What is engineered hardwood? Is engineered hardwood real?
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.
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 plys 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.
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).