the line.

The lath technique

Automated processes are capable of beginning theworking of the solidwood board by planing it and transforming it into laths, and then pairing, pressing, and drying them continuously. The boards are dried in vacuum cells with or without heating plates. The former technology is used in cylindrical vacuumcells in which the vacuumnot only dries but also applies 10 ton sqmpressure on the solidwood boards for further advantages to the quality and speed of the process. The processwithout heating plates is adopted both in cylindrical cells and parallelepiped cells with continuous or discontinuous vacuumandwith hot air ventilation; this system is best suited to making stacks of strips of wood. The market offers vertical saws designed for the top layer ofmultilayer parquet that can be inserted in production lines composed of a lath loading area (with obligatory identical width, whereas the length may be variable), followed by composition and subsequent gluing areas. In the final step, an assembly and drying area provides one single and continuous plank from which compositions of plank of equal size can be obtained fromlaths in two, three, or four rows as required by themodel ofmachine utilized.
The newlines for the gluing of the single layers of themulti-layer element to be laid in two or three layers utilize polyurethane adhesives spread at 120/140 °C or vinyl-based adhesives (70-80 °C) in order to assembly solid and not invulnerable to environmental deformation.
The adhesive is applied in molten form on the layers to be pressed together, while the production of the three-layer element can also usemelaminic adhesive due to its better resistance to chemicals and water. The bonded layers consist of obviously the noble wood top layer (3 - 6 mm thickness) and the other two or three layers of less noblewood species or strips of plywood (from 5 - 10 mm thickness). The adhesive between the solid wood multilayer element’s layers can be made to dry quickly using a high-frequency system by adjusting the power in successive stages (12 positions) and with ceramic triodes.

Not only the finish

Mostworthy of note among the profilingmachines and squaring machines that have by now become totally automated are those (whetherwith traditional tongue-and-groove or on-edge snap fit)with 110mmtool-holder shaft length and feed speeds of up to 70 m/min. suited for the production of parquet with variable width of from 65 to 400 mm and lengths of up to 4m. There are also combined planing-sanding units that permit the dead times that usually occur between these traditional processing phases to be eliminated. As regards parquet logistic equipment, various automatic feeders, loaders, and unloaders capable of forms packs of strips for subsequent working could be admired at Xylexpo 2014.
The alternative to varnish that consists in the heated coating of the multilayer laying element surfaces in just one single passage performed continuously eliminates a number of stages in the traditional process (puttying, sanding, application of the primer and sand ing), thereby shortening finishing times enormously.Many products by nowhave elevated UV radiation stability, excellent impact strength, optimumhardness, and good chemical resistance. These products are applied liquid using a pre-heater and then solidify at roomtemperature. These short narrowstrips require three or four days of storage before they can be profiled, however.

The world of varnish

For those who use traditional processes, water-based varnishes – the only ones with respect for the environment – have been available in themarket for quite some time now, even if they have often been overshadowed by solvent-based products that are easier to sell. Painting systems are designed on the basis of the type of paint and finish desired by parquet producerswhile also bearing in mind the possibility for light or heavy staining.
Despite the fact that application and drying systems and cycles vary widely, there are also versatile polyvalent machines capable of being quickly and easily set up for the desired type of finish. One multilayer parquet element varnishing process that is being adopted all around theworld utilizes three coats of primer applied by roller, each of 10 g/sq m thickness.
The process consists of an intermediate semi-polymerization, a final polymerization with a subsequent intermediate sanding followed by two finishing coats applied by roller of 10 g/sq m each,with an intermediate semi-polymerization and a final UV polymerization. The system can have minimumwidths of 30 cm.
and the machines used include: lacquering machinewith standard rollers (providedwith applicator roller and dosing roller with three separate commands that permit the dosing roller to rotate in opposite direction whenever minimum applications are required), UV-module driers (that polymerize varnishing products in just a fewseconds, to which photoinitiators are added) and intermediate sanding machines (used to smoothen the surface with primer and prepare it for the application of the finish). The technology behind UV paint products permits elevated output and permit the use of minimumweight formats with noteworthy savings of material.
Paint and varnish producers have by now specialized and diversified their products by type of finish and by cycle. This means that acrylic- and UV polyester-base primers and finish coats formulated for extremely short cycleswith high abrasion resistance and excellent adherence and elasticity can now be found in the market.

