Unit block wood flooring — 9″ oak tongue-in-groove floor tiles — and where to find them

parque-floor-tilesHere’s something I didn’t know existed and turns out to be a great product to consider for our midcentury homes: “Unit block” oak flooring. 9″ tongue-in-groove solid pieces (rather than in the finger block style that we have profiled before.) In a big coincidence, we received tips on two places to buy these in the span of the same week — and once I was able to figure out some of the terms to describe this style of flooring  — “unit block flooring” seems to be the generic, “K-Block may be the more specific, or possibly a brand name — I was able to search these term and find a variety of places to buy it. 

Source #1: Wood Floors Plus

The first place I spotted these tiles was via midcenturyrichmond on instagram. She has an original floor made of these tongue-in-groove tiles, but needed some replacements to repair some damage. The photo above is hers. She searched and searched and finally found them at WoodFloorsPlus.com.

wood-floors-plus-parquetI called Wood Floors Plus twice to ask about the product. Jordan — very helpful! — told me that starting in the 1960s or 1970s, the industry started moving away from fingerblock parquet to this single-block designs. He said these blocks today are engineered red oak with a veneer on top.

In my followup with Amanda — also very helpful — I also learned there are TWO options to purchase these parquet blocks:

  1. Unfinished — at $4.09 s.f.
  2. Finished with a natural color — $4.19/s.f.

Note, Wood Floors Plus told me that these engineered floors are topped with veneer. As such, there will be a limited number of times you can refinish them. That is: If you try to refinish more than twice, you risk sanding through the veneer to the less pretty engineered oak substrate. Talk to Wood Plus about this.

If you want a wood parquet floor that can be refinished multiple times, the finger block parquet option is composed of solid wood, so it can be refinished over and over.

BUT, engineered wood does have other benefits — it can be installed below grade, on concrete, because its “engineered” substrate is designed to wick moisture. Solid wood floors typically can not go down on concrete. Also, the Wood Floors Plus engineered parquet floor is less than half the price of the solid parquet we found online.

BUT BUT me no expert! For complete specifications and instructions, talk to Wood Floors Plus and any other potential retailers directly to select the floor that’s right for you.

Note, Wood Floors Plus said this floor is manufactured by Indus Parquet; I could not find it on their website.

Nice find, midcentury richmond!

Source #2: K-Block Flooring available from numerous online sources

wood-tilesNext, I heard from reader Alesha — she found her unit floor blocks — K-Block flooring on ebay (affiliate link). Above: That’s her original floor with the yet-to-be-installed K-Blocks alongside. She wrote:

Pam,

I thought I would share this with you just in case people are looking for 9″x9″ wood tiles for their midcentury house. Our living room floor is made of 9″x9″ red oak tiles that are tongue and groove and a half inch thick. Our kitchen floor meets this floor, but is covered in awful peel and stick. I keep my eye out for wood tiles on Ebay, but usually it’s too expensive for us. This is extremely affordable, and we ordered just a few to make sure it would match well enough for us. I just ordered 70 more tiles to do our kitchen in and have extra! They have three different pre-finished colors to choose from. We went with the natural and it worked out just fine. The seller has good communication and has to set up an auction tailored to your specific needs.
Thanks, Alesha!

Search online for lots of place to buy unit block flooring

Alesha’s tip was the one that led me to the term “unit block”: Once I searched “K-Block,” the term “unit block” came up in some listings… so then I searched “unit block” and found a number of other places to buy it. I won’t list all the other places — [although I will note: I found another source for a good-looking selection fingerblock parquet here.] I will say: I did not research the differences, if any, company-to-company. Looks like some are prefinished, some not. I’m not sure if they are all veneer-on engineered-wood, or not. Another set of issues to research and understand fully before you pull this trigger on this option.
Finally, further clarification on the words. Seem like:
  • “Wood block” refers to flooring like this generically. However, wood block flooring can get very spendy depending on the species and cut and if it’s solid wood.
  • “Unit blocks” are wood blocks, but unit blocks seems to refer to the more affordable, mass-market building material — oak, as the best example, that has been built up into one unit.
    • “Fingerblocks” are are a type of unit blocks — they are slats built into one unit then installed.
    • “K-Blocks” are a second type of unit blocks. Built up wood with a single piece of veneer on type. I remain unclear on whether K-Block is a generic term or a brand name.

If others can clarify the terms, ya know how I love to know this stuff!

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Comments

  1. ineffablespace says

    It’s great to see this. While my house has oak strip flooring, several of houses built at the same time have finger block.

    A similar but more durable-sandable product to the engineered K block is End-grain block, here by Kaswell Flooring Systems, although there are others.
    http://kaswell.com/end-grain/

  2. Ree says

    I live in a neighborhood where all of the houses were built in 1955 or 1956 and all had either wood parquet or cork tile floors. Over the years, people have renovated and as usual, many of the floors were torn out to be replaced with wall to wall carpet or ceramic tile or laminate flooring. One evening I saw my next door neighbor wheeling a dolly loaded with parquet flooring down the sidewalk and into her carport. I asked her about it and she said that for years she had been collecting the parquet flooring that people were tearing out of their houses and usually left on the curbside for trash pickup. She was approaching having enough to install in her entire house. Last year she finally acquired enough of other people’s trash and it became her treasured flooring. She had it installed and refinished and it is beautiful. For the price of some patience and sweat equity in collection she now has about 2000 sf of vintage parquet flooring. She still collects a few for extra in case of future damage, but it’s getting harder and harder to find within the neighborhood.

