You would be forgiven for asking yourself why anyone would invest in engineered hardwood flooring. About as expensive as solid wood, why would you go for a seemingly inferior product?
But it is unfair to refer to engineered hardwood as inferior. It was not developed as an affordable alternative to solid wood floors.
Rather, engineered wood flooring was developed to deal with some of the issues associated with hardwood floors, such as warping in wet conditions or extreme temperatures, as well as the limitation(s) around the installation.
- Engineered Hardwood Pros
- Engineered Hardwood Cons
- Pricing Guide
- Quality Guidelines
- Engineered Vs. Solid Hardwood
- FAQs About Engineered Hardwood Flooring
So, for those looking for the timelessness of wood flooring but need versatility, engineered hardwood is an excellent flooring choice.
To discover whether engineered hardwood is an appropriate flooring option for you, let’s dive into the details. We will go through all the benefits and disadvantages of engineered hardwood flooring, what it costs, and also answer some of the most common questions. We will also share reviews of some of the best-engineered hardwood flooring brands.
Engineered Hardwood Pros
- Installs Over Concrete
- Multiple Installation Methods
- Less Sensitive To Moisture And Humidity
- Improves Resale Value
- You Can Refinish Engineered Hardwood
- Sanded, Stained, And Sealed
- Engineered Hardwood Is Trend-Proof
- Compatible With Radiant-Heating
1. Installs Over Concrete
If you have hardwood floors throughout your home and want to continue the theme on a lower level, hybrid flooring combines the best of both worlds. It is stylish, yet practical.
Due to its multi-layer construction, engineered wood flooring stands up to moisture and resists humidity much better than solid hardwood. Therefore, you can glue or float this product over a concrete slab. If you choose this route, be sure to waterproof the subfloor and fix any cracks before installation.
Remember to install a moisture meter to monitor humidity levels. Even though engineered boards have a higher tolerance to temperature fluctuations, they still contain natural wood. This means that engineered wood floors can buckle or warp in extreme conditions.
2. Multiple Installation Methods
Want to install your new flooring without the help of a pro? You’ll have an easier time using an engineered product. It’s the perfect DIY project for experienced weekend warriors.
Unlike solid hardwood, you can float, staple, or glue engineered wood. You can even find planks with locking mechanisms.
In addition to the variety available, you’ll also have a bit more wiggle room for minor mistakes. And because engineered wood isn’t as sensitive to moisture, your expansion gaps don’t have to be exact.
3. Less Sensitive To Moisture And Humidity
Engineered floors are dimensionally stable. Unlike solid hardwood, manufacturers assemble these products in layers. The top layer is a wood veneer, while the core layers are composed of plywood, particleboard, or fiberglass.
These layers are then stacked in a criss-cross pattern and glued together in opposing directions. Then, when the floor is exposed to high humidity, each layer counteracts the other’s natural tendency to swell or shrink.
4. Improves Resale Value
Here’s some great news for those considering engineered wood. The resale market makes zero distinction between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood. So, if you’re concerned about the return on investment, don’t be.
5. You Can Refinish Engineered Hardwood
Contrary to popular myth, you can refinish engineered wood. As long as you’ve invested in a high-quality product, it won’t be a problem to sand and restain your floor.
But there is a caveat.
If you plan on refreshing your floors every few years, hybrid flooring isn’t the way to go. You can only refinish veneer so many times before it wears too thin.
6. Sanded, Stained, And Sealed
Want hardwood floors with a factory finish? Take a look at engineered flooring. Unlike messy site finishes, prefinished boards look consistent out of the box. High-quality finishes will have tonal variations, but no bubbles or blemishes.
Plus, you can walk on them the same day they’re installed. And if that’s not enough, consider the smell factor. Stain and protective sealers give off toxic odors.
7. Engineered Hardwood Is Trend-Proof
Whether you’re planning on staying in your home forever or selling when the market heats up, wood flooring is an excellent investment.
Yes, it can be pricey at first. However, unless you experience fire or flood, it will last for decades. Not only are these floors durable, but they stand the test of time.
Let’s face it, today’s hot decorating trend will be old news by tomorrow. (Think shag carpeting or avocado-colored appliances.)
