When it comes to remodeling houses, floors carry much essence in dictating the overall décor of a home. Owing to this fact, it is paramount that you have the best flooring material at your service.
With the broad array of flooring materials, engineered hardwood flooring is not only the most popular but also the cheapest. Even better, engineered flooring succeeds in mimicking the finish of its expensive counterparts and has fewer impacts on individual health.
Before investing in engineered flooring, however, there are several factors to put into consideration. To give you a deeper insight into these factors, we discuss various elements of engineered hardwood flooring installation and factors to consider before investing in engineered floors.
Table of Contents
What is engineered flooring?
Engineered flooring is a floor that incorporates the natural material it mimics, but does so in an engineered fashion. While engineered wood flooring is the most well known, you can also get engineered tile and stone flooring.
For example, engineered wood flooring is created in 7 to 9 layers where the top layer is 100% wood, but the other layers are plywood [source: Armstrong Flooring]. This lowers the cost.
Here’s a photo cross-section comparison of hardwood and engineered hardwood.
Is engineered wood flooring the same as laminate flooring?
No, it’s not the same. Laminate flooring is a synthetic flooring made to look like wood while engineered wood flooring actually uses real wood on the top layer.
Types of engineered flooring
1. Based on the method of installation
Before installing engineered hardwood flooring, you have to consider how your boards will establish to arm yourself with the right set of tools. In this category, the three types of engineered flooring include;
With various engineered floors, you are required to apply adhesive on the surfaces where they conjoin. Glue-less engineered floors, however, have tongue and lock edges that interlock therefore conjoining to form a tight bond.
Due to their straight forward method of installation, glue-less engineered floors can be taken up as DIY projects without incurring labor costs. Before installing glue-less engineered flooring, however, ensure that the surface is level, therefore, getting an elegant finish.
A testament to its functionality, the glueless engineered is a standard option for many households.
Unlike glue-less hardwood flooring, glued engineered requires adhesive to be applied on joints to maximize the grip. Owing to the extra cost of adhesive and time needed to attach the boards, you will spend more money installing glues boards over their glue-less counterparts.
The downside of glued engineered hardwood flooring, however, is that it is harder to replace a section of the board when damaged.
Like the former, pre-glued boards come with glue applied on the joints thus getting a strengthened bond as a result of adhesive. To activate the glue, however, you are required to moisten it using some water before conjoining the boards.
Other methods of installation include:
- Click locking
- Floating Glue Joint
- Nail Down
2. Based on the surface finish
Depending on the décor you hope to achieve, the finish of your floor may differ. Since engineered hardwood floors succeed in mimicking various types of flooring, you can get quality finishes without blowing all your savings. Among the finishes of engineered available in the market include:
The hardwood finish is perhaps the most common. Hardwood engineered boards are available both in veneer and print designs.
To meet your interior design needs, the wood engineered floors are available in a wide range of finishes mimicking hardwood and softwood boards. As opposed to some hardwood flooring options, wood is less limiting in design options and can be used to bring slight alternations in the pattern.
Technically, laminate is an engineered flooring option. It’s entirely synthetic and made to look like wood floor.
Okay, this article is focused on wood, but I think it’s important you know that you can get engineered tile and stone flooring as well.
Engineered stone flooring is crushed stone that’s then polymer resin adhesive. Engineered stone can be made of limestone, crushed marble or quartz [source: Diverseflooring.com].
Although ceramic stone flooring material brings out a unique show of elegance, the blow on your pocket may limit homeowners from achieving the desired finish. With engineered stone flooring, you can enjoy the same finish only for a lesser amount of money.
Engineered stone flooring comprises of stone crushed and bound with adhesive and compressed under high pressure. Unlike natural ceramic, engineered stone is nonporous thus does away with dumpiness.
Unlike engineered hardwood, stone floors exhibit higher resistance, and less effect from abrasion, therefore, offer more extended service than their counterparts. Owing to the vast array of realistic stone finishes available in the market, you can enjoy durable service without compromising your interior décor.
