Choosing flooring for a home can initially seem like a daunting task. After all, there are many factors to consider — the material, the maintenance required, your budget, the installation method, and, perhaps most importantly, the look. Flooring trends tend to often change, making it difficult to select the perfect choice. However, one trend continues to be a hit with homeowners: engineered hardwood flooring.
This hardwood flooring is different from other hardwood kinds as it is partially man-made. As such, this flooring provides multiple benefits and makes for a particularly appealing look for many rooms in your home. This guide will break down everything you need to know about engineered hardwood flooring and how you can get started with the installation process today.
First Things First: What Is Engineered Hardwood?
Engineered hardwood flooring has a very similar look to solid hardwood, though there several differences between the two. Specifically, they are different in how they are constructed, how they look, and how well they deal with moisture, heat resistance, and durability. As engineered hardwood is man-made, the construction process is the biggest distinction, leading to numerous benefits.
What Is Engineered Hardwood Made of?
Engineered hardwood is made of multiple layers of wood, including thick base layers of plywood, a soft plywood covering, and topped with real wood veneer. These layers have been constructed using heat, glue, and pressure, making them a more intricate kind of flooring than solid wood. Moreover, due to its many layers, engineered hardwood has a more durable core, giving it the ability to last much longer than other hardwood options do.
Since the top layer is made of real hardwood, you can get engineered hardwood flooring in a variety of different species. For instance, you can select from such species as oak, bamboo, or maple, to name a few common examples. However, it’s not only about the wood species. You can also select various colors, finishes, and textures. In the end, you have nearly endless possibilities when it comes to your preferred engineered hardwood, making it a top choice for any home.
What Are Its Benefits?
Besides engineered hardwood’s exceptional durability, what other advantages does it offer?
- Temperature and Moisture Resistance: The durability of an engineered hardwood makes it more resistant to temperature changes and moisture. This lessens the likelihood of the wood expanding, which leads to cracks and gaps in the floorboard.
- Allergy-Friendly: Unlike carpet flooring, engineered hardwood flooring does not retain dust mites, dirt, pollen, or mold that can cause coughing or sneezing for those with allergies. This is also good news for pet owners whose pets often shed and leave fur around the house.
- Cost-Efficient: Engineered hardwood costs slightly less per square foot than solid hardwood does, making it more budget-friendly.
- Long-Term Value: The presence of engineered hardwood in your home can vastly increase its value. In fact, the average return on investment (ROI) for these floors is 70-80%.
- Easy Maintenance: Engineered hardwood is easy to maintain and does not require constant cleaning.
- Many Installation Methods: Finally, this type of hardwood can be installed using various installation methods, leaving you with even more options.
What Maintenance Is Involved?
While engineered hardwood is much easier to maintain than other kinds of flooring, it still requires occasional cleaning. Though hardwood flooring won’t trap dirt and debris, these materials will still naturally appear on the surface over time. The easiest way to clear the floor of these signs of life is with a sweep. You can do so every couple of days or when you start to see some debris build up, especially in high-traffic areas. Also, make sure to take care of spills right away to avoid the possibility of water damage.
Alternatively, you can use a vacuum for a quick cleanup, though be cautious with this method. You don’t want to use a vacuum with a beater bar, as it can end up harming your hardwood floor. Instead, if your vacuum has the option, set it to “bare floor” or use the brush attachment.
You’ll also want to run a mop over the floor from time to time. How often depends on how much build-up occurs, though you can generally aim for every couple of weeks. The most important point is to use a damp mop, not one that is soaking wet. Doing so could lead to water wear down the road. Moreover, make sure to use a towel to dry off any places that are still wet after mopping.
Lastly, every sort of hardwood floor needs a deep cleaning, preferably once a month. With engineered hardwood floors, you need to be especially cautious of the cleaning products you select. Make sure to choose ones that specifically say “engineered hardwood” on the label. Otherwise, harsh chemicals found in other products, like ammonia, could cause serious damage. Use a soft material like a towel to apply the cleaning product, and, like with mopping, be sure to wipe down any remaining wet spots. You can also use a scratch concealer to get rid of any scratches that appear.
As a bonus tip, consider putting protective mats or rugs on areas of the floor that are prone to scratches, like where furniture sits. Doing so is a great preventative measure against those pesky scuffs and scratches.
Can Engineered Hardwood Be Refinished?
You may want to refinish your floors if you see any damage occur over time. However, unlike other types of hardwood floors, engineered flooring can’t be refinished multiple times. In fact, most engineered hardwood can only be refinished once — although some types can be refinished a few times, depending on the material and the thickness of the veneer. The thicker the veneer, the safer you are to refinish the flooring, as a thin veneer can be worn down by too much sanding.
