Why Choose Engineered Hardwood Flooring?
Before delving into the numerous benefits and details of engineered hardwoods, let’s first mention that compared to all other types of hard surface flooring, engineered hardwood flooring has the greatest range of options in price, quality, and installation method. Context is everything, so we recommend having a professional flooring installer measure & inspect the project before purchasing the materials to ensure the correct type of engineered hardwood is selected.
Engineered hardwoods typically comprise a veneer/lamella of a hardwood species such as white oak, hickory, or maple, which is then adhered to a plywood core. Often, these materials range in overall thickness from 3/8” - 5/8”, with a veneer of 1.5 - 4mm. On the other hand, a solid hardwood floor is 18mm thick, meaning an engineered hardwood uses approximately 80% less hardwood than solid hardwood.
Engineered hardwood flooring combined with a sound-deadening underlayment pad can be a great way to achieve the look of hardwood while limiting sound transference between levels and rooms of the home or building. Nearly every Home Owner’s Association (HOA) will require a sound deadening pad be installed before any solid surface flooring is applied, and all flooring must be floated, not fastened to the sub-floor. That common HOA guideline rules out solid hardwood flooring in favor of engineered hardwoods because engineered hardwoods can be installed as a floating application, whereas solid hardwoods cannot.
One of the greatest advantages of engineered hardwood flooring are the various methods of installation and the adaptability this affords. Engineered hardwoods have four common installation methods depending on their core construction:
* Nail-down * Glue-down * Floating-click * Floating-glue *
This versatility comes in handy because there are solutions for nearly every sub-floor configuration. For example, a home or building with a particle board sub-floor can be overlayed using either the Floating-click or Floating-glue installation methods. If the client prefers the Nail-down or Glue-down options, the particle board would need to be removed and replaced with plywood. On the other hand, if your home has an on-grade or above-grade concrete sub-floor, engineered hardwoods can be installed using either of the two floating options, as well as the Glue-down method. The Nail-down method is ruled out in this case, as hardwoods cannot be nailed into concrete. On the other hand, if the sub-floor is plywood, and free of particle board, all four installation methods are possible.
Engineered hardwoods have gained popularity, in large part, due to the wide-plank aesthetic. Traditionally, hardwoods were limited to 5 – 6 inches of width, primarily because solid hardwoods are considered dimensionally unstable past that point. However, engineered hardwoods, along with their adaptable cores, can be manufactured in widths well beyond 5 – 6 inches. Currently, the widest engineered hardwood in the Rejuvenation Floor & Design showroom is a Douglas Fir made by Sawyer Mason measuring 14”.
Most engineered hardwood flooring has a residential warranty ranging 25 – 100 years. This means that under normal wear & tear, and when cared for properly, the finish will not be worn through to raw wood during the warranty period. Furthermore, if the flooring was nailed down or glued down, and if the veneer is thick enough, the engineered hardwood can be sanded, stained and refinished, resulting in an updated style and longer lifespan.
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Installing hardwood flooring is one of the most effective ways to increase the value of your home while creating an elegant, cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Color, width, texture, sheen & species all play a role in the decision-making process, but over the last couple of decades, another key question has risen to the surface: Should we have our hardwoods sanded, stained & finished inside our home, or stained & prefinished at the manufacturing facility? Let’s explore this dilemma while focusing on 5 key factors to help inform this decision: timing, bevel, durability, reparability & cost.
Timing – Most of us have probably seen this famous 1875 painting by French artist Gustave Caillebotte of the three workers using hand tools to scrape & sand a hardwood floor - a truly backbreaking, time-consuming process. Fortunately, the hardwood industry has evolved over the last 150 years, and we now use large machines to perform the sanding work. These days, 1000sq/ft of installation with onsite sanding, staining & finishing typically lasts 2 – 3 weeks, along with an additional few days of cure time depending on the type of finish being applied. On the other hand, a 1000sq/ft installation of factory-finished hardwood flooring takes 4 – 6 business days and has no cure time.... You can dance on these floors as soon as they are installed.
Bevel – Floors that are site-sanded cannot have a bevel as any irregularities in the surface are sanded smooth, sealed, and then finished, creating a more uniform esthetic. On the other hand, factory-finished hardwoods (see above pic) all have beveling around the perimeter of each hardwood plank, but the degree of that bevel varies by manufacturer. In our experience, many clients like the bevel, some clients dislike the bevel, and the majority either aren’t aware there are options or don’t have a strong option either way.
Durability – We are often asked, “Is a site-sanded natural red oak hardwood more durable than a factory-finished red oak hardwood?” Although the Janka rating (resistance to denting) of all domestic red oak is generally the same, most factory-finished hardwoods have a more durable finish due in part to their coat of aluminum oxide, making them more scratch resistant than site-finished hardwoods. In addition, most factory finishes are applied by machines and can have more coats applied than in a residential setting.
Reparability – From the perspective of hardwood flooring technicians, site-finished and factory-finished hardwoods are on opposite ends of the repair spectrum. One of the most significant advantages of factory-finished hardwoods is their ease of reparability. Let’s say a piece of furniture gets dragged through the family room, leaving a scratch traveling across three rows of hardwood flooring directly in front of the fireplace, making a highly visible issue. If this occurs, an experienced technician can extract those damaged planks, then fabricate planks left over from the original installation, and retrofit those factory-finished planks into non-damaged hardwoods in the family room where the damaged planks were extracted. This process is in stark contrast to a site-finished hardwood needing repair, which requires the entire layout of hardwood flooring to be sanded and refinished, thereby dramatically increasing the duration of the repair and associated costs.
**Important Note - Save the remaining material from the original installation or purchase additional cartons of flooring so that you always have an exact match for the hardwood repair.**
Cost – In general, factory-finished materials cost more than raw materials that will be finished on-site. However, the labor cost associated with site-finishing far exceeds labor costs related to factory-finished installations. On average, a 1000sq/ft factory-finished hardwood will cost 15 – 30 percent less than a site-finished hardwood.
Honorable Mention – If a home already has a large quantity of site-finished hardwoods, and the objective is to extend the footprint of those hardwoods, it’s usually more cost-effective to continue with raw material, followed by the site-sanding process rather than removing the existing material and replacing with factory-finished hardwoods.
Are the distinctions between Laminate flooring and LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) flooring becoming increasingly unclear? We frequently advise clients who are unsure of which type of flooring is ideal for their situation. Because of this, we've created an in-depth explanation of the distinctions between Laminate and LVP flooring, and elaborated on the essential characteristics. For the sake of this article, we are only comparing LVP’s to the new generation of flood-rated Laminate flooring made by Audacity, Calypso, Nautilus, and Evoke Surge.