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What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Everything You Need to Know

What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring

If you are in the market for floorings, you must have come across the term engineered hardwood. And you might be searching for an answer to — what is engineered hardwood flooring?

We are all familiar with hardwood flooring or “solid” hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood is made entirely out of wood, and it is one of the most popular flooring options. Engineered hardwood is almost identical to solid hardwood — with a few key differences, obviously. The main difference between the two is how they are each constructed and their core materials, which sets them apart in longevity, price, water resistance, and maintenance.

So, what exactly is engineered hardwood flooring? How is it different from solid hardwood? We will discuss everything you need to know about engineered hardwood flooring.

What is Engineered Hardwood?

What is Engineered Hardwood?

The term “engineered” refers to “made out of more than one material” in the flooring world. As suggested in the name, engineered hardwood consists of a thin layer or a “veneer” of solid hardwood bonded over a plywood substrate. The surface hardwood layer gives it an identical look to solid hardwood flooring.

The thickness of the veneer and the multi-layer core or backing depends on the design and manufacturer. The thickness of the individual layers and the overall thickness of the engineered hardwood plank determine its longevity and quality. The direction of the grain of the ply layers in the core can also add to the dimensional stability of the engineered floor.

The main advantage of engineered hardwood is that it is a much more affordable alternative to solid hardwood. It also offers several different installation methods, such as glued down, stapled, floating with glued joints, and floating click-together. It can be installed over a variety of subfloors and even other flooring materials. It can be installed directly over concrete, vinyl, tile and any other hard surfaces that are level. Finally, it helps conserve the hardwood by using softer wood species for the middle and back layers.

What is the Difference Between Solid Hardwood and Engineered Hardwood?

What is the Difference Between Solid Hardwood and Engineered Hardwood?
 Hardwood FlooringEngineered Hardwood
Cost$8 to $15 per square foot$4 to $14 per square foot
Material100% HardwoodPlywood core bonded to a thin layer of hardwood
Lifespan30 to 100 years20 to 40 years
CoreHardwoodPlywood
MoistureNot waterproofMore water-resistant than hardwood 
StabilityMay warp or crack in humidity fluctuationsHandles humidity fluctuations better than hardwood
CleaningDry cleaning onlyWet mopping allowed
SizesThickness: about 3/4-inch, width: 2 1/4 to 4 inches, length: 12 to 84 inchesThickness: 3/8-to-9/16-inch, width: 2 1/4 to 7 inches, length: 12 to 60 inches
RefinishingFour or more timesOne or two times
Installation MethodNail down, tongue-and-grooveNail down, floating, or glue-down
Difference between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood

Engineered Hardwood Pros & Cons

Engineered Hardwood Pros & Cons

Engineered hardwood differs from solid hardwood in many ways — oftentimes improving on what hardwood has to offer. It also beats other flooring materials with its classic look and versatility. However, there are also a few downsides to engineered hardwood that you should know about before investing in it.

The Benefits of Engineered Hardwood

The Benefits of Engineered Hardwood

More resistant to humidity fluctuations

Humidity fluctuations are one of the biggest concerns of hardwood floor owners. You need to maintain optimal humidity levels throughout the year to protect hardwood from warping, cupping or cracking. Engineered hardwood is not as sensitive to moisture and humidity fluctuations, making it ideal for humid climates or cold, dry winters. It adds to the longevity of the flooring and makes engineered hardwood more stable and durable. 

Engineered hardwood will not shrink or expand with humidity fluctuations. So, with the engineered option, you don’t have to deal with the annoying creaking sound of the wood plank. You can also use it in moisture-prone areas such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, or the basement.

Easy to install

Engineered hardwood is sometimes installed with a nail-down method like solid hardwood. You also get the option of “click-lock” edges or tongue and groove installation that you can either keep as a floating floor or glue down. The easy installation also means cheaper or DIY installation, which is even better if you are on a budget.

Very durable

Engineered hardwood is almost a super durable doppelganger of solid hardwood. The plywood core adds to the durability of the material. It is made of multiple layers that are perpendicular to each other that tightly seal the wood. It doesn’t expand or shrink with moisture, making it more stable and durable. It works well even in sunrooms due to its solid nature.  

More affordable than solid hardwood

This comes as no surprise, but engineered hardwood is an affordable alternative to hardwood flooring. The typical range of engineered hardwood flooring is around $2.50 to $10 per square foot, with most falling in the $4 to $7 per square foot range. However, you can also find designer engineered hardwood that exceeds solid hardwood in price.

Engineered hardwood can also make exotic hardwoods more affordable because they only use a thin layer of solid hardwood as opposed to the entire plank. This means you don’t need to break the bank to flourish your flooring with your favorite exotic hardwood.