Like engineered stone flooring, engineered tiles comprise of stone and marble compressed under high pressure and conjoined with adhesive. Unlike granite, however, tile can quickly wear out and are susceptible to low photographic quality over time with exposure to sunlight.
Accordingly, engineered tile is ideal for areas with lesser traffic and better for indoor applications.
3. Based on texture
To give a realistic feel on hardwood floors, giving them a surface that mimics the original material is of much essence. Depending on the area you intend to install engineered hardwood flooring, the texture may vary.
Here are some texture options:
- Hand scraped
- Wire brushed
Check out the photo comparisons:
4. Based on the pressure applied in their production
High pressure engineered flooring (HPL)
Owing to their sturdy build, high pressure engineered boards are not only the most durable but also possess resistance against fire chemical and water. Since its made by saturating multiple compact layers in phenolic resin and under pressure, the boards can withstand various tests of time without succumbing.
Due to thermosetting, the bonds formed are stronger thus making it more durable to its counterparts. However, HPL boards cost more than their DHL counterparts; therefore may increase the cost of engineered hardwood installation per square meter.
Direct pressure engineered flooring (DHL)
Although DHL boards also involve the infusion of many layers, this is done in a single step thus making weaker bonds. However, these boards can be used in low-traffic areas without tearing or breaking.
A testament to their functionality, DHL boards are the most common boards used in flooring in many households. As opposed to the former, DHL boards are less costly; therefore ideal for homes that don’t want to spend a surpass amount of money in flooring.
5. Based on the thickness
Engineered wood thickness ranges from a very thin 1/4 inches thick to a higher quality 3/4″ thickness. That’s a considerable range. Check out the comparisons.
- Thin engineered wood board: 1/4″ thick
- Medium thickness: 1/2″ thick
- Thick: 3/4″+ thick
As for the top hardwood layer, that is typically 4 mm to 4.6 mm.
6. Based on plank width
Flooring boards vary considerably in width. You can get thin, mid and wide plank boards. Here are the width ranges.
- Narrow plank: 3.25 to 4 inches wide.
- Medium width plank: 4 to 5 inches wide.
- Wide plank: 5+ inches wide.
Narrow vs. medium-width vs wide plank
Image examples source: Homedepot.com
7. Based on color
You can get engineered wood flooring in a variety of colors such as:
Here’s an engineered wood comparison chart:
Individual images courtesy of Homedepot.com
8. Based on wood species
Domestic wood species
Oak is perhaps the most common choice. Maybe the reason it ranked among the most popular trends in traditional settings; Oak completes the furniture in the household and brings about uniformity in the overall house appearance.
Unlike white oak, red oak has pink undertones as opposed to the golden undertones sighted in the latter. Similarly, red oak has lesser Janka ratings (1290) than the white oak and thus is more susceptible to damage.
With a Janka rating of 1360, white oak shows resistance that beats most softwood species. Unlike the former, white oak has a golden glow with a greyish finish thus fits in well with a countless number of furniture finishes.
Carbonized bamboo wood
Although bamboo is not wood-based material per se, it exhibits a neater finish than multiple wood finish counterparts. Depending on the dealer, the Janka ratings of carbonized bamboo may range from 1000 to 1100 thus is more susceptible to wear.
Due to the lowered Janka rating, the material costs less than its counterparts and serves better in low-traffic areas.
Maple engineered wood
With a Janka hardness rating of 1450, maple engineered wood ranks among the best domestic wood species for households. Unlike most local woods, maple has few shades and streaking.
Owing to this fact, maple can be used when aiming for a neater finish with fewer patterns. To avoid the occurrence of staining, go for a pre-stained, pre-finished maple floor from a revered manufacturer in the market.
Despite its lowered Janka rating of 950, American cherry ranks as the best flooring board for a more elegant finish that does not limit your choices in furniture and bringing out a regular pattern. Due to its smooth finish, American cherry ranks as the most sought after engineered hardwood flooring material both in households and office settings.
Before investing in cherry floors, it is critical to note that it can change from vibrant red to reddish brown and gets darker with time due to the exposure to light. Due to its medium density, cherry bears excellent bending properties and increased shock resistance and low stiffness.
