Parquetry is a collection of wood pieces joined together to create a decorative effect, rather like a mosaic. This method of designing with wood is used for both furniture and parquet flooring. Strictly speaking, all parquet flooring patterns are angular, while the use of curved shapes is marquetry. This distinction is not usually observed, and any kind of wood block pattern is usually called parquet flooring.
Original parquet flooring was made from solid blocks of different wood species, laid in patterns over tie bars and nailed in place. A fine example was installed at Versailles in 1684, where it replaced a patterned marble floor. Parquet flooring became enormously popular among the rich, because it did not trap moisture and encourage rotting joists the way marble flooring did.
Popular woods for solid parquet flooring include oak, walnut, cherry, pine, and maple. Rare woods like mahogany, ebony, and rosewood were sometimes used for very special floors. Stains and finishes enhance the contrasting colors and grains of the different woods.
Popular parquet flooring patterns include basket, herringbone, chevron, and brick, although ornate parquet flooring used many geometric shapes to create intricate and beautiful patterns. Fine parquet flooring was often laid by a master cabinetmaker working with a carpenter.
Solid parquet flooring is extremely durable. When old houses are renovated, solid parquet flooring is often discovered beneath layers of later work. These floors can readily be restored to their original grandeur. Homebuilders who want parquet flooring of a similar quality can commission floors from artisans who specialize in this work or search for antique flooring in architectural salvage businesses.
Modern parquet flooring is usually composed of a hardwood veneer laid over a less expensive substrate. The veneer is glued in place. This type of parquet flooring can sometimes be repaired or refinished if it is damaged, but it is relatively fragile. Loose pieces of veneer can be re-glued. Veneer parquet flooring is sold in panels or tiles.
Laminate parquet flooring has pieces of imitation hardwood fixed on a rigid substrate. A clear protective plastic coating protects the surface. This is the most inexpensive type of parquet flooring, but it cannot be repaired if it is damaged. It is usually sold in tiles.