It goes without saying that engineered hardwood flooring is the most misunderstood type of flooring out there today. Some people think it’s “real” wood flooring, while others believe it to be manufactured, as if the word “engineered” is used to describe some man-made process to create a fake or faux wood floor. As such, engineered hardwood flooring is very often confused with laminated flooring. Let’s clear up the confusion and talk about the plain facts.
What is engineered hardwood flooring made of?
If you’re a purist when it comes to having real wood in your home, then you’ll be pleased to know that engineered wood floors are exactly that. Well mostly… Let’s just say that the most important part, the portion you see all the time, walk on, put furniture on, clean, etc. is actual wood.
The confession here is that there are indeed layers beneath this top wood portion that are not necessarily the kind of wood you’re thinking of, and love. The bottom, if you will, of an engineered floor is most often MDF (medium density fiberboard), or particle board. It can also be made from plywood, but the moral of this (true) story, is that engineered hardwood floor pieces are made from layers of different materials, the top being any number of species of real wood that looks just as nice as any genuine hardwood floor.
Engineered flooring pieces come in common thicknesses of 3/8″ to 3/4″. Widths are broad, ranging from 2″ to 8″. Their lengths can sometimes come in measurements of one foot to five foot. This helps engineered hardwood floors go down more like the nonuniform style of actual hardwoods.
You should note that when you say “engineered” you’re really referring to how this flooring material is made. In other words, it is put together (gluing those layers just mentioned together) or “engineered” to produce a beautiful wood floor. The real wood portion comes in just about any color (stain) or variety you can think of. There is no shortage of choice, just because this stuff is put constructed at a factory.
What’s the point of engineered flooring?
Now that you know what this stuff is made of in the basic sense, you probably have one big question. If the surface is real wood, why not just use the real stuff, i.e. solid wood strips like carpenters and builders have been using for centuries? Well, the answer is many-fold. And as you can guess, the reasons are compelling. Enough so, that engineered hardwood floors are becoming more popular than the real stuff. Let’s look at a few of the benefits engineered hardwood flooring offers over the real deal:
- Engineered flooring provides installation options. Unlike real wood planks that have to be nailed down to a sub-floor, the engineered variety does not. So, if you live in a dwelling that has concrete floors this is a terrific alternative. Engineered hard wood flooring can either be nail/stapled, or it can be glued or even floated. Floating engineered hardwood simply means nothing is holding the floor down. It is joined together as normal and kept in place by the pressure of the walls around the room.
- When it comes to price, engineered wood flooring is definitely less expensive in most cases. It stands to reason that the less amount of real wood (which took years to grow!) in a product, the less expensive it is.
- Engineered wood installations are quicker than the real stuff. Glued or floating floors are more quickly laid than the nailed down versions.
What is the best kind of engineered floor?
- Good quality brands will come in several lengths, while less expensive ones offer a single length in their packs. The variety definitely offers a more authentic appearance to even a slightly trained eye!
- If you’ve ever worked with tongue-and-groove materials to join them, then you know that the quality of this fastening together is important. You don’t want edges that can easily break or chip, or that are inconsistent/uneven. Take a look at this before you commit to purchasing engineered flooring, and inspect the quality closely.
- If you go to a showroom, which has samples of what you’re looking at, look closely at how the top surface is wearing. Has it scratched or dimpled easily? How has the finish held up? Does it look like the finish went on smoothly?
- Holding a sample piece in hand, inspect the top layer (real wood part). Compare it with an expensive or cheaper variety. The thicker the better of course. If it appears very thin, then chances are it won’t last as long as something twice or three times its thickness.
- For the core of the engineered hardwood floor, you’ll probably want to lean toward a plywood makeup. MDF is all right, but plywood is apt to last longer.