When it comes to hardwood flooring you’ve probably heard of the words: engineered wood. It has become so popular but everyone question is: What is Engineered Wood ?
Engineered Wood also known as “man-made wood” or composite wood is a versatile alternative to hard wood. It is constructed from multiple layers of wood called ply that have been reformed using heat, glue and pressure, each layer runs in different directions, which makes it very stable and provide better properties than hard wood.
What is Engineered wood made of?
The top layer of engineered wood is the fancy looking one: a beautiful veneer of solid wood. It’s the layer you’ll feel and touch and it’s the most important choice to make when choosing your engineered floor.
The second layer of engineered wood is the clever one: a strong, supportive layer which can be made of plywood, particle board or medium-density fibreboard(MDF). All three materials work the same, preventing the top layer from warping.
The last layer of engineered wood is the stabilizing back layer. The result? A beautiful floor which doesn’t buckle in areas of changing moisture.
But before we discuss about the advantages and disadvantages of engineered wood, let us first see the various types of wood, solid wood and engineered, available on the market:
Here we find primarily two varieties : hardwoods and softwoods.
|Comes from trees that have flowers such as: maple, oak, and walnut.||Comes from coniferous trees such as: cedar, fir, and pine.|
|Takes a long time to grow.||Takes comparatively shorter time to grow.|
|It is more expensive||It is less expensive|
|Is durable (less likely to decay) comes with close grain, and requires low maintenance.||It comes with fine wood texture.|
Both of these Solid Woods will give your furniture the natural look you want.
The primary material used to manufacture engineered wood products is made from the same hardwoods and softwoods that we mention above.
Engineered hardwood does come with a click fitting system or a tongue with groove profile. There are multiple finished you can choose : oiled, lacquered, brushed and unfinished, widths, lengths and thickness may vary depending of your requirements.
We should not confuse engineered hardwood flooring with laminate flooring.
Engineered hardwood is compose of a top layer of real hardwood, whereas laminate flooring has a high quality picture of wooden flooring laminate onto high density fibreboard (HDF), not wood.
There are several types, the most common and important ones are:
Plywood is made from thin layers of veneer that are glue together with moisture-resistant adhesives under heat and pressure.
Each adjacent layer having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to reduce the risk of splitting and also to improve the strength, stability and prevent wrapping.
Is used for a variety of interior, structural, and exterior applications such as structural frames and internal paneling. Can be treated and can be used in exposed exterior applications.
Particle board is a commonly known engineered wood used in the manufacturing of many kitchen cabinets and countertops.
Is made made out of wood chips by compressing them with glue. The wood chips in the surface layer are thinner than those in the middle layer, so the surface of the particle board is denser and more compact.
The main advantage when it comes to particle board is that it can create any shape possible.
Some wood construction type using particle board are usually imitated even while making extremely complex curves and edges which will require far more difficult preparation if actual hard wood was used.
The main disadvantage to using particle board is that it is not very strong compared with other pressed woods, also great material to use when low cost is of higher importance than strength.
Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) production process involves grinding hardwood and softwood particles into wood fibers. Next, the wood fibers are combined with wax binding them with synthetic resin under heat and pressure to form panels. MDF offers a smooth finish and consistency. It is strong, but also easy to work with.
MDF is it denser than plywood and it can soak up water faster than and hence is susceptible to damage if used outdoors.
Because the MDF surface is quite smooth, it is mostly suitable for painting and indoor furniture. MDF comes in different thicknesses and quality.
If you take into account other types of hardwood lumber, MDF has a lower cost. Since it is made from waste materials and doesn’t require fresh timber it is consider a green product.
Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is not susceptible to splintering and provides consistency.
As a disadvantage it comparison to wood it has a higher weight per inch, less strenght and inability to repel moisture and a lack of wood grain.
This lack of grain can be a problem for some cabinetmakers because the boards will need to be primes and painted.
The material is just too absorbent for stains and can not have the finished look of wood.
Both hardwood and engineered wood provide a great look for any room but which type should you choose? Let’s look into that!
How to identify if it is engineered wood ?
You can identify if it is engineered wood by the following characteristics:
- Engineered hardwood it is much lighter than solid wood.
- The exterior and interior of the planks will not match.
- Lifting the furniture and looking at the base of the legs is another good indicator.
- Engineered hardwood have either a click fitting system or a tongue and groove profile.
- There are also different finishes to choose from including: oiled, lacquered, brushed and unfinished.
- If you buy usually it is more cost effective than solid hardwood flooring.
- Engineered wood is usually installed below grade(basements, below the ground).
- It is more stable when you walk on it.
What are the advantages of engineered wood?
Engineered wood are preferred because they are design to meet specific customer requirements and contain certain advantages compared to solid woods like:
- Affordable option:
They are manufactured using a mixture of byproducts materials such as wood fibres, sawdust, glues and chemicals.
Also furniture made out of engineered wood is more affordable so if you like to update your furniture more frequently it might not make much sense to invest huge amounts in furniture.
- Structural advantages:
Because is “man-made” in the construction process it is design to be more resilient to changes in temperature and humidity.
This means exposure to humidity or moisture wouldn’t cause warping or cracking. The wood is additionally impervious to termite attack.
In particularly common places the likes of bathrooms and kitchens where the temperature and humidity levels are constantly fluctuating solid wood expands and contracts whereas engineered wood is much less affected.
Also can be install in houses with underfloor heating systems.
- Easy to work with:
Choosing a click system engineered hardwood will find it quick and easy to install.
Engineered hardwood offers easy care and maintenance.
- Easy to move:
Compared with hardwood the “man-made wood” is lighter so it’s and ideal choice for people that are at risk of shifting frequently.