  3. Elizabeth says

    Thanks Pam! I have this in my newly purchased 1953 ranch’s living room and had no idea what it was or where to begin sourcing for replacements.

  4. Amy says

    Ree, what a story. I’m so impressed.
    Now, to find me some 9×9 black marbled vinyl tiles for my 1949 bathroom.

      • Carolyn says

        Pam, technically you a Pioneer are since about 8 yrs ago when you started this blog. Maybe you don’t know that when people do research, pretty much every link is “retrorenovation.com”
        But I think Amy commented instead of replied to Ree’s 2:14 p.m. “trash” collector anecdote.

  5. says

    Hey, that’s my floor! Thanks for publishing Pam, I’m happy to share my experience as I move forward with installing the new floor tiles. My house was built in 1954 or 55 and has these floor tiles throughout. They are glued down to a concrete slab and installed with the grain going in opposite directions for a very slight checkerboard effect. They seem to hold up well to everything except prolonged water exposure. The areas I am replacing are from when a portable A/C and a dishwasher leaked without me knowing and caused the tiles to swell and break apart. Even though they are not solid wood, the top layer of veneer is fairly hard and has worn well against moving furniture and my dogs long claws.

    Thanks again! This site has been a wonderful resource as we renovate our home.

  6. Kevin says

    I have a condo in Myrtle Beach Sc. It is the old military housing for the Air Force base that closed in 1996. Most of the 600 units had this flooring in all areas except kitchen and bath. My floors were in great original shape until my hot water heater burst and ran for 2 weeks unchecked. The floors were ruined beyond repair and I searched for a replacement at the time but was not able to find one. I bought that particular unit because the flooring was so beautiful, was sick to see it sopping wet and falling apart. There are usually units for sale and the floors are still extant in many homes. The development is called Seagate Village and the units have other Mid-Century charm elements such as the original windows, old tile baths and phone shelves in the hallways. They are built like fortresses and very reasonable for a beach place, easily within one mile of a great state park on the only unspoiled beach in the Grand Strand.

  7. lynda says

    I would like to mention that I have dealt with WoodFloorsPlus for years and they are a great company. I remember many years ago going to an old house to buy some Chickasaw white oak flooring from them and their small sons were playing around the store. Now the sons are grown and working at a large warehouse filled with lots of flooring bargains. I have bought many different floorings from them over the years and sent many people to the store. Everyone I have ever dealt with at the store has been knowledgable and super nice. Also, the apartment I rented in Northern Virginia back in the 70’s had the solid parquet. The apartments were probably built in the 50’s.

  8. Carolyn says

    Because I’ve only seen realtor pics of these floors and not in person, any time I’d see a kitchen, I’d think “What a great recycling idea” for all sorts of leftover pieces of wood but who would have the patience to cut these all to the same size and then glue them down over such a large area?
    Duh-uh! My mantra is “He who can laugh at himself will never cease to be amused.”

  9. Mary Elizabeth says

    My DH and I have installed many a wood floor, in both homes we have owned together and in other people’s homes. My suggestion to people wanting to install the engineered blocks would be to spend the extra 10 cents per square foot and buy the prefinished blocks. First, In our experience with wood flooring in general, the factory finished and sealed products have a harder and longer lasting finish than the one you can put down yourself. If you are comparing products from different suppliers, it pays to ask how many layers of polyurethane are put on each product.

    Second, since the engineered blocks with veneer cannot be sanded and refinished very often, I wouldn’t want to begin the project with a sanding job, especially if it is a DIY project. Our experience with friends and family who have veneer floors is that one misstep with the floor sander can ruin a floor.

    Third, besides skills, floor sanding requires special safety precautions, for which homeowners should, as Pam always says, “consult with your own licensed professional” about.

    Even with the prefinished blocks, people should follow installation instructions and also talk with their floor products dealer about installation tips.

  10. says

    I cant even tell you how awesome it was to find this article today! I have been searching high and low for this flooring! My house is a 1962 brick ranch with this flooring! I have a few rooms that do not have this flooring, and I am dying to add it!

  11. Dan says

    Hi, I’m somewhat new to this site but I LOVE all the info on it. I’m working on re-doing a basement kitchen in a 1956 Ranch. Right now I’m picking out flooring and came across this thread but I am looking at VCT and already have samples on the way, but I’m not crazy about 12″ tiles. Am I nuts to think about cutting these 12″ tiles down to 9″ square? I’d of course use a table saw and fine tooth blade but there is just something about the look of 9″ tiles that 12″ doesn’t do for me. I know I’d be voiding the tile manufacturers warranty but I’m confident in doing this just to achieve a truly authentic look.

  12. says

    Thanks for this post! I just bought this flooring from Wood Floors Plus for my 1962 ranch, and they now have pre-finished blocks in Gunstock on clearance for $2.49/sq ft. The natural and unfinished are still $4+, but if you want a darker finish, you could get a good deal.

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