Everything You Need to Know about Engineered Hardwood Floors
Engineered hardwood flooring combines a thin, but tough, real hardwood surface with underlying multiple layers of plywood or fireboard. Engineered hardwood is remarkably strong and its laminated layers make it more resistant to moisture. As a result, it can be used below, on, or above grade, including basements. Engineered Flooring can be sanded and refinished once or twice.
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Engineered wood floors are constructed differently from solid wood floors and offer some advantages over solid wood floors. Thanks to advancements in manufacturing technology, engineered wood floors can be used in almost any room in the home. This includes installing over dry, concrete slabs and some types of existing flooring. So now homeowners can enjoy the beauty of a real hardwood floor in areas they thought not possible before with solid wood flooring.
Most engineered wood floors are pre-finished at the factory, which eliminates the mess, extra time and vapors associated with applying the finish coats on the job-site. Pre-finished wood floors are ready to be walked on right after the installation is completed. No long waiting for staining and applying coats of finish. Most factory applied finishes are UV-cured with ultra violet lights which creates a much harder finish than a job-site finish. In addition, the manufacturer can apply more coats of finish as well giving added protection.
The top layer of engineered wood floors is available in 3 variations; rotary peeled veneers, sliced and sawn face.
Rotary Peeled Veneers - logs are processed in a conditioning vat and put onto a large wood lathe. The wood veneers are then peeled off the logs in long strips, like paper that comes off of a roll of paper towels. Maximum yield from the log.
Sliced - lumber is processed in a conditioning vat and the lumber is then sliced of the lumber, like slicing cheese. The lumber is first cut from the log in a saw mill then processed for slicing. Better yields than Sawn Face due to no saw kerf loss from the slicing process.
Sawn Face - a traditional process were lumber comes from the log in a saw mill. The lumber is graded and sorted for maximum yield and usage. The lumber is then sawn into the desired thickness and ready for application to the engineered construction.
Which is better?
All three have their pros and cons. Rotary Peeled provides the highest use of raw materials for lowest cost, lowest visual appeal and weakest grain structure. Sliced provides better yield with medium cost, better visual appeal, and better structural integrity. Sawn Face lowest yield for the highest cost, best visual appeal, and strongest grain structural due to a natural sawing process vs slicing or peeling of the grain.
During the manufacturing the wood plies are stacked on top of each other in the opposite directions. By reversing the direction of each ply as it is placed on top of each other helps counteract the natural tendency of wood to expand and contract with changes in humidity levels and moisture. By crossing the plies the finished planks are much more dimensionally stable than solid wood planks and won't show those unsightly gaps that happen with most solid wood floors. This added dimensional stability allows engineered wood planks to be installed over concrete slabs. (Note: the concrete slabs still must be clean and dry. See the manufacturer's installation recommendation for more details.)
The finish layer (top ply) of an engineered wood plank is often a different wood specie then the plies in the middle. This allows manufacturers to offer a wider variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species while keeping the costs down. Most engineered wood floors will be either a 3-ply or 5-ply.
Engineered wood floors can be used on all grade levels, including below grade concrete slabs. (Again, be sure to check with the manufacturer for installation recommendations.)
The planks are generally stapled-down, glued-down or floated over different types of substrates, such as a wood subfloor or concrete slab. The glue-down and floating installation methods allow the engineered wood planks to be used over concrete slabs since you cannot staple into concrete. Also, some engineered wood floors can be floated over an existing floor, such as tile or vinyl flooring. Caution should be used when trying to install planks over an existing floor to be certain the old floors is well adhered and that your installation application meets the manufacturer's installation recommendations.
Engineered planks come in varying widths, including: 2 1/4", 3", 5", and 7" widths. In addition, may plank styles can be mixed, such as 3-5-7 inch planks installed side by side. By varying the board widths you can change the total appearance of the floor.