What is engineered hardwood? Is engineered hardwood real?

Many customers get confused about laminate flooring vs. engineered hardwood flooring. Which is real? Which is fake? What is the difference?

Engineered hardwood flooring in Westchester NY - Cooper Square Gunstock

First, laminate flooring is fake. It usually looks like hardwood but it’s not real. It’s a picture of hardwood covered by a melamine wear layer and on top of a high density core board. The pieces click together and lock into place to create a floating floor. Laminate has really come a long way and looks rather real; but, when you walk on it, you can often tell that it’s not real by the clicking noise.  It sounds rather tinny and hollow when you walk on it.  Often, on closer inspection, you’ll notice that they are wider boards with smaller pieces within them and those pieces all end at the end of the board (rather than hardwood where the boards are staggered).


Engineered hardwood, sounds fake, but it’s NOT. It’s hardwood through and through, but it’s constructed in layers (similar to plywood). It’s a terrible term because a lot of customers mistakenly interpret engineered hardwood as fake, but believe me it’s real.

Engineered Hardwood floors - Global Exotic African Mahogany

Advantages of engineered flooring:

  • Does not require a plywood subfloor. So, if you have a cement floor, you can easily glue or float this floor.
  • Because of the layers of wood (which are mounted perpendicular to each other), much of the expansion and contraction that you see in solid hardwood is reduced, so the boards are typically a tighter fit
  • Believe it or not, many engineered hardwoods are stronger and more stable than their solid hardwood counterparts. And, because of this strength, it’s easier to go wider in the planks (which is more in style and makes the room look larger).
  • It can be installed below grade (i.e. below the ground level, so it could go in a basement…provided, of course there are no moisture issues).
  • Some engineered hardwoods can be installed over radiant heat. (Always be sure to check this); most solid hardwoods can’t.
  • There’s more flexibility from an installation perspective. With most engineered floors you can nail it (if there’s plywood), or glue it (if there’s cement) or float it.
  • Some engineered hardwoods are less expensive; and, if you don’t have a plywood subfloor, these will also be less expensive from an installation perspective.

Engineered hardwood - Tigerwood - Westchester NY

Disadvantages of engineered hardwood:

  • Some engineered hardwoods can not be sanded & refinished. If you just need the hardwood for a short period of time, this may not be an issue; but, over the long term it can be. Check the wear layer – some engineered hardwoods are top notch and can be sanded 3-4 times; others 1-2 and others can’t be at all.
  • Some engineered hardwoods are in fact very cheap/flimsy products, so be careful and do your homework here. I mentioned above that hardwoods are real through and through – they are just layers of wood. That is usually the case, but there are a few cheap ones out there that have wood filler in them.
  • Some engineered hardwoods (esp the less expensive ones) look more fake because they are rotary sawn (visualize peeling an apple and the wood keeps spinning).

For more info on solid vs engineered hardwood flooring read this article.


The Flooring Girl 914-937-2950

What is engineered hardwood?  Is engineered hardwood real?


My name is Debbie Gartner, and I'm known as "The Flooring Girl." I own my own flooring store called Floor Coverings International, and we serve Westchester NY and Fairfield CT counties.We install hardwood flooring, carpet, tile flooring, laminate, bamboo and cork flooring. We also refinish hardwood floors. We are a shop at home flooring store. You can call us at 914-937-2950 to schedule a free flooring consultation or email us at debbie@TheFlooringGirl.com. Let us "bring the store to your door."If you are calling outside of Westchester/Fairfield Counties, please contact us at 914-407-3899.

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9 Response Comments

  • Stefan Baer  November 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Great article. So many people get it confused when in fact there are so many differences. We get that question all the time and people still call engineered laminate because of the structure.

  • Marte  November 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks for this explanation Debbie – I’ve wondered about this, and now I know!

  • TheFlooringGirl  December 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Stefan – Yes, I know…I see so many that get these terms confused.

    Marte – You are welcome!


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