barberan machine


The productive process future, which will most likely be based on automatic fabrication with CAM(ComputerAidedManufacturing) and CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) management keeps getting closer and closer. It is also an accepted fact that robotizing certain processing phases, innovative work centers and logistic systems combined with more and more flexible and personalized productive cycles and processes will provide considerable advantages in both productive (shorter and shorter fabrication timeswith higher and higher output and efficiency) and economic (lower overheads and rationalized resources) terms, in addition to greater abundance of the offer. In my opinion, all this should not lead to standardization but rather the contrary: the objective and real possibility of access tomore innovative single devices, machines and production lines should stimulate entrepreneurs to improve the quality of their products.
Even if they are elementary in form, the above is always the result of a specific project that through a precise and analytical technical-productive procedure that permits the discovery of personalized solutions by involving the company first and foremost of all. These are the forms of personalization that characterizemultilayer parquet andwood flooring elements thanks to the quality of the tools, equipment, machines, systems, and lines that permit the fabrication ofmillions andmillions of laths, boards, planks, and maxiplanks for every taste, every day.

The new technical passport for parquet and construction products

Meet the Document of Performance (DoP) that must now accompany the CE Mark for wood floors in compliance with new EU Regulation 305/2011

In July 2013, another step forward was taken at European Union level in the direction of better regulation and the assumption of greater responsibility in the production and sale of construction and finishing products that form part of a building, including wood flooring and parquet in general. Even if it is still not very well known or adopted by the wood floor sector, EU Regulation 305/2011 signed in Strasbourg in March 2012 and valid for the entire European Union as of July 1, 2013, abrogates the old 1988 EU Directive (Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC) that officialized the essential requisites of construction materials and regulated the assignment of the EC Mark. This Regulation will provide the new reference standard for the production, and above all, the sale of construction products in the European Union, and must be respected by all operators in the chain, from production to distribution.

whole article HERE

When parquet shows respect for the environment

The new criteria required to obtain the European Ecolabel logo For wood parquet and laminate and bamboo floors

On March 14, 2013, the European Commission modified the criteria presented in Ruling EC 2010/18 required to obtain the European Union's “Ecolabel” logo for wood flooring with environmental excellence. In order to obtain the Ecolabel mark, producers must issue a statement that certifies their complete respect for every specific technical-management parameter prescribed. We'll take a closer look at just what the Ecolabel mark is, its purpose, its importance in the market, and the requisites necessary to obtain it.

Ecolabel: ecological quality logo
The Ecolabel logo is a voluntary ecological sustainability logo proposed to producers by the European Union with the objective of promoting products with reduced environmental impact throughout their lifespan. The EU Ecolabel awarding scheme is managed directly by designated organizations known as the “Competent Bodies” appointed by each EU member nation. These Competent Bodies evaluate the applications submitted for the issue of the EU Ecolabel on the basis of product group and the criteria published by the European Commission for each group and type of product inserted in the Rules of the European Council and Parliament (EC No. 66/2010 dated November 25, 2010). Each application must be presented to the Competent Body in the product's nation of origin. For products produced outside the European Economic Area Market, applications must be submitted to the Competent Body in the nation where the product was launched in the market. Products bearing this seal of ecological quality distinguished by the daisy-shaped logo are the consumer goods that have been selected on the basis of the selection criteria established by the EU member nations and the European Commission that aim at awarding both environmental excellence and the performance levels of widely-used articles, such as coverings for floors made with wood and plant-based substances, for example.
Ecolabel acceptance criteria

Ruling EC 2010/18 specifies the ecological criteria for the issue of the Ecolabel logo for wood flooring. Eligible products must comply with the quality mark's general provisions set forth in Regulation EC 66/2010. The group of products known as “wooden coverings for floors” includes covering products of plant origin such as wood, wood coverings, floors in laminate, coverings and floors in cork or bamboo with over 90% of the final product's weight derived from wood, wood powder and/or wood/plant based materials. This group of products does not include coverings for walls, outdoor use, or structural purposes.

