Engineered Wood Flooring: Pros and Cons

Engineered wood technology has really taken off in the last two decades. Originally developed for use in basements and areas where flooring is directly applied to the concrete slab, it has recently found a much wider application all throughout the home as a replacement for traditional hardwood. In fact, many homeowners see engineered wood as a budget-friendly and more sustainable alternative to solid wood. What exactly is engineered wood, and what do you need to watch out for when deciding what to purchase for your home?

A Basic Introduction

Engineered wood is a hybrid consisting of a top layer, or veneer, of hardwood glued on top of anywhere from 3-12 layers of plywood or white unfinished wood. The cross-grain layering of these wood panels, combined with the intrinsic hardness of the veneer wood chosen, gives engineered wood remarkable strength and durability in a variety of conditions.

Engineered wood is virtually indistinguishable from traditional hardwood

Engineered wood is virtually indistinguishable from traditional hardwood

Pros

  • Adds warmth, value and aesthetic appeal to the home
  • Compatible with a wide variety of budgets, with a price range of $3-18 per square foot
  • Easier to install than hardwood; some varieties (e.g. floating floors, glue-down floors) are diy-friendly
  • Can be installed below grade and even directly to concrete
  • When sustainably sourced, provides a more environmentally friendly alternative to hardwood, cutting the number of trees used by up to half. Inner plies can be constructed from faster growing, renewable wood varieties
  • Durable; resists moisture damage and seasonal expansion
  • Structurally stronger than a single piece of wood; will not cup, twist or buckle
  • Can last from 20-100 years, depending on veneer chosen
  • Easy to clean and maintain; helps reduce indoor allergens
  • Different thicknesses available make for easier transitions between rooms without the need for big transition strips
  • A thick enough veneer (2-6 mm) allows for refinishing if necessary

Cons

  • Not all engineered wood manufacturers use sustainable forestry practices. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative logo
  • No wood product can tolerate standing water, so engineered wood is not always the best choice for kitchens and bathrooms
  • Thin veneers cannot be refinished, so dents and scratches are not repairable. Cheap flooring will not last long
  • Thick and/or exotic wood veneers can be expensive

Considering engineered wood for your next remodel? Research your options, talk to professional flooring installers, and be sure to support sustainable forestry. If you are not experienced with d.i.y. projects, professional installation is highly recommended.

Sources:

Anater, Paul. “When to Use Engineered Wood Floors.” Houzz Inc, 17 Aug. 2011. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
“About Engineered Hardwood.” Mannington Residential. Mannington Mills, Inc., 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

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