You might ask, why would anyone choose engineered hardwood flooring when you can have the real thing for around the same price?
Or, what exactly does engineered mean?
These are both good questions. And while it’s true that you don’t really save much money by going with engineered hardwood, it has become a popular option in flooring.
Like any other type of flooring, it has its benefits and its compromises. It depends on what you consider most important.
If you love the look of hardwoods but are uneasy about putting them in your kitchen where they can be exposed to both water and heat, then engineered hardwoods are a good alternative.
If you don’t want to spend the time or money tearing out an old ugly floor so that you can replace it with a new, hardwood floor, then a floating engineered hardwood floor can solve your problem.
The engineered part of this wood flooring has to do with the way it is constructed. So, if you are in the market for new floors, and like the look of wood, don’t rule out this alternative to solid wood planks just yet.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring Pros
- It’s still “real” wood.
- Withstands both heat & moisture.
- Durable for high-traffic areas.
- Wide selection of woods & grains.
- Option of wider planks.
- Easy to install.
- Most can be sanded & refinished multiple times.
- Increases property value.
1. Even though it is engineered, it is still real wood.
No, engineered hardwood is not made of solid planks of wood, however, it is constructed of three layers of wood and plywood. And the top layer is made of hardwood veneer.
The inner core layers are generally made of multiple layers of plywood that are glued and pressed together.
The top layer is made of hardwood veneer and comes in just as many choices as a solid hardwood floor. The three types of veneer are rotary peeled, sliced, and sawed face veneers.
Each type of veneer begins with a real piece of wood. So even though it is not solid wood, engineered hardwood is still a real wood floor.
2. Stable enough to withstand both heat and moisture.
One of the great benefits of engineered hardwood is its stability. It is actually more stable than its solid wood counterpart.
Because of its engineered construction, it can withstand high heat and areas with moisture. This means that you can install it in bathrooms, basements, and other areas that could cause solid wood planks to warp.
In fact, engineered hardwood, first designed in the 1960s, was specifically created for areas such as basements.
3. Its durability makes it a great floor for high traffic areas.
Engineered hardwood’s core is made of layers of plywood. This type of construction makes these planks extremely durable.
And the more layers your engineered hardwood has, the more durable it is.
They hold up well in any high traffic areas. They can also handle spills and messes well, and are easy to clean.
While it is possible to dent or scratch them, it takes a strong force to do so. And fortunately, you can sand and refinish most varieties.
4. There is a wide selection of wood grains and finishes to choose from.
Because engineered hardwood is made from real wood, the choices are just as varied as with solid wood planks. Whether you like pine, oak, or exotic woods such as acacia, you can find one to fit your style.
Choose from different species and finishes to achieve the look you want. Pick a grade of wood that fits within your budget.
You can choose wide or narrow planks, parquet, or even the chevron look.
5. You have the option of wider planks.
If you go with solid wood, your planks are limited by the width of the trees available. But this isn’t the case with engineered hardwood flooring.
Since the planks are “engineered”, the width is not under the same restrictions. In fact, you can easily find planks well over five inches wide for your floors.
So, if you like a more casual look, then wide planked flooring is the way to go. And with engineered hardwood, there are plenty of choices.
Now, not everyone wants wide planks. If you prefer a formal look, there are plenty of narrow engineered hardwood planks to choose from.
6. Engineered hardwood is easy to install.
This type of flooring can be installed professionally or by a do-it-yourselfer.
The planks can be nailed or glued down the same way that solid wood floors are. Or, you can install them as a floating floor.
What is a floating floor? It is a type of flooring installation where the planks attach to each other and rest on top of a subfloor.
That means that if you want to replace an old tile floor with hardwoods, you don’t have to bust up all the tiles. Unless you just want to.
7. The best engineered hardwood can be sanded and refinished multiple times.
What makes the best quality engineered hardwood standout from its lesser counterparts is that it can be sanded and refinished repeatedly. This is a feature very similar to solid hardwood.
