Engineered wood flooring

None can deny the appeal of a hardwood floor. It has a long tradition of luxury, and a timeless beauty. It is also expensive and difficult to install. Those looking for that classic look and feel might do well to consider engineered hardwood flooring. When determining whether or not to invest in engineered wood flooring, here are the essentials to keep in mind.

Engineered Hardwood

Unlike conventional hardwood, which comes straight out of a tree and into your home, engineered hardwood is a more complex product that consists of several layers. The outermost is a hardwood veneer, a thin slice of wood (less than 1/8″) of whatever species you desire. The inner layers are made of plywood, high density fiberboard, or hardwood. The core layers make the product more stable than regular hardwood, while the outer veneer surface adds beauty and authenticity.

Engineered hardwood is different than a hardwood laminate because the surface is made of real wood. While laminate has a core of high density fiberboard, its surface is basically a picture of wood (or any other material, for that matter). Laminate is less expensive than engineered and solid hardwood, but has a different look and feel due to its make up.


  • Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to reduce the moisture problems associated with conventional hardwood.
  • Its layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor.
  • Engineered flooring will not swell or warp, making it very low maintenance.

Environmental Advantages of Engineered Hardwood

Choosing engineered flooring is considered more environmentally-friendly than traditional hardwood for a few reasons.

  • Veneer is sliced rather than cut with a saw. This process produces no sawdust, which means that all of the tree’s wood can be used. The sawdust produced making hardwood boards is wasted wood (and adds up to a significant amount).
  • Hardwood trees grow much more slowly than the trees used to make engineered flooring cores. Because more surface area is produced making veneer, installing traditional hardwood uses many times the amount of slow growing tree. This makes the replenishing time much longer.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cons

There are, in actuality, very few principle drawbacks to this type of hardwood flooring, but this doesn’t make it a foolproof project or even the right floor for every application.

  • Comparable to solid hardwood in terms of cost, engineered floors are still considerably more expensive than laminate, tile, and carpet.
    • That said, by far, the biggest concern as a homeowner should be avoiding shoddy or inferior engineered manufacturers and products.
  • Veneers that are too thin will prevent sanding and refinishing opportunities that may double the lifetime of the floor.
    • Some veneers are so thin and poorly made that they can prematurely warp or fade.
  • Core layers must still be fashioned from high-quality wood. Some manufacturers try to cut corners by using fiberboard or oriented strand board that may compromise the stability of your floor and, at the very least, will result in an inferior flooring product.

Is The Floor Worth It?

Engineered flooring is definitively easier to install, in fact, some handy homeowners are even enticed into installing their own engineered floors. It’s still a major project with big financial implications, ¬†so don’t over-reach on your home improvement skills. Even for the majority of homeowners who hire a flooring contractor for the job, you’ll save a hefty sum on installation, which is important given that most engineered flooring is more expensive than solid wood.

High-quality engineered floors (thick veneers, quality substrate) will usually cost somewhere between $8 and $12 per square foot. How much extra money this costs and whether cheaper installation offsets this price often depends on the type of wood you’re choosing. With an exotic or even highly-coveted hardwood, such as maple, engineered flooring is likely to be cheaper overall. For more common hardwoods, solid wood flooring may be cheaper overall, although it will still take longer to install.

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  1. Evelyn Arndt, May 6:

    My hardwood floor which is polished and colored at the factory is loosing the top color in front of a large window in my kitchen. I thought these factory finished floors were supposed to keep their top color always. What can I do to bring ” life” back in this area. It only has specks of the original color on some of the planks. I had thought I might need to replace the slabs that had lost it top finish. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  2. Gene Scott, May 19:

    Be very careful with engineered floors! We had them installed two years ago Rodenbaugh Floors, Allen Texas) the installer took readings that were dry due to a 3 year drought. Unfortunately, In less than a year, when the water returned to the ground and slab the floors buckled and blistered and had to be replaced because of bacteria and mold growth under them. The vender refused to replace or compensate for his not advising of the potential issue which could have been avoided by proper installation with moisture resistant processes.

  3. Mike, June 14:

    This article is confusing and contradicts itself no less than four times in talking about the cost of engineered flooring. In the second paragraph it states “The cost of engineered flooring is another selling point.” Then goes onto state that “engineered flooring is cheaper from the start.” The article then claims “you’ll save a hefty bundle on installation” and then says “that’s important because engineered flooring is more expensive than solid wood flooring” even though in the previous paragraph it stated the engineered flooring and solid wood flooring were comparable in cost. In another section the article goes to some lenght to explain why engineered flooring is “cheaper from the start” because only a thin slice of wood is needed. The article never explains why engineered flooring in cheaper to install nor gives any example or frame of reference for this “bundle of cash” you will save on installation.

  4. Bill, June 24:

    Heads up on all engineered hardwoods. One, make sure what you buy in samples is exactly what you receive before installing. Too many times the flooring is not the same. Two, always use a moisture barrier (rolled plastic about 60 cents a square foot) and a high grade moisture barrier glue down. If you’re reading this and thinking a floating floor or simple click and go floor is simple, trust me, it is not. GLUE THE FLOOR DOWN WITH QUALITY GLUE. You’ll thank me later. And, lastly…and I mean sincerely…make sure to lay out the floor dry first. THE WHOLE FLOOR! Walk around the rooms over three days (72 hours) while the room acclimates and play with the boards. make each room exactly the way you like it and then install the planks. Too often, people open a box and get to it only to have ugly boards in the middle of the room and other boards popping because they were unfit for installation. Laying doors is not that difficult. Yes, you can do it yourself, just do it right. Learn as much as you can and forget about short cuts. They will only cause problems later on. Hope this saves someone…cheers!

  5. Mara, July 22:

    Engineered hardwoods ARE more expensive than solid hardwoods but, your installation costs are lower and you can install them below grade. The colors you see on samples will vary from the samples you see in the store because wood is a natural product!! Always let your wood acclimate at least 72 hours and you must continue to keep your house at a relatively low humidity forever after…Remember to take boards from different boxes if you’re installing yourself. That way you’ll get a consistent variance.

  6. Deb, August 21:

    We bought a new home from “Century Builders” (do NOT recommend them!) & had engineered floors installed. Our floors LOOK beautiful but they snap crackle & pop! We are still fighting with “Century” to fix the problem. They have sent all the experts out including the manufacture rep & no resolution yet, it’s been a year & we need some “sound” advise from someone that won’t be pointing fingers at each other! Help!

  7. Polly, September 20:

    I disagree with the statements about laminates being almost impossible to scratch. My house is 5 years old, and my floors are ruined from our dogs’ feet. We keep them groomed, of course, and one only weighs 8 pounds. But our English Bulldog pushes off when she runs (and boy howdy, she loves to run…) and she has laid waste to our laminate floors. I am looking for some kind of flooring that is indestructible, looks ok, and is easy to care for.

    I’m thinking about heading out and finding an abandoned barn, taking the wooden beams and gluing them to the floor. I’m pretty sure she couldn’t hurt that. The only other thing to do is give up and let her have the house and I’ll have a dog house out in the had. It’d be easier to clean, at least…

  8. Susan, October 10:

    I agree about dogs and laminatesee. We had to b travel a lot and left house sitters and potty pads for our three dogs but the lack of routine caused them to use the potty pads more than usual and the laminate us ruined in the areas that the dogs missed the pads or urine ran under the pads. I will probably replace the whole floor so the new will match. I am looking at the vinyl planks because of the dogs.

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