Types of certifiable product

In order to prevent confusion, the European Regulation has provided correct definitions for the products that can be awarded the Ecolabel logo if they meet the requisites prescribed by the European Commission.
• Wood and wood-based materials. These materials are made by bonding with the use of adhesives or glues one or more of the following materials: wood fibre, and/or wood sheets or slabs, and/or residue of wood coming from forests, plantations, sawdust, paper industry pulp residue and/or recycled wood.
• Wood and wood-based materials. These include solid wood panels, wood fibre panels, medium-density fibre panels (MDF), chipboard, OSB (Oriented Strand Board), plywood, and solid wood panels. The term "wood-based materials" is also applied to composite materials made with wood-based panels faced with plastic or plastic laminate and/or resin, metal foil or other finished/semi-finished woodbased covering materials (veneer). The group of products defined as “wooden coverings for floors” includes solid wood and virgin wood coverings, laminate flooring, cork coverings and bamboo floors.
• Solid wood and virgin wood coverings are defined as: “wood floor or wall coverings composed of a piece of heartwood with tongues or grooves at the sides or of multi-layer panels to which various layers of wood are glued. A wood covering can be unfinished and polished after installation, and therefore ether finished on site or pre-finished at the producer's factory”. As regards solid and virgin wood coverings, the criteria can be applied to coverings for floors and walls if the production process is the same and if the same materials and production methods are used. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 112.
• Laminate floors are defined as “rigid coverings for floors with a top layer formed by one or more thin sheets of fibrous material (usually paper) soaked in thermosetting amino-plastic resin (usually melamine), pressed or fastened to a substrate that is usually finished with a support layer". As regards laminate floor coverings, the criteria can be applied only to coverings for floors and indoor use. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 134.
• Cork coverings are defined as coverings for floors or walls having cork as main component. Cork granulate is mixed with a binder and then hardened or else various layers of cork (composite/veneer) can be pressed together using glue. Cork coverings can be divided into natural cork tiles (which have cork composite as main component and which must be provided with a finishing) and processed cork panels (composed of various layers, one of which being a fibre panel having a main component of cork composite or cork as a technical solution to be used with a finishing wear layer). As regards cork coverings, the criteria can be applied to coverings for floors and for walls if the production process is the same and if the same materials and production methods are used. These criteria have been established exclusively for indoor use. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 134.
• Bamboo covering are those with solid bamboo or bamboo agglomerate as their principal element. For bamboo coverings, the criteria can be applied only to coverings for floors and indoor use. The reference unit to be adopted for the inputs and outputs is 1 sq m of finished product.

The quality required
In order to obtain the Ecolabel logo, wood coverings for floors must meet Ecolabel criteria and satisfy the following conditions: • Limited environmental impact on habitats and natural resources
• Limited energy consumption
• Limitation of substances harmful for health and the environment.
• Limited use of the harmful substances contained in the materials and finished products.
• Safety and absence of health risks in the home. • Information that enables consumers to use the product efficiently and reduce the overall environmental impact to a minimum.

Technical criteria

The European Regulation envisions the application of 11 technical criteria that conclude with the consumer information to be provided on the Ecolabel by starting from the raw materials. In detail, these criteria regard:
1. Raw materials
2. Use of harmful substances
3. Production process
4. Waste management
5. Phase of use
6. Emission of harmful substances
7. Emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
8. Packaging
9. Suitability of use
10. Consumer information
11. Information to be provided on the Ecolabel
Even if it is not possible to analyze all the criteria established by the European Regulation, below we provide the most important points that producers interested in obtaining the Ecolabel logo must respect.

The origins of the raw materials

All materials with wood, cork, and bamboo bases must be taken from sustainably-managed forests. Producers must apply purchasing policies that are sustainable for the timber and adopt a system for the tracing and verification of the origin of the wood that follows it from the forest to the first reception point. Producers must also document the origin of all the wood and guarantee that it comes from legitimate sources.
The wood must not come from protected areas or those for which official processes for recognition as such are currently in progress, old-growth forests or forests with high environmental value defined as such by national procedures, unless such purchases fully comply with national environmental protection regulations.
Lastly, it is well worth remembering that as of January 1st, 2013, at least 70% of the solid wood and 40% of the wood-based materials contained in wood producers bearing the EU Ecolabel logo allowed for sale in the market must be taken from sustainably-managed forests or from recycled materials and certified as such.

