Fumed and Smoked Wood Floors

Fumed, or smoked oak is oak wood flooring which has been treated to change its colour.

Like many things, it is reputed that fuming was discovered by accident.  Dating back to the turn of the twentieth century, it is thought that the original discovery was made in horse stables.  At that time, it was noticed that the beams above the horses were considerably darkened compared to the beams in other parts of the stable and this darkening process was connected to the ammonia in the horses’ urine.  Fuming or smoking as a wood treatment process became common place with arts and crafts furniture makers and to this day, is extremely popular.  Although not difficult, fuming isn’t something which would normally be done on a DIY basis for floors, although it is commonly used on this basis for colouring small pieces of furniture

Fuming or smoking involves putting the oak into an enclosed environment in which ammonia is introduced into the atmosphere.  This enclosed environment might be a closed tank or a sealed tent or some form of container into which only a relatively small amount of ammonia is introduced.  The effect of the ammonia in the air is that the colour of the wood is changed.

It is a common mistake that fuming or smoking oak involves the application of the ammonia to the oak, but this is not the case.  The change in colour comes about from the wood’s reaction to the presence of ammonia in the atmosphere.  Effectively what happens is that the ammonia causes the tannins in the wood to be brought to the surface.  The closer the tannins are to the surface, the darker the wood will appear.  The longer the wood is exposed to the ammonia, the darker it becomes.  The results obtained from fuming or smoking will range from a rich brown colour to almost black.

Essentially, the intensity of the colour and the tone of the colour will depend upon the length of time the wood stays in contact with the ammonia fumes.  Periods of as little as twelve hours will provide a lightly fumed effect and 72 hours a darker end result.  Furthermore, the higher the temperature in the chamber, as you would imagine, the quicker colour change results will appear, but not only that, the tone will be affected.  Hotter temperatures typically introduce red tones and cooler temperatures green tones allowing for creativity when it comes to the fuming or smoking process.

Above: The fuming chamber here at the Solid Wood Flooring Company

Fumed Engineered Oak flooring is made in our factory where we manufacture wood flooring by placing the raw material top layer veneerwhich can be between 5mm to 8 mm thick in a sealed enclosed chamber.

We place spacers between each layer to allow the circulated air where ammonia is introduced into the air to penetrate the cell structure of the wood. This is completed over several days depending on the final colour of oak required so that the complete top layer of the engineered wood flooring is saturated with ammonia to guarantee that the colour is consistent throughout the thickness of the wood.

The fuming of Oak is carried out to bring out the natural tannins in the Oak, ammonia brings the tannins to the surface and the colour variation you will get naturally is because each piece of wood is unique and some will have tannins near the surface and some deeper down. The nearer the tannins are to the surface the darker the finished board. You can get a rich brown to a virtual black colour. The longer the boards are left in the chamber the darker they become.

Our Fumed oak will have large colour variations and you need to see our smooth finished wood flooring as well as our Brushed and double brushed. The more oil you put on the fumed oak the better it will look. As the colour is right through the board it means that any scratches will not show “white” as it is not a stain.

Smoked Oak is treated in the same way but with a different mix of ammonia and in some cases to get the warm golden colour without the extremity of colour variation we introduce wood smoke into the chamber

Fuming Oak is not staining or applying ammonia direct to the wood, the ammonia would not penetrate the total thickness of the wood. Fuming Oak means that the oak wood is subjected to ammonia in the atmosphere. If you look in old horse stables you will see that where the horses urinate the ammonia in this has risen to the oak beams or other timber above when it gets warm and is considerably darker than timber that has not been subject to the fumes. This is why we call it fuming.  

We process the timber in the chamber for 48 hours for light fuming and up to seven days for our fully fumed boards. The chambers we use are also heated and for our really dark boards we increase the heat considerably which also has the effect of hardening the oak. Hot temperatures will create reddish tones and cooler temperatures green hues to the tone. 

You will find we are one of the most creative wood floor manufacturers giving our clients the best possible solutions to interior design concepts that are rarely beaten.

You will be able to see our double brushed fumed oak fitted as the wood floor in Le Bistro Pierre in Plymouth. 

You must be aware that when you buy fumed oak there will be a large colour variation and it should be fitted by an experienced professional to ensure that the mix of colours works for the room it is in. You can see some examples of our fumed oak fitted in different locations by clicking on the product.  

Fumed Oak is perfect for any high traffic area and retail outlets including night clubs and restaurants, pubs and clubs are the perfect location. You can use and abuse fumed oak floors but as the colour is all the way through the wood it will not really get damaged and the colour will remain unless you have stained it.

But why we ask would you want to stain something as beautiful as a natural fumed oak floor.  You can lacquer fumed oak but we always recommend Timberex natural oils as these are always the best finish and are easily refinished without sanding – you should not sand our double-brushed fumed oak. 

Please be aware of cheap imitations of fumed oak where ammonia has just been wiped on the surface. To check to see if an oak floor has been properly fumed you need to look at the edge of the board to see if it is the same colour throughout the thickness of the top layer.

It is possible to fume solid oak but it takes a lot longer and engineered wood flooring is more sustainable. 

Speak to one of our experts about Fuming or anything else to do with Wood Flooring – Please call 01666 504015 

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