However, hardwood will never go out of style. (Maybe the color, possibly the pattern, but never the material.) Have you ever seen a century-old home with original carpeting? Probably not.
8. Compatible With Radiant Heating
Want wood floors but hate the idea of stepping onto a cold hard surface in the morning? Invest in radiant heating. Not only is it cost-effective and comfortable, but it’s also compatible with engineered wood.
While it may be a challenge to find a solid wood that’s safe to install over in-floor heating, most engineered products are durable enough to withstand the temperature changes.
Engineered Hardwood Cons
- Engineered Hardwood Fades
- Susceptible To Scratches And Dents
- Comparable Price To Solid Hardwood
- Low-Quality Core Construction
- Manufacturers May Use Thin Veneer
- They Are Not Moisture-Proof
- Engineered Wood Is Still High-Maintenance
1. Engineered Hardwood Fades
Like any flooring, engineered hardwood will fade over time if exposed to sunlight and UV rays.
Unfortunately, covering your space with an area rug or large piece of furniture will make things worse. Your floor will still fade, but only the exposed area. So, aside from lightened wood, you’ll also have noticeable spots.
2. Susceptible To Scratches And Dents
Engineered hardwood is not maintenance-free. Far from it. Like cork and other solid varieties, it will still dent, scratch, and scar.
If you have pets or a fondness for heels, understand that your floors will scratch. And while some people feel these blemishes show character, others may cringe at the first site of scarring. If you’re part of the latter group, wood-look tile might be a better choice.
3. Comparable Price To Solid Hardwood
Think you’ll save money on engineered hardwood? Not so fast. In truth, quality engineered hardwood costs about the same as solid hardwood (and even laminate); sometimes more.
Pricing varies by location and manufacturer. But on average, expect to pay between $4.00-$7.00 per square foot.
4. Low-Quality Core Construction
Some manufacturers try to cut production costs by using low-quality core material such as oriental strand board or fiberboard. This action results in flooring that is unstable and prone to damage.
When shopping for engineered wood, be on the lookout for cheap imitations. High-quality engineered floors have plywood cores that are dimensionally stable and built to withstand temperature fluctuations.
5. Manufacturers May Use Thin Veneer
Veneer should be at least 3/16” thick to ensure a durable wear layer. While a thinner surface may be cheaper, it will cost more in the long run. If the surface layer is too flimsy, you won’t be able to sand and refinish your flooring.
In addition to thickness, remember to check how the wood is cut. Believe it or not, this makes a difference. Rotary cut veneer uses a blade that peels the top layer off the log, resulting in a wide grain appearance.
On the other hand, a sawn-cut veneer is sliced from the log, like solid wood. Because it mimics the same color and pattern variations as solid hardwood, most homeowners prefer the look of a sawn-cut veneer.
Many manufacturers still use formaldehyde and other carcinogens in the construction of their composite products. Often, they are found in the adhesives and sealers used to assemble the flooring.
These chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds, convert to a gas form when heated to room temperature. This process is called off-gassing.
While the government regulates the use of these chemicals, even trace amounts can cause health issues. If you or someone in your home has a compromised immune system, look for flooring that is certified formaldehyde- and VOC-free.
7. They Aren’t Moisture-Proof
And while they can stand up to a change in humidity, even the best-engineered hardwood boards are not waterproof. That means mold and bacteria can grow underneath them, and if they get wet, they will buckle and shift.
If you are thinking of using these floors in a basement, bathroom, or other potentially wet areas, please reconsider. You will be sorely disappointed. Why not scope out a beautiful wood-look tile instead?
8. Engineered Wood Is Still High-Maintenance
Don’t let the engineered part fool you. Keeping engineered floors clean is no easier than maintaining solid hardwood.
You will still have to sweep or vacuum away dust particles daily with a hardwood vac. In addition, you must be careful about what cleaning products you use. Heavy wax or oil can be detrimental to your floor’s topcoat.
Never flood your engineered wood with water, as it will result in bacteria growth and decay. Instead, remember to invest in a quality microfiber mop, and if you must use chemicals, make sure they’re safe for your type of surface finish.
