Concrete Floor or Timber Floor?

As with every method of building, there’s lovers and haters and then the majority of people who just don’t know. So in this article we’ll discuss – concrete floor or timber floor? Which you should have and why. 

Rule of Thumb 

It’s like saying ‘how long is a piece of string’ to accurately compare the price of concrete and timber floors, as it depends on loads of varying factors per job and per site. However, we have a general rule: 

If you’re having to fill over 1m to create a level platform for a concrete floor – a timber floor will be cheaper. 

Hardfill from quarrys is expensive, and as soon as you start filling over 1m the amount you need starts getting very costly, especially once you start having to compact it all in, in 100mm layers to achieve suitable compaction, over the footprint of a large house this starts to add up. 

Concrete Floors 

Concrete floors are a great foundation to build a house on and always will be. The traditional methods came under adjustment after the Christchurch earthquake which really was the start of a swing towards rib raft concrete floors, so instead of having embedded foundations around the perimeter the entire slab is on hardfill and is effectively ‘floating’. 

Concrete also has the benefit of thermal mass. Thermal mass refers to its ability to retain heat from the ground during cooler nights and winter. Because the air temperature at night is usually lower than the ground timber floors have cooler air under them which even though insulated can cause heat loss through the floor of your home. 
Noise – Concrete floors are quiet. Walking on a concrete floor versus a timber floor, you don’t hear the same clomp clomp clomp that you do with timber. If you’ve ever been walking across a carpet floor and noticed a difference in noise of your walking, likely it’ll be switching from concrete to timber underneath the carpet. 

Timber Floors 

Timber floors are extremely common in NZ due to our landform. Rolling hills and hundreds of coastal settlements with properties in places you’d never think of building a home calls for long piles and a timber floor, there’s just no way retaining and battering is going to get enough flat space for a concrete slab. 


They’re also good for places which are hard to get for concrete trucks. Concrete trucks can get most places but sometimes will have to bring smaller loads to enable them to get up or down steep driveways, making the cost of the concrete more expensive. 

Increasing numbers of new transportable homes around NZ are on timber floors, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them. As long as the floor is well insulated they’re a perfectly good solution, and hey – it means you can shift the house on after a few years if you want to reuse your same site. 

Flood zones may also force the need to use a timber floor. Some sites have a minimum finished floor level registered on their Title in relation to flood zoning and even though your site might be flat a timber floor may be required to lift it off the ground in case of flooding. 


Hybrid – Half Concrete, Half Timber?

Often a hybrid floor can work, and at the end of the day this is the most commonly used system for two storey homes – the ground floor is on concrete and the upper floor is timber. 

Going half/half on a ground floor can be of benefit if just one area of the house is out over a fall in contour, meaning that most of the house makes sense to be on concrete with just the overhang on timber.  

Keep Your Garage Floor Concrete 

Creating a garage floor out of timber where cars will be parking will cost you a small fortune and we’d advise against it unless you really, really have to. Its the simple fact of a 2 tonne vehicle coming onto a garage and stopping, and trying to calculate the point loading where the wheels will be and the stress of this through the structure. 

There are options of doing timber piles with a concrete floor on top, or creating the garage floor out of timber, however we’d advise to try keep your concrete slab on ground for cost savings and to save your home ending up in a pile of pickup-sticks after you come home in a hurry. 

So Concrete or Timber?

In our opinion – concrete. Unless of course based on your site contours and levels you need to use a timber floor. Concrete has loads of benefits and also enhances the look of the home, keeping it snug to the ground rather than having base cladding which starts to mess with the proportions of the home. 

Get in touch with the Arcline Team today to get professional help to make your next home design excellent. 

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