Due to its low Janka ratings, cherry is not ideal for high traffic areas or areas frequented by sharp objects.
Like oak, birch is available in two shades which is yellow and red birch. However, these do not differ like oak in ratings as they both rank at 1260. To choose the undertone that suits you best, engage a flooring professional for guidance on the grain that complements your floor space ultimately.
With a rating of 2200 lbf, rosewood showcases not only unparalleled durability but also withstands multiple tests of time without succumbing to wear and friction. As opposed to its counterparts, rosewood can be used in higher traffic areas.
Even better, rosewood has a wide range of colors and a unique grain pattern, therefore, can be used to bring out elegance within an office/ household.
An engineered wood flooring option that is both rich in color and better in the pattern design. With a wide range of walnut wood, the rating ranges from 3800 to 1010, therefore, giving you a plethora of choices depending on the traffic of the area you aim to cover.
Among domestic woods, hickory not only stands as the most appealing design but also ranks among the top in Janka ratings. With a score of 1820, hickory can be used in a broad array of areas without limiting resourcefulness.
For a better look of your floor, ensure that you are specific on whether you require shellback or shagbark hickory. On average, hickory is more durable than oak and maple therefore ideal for areas that need more strength and resistant material.
Exotic wood species
Locally referred to as Brazilian Oak, Amendoim ranks top of the exotic wood for hardwood flooring. With a russet undertone, the Brazilian oak is a viable option for many house decors and complements a broad array of furniture options.
Among light wood flooring options, Amendoim exhibits unrivaled hardness; therefore, lasts for a longer time. A testament to its toughness, Amendoim has a Janka hardness rating of 1912 which ranks among the best scores among multiple engineered hardwood floors. Like other oak products, Amendoim wears out with exposure to light thus ideal for indoor usage.
Another common exotic wood for engineered hardwood flooring is Mahogany. When it comes to Janka hardness tests, the mahogany scores higher (at 2200) than many exotic breeds and only falls behind the cherry.
Available in many shades ranging from red undertone to darker shades, mahogany gives your house a classic rustic look rivaled by few exotic kinds of wood. Despite its cost, Santos mahogany lasts twice as long as various materials, therefore, giving you value for every penny.
Unlike some materials that degrade their quality of appearance of mahogany is bettered over time. Owing to the improving quality and durability, investing in mahogany proves an upward spiral that leads to ever-increasing places of contention.
With a Janka hardness rating of 1570, Timborana is another common exotic wood species used in flooring. Owing to the russet appearance of Timborana, it is ideal for many settings and accommodating for a wide array of furniture designs.
Due to its hardness, Timborana is well suited for office and residential use. Even better, Timborana costs less than various wood species thus ideal for an exotic touch within a budget.
Although bamboo is not wood per se, the compressed grass outlasts wooden counterparts and also retains a neat look that few kinds of wood can rival. However, Janka rating value on dealer and quality of material used thus does not have universal Janka ratings.
More wood species:
Related: 18 Different Types of Lumber
Check out the following wood species comparison chart:
Individual images courtesy of Homedepot.com
9. Based on AC Rating
A key universal quantifier for engineered hardwood floors is the AC rating. This is the ranking system for the durability of engineered floors and the abrasion rates for flooring boards. By considering the AC ratings, you can determine the areas you can use various boards depending on the traffic levels of the regions.
AC 1: flooring boards under this category are suitable for areas with little traffic as they are highly susceptible to abrasion and wear. Among the domains you can use AC 1 rated boards include bedrooms, changing rooms and one to three person offices.
AC 2: perhaps the most popular type of engineered hardwood boards used in the market is the AC 2 rated boards. These are most common in areas with increased traffic but limited to houses and floor spaces with light machines operating.
AC 3: When choosing boars for your living area and office AC 2 classified boards are better suited as opposed to AC 1 and AC 2 boards.
AC 4: for areas with increased traffic and many multitudes, the AC 4 ranked boards prove of many benefits. These are commonly used in clubs, hotels and larger offices subjected to more clients daily.