So, what does engineered hardwood cost? Alas, it depends. I know that’s not the most helpful answer, but it’s an honest one.
What are your must-haves? Are you willing to compromise quality for price, or vice-versa?
On the budget end of the spectrum, you can find engineered floors for $2.00-3.00 per square foot. Understand that unless they’re part of a promotion, these floors will be low-quality, mass-produced imports. If you go this route, make sure to get proof of health and safety compliance.
A little higher on the price scale, you’ll find the mid-range products. These boards are better quality, but may not offer a wide range of styles or installation choices. Priced at $4.00-6.00 per square foot, mid-range boards come with decent warranties and meet minimum quality standards.
If you’re serious about quality, expect to pay $7.00-$12.00 per square foot for high-end flooring. Yes, it’s expensive, but it can be cost-effective in the long-run.
High-end products have the thickest wear layers and sturdiest cores. They can be refinished multiple times and may last 50 years or more. You’ll also have your pick of color, length, and finishes.
And for this price, you’ll have no trouble finding the installation method that works best for your space.
Speaking of installation, let’s discuss the difference between a DIY and a pro install.
First up, the DIY method. If you’re installing a click-lock or floating floor, why not save some cash and forego hiring an expert?
If you’ve tackled similar projects, installing engineered floors may be easier than you think. There are excellent online tutorials that can guide you step-by-step. Sure, it may take a bit of creativity and motivation on your part, but the bragging rights are priceless.
Not up for an adventure? You’re not alone. There are several concrete reasons to hire a pro. The number one reason? Accountability.
If you make a mistake installing your engineered wood, it could cost you thousands. Plus, it may even void your warranty. If an installer makes a mistake, it’s on them to fix it.
Another benefit of hiring a pro is that you’ll get an experienced professional that knows what they’re doing. If you have a complicated floor plan or want to install engineered wood below grade level, a pro can tackle this with ease.
They can measure moisture levels, decide which waterproofing substance to use, and keep costs down by purchasing install materials at contractor rates.
All this skill comes with a price. Depending on your location and needs, you can expect quotes ranging from $4.00-10.00 per square foot. If your contractor prefers hourly wages, the average going rate is $30.00 per hour and up.
Keep in mind, this may or may not include extras such as demolition or disposal. It’s best you settle on these services upfront, so you and your contractor can negotiate terms before the work starts.
First, let’s recap how engineered wood is produced.
Most engineered floors are made of multi-ply construction. Manufacturers typically laminate three to five sheets of plywood together to form a plank. Each layer is stacked on top of the other but crisscrossed in opposite directions.
Often called cross-ply construction, this method ensures that the plank is dimensionally stable. In addition, it counteracts the wood’s natural tendency to expand and contract with changes in the temperature or humidity level.
So how many layers should you look for? Most experts advise a total thickness of 5/8”.
Cores should be made of nine to eleven layers of real plywood, not OSB or fiberboard. And when it comes to veneer, don’t settle for anything less than 3/16” thick.
These are the minimum requirements for a dimensionally stable and renewable engineered flooring product. There are manufacturers out there that may disagree, but unless they can show concrete proof of the floor’s durability over time, be wary of their claims.
In addition to thickness, you’ll want to ascertain what chemicals are used in the boards, and whether or not they may be off-gas. Remember to ask for proof that the product meets or exceeds air quality regulations.
Last, but not least, is the warranty terms. These days, most engineered floors come backed by a 50-year or limited lifetime warranty. Look for guarantees that cover both construction and surface layer defects.
One more word of advice.
Do your homework. Go online and research the company and the product. Order free samples.
See what people are saying in the online forums. Look at the common complaints. If something doesn’t sit right, there’s usually a reason for that.
There are plenty of reputable engineered wood suppliers and manufacturers. You may have to hunt around, but if you’re diligent, you will find a reliable company to do business with.
Survived Sticker Shock Alley? Good for you. Let’s keep going.
