ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORS
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOOR SHOPPING GUIDE
Engineered Hardwood offers all the natural beauty and comfort of a solid hardwood floor with the added benefit of being a more versatile and stable product. Given its practical design, engineered hardwood floors offer more resistance to slightly lower or higher moisture levels than solid hardwood, which allows them to be installed in certain areas that hardwood cannot (below grade basements for example). Furthermore, most engineered floors can be installed using a variety of different methods including nail down (over plywood), floating, or glue down.
AT A GLANCE
CARB II COMPLIANT
RADIANT HEAT COMPATABLE
ON, ABOVE, OR BELOW GRADE INSTALLATION
FLOOR SCORE CERTIFIED
20 YEAR RESIDENTIAL WARRANTY
LACEY ACT COMPLIANT
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD STRUCTURE
HIGH QUALITY REAL WOOD VENEER
PROTECTIVE FINISH: A lacquer that is applied to provide effective protection to the flooring surface. Typically a Poly-Urethane finish.
REAL WOOD VENEER: This layer is made of solid wood and gives you both the look and feel of a traditional solid hardwood floor. It can be made from a variety of different species of wood and can come in multiple different thicknesses.
MULTI-PLY CORE: The core is made up of a multiple cross-ply construction which helps the flooring retain its shape and offers 'greater dimensional stability' than a traditional hardwood floor.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
ENGINEERED VS. SOLID HARDWOOD:
When it comes to real hardwood flooring, there’s solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. The solid hardwood is manufactured from a single piece of wood, whereas engineered hardwood is a more versatile and resilient product made of multiple layers of high-quality plywood with a hardwood veneer on the surface.
Since hardwood is a natural product, it may shrink and expand depending on the humidity and temperature in the environment in which it is installed, and as such, is recommended for use only on or above ground level.
With the cross-wise layers, Engineered hardwood flooring is more dimensionally stable and not affected by the humidity as much as solid hardwood, therefore it can be installed on, above and below ground level (using the appropriate installation methods).
Both solid and engineered hardwood floors highlight the beauty of the wood and stand up to the day-to-day foot traffic. One benefit of solid hardwood is that it can be refinished multiple times, whereas with engineered, depending on the thickness of the wear layer, may only be able to be refinished a few times (if at all).
Engineered Hardwood floors can be designed for a variety of different specifications. Generally speaking, you want to consider the following things when evaluating the quality of engineered hardwood floors.
SPECIES OF VENEER
THICKNESS OF VENEER
NUMBER OF CROSS PLY
THE JANKA RATING
The standard assessment of a species’ hardness is the Janka Test. The Janka scale is used to determine the relative hardness of particular domestic or exotic wood species. The Janka test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444" steel ball into the wood to half of its diameter. Woods with a higher rating are harder than woods with a lower rating.
The following images depict how the Janka test is conducted, as well as a scale showing the relative hardness of each wood species. For normal residential use, the wood hardness is not usually a critical decisive factor. Keep in mind, manufacturers have no control on species hardness, it’s natural
If you have questions or concerns regarding how to select the appropriate wood for your home environment, we recommend you speak to one of our product experts who can give you some additional information on how not only to select the right product but also how to properly care for your flooring.
Q. What is engineered wood?
A. Engineered wood is a three-ply or multi-ply wood flooring that can be installed over a concrete or wood subfloor. The top layer (veneer) is made of the hardwood species that will be visible when installed. Unlike solid wood, engineered hardwood can be installed below grade (in basements). Engineered is also a more stable product than solid hardwood, this is due to the multi-layer cross-ply construction of the core. This core provides greater dimensional stability within the product and helps to minimize the natural expansion and contraction of the wood. The finish is the same as solid wood the flooring will wear the same.
Q. Can engineered hardwood floors be refinished?
A. Typically the answer is yes, however it will depend on the thickness of the wear lear. The thicker the wear layer, the more re-finishes will be possible.
Here are the general guidelines to keep in mind:
.5 to 1mm wear layer: cannot be sanded and refinished; only recoated with a layer of urethane.
2mm wear layer: can be sanded and refinished 1 to 2 times.
3mm wear layer: can be sanded and refinished 2 to 3 times.
4 to 6 mm wear layer: can be sanded and refinished 3 to 6 times.
Q. What is the difference between floating, glue down, and staple/nail down installation?
A floating floor is a type of installation that the wood flooring is not attached to the subfloor. The boards are affixed together by gluing the Tongue and Groove (T&G) together or by a locking system. They are installed over underlayment and will expand and contract as a whole. A floating installation is the least expensive method to install and can be done over wood or concrete subfloor.
For glue down installation, the boards are installed using full spread moisture cured adhesive. You can install the flooring on a wood or concrete subfloor.
For a nail down installation, you can use hardwood flooring fasteners, staples or cleats. Follow the manufactures installation guidelines for subfloor specifications and fastener schedules because each product may have slightly different instructions.
Q. Why do you need to leave a gap around the perimeter of the room and if so, how much?
All wood flooring will expand and contract during the changes of the seasons due to increased or decreased humidity levels. Space (expansion gap) is needed around the perimeter of each room and all vertical obstructions to allow this natural movement, especially for a floating floor. The amount of space to leave is slightly different between products and should be in the manufactures instructions.
Q. Why do you need transitional moldings in all doorways and connecting ways?
For floating installation, the boards are affixed to each other and the flooring will expand and contract as a whole. Each room wants to expand and contract independently. Push/pull or shear forces will be transferred to the small section of flooring in the doorway or connecting way adjoining the two surfaces can cause buckling or gapping. Also, if you want to change the direction of the boards, you can use an expansion transitional molding to separate the two areas.
Q. What is a floating floor?
A. The term ‘floating floor’ refers to how a floor is installed, without glue, simply resting on the subfloor to allow for expansion and contraction of the material. Both laminate and engineered wood floors are called floating floors. Laminate is almost always installed as a glueless, click-together floating floor. Engineered wood floors can be installed as either floating lock or angle connect or glue-down tongue and groove.
Q. What should I consider when choosing between solid or engineered wood?
A. There are two key factors which will influence your choice between solid or engineered flooring. First, consider the type of subfloor you have to work with. Engineered floors are installed either as floating or glue-down planks, so they can be installed over wood or concrete subfloors. Solid hardwood floors are installed with a nail-down application and can only be installed over wood subfloors. Second, consider the width of the board you’d like to install. If you want a wider board, choose an engineered floor for dimensional stability. While you can get solid boards 4” or wider, we don’t recommend them, as they are more prone to moisture-related problems like cupping and crowning.
Q. Are engineered floors as good as solid floors?
A. Yes. Engineered floors are as good as solid floors. In fact, we would argue that they are better because their multi-layered, wood construction makes them more dimensionally stable and environmentally friendly.
Q. What is a wear layer and can engineered floors be sanded and refinished like solid hardwood floors?
A. A wear layer is a top layer of wood on a multi-layered engineered wood floor, that holds the species and color you are choosing. There isn’t any advantage to using the same species of wood all the way through an engineered plank, particularly with more expensive wood species. Using a less expensive species in the middle and base layers offsets the cost of producing engineered floors. Typically, a good wear layer is about 1/8” thick and can be sanded and refinished just like a solid, single-layer wood floor. An engineered floor can only be sanded the depth of the wear layer which often is typically about where the tongue and groove start (see illustration below). This is similar to a solid hardwood floor which can’t be sanded any deeper than the tongue and groove without revealing the application nails.
Q. Can I install hardwood floors in the basement?
A. Because engineered floors can be floated over concrete subfloors and are more dimensionally stable, they can be installed in basements or below grade, where solid hardwood floors cannot. However, because moisture levels tend to be high and sub-floors tend to be concrete, we recommend you proceed with caution when installing engineered hardwood flooring in a basement.
Concrete is a porous material that can conduct moisture, so your floor will definitely require a vapor barrier at the least. But an improperly installed or defective vapor barrier may cause moisture to leak and this could ruin your floor. If there is any concern about moisture, consider building a wood subfloor to allow air and moisture room to move.
Q. How much material do I need to order for my room?
A. It is important to correctly measure a room to determine how much material to purchase. Many people forget about closets or extra material that may be needed at room transitions. Extra material is also needed for waste cuts and plank arrangement to ensure you arrive at a pleasant pattern. The general rule of thumb is to allow about 7-10% extra on top of your room measurements.
Q. Do I need to keep extra boards left from the installation?
A. Let’s face it. Accidents happen. So, it’s a good idea to keep some extra flooring aside in case you need to repair or replace a board due to water damage, gouges or other wear and tear. This will ensure you have an exact match to the stain and grain of the rest of your floor, and it will save you trouble if the product becomes discontinued in the future.
Q. My floor is a different color and grain from the floor sample. Why?
A. Wood is organic and comes from a natural source. Therefore, you can expect to see variations in batches and between boards. Expect differences in colour, grain, knots and mineral streaks, with some wood species having a greater degree of variation than others. These variations add to the beauty of your natural, real wood floor.
Q.What does greater dimensional stability mean?
A. The instability of solid hardwood flooring is generally moisture or heat related. In unsuitable conditions, solid hardwood can warp, cup, swell, or split apart. Engineered hardwood is more stable because it overcomes many of these problems with its the multi-ply plank construction that counteracts twisting and remains flat and intact. This makes engineered hardwood a better candidate for installation over underfloor heating and concrete, whether it’s above or below grade.
Q. How do I clean engineered hardwood flooring?
A. Keep your engineered flooring swept, clean, and dry on a daily basis. Use either a vacuum cleaner with a soft flooring attachment or a broom. A dry microfiber dust mop can be used to pick up dirt and debris from the floor. Spills must be wiped up as soon as they occur. Excessive water or liquid can cause irreversible damage to engineered hardwood flooring. You can also keep pebbles, dirt, moisture, grains of sand, fragments of glass, and debris away by keeping floor mats and rugs at all entrances. This will help keep the upper wear layer and finish your floor safe and intact for a longer period of time. Avoid walking on your floors with high heeled shoes or shoes with spikes because they can cause severe damage to the upper wear layer of the floor. Wax-based cleaners, harsh detergents, or steel wool should not be used to clean engineered hardwood flooring.
Q. My floor is crackling and squeaking when I walk on the flooring. What is causing this?
When wood flooring is making objectionable noises when walked upon, it means that the flooring has excess movement. It can be caused by many reasons. It could be problems with expansion, uneven subfloor, improper installation methods, etc. If it is a significant problem, you should get your flooring inspected by a certified wood flooring inspector and they can pinpoint the cause then a remedy can be determined.
Q. My floor is a different color and grain from the floor sample. Why?
A. Wood is organic and comes from a natural source. Therefore, you can expect to see variations in batches and between boards. Expect differences in color, grain, knots and mineral streaks, with some wood species having a greater degree of variation than others. These variations add to the beauty of your natural, real wood floor.
Q. My floor has changed colour from when I bought it, is it defective?
A. Wood is photosensitive and will change colour when exposed to light. Generally, lighter woods will get darker and darker woods will get lighter. Bear in mind, these changes only occur until a certain point and then your floor colour will stabilize and remain the same for the life of the floor.