AC 5: the most substantial engineered hardwood flooring level is the AC 5 rated boards. These are usable in a wide array of areas regardless of the traffic and machinery. However, ensure that you don’t use the boards in areas frequented by moisture as moisture can undermine the durability of service.
Additional features to consider
In addition to all the above considerations as well as cost (see below), you need to also consider the following features:
- Dent resistant
- Padding required
- Scratch resistant
- Underlayment required
Pros and cons of engineered flooring
- Cost: Although engineered hardwood flooring gives an excellent finish that successfully mimics any finish, it costs less per square meter as compared to its counterparts. As a result, the engineered wood assures you savings to channel to other uses and transmogrifies your interior décor.
- Easier to maintain: Since it conjoins to give a smooth finish, engineered floors are easier to clean and maintain. To protect the boards from damage, you are advised against letting water seat on the board as it may weaken the protective layer. In the case that boards absorb water, they may swell or catch mold which may, in turn, cause the floor to crumble and also result in stuffiness.
- Light resistant: The top coated layer of engineered hardwood flooring is resistant to sunlight rays; thus the printed sheet does not wear degrade. Additionally, the melamine coating is tough and withstands abrasion as opposed to wood flooring which gets scratch marks easily. Owing to this, engineered flooring can be used in high traffic areas and also in homes with pets. To prevent damage, ensure that you get the AC rating which is designed to address your intended purpose.
- Mold resistant: Unlike other flooring materials, engineered boards contain no allergic components thus making them ideal for sensitive people. Due to the melamine barrier, the floor is resistant to mold and easy to clear pet dust off; therefore, it does not spark any allergic breathing problems. To maximize the protection, ensure that you mop the floor regularly providing that you don’t use any abrasive chemicals.
- Flexible installation: Engineered floors can be installed over any floors without limiting their effectiveness and bringing out the balance. Due to this, you do not require to change the subfloors in your house instead level them to fit the hardwood floors well.
- Environmentally friendly (arguably): Engineered floors are designed from fiber and other materials which saves trees from being cut down therefore
- Harder to repair: Hardwood floors are harder to repair when damaged as they require one to replace the whole block once damaged. This is unlike wood floors which can be refurbished upon damage.
- Difficult to repair poor installation: Unlike tiled floors and cement floors, engineered wood that is poorly installed cannot be fixed without pulling out a significant part of the floor.
- Installation skill needed: When installing, a gap is required between the floor and the walls to cater for expansion. When the wood is poorly gapped, the chances of cracking and breakages is high thus limiting the durability of the flooring.
- Need an underlay: When installed without an underlay, engineered wood is bound to produce a hollow noise depending on the type of subfloor. To avert this noise, an underlay is required during installation and as such may increase the cost of installing your floor.
- Not biodegradable: Although engineered floors are eco-friendly, they are not biodegradable, and as such, they pollute the environment when they are disposed of. Even worse, the chemicals that engineered flooring contain are harmful to the breathing system hence may result in breathing disorders when inhaled.
- Doesn’t help resale: Unlike natural wood floors, engineered floors do not increase the resale value with a considerable margin since they cost way cheaper than the latter. However, unlike carpeting, the boards give your house a more appealing look which compels buyers to invest in your property hence higher chances of selling your property.
Although engineered hardwood floors have their cons, the benefits exceed the downsides twofold. Also, most of the pitfalls in hardwood flooring arise from poor installation; therefore, require professional help to bring out a compelling finish and avert various cons.
Also, ensure that you buy original hardwood floors to gain maximum benefits and get lengthened service.
Benefits of underlayment
A critical element in engineered hardwood flooring installation is the underlay. This is the thin layer of material (most often plastic) which is placed between the subfloor and the flooring material during installation.
Among the reasons why underlayment is essential in installing hardwood flooring includes:
- The underlayment blocks the absorption of water that may seep from the subfloor into the boards. As a result, engineered flooring can withstand various tests of time without crumbling or growing mold.
