Engineered Hardwood Flooring:
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
- 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
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
So here's what you want to know in order of importance.
- 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
Engineered Wood Flooring.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
Nail Down Hardwood
Hardwood Flooring Over Concrete