A parquet floor is a wooden floor made from many pieces of wood fitted together like a mosaic or puzzle, and it can be as large as a ballroom or as small as a bathroom. Frequently, parquet is made from different types of wood with varying grains, to create a unique and eye catching pattern. The parquetry inlay technique is also used on furniture or decorative items, especially in the Middle East and India, which have a long tradition of beautiful parquet floors and artwork.
The fundamental purpose of parquet, of course, is to cover the joists of the floor and provide a surface for people to walk on. Historically, cheap homes tended to have plain wooden floors because they were cheaper to manufacture, while wealthy homes had lavish floors made from decorative stones like marble, limestone, and slate. When parquetry was developed, it opened up the possibility of having decorative wooden floors in the homes of the wealthy, and many builders seized upon the technique both because it was unique and because the floors were lasting, durable, and beautiful. Finally, unlike stone flooring, parquet would not trap moisture and rot in the joists of the floor, ultimately causing them to fail.
Any type of wood can be used in parquet to create a pattern. Sometimes the parquet pattern may be a subtle variance of grains between tiles in the flooring, while other floors may use strips of radically different colors. Classic parquet patterns include herringbone, basket, chevron, and brick style flooring. Particularly ornate parquet uses an assortment of geometric shapes to create a large and beautiful pattern which might include floral themes, sunbursts, or abstract art.
Traditionally, parquet is made from solid pieces of wood cut in a tongue and groove pattern so that they can be fitted together. Because the floor is solid all the way through, it can be sanded down and resurfaced as it degrades with age, and some floors will permit several refinishings before they need to be replaced. Cheaper parquet uses veneer, a thin strip of high quality wood mounted on particleboard. Veneer can sometimes be refinished, depending on the floor, while laminate, the cheapest type of parquet, cannot.
Most building supply stores carry the materials needed for parquet flooring, ranging from herringbone tiles to individual strips of tongue and groove designed for creating your own pattern. The use of a professional is recommended for large, unique parquet floors, in order to ensure that the pattern is even, consistent, and well thought out. For smaller rooms, or homeowners using parquet tile, installation can be accomplished with a few days of hard work, especially if assistants are rounded up.