What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring?
24th November 2016
Hardwood flooring brings warmth, character, and added value to a home, and it is a popular choice in new construction and renovation. Engineered hardwood flooring is a type of flooring with a surface of real wood laminated to a strong plywood foundation. This produces a flooring product that is attractive, versatile, and less expensive overall than solid hardwood flooring.
Comparing Engineered and Solid Hardwood Flooring
Many species of wood are used for both solid wood and engineered flooring, including red oak, English walnut, black walnut, ash, maple, mahogany, and cherry wood. Different species of wood vary in color, hardness, durability, price, maintenance requirements, and ease of installation and refinishing for both solid and engineered flooring materials.
Solid wood floors are usually made of planks of wood æ of an inch thick, 2 inches to 4 inches wide, and of varying lengths. The planks are nailed in place on a solid subfloor of plywood, which itself is nailed to the floor framing below. Solid hardwood planks join together tightly on each side with tongue and groove edges.
Because they are installed with nails and sensitive to moisture and temperature, solid wood floors cannot be installed on a concrete subfloor and are best avoided in kitchens, baths, and laundry areas. Engineered hardwood floors are more stable and resistant to moisture and temperature variations, making them suitable for areas where other wood floors are not advisable.
Engineered hardwood flooring comes in widths of 3 to 7 inches and thicknesses of 3/8 to æ inches. The hardwood finish is a surface layer between .6 mm and 6mm (.02″ to .24″) in thickness. Underneath the hardwood veneer are between three and 12 layers of laminated plywood. Thicker layers of veneer and more layers of plywood correspond to a higher quality, more durable finished floor.
All but the thinnest layers of veneer on engineered flooring can be refinished, just as solid plank floors can be. Veneer layers over 2mm thick can be resurfaced several times, and floors with thicker veneers can last 50 years or more.
Installing Engineered Flooring
Installing engineered floors is often easier and faster than solid wood floors. Both types of floors require a solid subfloor, but engineered floor systems can be installed directly over concrete or old flooring, unlike solid wood planks.
Thinner engineered hardwood floors can be glued to the subfloor like vinyl flooring, making them a practical choice for homeowners wanting a DIY hardwood flooring project. Advances in tongue-and-groove locking systems on some types of engineered flooring make installation especially quick and accurate for anyone with moderate carpentry experience.
Professional installation of engineered hardwood flooring is less expensive and faster than installing solid wood floors, and a professional installation comes with a guarantee on materials and workmanship.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Engineered Hardwood Flooring
The main disadvantages of engineered hardwood flooring over solid wood is in durability and refinishing of the floor surface. Solid wood floors last longer and can be resurfaced more often than their engineered counterpart.
Nonetheless, engineered hardwood flooring has many advantages, including:
- Price: While engineered hardwood floor materials often cost about the same, or even more, than solid plank flooring per square foot, installing an engineered floor is simpler and less time consuming, reducing overall cost and making this floor type less expensive than solid wood.
- Moisture resistance: Engineered hardwood floors were originally developed for installation directly on concrete slabs. They can tolerate more moisture on the surface and underneath the floor than other wood flooring, making them a good choice for kitchens, basements, and other moisture prone areas.
- Coping with floor level transitions: Because engineered flooring comes in several thicknesses, making a transition between a tiled kitchen or bathroom and a hardwood floor in another room or hallway is more seamlessly accomplished without the use of transition trim strips.
- Ease of installation: Installing an engineered floor can take less time and cause less disruption during the work. Ease of installation translates into lower cost.
- Sustainability: Engineered hardwood flooring uses less hardwood per square foot, making it a greener and more sustainable material choice, especially when using a rare or exotic wood species. Sustainable technologies are also used in manufacture of the plywood base. Logos on a wood flooring product displaying the letters SFI and FSC indicate sustainable harvest practices.
Engineered hardwood flooring is an attractive, durable, and reasonably priced alternative to solid wood flooring. A professional installation assures you your new floor will last for decades to come.