What makes a better engineered hardwood?
So many brands. What works best for me?
· What makes one better than another?
· Is it better than solid hardwood?
· How long will it last?
· Which finish will hold up the best?
Engineered hardwood floors are for the most part prefinished, but can be obtained unfinished for those that prefer a custom color on site after sanding. Prefinished floors once installed, can be walked on, furniture moved in and you're ready to go.
What Makes One Better Than Another?
Trick question of sorts. A $ 5.00 square foot product could have similar selling points to a buyer on a limited budget versus one that can pay $ 10.00 per square foot. See the example discussed below.
Is it Better Than Solid Hardwood?
As far as dependability, engineered can be better than solid hardwood in that it is not as susceptible to common problems. Problems coming in the form of cupped or buckled floors due to an unfavorable environment (moisture imbalance within the home) for hardwood flooring in the first place.
How Long Will it Last?
How long will it last? This question can be best answered by the type of quality you're seeking. Much also depends on the care provided in making it last. See more below.
Which Finish Will Hold up the Best?
This can be a real head scratcher for most because there are too many opinions. When speaking to prospective customers I try to simplify the confusion by making a comparison to how finish warranties worked before aluminum oxide or ceramic urethane type finishes became available.
Prior to the changes in today's finish technology it was simply a UV cured urethane finish. It could be scratched and dented just like the newer finishes of today. And what's really shocking to many is the warranty period only ran five years, if that.
What changed? New finishes that resist wear far better than the older ones. If one steps back and ignores most of the fine print on warranties today it's only about the finish wearing and that's it folks!
European White Oak is all the rage nowadays. The actual veneer or wear layer comes from European forests by way of logs shipped to China. It's then processed into engineered flooring and shipped to the United States. Most are manufactured into budget flooring or in the $ 5.00 square foot price range. It serves a utility need, or satisfies the demand for this type of look for the right customer.
The higher priced 8 to 10 dollar a square foot imported product went through all the basic milling procedures as the first product but with a few differences. The actual difference in price comes from several areas which results in higher quality.
1. The wear layer or veneer. 3-4mm or more compared to 2mm
2. Better core. Typically ply
3. Higher quality adhesives and finishes used
4. Longer lengths
1. The Wear Layer or Veneer
Let's talk about the veneer or what many call the wear layer. A budget $ 5.00 engineered floor with a 2mm wear layer works perfectly fine for many, even those with a household full of kids and dogs, but it will get beat up.
Thin wear layer
It Will Not Wear Out
Here's a tidbit I thought to share because I'm sure it confuses many when the wear layer thickness is mentioned. All products mentioned on this page will not actually wear out or get worn through the layer or veneer. It's just a name that was put on it years ago. It's also unlikely it can be refinished successfully because of the thin wear layer. With all that said you could expect 10 to 15 years out of it until you're 'done with it.'
This is always subjective. I've had so many ask me the question of 'how long will it last?' It depends on your expectations and what you want out of it. Most new hardwood floor buyers are extremely careful and obsess over every dent and scratch, but as the years pass most get used to it and settle for 'adding character.' However you may be one of those around the 10 to 15 year mark that's had enough and is done or fed up with it. In this scenario replacement becomes necessary, or if you're bold enough, install a new floor over the old.
2. Better Core
The material under the wear layer is often called the core. It can be made differently from one product to another. The example below shows four types in order of quality with 1 being the lowest and four being the highest.
3. Higher Quality Adhesives and Finishes Used
The adhesives we're looking at are part of the manufacturing process. They are used when the ply layers are pressed together. Higher quality adhesives (CARB 2 Compliant) are far more environmentally friendly compared to adhesives used in lower priced products. Some lower priced products over the years have been reported to be of questionable makeup which also affects indoor air quality.
It's simple economics really. As the quality rises more thought is placed into creating a better product in all respects.
|Veneer and core before gluing||Veneer with adhesive on the backside before pressing.||Final product|
4. Longer Lengths
In the early days of engineered hardwoods, or going back more than 20 years most were made up of short lengths. Many exist today with their specs running at only 12 to 42 or 48 inches long. What's the difference? Short length hardwoods show more end joint seams in the final look.
Higher quality engineered will often have longer lengths running to eight feet. Longer boards look more traditional or similar perceived quality as what most homes were built with 50 and 80 years ago.