Wood and recycled materials

The recycled wood, post-consumer wood chips or wood fibre used in the production of wood-based materials (input) must at least comply with the standard established by the European Panel Federation (EPF) In Paragraph 6 of the document entitled «EPF Standard for delivery conditions of recycled wood» dated October 24, 2002. The total quantity of recycled material must respect the limits indicated in Prospectus No. 1 (see the Table on Page 14). It must be borne in mind that the term “wood chips” is used to indicate the bits of wood derived from the processes of chopping, crushing, and sawing adopted at most sawmills and during similar industrial processes. Wood chips are included in the group of recycled materials as defined, while remembering that wood chips are considered waste material while being transported to the panel producer and are therefore subject to the checks required by law and consequently treated as required before recycling in a new wood panel. After incorporation into a new wood panel, the material is no longer considered a waste, and for such reason the checks required by law are no longer necessary.

Impregnated substances and preservatives

Wood floors must not be impregnated. After cutting, solid wood must not be treated with substances or preparations containing any of the substances included in any of the following lists: WHO recommended classification of pesticides 1a (extremely harmful) and, WHO recommended classification of pesticides 1b (very harmful) substances. Furthermore, the wood must be treated as specified in the following European Council Directives: Directive 79/117/EEC dated December 21, 1978, regarding the prohibition against the selling and using phytohealth products containing active ingredients, and Directive 76/769/EEC: member nation provisions regarding restrictions on the marketing and use of certain harmful substances and preparations.

Harmful substances

In this regard, the EU Ecolabel Regulation establishes the following general requisites:
a) requisites regarding harmful substances for the treatment of virgin wood and the plant materials that may be applied also as coverings and surface treatments;
b) chemical substances classified as harmful for the environment by the producer or the supplier according to the European Community classification system (28th amendment to Directive 67/548/EEC) must respect the following two limits:
- contain only up to 5% of volatile organic compounds (VOC)
- wet paints and varnishes must not exceed 14 g/sq m of the surface area, and the quantity of VOC applied must not exceed 35 g/sq m;
c) chemical substances classified as harmful to the environment by Directive 1999/45/ EC must not be added to the substances and preparations used for surface treatment. Products may, however, contain up to 5% % of volatile organic compounds (VOC) as specified in Council Directive 1999/ 13/EC. Whenever the product must be diluted, the concentration of the product diluted must not exceed the limit values specified above. The quantity of harmful substances for the environment applied (in wet paints/varnishes) must not exceed 14 g/m2 of surface area, and the quantity of VOC applied (in wet paints/varnishes) must not exceed 35 g/m2.

Formaldehyde emission

The emissions of formaldehyde by the substances and preparations used in surface treatments must be lower than 0.05 ppm. The applicant and/or his supplier must provide the material safety sheet and a conformity certificate or its equivalent for the purpose of meeting this requisite, together with the necessary information on the formulation of the surface treatment provided, and test certificates issued by accredited laboratories that certify the respect of the limits established by law.

Energy consumption

A formula has been proposed for the calculation of the energy consumed during the production process that in addition to the effective energy consumed also takes into account the percentage of raw material taken from certified forests and recycled materials. Energy consumption calculated in this way regards only the production phase from the raw material to the finished floor covering and is expressed as the average energy consumed during the production process per year (excluding heating systems).

Waste management

Applicants for the Ecolabel logo must provide all the necessary documentation regarding the procedures adopted for the recovery of production process by-products. The documentation must contain all the following information: type and quantity of the waste recovered; the type of waste elimination provided, and information on the reutilization (inside or outside the production process) of the waste and the by-products in the production of new products.


Only easily recyclable materials, materials obtained from renewable energy sources, and materials destined for re-utilization can be used for the packaging of floor laying elements. The applicant for the Ecolabel logo must provide a description of the packaging used for the product and a declaration that certifies the conformity to this requisite.

Suitability for use

The product must be suitable for use. The respective documentation may include data obtained through the use of the appropriate ISO, CEN (EN Standard) or equivalent testing methods, such as national or inhouse company procedures. A declaration of suitability for use for the product must also be prepared and based on the information regarding the optimum use of the product by the final user. In compliance with the new European Building Regulation (995). A product will be considered suitable for use whenever it complies with a standard, a European technical homologation, or a non-harmonized technical specification recognized at European level. The European Union «EC» mark of conformity for building products provides producers with an easily recognizable conformity certificate that is deemed sufficient for the purpose above.