It can be installed directly over the subfloor

You can install engineered hardwood directly over the subfloor without any underlayment. On the contrary, solid hardwood needs special underlayment over the subfloor before laying the planks. It makes installing engineered hardwood less labor extensive and time-consuming — hence, less expensive. Make sure the subfloor is level and does not show any sign of damage before you start installing.

Do you know the difference between underlayment, subfloor, and joists? Click here to learn more.

It can be installed over other floor coverings

Another big pro of engineered hardwood is that it can be installed over existing floor coverings, including hardwood, tiles, and even vinyl. As long as the floor covering is in good shape and has no dents, it can serve as a subfloor for engineered flooring. Nevertheless, you need to account for the added floor height if you install the planks over an existing floor.

Engineered hardwood can be installed directly over concrete. However, if the hardwood goes directly over concrete, you need to use a moisture barrier.

It can be used in anywhere

The resilience and versatility of engineered hardwood make it work anywhere and everywhere. You can even put it in places such as basements, kitchens, and bathrooms where solid hardwood is an absolute no-go. It also comes in various colors, finishes and sizes, making it a fit-for-all flooring choice. You can use it outdoors or in the sunroom without the risk of damaging it. Engineer hardwood also works well with underfloor heating systems, unlike its solid counterpart.

However, avoid putting engineered hardwood in areas that come in contact with water and spills regularly, as it is not waterproof. Pick a complete waterproof flooring option for places like mudrooms.

Easy to clean

Solid hardwood has a bad rep for being hard to clean and maintain. You need to be precise when cleaning solid hardwood — otherwise, you risk damaging them. Using wet mops on hardwood is not recommended as moisture can damage it.

Since engineered hardwood is not as susceptible to moisture, you can use a damp mop to clean it. Remove all the dust and debris from the flooring surface using a broom or a vacuum. Use a damp mop (not wet) to mop the floors regularly. Only use non-corrosive and hardwood-safe products to clean engineered hardwood floors. If you notice any stains or scuffs, you can scrub them gently with a damp sponge.

More environmentally friendly

Engineered hardwood uses repurposed wood to build its core that would otherwise go to waste, making it an eco-friendly flooring choice. It also uses fewer trees per plank compared to solid hardwood. The veneer is sliced instead of cutting with a saw, reducing sawdust and other pollutants.

However, engineered hardwood is not biodegradable at the end of its life cycle due to using adhesives to join the layers. This adhesive also may off-gas or contain volatile organic compounds, which you should take into account before purchasing.

The Disadvantages of Engineered Hardwood

The Disadvantages of Engineered Hardwood

It can be refinished only a few times

Engineered hardwood has a thin veneer of solid hardwood, and it can be sanded and refinished only a few times before the hardwood layer is exhausted. And you might not be able to refinish at all if you pick cheaper engineered hardwood.

However, this is not an issue because prefinished hardwoods generally come with an extremely durable, UV-cured, aluminum oxide factory finish. These finishes generally do not need refinishing. You might add a new layer of polyurethane every now and then to keep your floor protected.

Not waterproof

Even though engineered hardwood handles moisture better than solid hardwood flooring, it is not waterproof. Engineered hardwood is more water resistant than regular wood but will get damaged if regularly exposed to spills or soaked. You cannot clean it with wet mops, but a damp mop is safe to use on engineered hardwood.

Not scratch-proof

Although engineered hardwood is very durable, its top layer is still made of hardwood, and hence it is prone to scratches. You might want to reconsider your flooring choice if you have pets and kids. Click here to explore scratch-resistant flooring options.

However, you can dog-proof your engineered hardwood the same way as solid hardwood flooring. Here is a complete guide on how to dog-proof hardwood.

Types of Engineered Hardwood

Types of Engineered Hardwood

The thickness of Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood flooring is typically between 3/8 inches to ¾ inches thick, whereas solid hardwood flooring ranges between ½ inches to ¾ inches in thickness.

A good quality engineered hardwood should meet the below criteria for its thickness —

  • Overall Thickness: 5/8 inches or ¾ inches
  • The thickness of the veneer: 4mm
  • The thickness of the core: 9-ply or 11-ply

Dimension of Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood is available in wider boards, ranging up to 7 inches, while the length can range from 12 to 60 inches. You will typically find engineered hardwood in dimensions such as –

  • All 6 inches wide
  • All 8 inches wide
  • All 10 inches wide
  • 6-10 inches wide
  • All one width, or random widths depending on your requirements

Have more questions about engineered hardwood? Comment below and let us know.

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