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ALTERNATIVE LUXURY

FOCUS ON: FLOORING

Here at Munkenbeck + Marshall, we've found ourselves reworking our materials palette in response to the recent explosion in housing development in the south-east of England. We first developed it on a number of private owner/occupier dwellings and it is now being translated into one for quality mass-residential schemes located on brown-field redevelopment sites.

We have expanded our range of natural products to include engineered natural products. Such changes have been driven in the housing industry by a requirement to provide insurance-backed guarantees, from the likes of NHBC or Zurich, to purchasers. Such insurance provides the purchaser with 10 years of cover for the mechanical and electrical systems, external fabric and structure. We encourage the developers to provide interior materials that have similar warranties and this ensures the most thorough cover to meet purchaser expectations.

STONE AND TIMBER The practicalities of maintaining natural materials were always an issue and this is more true now, with increasing awareness of the life-cycle of products, (including residual maintenance risks to purchasers). Where, for example, we used natural stone in the past, we now recommend porcelain tiles. The maintenance regime for sealing porous natural stone requires the work to be carried out by a suitably trained contractor, who has knowledge of the COSSH Regulations, to maintain the resistance to wear, spillages and staining on a regular basis.

Vitrified porcelain tiles are more resistant to such abuse and less prone to damage during the course of works on site. An added aesthetic benefit over traditional ceramic tiles is the through-colour nature of the cast material, allowing a number of edge profiles. The variation in texture and pattern also produces an attractive up-market effect.

We have also sourced timber products that are compatible with under-floor heating. Recent leaps in the technology of these systems, including intelligent thermostatic programmers, allow us to save space in apartments and rid them of unsightly radiators. But without stable flooring materials this option would be limited.

Engineered timber flooring, glued directly to a levelling screed, allows us to achieve a luxury, heated, timber floor.

KEITH MALONE'S TOP FIVE FLOORING PRODUCTS:

Porcelain tiles from Domus A fantastic range of colours and finishes to complement most interiors, with the added benefit of little/no maintenance, cut to any dimension from a 900mm square. In recent projects we have used green porcelain that looks like mud slate and a light natural-colour tile that has the appearance of fine-quality limestone. Various surface textures are also available to complement the desired look.

Engineered timber boards from Bauwerk A thin veneer of timber bonded to plywood backing provides a stable engineered board, with tongue-and-grooved edges that allow the timber to be bonded over an under-floor heating system - with resistance to temperatures of up to 27ºC.

Chinese granite from Cristofoli International Affordable alternative used in the common parts and entrance halls of large commercial housing blocks. An influx of cheaper stones imported from China has made it possible to include such quality stones within the tightest of budgets.

Natural-fibre carpets from Natural Floor Jute, Seagrass, Coir, Paper and Sisal - tough durable carpeting, with an urban twist. Paper is made moisture resistant with an added resin and can be laid in wet areas, but it is advisable to have any natural carpet treated with a water-based stain-resistant coating before laying. We like the fact that carpeting is organic and can even be recycled after it eventually wears out.

Sikafloor from Sika Systems This is our wish-list product, a seamless resin floor fi nish.

A thin, 3-5mm layer of Sikafloor cast directly onto the concrete slab or debonded screed provides a surface, available in many colours and textures, that is resistant to scuffing and chemical spills and is easy to clean.

Keith Malone is associate at Munkenbeck + Marshall

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