Consumer information

The product must be sold with all the user information required, recommendations for its correct and optimum use in both technical and general terms, and product care information. At least the following information must be provided on the packaging and/or in the documentation enclosed to the product:
a) indication that the product has been awarded the EU Ecolabel logo, with a brief but specific explanation of its meaning in addition to the general information provided in the label's second panel.
b) recommendations for product use and maintenance. Such information must provide all the instructions required for product maintenance and use in particular. Whenever necessary, reference must be provided to the characteristics of product use under difficult conditions, such as in regard to water absorption, soiling resistance, chemical product resistance, the preparation required for the sub-surface, cleaning instructions, the recommended types of detergents, and the cleaning intervals necessary, for example. This information must also include indications on the product's potential lifespan in technical terms expressed either as an average or as a range;
c) indications regarding the product's postuse recycling or elimination circuit (explanations that provide consumers with information on the product's potential elevated performance);
d) information on the EU Ecolabel logo and the respective groups of product.


As we invite our readers to visit the European website for more information, it goes without saying that a product bearing the Ecolabel daisy acquires added value, because in addition to being a symbol that guarantees the product's sustainability and quality, it instills in millions of consumers in Europe and around the world the confidence and trust that has sometimes unfortunately also been scarce in the wood flooring sector.
Despite the fact that there are currently no Italian producers entitled to apply the Ecolabel (owing, above all, to its recent ratification), we are more than sure that we will begin to see the first Italian products for parquet, wood, laminate, and bamboo floors bearing the European daisy seal during the year that has just begun, also because when it comes to genuine products and protection of the environment, Italian industry ranks second to none.

PARQUET: yesterday, today, tomorrow

When were wood parquet floors invented? What were the biggest steps in their development? Come with us on an interesting trip through the centuries...

Although wood floors are among the earliest features of human homes, it’s practically impossible to identify the oldest wood floors or the shapes of formats first used. Walking over a wood floor has always come so naturally to humans that no one has ever really taken the time to find out where or when we began doing so for the first time.
Whether they wore out, crumbled, burned away, or were shattered by armies, the most ancient applications of the technique surely disappeared a long, long time ago. The honor of our first real floor (after beaten earth, of course) almost certainly goes to stone, and to granite or sandstone in particular. By the time Man first began experimenting with terracotta or marble, he had most certainly already tried wood, yet no visible traces remain, unless you count stilt houses or palafitte.
The first significant demonstration of the use of wood for floors probably dates back to around the 10th Century BC, and consists of the numerous paintings of King Salomon seated on a throne placed on floors made of planks. This pictorial evidence is the only credible proof of the use of boards for flooring, which were merely smoothened on the surface for the purpose.

From ancient Rome to the Middle Ages

The Ancient Romans were the first to bring design to the laying of floors, especially their brickwork floors, and invented the testacea spicata e opus pattern that we call herringbone today. The Romans also developed the various techniques for the sawing of the trunks required to make boards, in this way enabling the development of the floorboards, and consequently the first real wood floors. By the final decades of the First Millennium, the use of wood floors had spread throughout Northern Europe and the colder areas along the Atlantic Coast. Most were built with Oak, Pine, Spruce and Larch felled in forests nearby. The trunks were worked into formats that closely resemble the ones we use today: planks, blocks, and strips. By the end of the Middle Ages, people had acquired a taste for inserting different types and hues of wood planks into complex geometrical patterns. Well-preserved examples of the oldest indoor wood floors laid between the Gothic Period and the 15th Century can still be seen today in both Great Britain and Scandinavia.

From Medieval times to the 17th Century

This was when inlay was first developed with the use of both local wood and the first exotic varieties brought back to Europe by navigators sailing afar East and West. Wood floors became even more popular in the second half of the 17th Century when unknown craftsmen with refined artistic sensitivity and a special feeling for wood laid fanciful and complex patterns that were also inspired by the arabesques they had seen during their travels to distant lands. This work highlighted both wood’s decorative and aesthetic qualities and the craftsmanship of the men who laid it by choosing different types of planking and working it into strips, fillets, lath, inlay, decorative elements, and veneer, which when carefully fit and glued together using natural adhesives (based on rennet, egg, oxblood, and isinglass) produced elegant harmoniously and chromatically balanced floors. These techniques were the foundation for a model and working method that continues its development even today.