- More design choices:
You will have a choice of different wood species, styles, colours, finishes and plank sizes.
It offer a variety of styles with multiple finishes available in matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.
Also comes with a variety of visual effects such as hand scraped for a time worn appearance, distressed for a slightly rustic appearance, or wire-brushed.
If necessary, you’ll be able to sand the top layer of real wood and refinish the flooring.
Engineered wood are often sanded but just one occasion or twice lightly but you get about 25 of service from the original finish and you can sanded again and get another 25 years.
Final it is great for people with allergies too because it has closed joints between the boards so the dust can never accumulate, dust mites or other allergy causing organisms cannot survive on clear floors.
Is engineered wood good for floors ?
Engineered wood is good for floors but first you should make your choice based on the budget and location of use. One thing to emphasize is that engineered wood is a very versatile and stable product.
You get a natural floor covering at a reasonable price, being stronger and having more design choices to choose from than solid wood flooring.
It is still a natural product which offer various different installation methods such as glue down, stapled, floating with glued joints and floating click-together.
Another reason is that they can be easily installed over a variety of sub-floors like: concrete both below and above the grade.
It is recommended that you have a high traffic floor or the area has specific needs you should use an engineered hardwood floor with a high Janka score.It will give you the performance you’re looking for.
In conclusion engineered hardwood is definitely good for floors!
Is Engineered Wood Durable?
The durability of engineered wood is given by the type of timber used and the type of finished applied to that timber on the top surface.
Some timbers are naturally more durable and harder such as oak, hickory compare to softwood timbers such as pine.
This ignores the fact whether the board is solid or engineered because the top surface of an engineered board would be the same timber that would be used for solid and therefore be equally as hard.
The factor which determines the durability of solid of engineered hardwood is the Janka score which refers to the hardness of the wood.
For example, Hickory is one of the strongest hardwoods available, with a Janka score of 1820 compared to California Redwood with a score of 420.
How Strong Is Engineered Wood?
Engineered wood maintain all the natural strength of the wood but is further strengthened by fixation methods.
In most part it is still natural wood, making his strength even more impressive and in some cases can be used to replace steel in various building projects.
But most importantly it’s not subject to some of the natural characteristics like knots and splits which characterized traditional lumber.
How Thick is Engineered Wood Flooring?
Engineered wood flooring comes in a variety of different wood species, finishes and board sizes.
Usually engineered wood it is available in fixed lengths but with different thicknesses typically from 12.5 mm(0.5 inch) to 22 mm(0.86 inch) having either a tongue and groove or click fitting system.
When you go to the warehouse to buy wood flooring and see a figure like 16/3 or 18/4, this means that the boards are 16 mm and 18 mm thick respectively with corresponding top layers of 3 mm and 4 mm.
There are generally two factors to the thickness of an engineered wood flooring board; the overall board thickness and the top layer or lamella thickness.
The lamella is the face layer of the wood that is visible when installed. Typically, it is a sawn piece of timber. The timber can be cut in three different styles: flat-sawn, quarter-sawn, and rift-sawn.
It can be either prefinished floor (which is already oiled or lacquered) or unfinished (raw material which needed to be sanded and sealed with oil or a lacquer)
Where do you want to install the flooring?
You need to be careful when you decide to choose the best option for the thickness of your board.
Usually it is not recommended a board of more then 14 mm thick for under floor heating and a board of less than 18mm thick for structural projects.
Where you would like the flooring to go may assist you to make a decision whether to choose engineered or solid hardwood flooring.
Solid wood flooring is great for high traffic areas because it will be sanded down and re-finished multiple times.
So if you’re trying to find flooring for an entrance hallway or living area then solid wood flooring might be a good option.
If however, you would like hardwood flooring for an area where temperature or humidity is continually fluctuating, I might recommend an engineered hardwood floor.
For instance , conservatories, rooms with tons of glazing or perhaps for a kitchen they all have installed engineered floors.
Engineered hardwood flooring has been designed to resist slight changes in its surroundings, so can deal with changing air temperature, or moisture within the air.
Where can engineered wood flooring be used?
Engineered wood is the best type of wood flooring to use with an underfloor heating system because it responds well to changes in floor temperature.
Other types of wooden flooring can also be used, but with softer and less dense wood, special attention should be paid to the thickness of the floorboards so that they do not act as an insulator blocking heat.
As a general rule, for wooden floor coverings, the floor surface temperature should not exceed 27 ° C.
Different types of wooden flooring have different thermal properties, so there are differences in their suitability for use with an underfloor heating system.
The denser and thinner the floorboards, the better they conduct heat and are generally the engineered wood is more suitable for use with underfloor heating.
The question of which overall choice of wood flooring is most suitable in terms of durability is best answered by looking first at the intended purpose of the floor.
For example, a busy corridor or foyer that is likely to undergo an above average passage the best floor is a high-density engineered wood floor (i.e. a species of wood that obtains a high score on the Janka hardness test glued to materials more absorbent).
The engineered wood floor should provide ample impact resistance and sufficient “elasticity” to withstand intense use.
However, in a low-impact area such as a lounge, where pedestrian traffic is likely to be relatively lower, maintenance and lifespan become more important considerations. In this case, solid wood floors are considered to be the most popular choice.
Can I use engineered wood flooring with underfloor heating?
Engineered wood flooring can be definitely used with underfloor heating systems. If you are interested in underfloor heating then engineered wood is the perfect choice.
It has the following advantages like allowing the heat to be transferred to the surface of the floor, can deal with the constant changes in temperature and can react accordingly.
It’ll expand and contract and is dimension-ally stable enough to not become damaged by the warmth from underneath.