Quick Guide: Engineered Hardwood Flooring

What is engineered hardwood flooring?


All types of flooring have pros and cons. Engineered hardwood flooring was “born” out of the need to deal with some shortfalls of hardwood flooring. For instance, if you have dreamt of having a home with hardwood flooring, but you aren't keen on incurring the cost of having 100% hardwood floors, think engineered flooring. Installing over concrete, like in an apartment tower made of concrete, think engineered. It is stable and does really well dealing with the moisture hidden inside of concrete subfloors. As the name suggests, the flooring has been engineered (made by man). 


Solid hardwood on top, engineered hardwood image on the bottom

Engineered hardwood flooring layers


Engineered hardwood flooring has three main layers fused together. The topmost layer is composed of real hardwood covered by a topcoat or finish for added aesthetic appeal and protection. 

The flooring also has a middle layer or core made from plywood or other materials depending on factors like brand and price. 

The flooring has a bottom layer (usually made of wood). However, different manufacturers experiment with different materials, such as cork to create flooring with good support and feel. Some manufacturers also add additional layers to make their flooring unique. 


How is engineered hardwood flooring made?


Engineered hardwood flooring is made by gluing together the different layers that make up the flooring. The core board which sits beneath the layer of real hardwood is made by stacking and then gluing wood plies on each other in opposite directions to increase stability regardless of the temperature and humidity levels. 

The resulting superior flooring can be installed over concrete subfloors or in-floor radiant heating systems. Besides plies, the core layer can also be made using high-density fiberboard, which offers more stability than plywood. 

Before gluing the layers together, the topmost hardwood layer must be prepared and cut accordingly. The preparation process (drying and/or boiling), cutting and resulting thickness of the layer have a significant effect on the price of the flooring. 

The quality of engineered hardwood flooring is primarily dictated by the thickness of the topmost layer, the thickness of the overall product, as well as the species of hardwood used. Thickness usually ranges from 0.6 – 6 mm but can vary. Flooring with thicker topmost layers is more expensive for obvious reasons. The cost can increase further if the hardwood species used for the veneer top layer is rare or exotic.

As mentioned above, engineered hardwood flooring is made by gluing all layers together. The flooring edges are then milled to allow tongue and groove installation. If the flooring installation is glueless, a click-lock system can be considered when preparing the edges. 

Before the manufacturing process is over, the flooring is subjected to a distressing process like wire brushing or hand scraping to give the flooring an authentic old or antique look. The flooring is then stained and sealed using several layers of protective coat finishes. 

Important: The adhesive used to glue flooring layers together also dictates the price. Most low quality and cheap engineered hardwood flooring options use a cheap adhesive which releases high levels of formaldehyde. The best-engineered hardwood floors use high-quality adhesive (formaldehyde safe). Such flooring is CARB-compliant, E1, or E0 class. CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliance is the law in most locations in North America. Dealing with any reputable dealer / seller will almost certainly mean you are purchasing CARB compliant (low formaldehyde emissions) product. Insist on it, it is your right as a consumer.

The process of making engineered hardwood flooring can vary greatly. For instance, you can get custom flooring options as well as flooring which is unfinished among many other varieties when you buy through reputable flooring sellers.


Benefits of engineered hardwood flooring

Affordable: Engineered hardwood floors make it possible to have exotic hardwood floors in your home or commercial space at a considerably lower cost because your flooring isn’t 100% hardwood.

Stability: maybe the top feature of engineered hardwood flooring is the stability attributes. If you have a concrete subfloor, and you want real hardwood, you must buy engineered hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation over concrete. So if you live in an apartment complex where the building was made with concrete (vs wood) then you seriously should consider engineered flooring.

Variety: Technological advancements have made it possible to engineer any hardwood floor you can think off. You can get flooring featuring any hardwood as well as various type of finishing. It is also possible to add surface effects on your flooring, like hand scraped, distressed, and wire brush finishes.

Easy maintenance and durability: The manufacturing process addresses problems faced by hardwood floors. For instance, a top protective layer makes the flooring easy to clean. Construction methods also make the flooring less susceptible to chipping, warping, etc.

Easy installation: Engineered hardwood flooring is made for advanced DIY enthusiasts who would want to buy and install their own flooring avoiding additional costs in the process. The flooring is made with click-lock or tongue and groove systems which are easier to install than a solid hardwood floor. It does take a handy skill, but it is certainly possible to install without prior flooring expertise, especially if you have the option of a click lock installation. 

Increased property appeal: Engineered hardwood flooring can boost the resale value of your property significantly without costing you a lot of money. The flooring is a great option for a home or commercial property under renovation for sale or rental purposes. 

Always remember: No wood flooring, of any type, can ever be installed in a bathroom. Not solid, engineered, laminate. None of those flooring type. Only things without any wood in its composition (like ceramic & porcelain tile, stone tile, or vinyl).


Main differences: Engineered hardwood flooring vs. solid hardwood flooring




Engineered hardwood flooring vs Solid hardwood flooring

Engineered is:

Layered. Composed of a layer of hardwood at the top.

Can be sanded thou lightly to avoid thinning 

Flexible install options. Floating installation. Glue seams. Staple down.

Durability is highly dependent on manufacturing. Flooring has been engineered to handle moisture. Structure stability is superior.

Care as you would a solid hardwood floor

Recommended for a home or commercial property owner looking for the hardwood look plus added functionality such as kitchen installation, installation over concrete subfloor


Solid hardwood is:

Entirely homogeneous; top to bottom, side to side.

Can be sanded for years. Can be refinished.

Flooring must be stapled or nailed down. Flooring installation skills needed. 

Generally durable. However, threatened by moisture/water. Ideal for any other place apart from moisture-prone areas like bathrooms and kitchens. 

Costly

Extra care vs vinyl or laminate to maintain the beauty of real hardwood

Recommended for home or commercial property owner with long-term flooring prospects in mind. Also ideal for individuals who don’t mind spending and having different flooring in different areas. 


Vancouver flooring buyer? Should you buy engineered hardwood flooring or solid hardwood flooring? 

From the above information, it’s clear that both types of flooring have their pros and cons. Different property owners look for different things when selecting flooring. Hardwood flooring, both solid and engineered, is an amazing option to consider. Your buying decisions should be inspired by your tastes, preferences, and other factors like your budget. Factor in your environment and the installation guidelines, and then make a decision for the type or floor you’ll love for many years to come.  

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