- When installing engineered wood over solid subfloors, underlayment absorbs the impact applied on the floor and minimizes the noise that may arise due to the hollowness of the wood. To achieve the best results, a thicker underlayment is required. Like the wood, ensure that your underlayment is of good quality thus preventing fast rates of wearing out and also preventing the floor from speedier damage.
- Since the subfloor gains heat from the surrounding environment, it is bound to affect the heat levels of the floor and cause disorientation in feet. By installing underlayment, you prevent thermal conductivity, therefore, making the flooring more accommodating for feet.
As a result of the controlled temperatures, the floor can accommodate people with feet complications without sparking adverse effects.
When buying underlayment for your floor, it is advisable that you consider the type of floor and age of your subfloor. To prevent any mildew growth and stenches, give your subfloor ample time to dry off before installation.
Also, you may consider buying engineered floors with underlay attached as they save you the time of installing underlay and avoid buying underlay in excess or lesser quantities. In areas of high traffic, ensure that you invest in the quality underlay, therefore, increasing the life of your flooring.
Cost of installing engineered flooring
When choosing engineered flooring, the price is a crucial factor to consider. Although cheaper engineered floors cannot outdo their costlier counterparts, it does not imply that the most expensive hardwood floor is the best quality.
Like most flooring, the range in price is considerable.
The range is $2 per sq. ft. to $17+ per sq. ft.
The average you’ll pay is $3.50 to $6.00 per sq. ft.
Please note that the prices above are for the materials only – does not include installation.
The cost to pay someone to install engineered wood flooring is $3.00 to $10.00 per sq. ft. [source: Homeadvisor.com].
When charged hourly, expect to pay $25 to $30 per hour.
Total cost (materials and labor): $5.00 per sq. ft. to $27.00+ per sq. ft.
Tip: when computing the installation cost, consider whether or not your subfloor will need repair or even if the existing flooring will need to be removed.
Additional factors to consider:
- Type and amount of flooring material – when planning your project, you ought to start by measuring the size of the floor space you wish to cover and approximate the cost of equipment required. Next, check the price of boards you intend to install and multiply the amount with the projected amount of boards you need.
- Installation cost – whether you are installing engineered hardwood flooring as a DIY project or whether you are going to hire an engineer. Also, provide for the tools you will need when you need during installation and compare the cost of buying and hiring material.
- Transportation cost – when buying material, provide for the price of shipping equipment from the store to your house. To save money, find a store that caters for transportation, therefore, keeping a substantial amount of money.
Tip: before engineered hardwood installation, put them in the room for up to three days to acclimate the material. By doing this, you can cater for expansion space without leaving a considerable area near walls.
While at it, invest in more boards than required in your project to avoid the struggle associated with finding a suitable replacement for damaged blocks. Extra blocks also cater for pieces that you will cut when installing the floor.
5 interesting engineered flooring facts
- The tongue and groove interlocking boards came to being in 1885 after the side matcher was invented. As a result of its invention, many flooring companies changed from nailing board onto each other and adopted the interlocking boards. However, the ends of the planks did not quit to be nailed unto each other until 1898 when the end crafter was developed.
- The thickness of hardwood floors does not equate to durability. To gauge the strength of hardwood flooring, put into consideration the material used and the pressure applied during its manufacture. To buy quality engineered hardwood flooring boards, visit a trusted dealer and check to confirm that the brand is authentic.
- To wash sticky substances from engineered wood boards, you will require an acidic cleaner and detergent. With these at your service, you will need lesser scrubbing, therefore, reducing the chances of scratches forming on the boards.
- In the early ninety’s engineered hardwood flooring was common in bowling alleys as it would withstand the impact of the balls and also give a level finish.
- Engineered flooring originated from Scandinavia in the early 1980s before being taken up by companies who refined production to provide even stronger boards.
Where to buy engineered wood flooring
- BClaminate.com: I mention this company because it’s in my neck of the woods – I live in Vancouver, BC.
- Rona.ca (Canada)
- Lumber Liquidators
Also, search online for local flooring companies – there are literally hundreds or even thousands throughout North America.