Engineered Wood Flooring Brand Reviews
- Hurst Hardwoods
- Hosking Hardwoods
- Tesoro Woods
- Somerset Hardwood
- Regal Hardwoods
- From the Forest
- Hallmark Floors
- Harris Wood
Hurst Hardwoods are one of the few online retailers that offer both unfinished and prefinished engineered flooring. In addition to your pick of styles and sizes, you’ll also find a wide variety of wood species to choose from, including Tigerwood and Brazilian Teak.
Hurst Hardwoods has a stellar reputation as one of the most trusted retailers in the business. If you do a bit of research, you’ll find that both homeowners and contractors are satisfied with Hurst’s products and services. The company is a family-owned business and a member of the National Wood Flooring Association.
Pricing is competitive, at $3.00-$6.00 per square foot, and if you hunt around a bit, you’ll spot incredible deals on both exotic (like acacia) and domestic (like oak) hardwood. In addition to great pricing, the company offers fast, reliable shipping at reasonable rates.
If you’re one of the many fans of the PBS show “This Old House” you may recognize the name, Jeff Hosking. Known as an expert in the wood flooring world, Mr. Hosking got his start as an apprentice in his family’s woodworking business. And while Hosking Hardwood has been selling flooring since 1932, it wasn’t until 1997 that the company began offering products online.
Hosking carries both engineered and solid hardwood. The site offers top quality products from big-name manufacturers as well as small independent mills. If you’re looking for a combination of wholesale pricing and knowledgeable sales assistance, look no further than Hosking.
Their basic range starts from as low as $3.00 per square foot. Though you can expect to pay $10.00 or more per square foot for their highest quality stock.
Looking for eco-friendly engineered wood? Check out the Tesoro Woods engineered brand. This company makes living green easy, with FSC certified and zero VOC products, which fit well in any environment.
Although you won’t find any unfinished boards, Tesoro Woods carries a wide variety of colors and tones to meet any style. Product pricing edges on the upper tier of the spectrum, with most boards costing an average of $6.00-$8.00 per square foot.
What makes this company most interesting is that it uses recycled wood from old building timber and industrial waste to construct high-quality engineered boards. They are so confident in the resulting product that they offer a structural lifetime warranty on their boards.
If you’re interested in learning more about the brand, check out their website for a list of certified retailers.
Somerset Hardwood Flooring
Established more than 20 years ago, Somerset Hardwood is one of North America’s leading suppliers of Appalachian Hardwoods. The company offers both solid and engineered hardwood in various textures, tones, and sizes.
All products are made in the USA and adhere to strict quality guidelines.
Unfortunately, this manufacturer doesn’t sell direct, which means you’ll have to travel to the nearest distributor for pricing – expect to pay $5.00-$6.00 per square foot. But, if you’re looking for quality, it’s well worth the trip.
Somerset offers some of the thickest engineered flooring in the business and backs their boards with a generous 50-year warranty.
Regal Hardwoods specializes in providing consumers with hand-scraped engineered floors at affordable prices. Based in Texas, the company carries eight lines of flooring, all engineered with solid birch cores.
The American Backroads collection features weathered planks in floating and nail-down varieties. While the Walla Walla Valley line spotlights modern, artistic boards with high sheen finishes.
Regardless of which Regal Collection you prefer, rest assured you’re buying a superior product, which will set you back between $6.00 and $12.00 per square foot. This company has an excellent reputation and stands behind their flooring with lengthy finish and construction warranties.
From The Forest
From The Forest is a small Wisconsin-based manufacturer of American-made engineered hardwood. They offer several lines of flooring, for both price-conscious and high-end shoppers.
While a few products feature fiberboard, don’t let that deter you. The company’s Choice collection utilizes a nine-ply birch core. Sold in 15 prefinished styles, prices for this line hover close to $8.00 per square foot. They offer a limited lifetime warranty on their product when installed in residential situations.
Even if you choose to buy elsewhere, it may benefit you to look at the company’s website. They provide detailed explanations of how to evaluate the tone, grade, and grain patterns of engineered floors. In addition to guidance, From The Forest also offers samples and discounts by email.
If you’re looking for quality and convenience, Hallmark Floors offers both. The company sells a wide array of engineered wood in varying sizes, styles, and design patterns.
