Engineered Hardwood Flooring: How To Select It For Your Needs

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring is a product made from a core of hardwood, plywood or high-density fiberboard and a top layer of hardwood veneer that is glued to the top surface of the core. It is available in almost any species of hardwood. The product has the natural characteristics of the selected wood species as opposed to a photographic coating. The “engineered” product has been engineered to provide greater stability, particularly where moisture or heat present problems for hardwood floors.

Wood floors come in two basic types:

o Solid wood floors
o Engineered wood flooring

Solid Wood Fl is made with 3/4″ thick solid wood and tongue and groove sides to join the boards together. Some manufacturers make a thinner 5/16″ thick version. The main advantage of solid wood floors is their ability to be re-sanded and restored for many years. It is not uncommon for solid wood floors to last 50 years or more. Solid hardwood floors come unfinished or pre-finished in almost any species of wood.

The main issue to consider with solid wood flooring is its susceptibility to expansion and contraction due to changes in humidity in the home. To accommodate movement, these floors are typically installed with a 5/8″ to 3/4″ gap around the perimeter of the floor along the wall. This space is covered by shoe molding and baseboards.

3/4″ thick flooring should not be installed in below grade conditions such as a basement. However, wood flooring thinner than 5/16″ may be used in that application. When installing solid wood flooring over new or existing concrete, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for moisture limits in concrete.

Solid wood floors are available in three main types:

o Strip flooring is indicated by the thickness and width of the wood planks. Strip flooring has a set width, but the thickness can vary. Strip floors range in thickness from 5/16″ to ¾” wide. It is available in 1 1/2″, 2″ and 2 1/4″ widths only.

o Plank flooring comes in two thicknesses, but unlike strip flooring, the widths can vary. It is available only in thicknesses of 1/2″ or 3/4″ and a range of widths from 3″ to 8″.

o Parquet flooring looks very different from typical hardwoods. They are made up of geometric patterns made up of individual wooden patterns made up of individual wooden slats held together by mechanical fastening or an adhesive.

Laminate floors are not real wood, at least not in the way that hardwood and engineered wood are. It is made up of a thin top layer of resin-infused paper, all on top of a wood chip composite. Technically, it’s wood. It is an amazing simulation of wood. The resin layer is essentially a photograph of wood. Laminate floors are an alternative to wooden floors. It’s scratch resistant and works well in damp environments like bathrooms and kitchens, unlike hardwood floors. Furthermore, laminate flooring is very easy to install.

Engineered wood flooring solves many of the problems that hardwood and laminate flooring have:

o Solid wood does not tolerate moisture well.
o Solid wood can have a uniform quality
o Laminate floors do not tolerate moisture well
o Laminate flooring is fake wood and cannot be sanded.

Engineered Wood Flooring Basics

Engineered hardwood flooring is constructed similar to basic plywood with the top surface being real hardwood. Products come in two- to ten-ply construction, depending on the manufacturer. Many manufacturers have increased the surface layer (also known as the lining or wear layer) that will result in some engineered flooring lasting as long as traditional ¾” solid flooring. One of the most important factors contributing to longevity of any hardwood floor is the amount of repairable material.

Solid 3/4″ hardwoods are about 1/4 inch above the tongue and groove construction. Once you sand down to that level, nails or staples begin to show and need to be replaced. The best and thickest hardwood floors have 1/8″ to 3/16″ above the tongue and groove. Since the veneer is real wood, it can be sanded up to two or three times.

Engineered flooring is the ideal solution for hardwood floors over concrete. The dimensional stability of the way they are built. Each layer of the cape is snap-glued and laid in the opposite direction. Engineered hardwood floors expand and contract with high moisture, unlike hardwood floors. The more lies, the greater stability.

Installation of most engineered hardwood flooring is done by the glue down or floating floor method. It is very important to note that not all engineered products have the same type of installation specifications. Some floors can be floating, glued down, or stapled only. The manufacturer’s specifications must be explicitly followed. Most prefinished engineered hardwoods have length limits of 42 to 48 inches, as opposed to 72 to 84 inches for most solid hardwoods. Typically lower end flats will have shorter pieces. Longer lengths are generally preferred as they offer a more attractive appearance when finished.

What is a floating floor? It is a method of installing a floor in place of a specific type of flooring material. In this method, individual planks or boards are attached to each other, either by glue or lace, but not attached to the subfloor to which it is being installed. This is in contrast to a solid wood floor that requires nailing to the subfloor. A puzzle is a great comparison. With a puzzle, the pieces connect to each other, but not to the table. A floating floor is like a puzzle. One advantage of the floating floor installation method is that it allows the floor to move and expand in response to changes in humidity in the room.

Wood Floor Hardness Rating

The hardness of hardwood floors is measured with something called the Janka Test. A 444-inch steel ball is driven into the wood to half the diameter of the ball. The test measures the force required to embed a steel ball to half its diameter into the piece of wood being tested, with a rating measured in pounds of force per square inch. So with this rating, the higher the number, the harder the wood.

The hardness of the wood is important as one of the key considerations in selecting the species of wood flooring is being aware of how resistant the wood is to scratches and gouges. For example, if you have a dog with long nails, you should consider scratching the floor, and you should select a species with a higher rating, such as hickory, maple, oak, or ash.

While it may seem logical to choose the harder wood, certain factors must be considered:

o Softwood can be hardened to some degree by applying polyurethane finishes.

o Hardwoods are almost always much more expensive than softwoods and medium grades.

o Hardwood is more difficult to saw, drill, and nail than other woods, requiring more time and labor, and therefore more money.

Hardwood flooring appearances may differ

Hardwood veneers have the same surface appearances as solid hardwood flooring because both are natural hardwoods. The different appearances result from the different ways the hardwood is sawn. The different sawing methods are:

o Flat Sawn (also known as Plain Sawn) – can be flat grain, which has a cathedral or gothic effect, or vertical grain, which has a radial or edge grain effect.

o Rotary Cut: A method of cutting wood in which the hardwood layer is peeled away from the trunk using large wood lathes. This peeling method shows a spectacular and wilder grain.

o Offset Rotary Cut: A method of cutting wood that gives a cut appearance and grain pattern with the added cross-grain stability of cutting, without the cost of cutting. Hardwoods are more dimensionally stable along the grain, and offset rotary cutting takes advantage of this property. Yield is lower than a normal rotary cut, creating a slight price increase vs. harvest. standard rotary.

o Slicing: A method of cutting wood in which the hardwood layer is sawn like normal wood. This shows a finer grain.

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