History of Victorian Floorboards

history of Victorian floorboards
Victorian floorboards are rich with history

Millions of homes were built across Britain during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). So much so that Victorian properties remain a defining feature of British towns and cities. Happily, Victorian properties are the most popular with buyers. In fact, buyers will pay 10-15% more for a Victorian home than a modern property. As these period homes are so common up and down the country, it is likely that you have Victorian floors in your home. A beloved original feature, Victorian floors have some identifiable features. Read on, to learn a little of the history of Victorian floorboards.

A Summary of Victorian Houses

The industrialisation of Britain during the 1850s-1870s saw people moving from the country to the towns. Along with this came a boom in house building. Built for the rich, the new middle classes and the poor, Victorian houses sprang up in towns and cities. While in England, homes often took the form of terraces, many Scottish cities feature stately Victorian ‘tenements’, or blocks of large, airy flats.

Victorian houses reflect the economics of the day as well as new manufacturing techniques. For example, in England, many Victorian houses are brick. Brick became more common with the end of a brick tax in the 1850s. (Whereas, local stone – such as sandstone and granite – is more typical in Scotland). In both cases, properties feature windows larger than previously. This is also because of an end to a glass tax in the mid-19th century. Similarly, the availability of materials and manufacturing techniques decided the kinds of floors put in Victorian homes.

A history of Victorian floorboards
Victorians would leave boards plain or paint them deep reds or blues

A Brief History of Victorian Floorboards

The Victorian period lasted from 1837 to 1901. During this time, architectural trends came and went. For instance, the Arts & Crafts movement ran between 1860 and 1925. Additionally, Art Nouveau came into fashion around the turn of the century (1888-1905). While these styles had things in common, Victorian period homes may show signs of Arts & Crafts or Art Nouveau trends.

Timber Types

The wood used with floors is one way to tell if your Victorian floorboards are influenced by Arts & Craft or Art Nouveau. Pine is common in Victorian homes throughout the period. However, homes in the Arts & Crafts style may feature oak floorboards. Art Nouveau homes often include areas of mosaic tile in halls and entrances.

Treatment of timber also varied in the period. For example, Victorians often covered pine floors with rugs. In this case, people waxed and polished edges to improve the look of the timber. However, Arts & Crafts homes included polished oak floors. This style wanted to show off the natural beauty of the wood. In contrast, Art Nouveau homes featured rich rugs and carpets, so there was less interest in high quality hardwoods. Thus, to complement soft furnishings, homeowners (or their servants) polished exposed floorboards or parquet borders.

A dark stain makes a modern statement

Fixing Types

The history of your Victorian floorboards in written in their fixing. Invented in 1885, the side matcher machine allowed for industrial production of tongue and groove flooring. Before this, floorboards were always face nailed to joists. However, the side matcher radically changed industrial production and allowed for tongue and groove fitting. Likewise, more efficient production allowed more modest homes to include hardwood floors. While, gaps between floorboards and squeaky floors were common, Victorians used rugs to make their rooms more homely.

History Victorian Floorboards
Victorian floorboards: simple, classic and enduring design

Victorian Floorboards Today

The Victorians built to last. Their craftsmanship is clear from the great number of their homes we still live in! While the 1960s and 70s saw the destruction of many Victorian period features, floorboards often survived. Hidden under wall-to-wall carpet, they waited to be rediscovered. Neglected Victorian floorboards can be refurbished. Confident DIYers can tackle sanding wooden floors. However, sanding floorboards is an ambitious project. Considering how much value floors can add to your home, it might be worth getting the pros in. Simply Sanding floor sanding Essex, works in Essex, London and across the Southeast. Just contact us for a free, no obligation quote!

Love the history and want more? Check out our post on Edwardian Floors