Hallmark engineered wood products can be a bit pricey. However, their quality is second to none. Their Organic 567 Series features thick ply construction, a sawn-cut veneer, and a multi-layer oil finish that resists staining better than hard wax. Expect to pay between $8.00-$9.00 per square foot.
The company does not sell direct, so if you are looking to buy online, you may need to get creative. But be warned, if you choose to buy online, you void the manufacturer’s warranty, and Hallmark Floors also do not accept returns on materials purchased online.
If you can, take a trip to the local floor store. You can find a list of authorized resellers on Hallmark’s website.
Harris Wood is a 120-year-old American hardwood manufacturer based out of Johnson City, Tennessee. On top of solid hardwood products, the company offers a vast selection of engineered hardwood floors.
If you’re looking for click-lock engineered hardwood, Harris Wood should be your first stop. In fact, the company carries more than 19 varieties of snap-together floors in several fashionable colors and finishes.
They are also one of the most affordable engineered hardwoods on the market, with the standard line costing between $3.00 and $4.00 per square foot.
In the market for a hand-scraped finish? Harris has you covered. Take a look at their Contour line.
At 6½ feet wide, these planks sport an aluminum oxide finish, random lengths, and a broad choice of installation options.
Harris Wood Flooring offers a lifetime warranty on their engineered hardwoods when installed residentially. This covers both manufacturer defects and the finish of the flooring.
However, if you’re willing to forgo the ease of online ordering, you won’t be disappointed. Harris Wood is a long-time customer favorite. You can find countless reviews attesting to their quality and service.
Engineered Vs. Solid Hardwood
Years ago, “engineered vs solid hardwood” wouldn’t have been a topic up for debate. Most homeowners and experts would advise against engineered flooring, citing inferior construction and durability.
Oh, how the times have changed. Nowadays, quality isn’t a factor. Technology has caught up with the naysayers, and engineered floors are more attractive than ever.
So, what are the major differences? Let’s go through them one by one.
Solid wood planks are 100% hardwood, made with a single solid piece. In contrast, engineered wood comprises several layers of plywood and a thick veneer surface that is laminated and fused to form a plank.
Which is better? Only you can decide.
Engineered hardwood has the advantage in below-grade spaces and turbulent climates.
However, solid wood is the gold standard. It’s hard to argue with centuries of architects and designers. If you’re looking for unfinished wood or a wide choice of species and color options, solid flooring takes the gold.
Let’s compare installation options.
Solid hardwood must be attached to a subfloor using a pneumatic nail gun. Engineered wood can be glued, nailed, or floated, even on concrete.
Next up: durability.
Depending on the species, solid hardwood can withstand years of abuse without extensive surface damage. Most products come protected with resilient finishes for supreme scratch resistance.
On the flip side, engineered products also have resilient coatings. Species selection isn’t a factor as engineered floors come in both exotic hardwoods and domestic favorites.
The main benefit of solid hardwood is its thickness. Over your floor’s lifetime, solid wood can be sanded and refinished a total of seven to eight times without damaging the boards.
In contrast, engineered hardwood lacks in the renewability department. Even the highest quality engineered floors will display signs of wear after the second refresh.
Let’s discuss our final differentiator: price.
Truth be told, there’s not much of a difference between the cost of engineered and solid hardwood. They both range between $3.00-$10.00 per square foot depending on quality, species, and location.
On the one hand, you can save money by installing an engineered floor by yourself. But that depends on your skill level and complexity of the job.
On the other hand, solid hardwood has a longer lifespan, which means if you are staying in your home for the next 60 years, or hope to pass it to heirs, solid hardwood is the obvious choice.
As far as resale value, engineered wood rates the same as solid. It’s not easy to spot the difference. Technically, it is a real wood floor, and that’s what matters. Most realtors or prospective home buyers wouldn’t think of questioning its authenticity.
FAQs About Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Engineered hardwood floors have a top layer of hardwood, which means that they will scratch just as easily as solid wood floors.
A few scratches can add character, and won’t do anything to undermine the structural integrity of your floors. But if you are looking for something that will remain pristine under normal use, engineered wood has all the same drawbacks as solid wood.
