You are familiar with engineered wood and find its layered construction charmingly ingenious. However, you are not sure whether you should choose it over solid hardwood. Comparing high-quality engineered wood with regular wood is a case of “everything you can do, I can do better.” So why go with an engineered hardwood floor installation?
As Strong as Solid Wood or Stronger
It is only common sense that a thick pile of flat-parallel wood layers compressed and glued together with an unforgiving adhesive is likely to be stronger than a simple solid plank. That is why you will find engineered wood heavily used in residential constructions, where it offers structural integrity with less volume. Provided that you choose a high-quality engineered hardwood, your wood floors are likely to offer you the same durability.
More Resistant to Humidity and Temperature Changes
Any kind of wood is susceptible to humidity. Trees constantly absorb and release water into the air, in a search for balance with the humidity and temperature of the environment. Your wood planks behave the same. Not even the top coat and sealer are able to prevent this ongoing exchange.
Changes in humidity and temperature may cause your hardwood boards to either expand (when picking up the water in the air) or contract (when losing water). The constant readjustment of wood floors may lead to cracks, cupping or crowning of the planks, and gaps may appear between the boards.
Enter engineered wood. Due to its multilayered structure, the man-made version performs better than solid wood when faced with raised levels of humidity. As a plus, when the boards are floated, the floor moves in order to readjust itself, which makes warping less likely.
This is one of the reasons why installing engineered wood is a better choice for kitchens, bathrooms and basements, provided that the changes in humidity are minimal. It is also a good choice if you live in a region with high humidity levels. Remember, however, that no wood is immune to the effects of humidity and temperature changes. While the man-made version is more stable than solid boards, it is still not suitable for extreme conditions.
Perfect Where Solid Wood Is Not an Option
While hardwood floors need to be glued or stapled to a wood subfloor, engineered wood can be installed over almost any flat, stable surface including concrete, tile and vinyl (cross the carpet off that list). On concrete floors, solid wood is not an option, so using engineered planks is the closest you can get to traditional wood. In this case, the wood boards are either glued or floated.
This flexibility makes engineered wood a more forgiving option and allows you to work with what you already have in your house. Unlike solid wood boards, the man-made planks are suitable for use on any level of your home, whether below, on or above grade.
Cheaper than Traditional Wood
Since less of the top-layer wood is used in producing the boards, engineered wood floors are often lighter on your wallet. This is even more obvious when you choose a more expensive or exotic top layer. While the cost of installing engineered wood floors varies with every hardwood flooring company, it is generally lower when it comes to rare species.
Keep in mind, however, that the wood quality varies from product to product. While engineered wood is an excellent choice in flooring, its good name has sometimes been marred by the opinions of those who had chosen low-quality products. There is a difference between “cheaper than solid wood” and “the cheapest hardwood floor out there.” Wood mills make high-quality engineered wood, and then they manufacture affordable engineered wood that fits the size of everybody’s pocket. As it happens with everything else, the two do not necessarily intersect.
It all comes down to the raw material used for the inner core and to the thickness of the board and top layer. Inner layers made of fiberboard instead of high-quality hardwood veneer are likely to be less stable and make you regret the choice. Thin wear layers do not give you any room for future sandings and do better in low-traffic areas.
Here is a tip: when choosing an engineered wood, examine the inner core as careful as you analyze the wear layer. Finally, if what you find costs much less than what you were quoted elsewhere, find out why. The answer may spare you of many headaches.