Engineered Hardwood Flooring:
Engineered for Special Applications

Engineered Flooring, or engineered hardwood is probably one of the most confusing products on the wood flooring market today. It seems that everyday its a new story, new product, different construction and so on. Thus incredible difficult for a consumer to sort it all out and make a wise hardwood flooring decision.

... so first let me suggestion WHAT makes an Engineered Hardwood Flooring

  • All engineered hardwood flooring is made up of multiple layers of wood, glued together to become one board.

  • The decorative layer on top is real wood, that is what makes it an "engineered floor" and NOT a laminate. In comparison, the top layer on a "laminate floor" is a man made product (decorative papers, resins, or photographs of wood etc. ).

  • The words "engineered hardwood flooring" DO NOT reference the method of installation. Engineered wood can be nail down, glue down or floating.

  • The middle layer of an engineered floor is usually particle board, MDF, HDF, or plywood. Sometimes it has a bottom layer that is designed to balance the top decorative layer.

  • It is manufactured with a tongue and groove interlocking system similar to a standard strip floor for traditional nail down or glue down installation. The newest engineered floor on the market is now available in a "floating floor" configuration with an interlocking joint carved into a MDF or HDF core. It still has a real wood decorative layer, thus fits with the definition of an engineered wood floor, but just a different installation method.

These products can range in thickness from 3/8" to 3/4" in thickness, 2" to 8" in width and usually 12" to 60" mixed lengths to simulate a traditional strip floor. In fact it is difficult to differentiated from solid wood strip floor once engineered has been installed.

Occasionally you will find some engineered product only made in one length. Personally I'm not a fan of this type of flooring as I find it looks artificial... more like a cheap laminate. It is preferred to find an engineered hardwood flooring that has at least 4 or 5 different lengths to make it lay like a traditional hardwood.

So here's what you want to know in order of importance.

  1. Top Layer - how thick is it? The thicker the wood, the more ability it has to sustain damage and subsequent repair. It can be as thin as a piece of paper or up to 4mm common on a Mirage Engineered Wood Flooring.
  2. Middle Layer - How stable is it? MDF = medium density particle board... is a common middle layer, but it is very reactive to moisture. HDF = high density board.. a better choice. Some use a low grade of wood, but wood is not inherently stable as we discussed in " hardwood flooring, dimensional stability". And the last is plywood.. Probably the best of the lot in that plywood is inherently the most stable because of its alternating layers of thin wood... which of course is why I love the Mirage Engineered Hardwood Flooring
  3. Bottom Layer: This isn't always there. As in the case of Mirage hardwood it is not necessary given the plywood core, but some manufactures that use MDF or HDF use a thin wood backing to balance the solid top wood layer.
  4. Milling: After that is all said, remember as with all hardwood no matter what the construction, it must be milled with an accurate tongue and groove.. so check that yourself. That is usually visually obvious... try to put together a few boards while you are in the store and this should give you a pretty good idea.
  5. Finish: not so easy to detect quality.. and this is really the same story whether it is an engineered, parquet or solid strip hardwood flooring.... the best way is to check out a flooring that has been "living" under real conditions

Warranty issues:

Any separation between the various layers of a floor is considered to be "delamination" (ie. between the wood/paper surface veneer and the backing material). This can be caused by poor manufacturing methods or by water sneaking between the cracks and getting underneath (ie. from incorrect washing). Ask the manufacture for specific warranty coverage!


Depending on the actual floor, it hardwood floor installation can be nail or staple down, glue down or floating installation (all floor panels are glued - or not - to each other but not to the subfloor).

It is most commonly used over radiant floor heating or cement floors where dimensional stability is essential and a glue down installation is a necessity. If manufactured accurately they fit and glue together very easily. With poorer products, it can be very difficult to hold individual boards together and achieve tight joints.

Further Information:
Hardwood Flooring
Nail Down Hardwood Floor Installation
Installing Engineered Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete