Engineered Wood Floors Explained

 In Hardwood Floors

Engineered wood floors have many benefits, but often folks are confused about how they are different than hardwood or laminate floors. For a side-by-side comparison of hardwood and laminate flooring you can read our previous post.

In this post we’ll cover the pros and cons of engineered wood flooring to help you make the best choice for your home. Don’t believe those who say that engineered wood is never as good as solid wood, there are many factors to consider.

  • Are you installing floors above or below grade?

  • Will the floor be exposed to variations in temperature or humidity?

  • What kind of sub-floor are you installing over?

  • What is the most cost-efficient flooring for your needs?

Let’s take these one at a time.

Are your floors above or below grade?

Engineered wood floors are the perfect solution in areas where solid wood floors aren’t an option. For example, basements with concrete floors cannot accommodate solid wood floors that need to be nailed down. Engineered wood can be glued or “floated” over concrete making a subfloor unnecessary.

Will the floor be exposed to variations in temperature or humidity?

If you’re installing floors in an area that isn’t consistently heated, solid wood floors will shrink and expand with changes in temperature and humidity. Engineered floors are much less susceptible to these variations and are a better choice for places like basements, garages, and cabins.

What kind of subfloor are you installing over?

Most levels of your home will have plywood subfloors and you’re free to nail down any flooring you’d like. Basements or buildings with concrete floors can’t have wood stapled or nailed to them. In these cases you’ll have to float or glue engineered wood. Another time solid wood doesn’t work is when you’re installing radiant heat under your floors. Engineered wood transmits heat better than solid wood and won’t need nails or staples that could puncture wiring or water tubes.

Remodeling and refinishing floors

Sometimes we’re limited by space or cost, especially when remodeling. Engineered wood floors can be thinner than solid wood, so they’re a good option when you are remodeling and have to keep height down to clear doors and transition between rooms. If you consider yourself handy and you plan on installing floors yourself, engineered planks are easy to order online and install with affordable tools and some general knowledge.

The number of times you can refinish any floor depends on the wear-layer. Solid wood can be refinished up to ten times since it is essentially all wear-layer. Engineered wood is limited by the thickness of the veneer, when it’s worn the plywood layers underneath will show through. Wear-layers range from .6mm to 5mm. If you’d like the option to refinish your floors over the years, choose engineered wood with a thicker wear-layer. These floors can be sanded and refinished almost as many times as solid wood.

Are engineered wood floors the most cost-effective solution?

Engineered floor prices start around $3 per square foot and go as high as solid wood for the top quality stuff. Like I mentioned above, the highest quality engineered floor will look as good and last as long as solid wood.

Less expensive engineered wood has its benefits too. You might have no desire to refinish your floors, especially if you aren’t purchasing them for a home you’re going to live in for the next hundred years. In this case, a thinner wear-layer doesn’t matter.

Engineered Wood Floor Vital Info

Here’s the rundown on engineered wood floors:

  • Made of multiple plywood core layers glued together with a solid wood veneer

  • .6mm to 5mm wood wear-layer

  • Can be pre-finished or site-finished

  • Available in a huge variety of wood species, styles, and finishes

  • As durable and long-lasting as wood

  • Can be glued or floated over concrete

  • Easy to install yourself

Next time we’ll put engineered and solid wood floors head-to-head in our Flooring Showdown. See who comes out on top by following us on Twitter @aaaflooring2


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