The key is to choose an engineered hardwood with a thick wear layer.
Wear layers vary greatly. You can find them anywhere from .6mm to 6mm.
If you choose flooring with a wear layer at least 4mm thick, you can sand and refinish it four to five times during its lifespan.
8. This type of floor adds value to your home.
Wood floors are a true investment in your home. This holds true whether you choose solid or engineered hardwood.
If you plan to eventually sell, you can expect a good return for your money with these floors. Not only can they increase your home’s value, they can also help it to sell faster.
According to the National Association of Realtors, flooring plays a major role in a home’s real estate value.
So, go ahead and use high-quality flooring. It will pay off.
Engineered Hardwood Cons
- Some poor-quality choices available.
- Can be difficult to repair in some situations.
- Not the most environmentally-friendly.
- Limited on how many times you can refinish the flooring.
- Less-expensive flooring options are available.
1. There are some poor-quality choices out there.
Not all engineered hardwood flooring is created equal.
Some are constructed well and made to last. Others are poorly designed and are not good choices.
This is the type of flooring that requires a little homework before you buy. So, you should devote some time to researching the products and manufacturer.
2. Engineered hardwoods can be difficult to repair.
Even though this kind of flooring is extremely durable, accidents can happen. And your floor can get damaged.
If the floor was installed as a floating floor, it will be a challenge to replace the damaged boards. You may have to dismantle a large section to get to those pieces.
And if the floor was glued down, then you could damage the planks around those that need replacing.
3. It is not the most environmentally friendly choice.
Engineered hardwoods have toxins in the stains and topcoat.
They will also off-gas. This is because all manufactured or engineered wood products are made with adhesives and resins.
The EPA has addressed many of these concerns with its Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Products Act.
If eco-friendly flooring is important to you, check to see how green the manufacturer is before buying any type of flooring, including engineered hardwood.
4. You are limited on how many times you can refinish it.
Yes, a high-quality engineered hardwood can be sanded down and refinished.
But only so many times. Then you must replace the floor.
Unlike a solid hardwood floor, engineered hardwood has a thin layer of veneer on top. This layer can only take about two or three refinishing jobs before you must replace it.
5. There are less-expensive options.
If budget is your main concern, then engineered hardwood is probably not the best choice.
If you go with engineered hardwood, remember it is important to buy one that is made well.
On a tight budget, you are better off choosing high-quality laminate over cheap engineered hardwood floors.
How to Find a High Quality Engineered Hardwood Floor
When it comes to engineered hardwood flooring, quality matters.
The way to determine the quality is by examining the thickness of the top layer and the core layers. The thicker the better.
The highest quality engineered hardwood typically comes with at least a 3mm top layer and seven to nine inner layers. Overall it should be about ¾ inch thick and offer a wide selection of options.
A step down from the highest quality floor will have a top layer thickness of 2-3mm and have around five core layers. It offers some variety of species and is about ¼ inch thick overall.
You can also find value-priced engineered hardwood flooring. However, it is best to choose one that is at least ¼ inch thick with a 1-2mm top layer and at least three inner core layers.
Whichever grade you choose to go with, make sure that it also carries a manufacturer’s warranty.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cost
The cost to install engineered hardwood flooring is dependent on several factors; the quality of the flooring you choose, and whether you have it professionally installed.
Engineered hardwood flooring can cost anywhere from $3 per square foot to over $14 a square foot. Based on the quality of flooring you choose, here’s what you can expect to pay:
- Standard quality: $3 to $6 per square foot with limited choices such as oak or ash. With installation, the floor will cost anywhere from $6 to $11 per square foot.
- Medium quality: $6 to $10 per square foot with additional options such as beech, cherry, and some exotics. To have it professionally installed, the total cost per square foot ranges from $10 to $18.