Also, while you can refinish solid wood floors several times to deal with scratches, you can probably only get away with doing this a maximum of twice with engineered wood floors.
Is Engineered Hardwood The Same As Laminate?
Engineered hardwood and laminate flooring are both layered composite flooring that is designed to look like solid hardwood, but this is pretty much where the similarities end.
Engineered wood flooring uses layers of wood layered together for water and heat resistance, and it is then topped with a layer of real wood. Laminate, on the other hand, layers fiberboard and is topped with a photographic image layer to look like hardwood. So, while engineered hardwood flooring is real wood flooring, laminate only has the appearance of wood.
This means that engineered hardwood feels better under your feet and is better for your resale value as it is generally considered just as good as solid hardwood. It also tends to be just as expensive, while laminate is much cheaper.
But you get what you pay for. Engineered hardwood flooring should last more than twice as long as your average laminate alternative.
How Long Will An Engineered Wood Floor Last?
There are many different engineered wood flooring types. How long any will last depends on the quality of the boards installed, where they are installed, and what kind of usage and care they receive. That said, it is not unreasonable to expect engineered wood floors to last at least 30 years.
This does not mean that they will remain in pristine condition. Engineered wood floors are just as prone to scratches, scrapes, and fading as solid wood floors. But the structural integrity of the floor should last at least that long if it is installed and cared for correctly.
Manufacturer’s warranties usually sit around the 30-year mark or a limited lifetime in residential situations.
Can Engineered Wood Floors Get Wet?
Engineered hardwood floors are designed to be as water-resistant as possible, and much more so than solid wood floors. But, as much as possible, engineered wood floors should not be exposed to water.
Engineered wood flooring is made with thin composite layers of wood, which are specifically designed to counteract wood’s natural tendency to warp when exposed to water. This means that they do better in mildly damp locations, such as basements, than hardwood.
But just like solid wood floors, engineered wood floors will develop mold if they are constantly exposed to water.
Engineered wood floors are also usually finished with a water-resistant layer, so they shouldn’t immediately stain the moment that they make contact with water. However, water should be cleaned up off floors quickly. If it is allowed to sit, it will result in the same staining problems that you see with solid wood floors.
Installing engineered hardwood floors will do almost as much to add value to your home as solid hardwood.
Engineered wood flooring is real wood, and many realtors won’t make much of a distinction between engineered and solid wood when valuing your home.
While it doesn’t have a lifetime as long as solid wood, it lasts much longer than most floor alternatives, and it is considered a good investment when decorating your home.
Are Engineered Floors Real Wood?
Yes, engineered wood floors are real wood floors.
They differ from solid wood, as instead of being one complete plank of wood, the lower layers of the plank are made from thin layers of wood molded together in a crisscross pattern. This is what makes it less prone to warping when exposed to water or extreme temperatures.
The plank is then topped by a thinner layer of solid wood so that it looks and feels just like solid hardwood flooring.
What Is The Best Thickness For Engineered Wood Flooring?
Engineered hardwood flooring usually comes in ½ inch or ⅝ inch thicknesses, though both thinner and thicker varieties are also available. Either is appropriate for a residential installation.
You will want the top layer of solid wood to be at least ¼ inch thick for it to wear in a similar way to a solid hardwood floor and enable you to resurface the floor at least once.
Engineered hardwood can be an excellent choice for those that appreciate the value of wood flooring but crave the versatility of laminate or vinyl. No, it’s not the cheapest floor covering on the market. But to some, it’s the best of both worlds.
While solid wood or bamboo connoisseurs may balk at the price tag, many renovators see this material as a smart long-term investment in their home. After all, when properly cared for, these floors will last decades.
Plus, engineered hardwood allows for multiple installation methods. You can install it using glue, nails, or even locking mechanisms, which gives you the freedom to explore a DIY solution. As an added benefit, engineered hardwood can go directly over concrete slabs.
While there may be some drawbacks to this material, it’s worth a closer look. Unlike solid hardwood, engineered flooring is the perfect compromise for those wanting a combination of timelessness and versatility.
If you have any comments or first-hand experiences with Engineered Hardwood flooring, please post them below or share your pictures via our social media.