Engineered Wood Benefits
Talking with homeowners is one of the most rewarding parts of my week and I know our customers appreciate our honest help and advice. There is really only one topic where it seems our advice is not only at times disputed but, seemingly, unwelcome: engineered hardwood flooring.
I’ve had more than one homeowner get audibly frustrated with me at my insistence that engineered hardwood flooring might be the most appropriate solution for their specific project.
Why is this? What misconceptions do these homeowners have that prevents them from taking my advice? Why do they insist that they want the “real stuff?”
Let’s take a step back and understand what engineered flooring is and what it is not.
Engineered hardwood flooring is 100% wood. It is not laminate flooring and it is not “cheap.” The surface layer is the exact same material that a solid floor is made of. In fact, many manufacturers make the same style of floor in both solid and engineered versions and it is 100% impossible to tell them apart.
Engineered hardwood can be used in more environments. Under the surface layer of solid wood, there are multiple levels of manufactured wood product (think plywood). These layers are assembled in a crossing pattern meaning that they expand and contract in 90 degree angles. As a result of this process, engineered floors are impacted much less by changes in humidity and temperature and, therefore, can be used in environments where solid hardwood would be prone to warping or damage.
Engineered flooring can be installed over any surface. While solid hardwood can only be installed by nailing it down to wood subfloor, engineered hardwood isn’t subject to any such restrictions. If your home or condo has cement floors (basements) there is simply no way to use solid flooring.
Engineered flooring can be less expensive and more environmentally friendly. Engineered hardwood uses much less of the solid wood species from which it is made. Therefore, for more expensive and rarer wood species like walnut and tigerwood, engineered flooring can both be less expensive and more environmentally friendly. It can also be manufactured in much wider board widths.
So where do all the passionate feelings that engineered hardwood is an inferior product come from?
Honestly, I don’t know. I think people confuse it with laminated hardwood which, rather than using the solid wood top layer as engineered hardwood does, uses a printed image made to look like wood. That stuff is an inferior product and does not look the same as solid hardwood. Maybe it’s the name? It is plausible that when people hear “engineered” then they incorrectly think it’s not real wood.
Engineered vs. Solid Wood
But, c’mon, there must be something about engineered flooring that is not as good as solid. Right? Well, here is what I can come up with:
Solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished multiple times. Engineered can certainly be refinished but perhaps only 2 to 4 times depending on the thickness of the wear layer. Considering a floor only needs to be refinished when it is worn or damaged (may be every 15 or 20 years), I’m not sure how much to hold that against engineered flooring. Plus, most engineered flooring comes prefinished and, usually, with a 30+ year wear guarantee.
“Swirly” grain pattern when the top layer is shaved, not sawn. On some lower-end engineered hardwood flooring products, the top wear layer of wood is not cut from the tree in the same way as solid hardwood. It is “shaved” rather than “sawn” resulting in grain patterns that can be a little “swirly” compared to the traditional look. It isn’t that the product itself is inferior, it just has a look people sometimes don’t like. Again, this is typically on the lower-end, less expensive options.
This post may not change everyone's mind but if it reaches just one person and helps make our conversation with them more productive and helpful then it was definitely worth it! :)