The Golden Age of parquet

In their glowing and abundantly-detailed representations of domestic life, Flemish painters often provided testimony of the use of wood floors. During the 1700s, the interior decoration of the most illustrious palaces and villas was essentially based - thanks to the achievement of a determined effect of balanced harmony - on the composition of the inlay in the floor. Attention to the floor’s formal and graphic value very often became the dominant element in the room’s décor and dictated the choice of every other element of furnishing. This was the Golden Age, the period of highest expression of the technique of inlay and wood decor. Important architects like Juvara took great interest in this versatile element of structure and design as it came to be used in Palazzo Madama in Turin, the Palazzina di Caccia in Stupinigi, Villa Reale in Monza, and in many other prestigious buildings in Italy. In France, the wood floors in the Castle of Versailles marked the onset of the use of a new laying element known as the “tile” with a regular, squared shape. The combined whole made by these large diagonal squares came to be known as “Versailles”. The builders of Versailles also gave us a complete series of floor laying pieces that included decorative frieze elements, divider strips, squares, fillets, inserts, and other elements used to frame the perimeter and highlight the room’s central area. This was when the term “parquet” was first coined as the way to refer to a “little forest”, due to the fact that the use of all this solid wood in the floors recalled the woods that surrounded Versailles and all the other majestic French and European mansions, villas and residences. The parquet (made with autochthonous and exotic varieties of wood) laid in the splendid buildings in and around Saint Petersburg is renowned in Russia; the work of the Architect Jacopo Quarenghi of Bergamo is famous throughout the world. In Italy, many architects designed and laid splendid wood floors, including Leopoldo Pollak, Simone Cantini, Alessandro Antonelli, Gaetano Kork and Giuseppe Piermarini.

Modern and Contemporary times

The architects of the modern movement and all contemporary architects have continued showing interest in wood flooring, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, with his villas in the United States, the Finnish Alvar Aalto, with his unquestionable mastery in matching different colored wood with the tones of surrounding masonry, Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra, Charles Mackintosh, and the majority of Italy’s own brilliant architects. The most commonly-used types of laying element include regularly- shaped prismatic elements such as boards and strips, squared formats, such as the socalled tiles, trapezoidal elements, and “extra-long” planks (which in addition to making laying harder may sometimes even compromise the stability of the wood floor itself).

Oriental parquet

Wood has always played a particular role in the flooring of homes in Japan and the Far East from the earliest times. At first, the wood flooring that required resort to precious materials and the application of particular working techniques was reserved to the limited public building market. The use of many species of wood coming from outside Asia today and the bamboo that grows locally combined with the development of new woodworking techniques give this material a wider range of use (for use in theaters, schools, gyms, churches, industrial and residential construction) thanks to its costs more affordable than other materials.

Wooden components. From the origins to today

Although wood floors have always denoted a higher level of culture all over the world, wood could not be afforded by everyone until the previous century when our so-called traditional parquet composed of vertical and wide fingers, planks and strips with tongue and groove jointing first made its appearance. In the following decades, European species of wood were gradually complemented by others of African, South American, and South-east Asian origin. Regardless of the format or type of element to be laid, nowadays the technique most widely applied involves gluing. As regards laying patterns, end to end or ship deck patterns never go out of fashion. In the years to come, the coffering technique once used in ancient castles may even stage a comeback, thanks to the use of more modern elements, perhaps. In recent years, long-plank solid wood laying elements that have been judged impractical have lost some of their popularity. Now is the big moment for multilayer elements and alternative solutions (easy to lay but occasionally inadequate in quality), which are also aided by the growing trend in demand to lay the entire home’s floor parquet. This has led to the development of new, pre-treated, large-format elements with modified structures that improve chemical-mechanical characteristics and reduce moisture absorption to a minimum and the risk of swelling in consequence. There are heattreated elements with modified structures, others treated with acetylene, and yet others with mixed wood fibres + acrylic resin or propylene composition, not to mention the elements in two-layers of noble wood that enclose a central layer (usually softwood) running perpendicularly to the other two in order to ensure stability even with lengths longer than two meters. Laying often involves gluing, and the wear surface can be planed and sanded like any solid wood element, providing the additional advantage that damaged planks can be replaced without compromising the rest of the floor.

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