Considering Your Engineered Hardwood Options
There are a few considerations to make prior to getting engineered hardwood flooring installed in your home. Some of these come down to personal preference, while others are influenced by the size and spacing of your house.
The first concern is the dimensions of the flooring. Dimensions of engineered hardwood are different from solid hardwood, though they may initially look the same.
Most engineered hardwood manufacturers will provide size options of 6″, 8″, or 10″ wide. However, manufacturers may also provide random dimensions depending on the exact look you’re going for. If you’re installing the flooring in a smaller room, you may want to go with narrower planks, while larger rooms benefit from wider planks. In the end, it comes down to aesthetic preference.
Like dimensions, the thickness of engineered hardwood can also vary. This kind of hardwood will often range anywhere from .05 to .09 inches. Moreover, the thickness determines how often the wood can be refinished over time. For instance, engineered hardwood around .07 inches can be sanded and refinished more than once without risking damage to the backing or wear layer of the wood.
Another factor to think about is heating systems in your home. Engineered hardwood works well with radiant heat, as the thickness helps prevent the wood from drying out, which would lead to expansion and the possibility of cracks in the floor. Aim to use thicker hardwood with a radiant heat system for the most durability.
Last but not least, you’ll have to choose your flooring design. You can choose among several sorts of wood species that can give your home a different aesthetic, whether you want to go for classic or more modern. Some favored design options include:
- Oak: Oak is a popular choice for a reason. Not only is it readily available from most manufacturers, but it comes in a range of different undertones. For example, you can go for a Red Oak containing pink undertones or White Oak with yellow undertones.
- Hickory: This type of hardwood is some of the most durable you can get, making it ideal for areas in your home that are prone to high traffic. It has a lighter tone overall compared to the other choices in this list.
- Maple: The strength of maple lies between oak and hickory. Tone-wise, it’s more on the lighter side, though it can be stained to be darker if preferred. If you like a sleek, modern feel, maple is the way to go.
- Bamboo: Bamboo has gained popularity over the years for many homeowners. Technically, it’s not traditional wood, though it has the same look and feel and is more on the durable side. Plus, it’s an eco-friendly option, perfect for those who have the environment in mind.
When shopping for engineered hardwood flooring, see if you can get samples to compare different designs, colors, finishes, sizes, and patterns. Doing so will give you more assurance that the design you go with is the best choice for your home.
All Things Engineered Wood Flooring Installation
Engineered hardwood can be installed using a few different methods, each of which has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. You can also choose between doing it yourself or getting professionals to take care of the job. Here’s everything you need to know about the installation of this hardwood.
Where to Install?
Fortunately, you have many options as to where you can actually install engineered hardwood in your home. This is in large part due to its lasting durability and moisture resistance. Even better, engineered hardwood can be installed in both residential and commercial locations over most subfloors.
Lots of homeowners choose to install this hardwood in their living rooms, giving the space an elegant and classic look. Plus, your guests don’t have to worry about taking their shoes off to avoid making scratches or scruffs.
Another alternative is in the kitchen or dining room. Though there tend to be spills in these spaces, the hardwood can withstand them without much damage as the liquid won’t be absorbed like it would be with carpet.
Better yet, you can install engineered hardwood in your basement. Thanks to the hardwood’s resistance to moisture and temperature, you can rest assured that your basement flooring won’t get cracked or become moldy.
Finally, you can also choose to install your hardwood in your bedroom. Remember that this hardwood works well with radiant heat, so you don’t have to fret about getting cold feet when moving around your bedroom in the wintertime.
What Types Are There?
As for actual installation methods, you have a few choices:
- Nail Down: The nail down method uses nails to fasten the hardwood to the floor. This ensures that the planks of wood are tightly locked together. However, there is still the possibility that boards can move due to humidity changes, though this is less likely with engineered hardwood.
- Staple Down: Similar to the nail down procedure, the staple method uses staples to attach the floor to the subfloor. It’s a simple and quick process, though it poses the same disadvantage as the nail down technique.
- Glue: Your third installation option is to use glue. This method is best reserved for professional installers, as gluing down the floors takes more skill and precaution with the adhesives used. When done correctly, the glue down approach severely limits the possibility of any squeaking or shifting of the floorboards.
- Click: The click (sometimes called floating) method is often the most preferred of all installations. It involves using the tongue-and-groove system of the floorboards to click and lock them together. They aren’t attached directly to the floor themselves, hence the term “floating.” It’s the easiest installation process and doesn’t require any other products.
In the end, the glue and floating methods serve as your best choices when it comes to the security of your floorboards but many favor the click method for an easier and more cost effective installation process.