- High quality: $10 to $14 per square foot with a wide variety to choose from similar solid hardwood options. With installation included, the price ranges from $14 to $22 per square foot.
These are estimates to give you a better idea of what it will cost to install an engineered hardwood floor. However, factors such location and brand can also impact the price.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring Durability
In general, engineered hardwood is a highly durable type of flooring. However, the level of durability is somewhat dependent on the quality of the flooring, whether you’ve applied protective coating (like polyurethane), as well as your attention towards cleaning your engineered flooring.
The thicker the veneer top layer, the longer the floor will last. This thickness also impacts how many times you can sand and refinish the floor.
The core layers of wood or plywood run opposite directions, which increases the strength and durability of engineered hardwood. Engineered hardwood should last as long, if not longer than solid hardwood flooring.
A high-quality finish will also improve the durability of this product. If you finish these floors yourself, choose a finish with high ratings and apply it generously.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring Reviews
Floor & Décor carries a wide selection of engineered hardwood flooring in the low to moderate price range. The flooring, available both online and in stores, comes in many grains, finishes, and species.
They offer both floating and glue down installation options. And all their engineered hardwood flooring includes warranties.
The company provides design experts in their local stores to assist customers with their choices. They also have a lowest price guarantee and will match any of their competitors’ prices.
Floor & Décor opened its doors in the year 2000 and has received mid to high star reviews as a flooring company. Many cited excellent customer service as the company’s strongest asset.
The company, Hosking Hardwood, is best known for its connection to the PBS series “This Old House”. Jeff Hosking, the son of Hosking Hardwood’s founder, Thomas Hosking, has been a consultant on the show since 1984.
Aside from television, the company is one of the most well-respected hardwood flooring companies in the industry. They have several showrooms in the New England states and sell their products across the country online.
The company sells many of the best engineered hardwoods that you can find. And they also provide their customers with a wealth of information about the products online.
Hosking Hardwood was founded in 1939. The company has received many favorable reviews online.
Home Depot’s selection of engineered hardwood ranges from low to high quality flooring with plank thicknesses anywhere from ⅛ to ¾ inches in thickness. They offer many choices of quality, price, species, and brand (including a hardwood line from Mullican).
You can choose to purchase and install this floor on your own or pay an additional cost for their professional installers to do it for you.
Home Depot is ranked as a top home improvement store in both online and in-store sales. It has been around since 1979 with the purpose of providing homeowners with resources for managing their own home improvement projects.
They staff the store with well-trained experts to help customers make informed decisions.
Lowe’s carries many of the popular brands of flooring in their engineered hardwood flooring section. They offer choices from brands such as Pergo, Bruce, and USFloors.
The styles, species, and quality you can find here are varied. However, most of the available color/style options have the same thickness of 3/8 inches.
Lowe’s has received both good and not-so-good reviews when it comes to its flooring. The main issue for some has been with the quality of installation more so than the product itself.
The company originated as a hardware store back in the 1940s in North Carolina. It is now the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world.
Like its competitors, Lumber Liquidators offers many options of engineered hardwood flooring. You can find many choices in species and style to fit most budgets.
The two brands they offer the biggest selection in are Bellawood and Mayflower. Although, they do offer a few selections from other brands.
Most of the engineered hardwood planks that they sell are ⅜ to ½ inches thick. Their prices range from $1 per square foot up to $10 a square foot.
A few years ago, the company made the news over concerns regarding the safety of the products they sell. Lumber Liquidators has since taken extra precautionary measures to ensure the quality of their flooring products.
Menards has a nice selection of engineered hardwood flooring. And many of their flooring options are made in the USA.
Amorim, Crown Lake, and Beasley are the brands that offer the largest selection at Menards. They also sell other brands and offer many different colors, styles, and grains.
While Menards is a popular home improvement retailer in the Midwest, reviews of the company online from sources such as the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports are not favorable.
The company has been around since the 1950s and offers products online and in 14 different states.