Steps for DIY Installation
The steps to a DIY installation will vary based on which installation strategy you choose. Even with this being the case, there are still important first steps to take, no matter which method:
1. Clean and Prep Your Floor
Like any DIY floor installation, you need to ensure everything is clean. Go over the floor with a broom or vacuum to get rid of any bits of debris. Next, make certain that there are no problems that can stop you along the way. For instance, are there any sloping, gaps, or cracks in the floor? If so, these will need to be addressed and fixed first. Following this, measure your door heights and account for any oddly-shaped rooms that could affect the angles of the floorboards. Though you may not start with any sloping or sagging, you can end up with it if you don’t take the right measurements.
2. Have a Moisture Barrier
Having a moisture barrier guarantees that no moisture makes its way up from the ground and seeps into the top level of the hardwood floor. There are different types of moisture barriers, including simple sheets of plastic or liquid solutions you can apply using a brush or roller. The moisture barrier you choose again depends on your installation method. For example, if you are going with the floating technique, you can use a plastic barrier. Keep in mind that, for the glue method, you may want to use a type of adhesive.
3. Lay Down the Boards According to Instructions
From here, it all comes down to your installation approach. The most important point is to clearly follow all instructions to minimize the possibility of mistakes. If so, you may have to reach out to professional installers to handle any necessary repairs. However, if you’re only dealing with a case of damaged planks, don’t worry — you can save them for future use.
If DIY installation still doesn’t sound like it’s for you, you definitely have other options. For instance, Floor It 41 does offer installation for many of their flooring products, making the process easier for you.
Steps for Hiring an Installer
Speaking of hiring an installer, there are several factors to consider, too. In the end, selecting the perfect installer comes down to research. Most homeowners undergo research by reading online reviews of installers in their area. By doing this, you can read previous customers’ feedback on the work done and understand the kind of service these installers provide. You can look at review sites like Yelp or The Better Business Bureau, or scour social media sites like Facebook.
Another option is to ask for recommendations from friends or family members. Word-of-mouth is still effective even in the digital age, and sometimes getting a personal referral can lead to a more trustworthy experience.
Here are the steps to follow when hiring an installer:
1. Research Experience and Skills
Regardless of which option you choose for research, there are some important characteristics to look for in an installer. Firstly, what is their experience? Have they worked on many engineered hardwood flooring projects? An inexperienced installer can lead to more problems than solutions, causing more work for you. See if you can spot specific skills for installers, as some specialize in one particular medium like hardwood.
2. Look for Connections
You should also look for whether or not the installers have connections in the industry. Installers who network usually have access to better quality products at prices that work well with any budget.
3. Inquire About Flexibility
Floor installation rarely ever goes exactly as planned, both for installers and homeowners alike. You want installers who are flexible during the process, especially with the scheduling. Events may pop up in your life that could change how and when you want your installation completed, and the best installers will work with you during those unforeseen circumstances.
4. Ask Questions
Lastly, after you’ve settled on an installer you’d like to work with, be sure to ask the right questions, particularly about the services provided. Do the installers take care of the clean-up and disposal of flooring materials? Are they able to move furniture both before and after installation? How about their warranty? And, of course, what is their estimate on the project? If issues were to pop up, would you incur any additional costs?
Once you’ve done your research and received informed answers, you are ready to hire an installer.
How Is Engineered Hardwood Different from Solid Hardwood?
The biggest question many homeowners have is the difference between solid hardwood vs. engineered wood flooring. Unlike engineered hardwood with its layers, solid hardwood is made of one type of wood throughout the plank. This poses both pros and cons. While solid wood is durable and can be refinished numerous times, it doesn’t do well against humidity and temperature changes.
How Is Engineered Hardwood Different from Laminate?
Engineered hardwood is also often confused with laminate due to its similar looks. While both types of flooring consist of several layers, laminate is covered with a photographic layer on top that is made to resemble many different kinds of materials. This layer is often constructed to imitate wood, giving it its stylistic appearance. Laminate is also highly resistant to scratches and scuffs and tends to be more cost-effective than hardwood is. However, it can never be refinished, and its inauthenticity can hurt your home’s resale value.
Get the Hardwood Engineered Flooring You Need
Engineered hardwood is a popular choice for homeowners everywhere, thanks to its stylish presence, excellent durability, and undeniable long-term value. At the same time, there are a lot of factors to consider with this choice, including where, how, and when you should install it. After all, you deserve hardwood flooring that delivers you comfort and looks without complications.
That’s when it helps to have experts on your side, like at Floor It 41. Not only do we have engineered hardwood at a budget-friendly price, but we also take care of the complete installation process so you can rest assured that you are getting a smooth experience. Get in touch today to get the help you need on your engineered hardwood journey.