Hardwood flooring is a beautiful and classic addition to any home but is expensive and difficult to maintain.
For those who love the look of hardwood but need something more affordable and easy to look after, engineered hardwood is the better choice. It’s made from three to five layers of plywood stacked and bonded under high heat and pressure. The result is sturdier and more cost-effective than many other wood flooring options, like solid oak or parquet, thanks to its unique structure and high stability. It does, however, have certain disadvantages.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Engineered Hardwood Flooring?
While solid wood is an evergreen flooring choice for hardwood lovers, advances in manufacturing and technology have made engineered flooring more popular and affordable.
With its improved features and functionality, engineered floors are increasingly being chosen by homeowners, contractors and interior designers over solid hardwood.
Even the best-engineered flooring, though, has its limitations. Below, we discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of engineered hardwood so you can decide if it’s the right choice for your home.
- It’s (Mostly) Resistant to Temperature and Moisture Changes
Compared to solid wood and laminate, most varieties of engineered wood don’t contract or expand with heat and moisture changes. This makes them less susceptible to cracking, warping or buckling. (Low-quality engineered flooring may require a vapour barrier between the subfloor and flooring.)
The secret of its stability lies in its unique construction which consists of layers of plywood joined together with solid wood.
- It’s Strong and Durable
Solid hardwood planks have a natural tendency to crack, warp or cup when exposed to some environmental factors as they’re made from 100% wood.
Engineered hardwood planks are constructed differently. Rather than being made from a single plank, multiple layers of plywood are glued together and secured with a solid wood lamella (top layer).
This strength and stability makes engineered hardwood a great flooring choice for places where solid wood isn’t an option, such as over concrete floors or near radiant heating systems.
- It Comes in a Range of Colours and Finishes
Although solid wood flooring comes in a wide range of styles, it’s often very expensive.
Engineered flooring comes in a greater range of colours, grades and finishes, at a more affordable price. This means that you can achieve your desired look without spending a lot.
No matter your interior decor style, you’ll find engineered flooring to match your needs. Check with a flooring specialist near you to help you decide which is best.
- It’s Easy to Install
Engineered hardwood planks are wider than regular solid wood ones so cover more of the floor, which means fewer joins and easier installation.
While the staple or nail-down method is popular with solid hardwood floors, you can staple, nail, float or even glue engineered hardwood planks. The glue-down or click-lock varieties are quite popular with DIY flooring enthusiasts.
- It Needs Minimal Maintenance
Engineered flooring is your best option for great-looking flooring that does not require much maintenance. Solid hardwood floors look amazing but tend to lose their lustre over time.
Sanding and refinishing are common ways to fix scratches and dents, but they’re expensive fixes that can create pollution and inhalation hazards due to chemicals used. Engineered floors, by contrast, are often coated with veneers that only need occasional dusting and mopping.
- It’s Affordable
Since solid hardwood planks are made of 100% wood, they’re obviously more expensive than engineered wood which mostly consists of plywood or fiberboard.
- It’s Hollow Underfoot
Although most engineered hardwood planks are thick enough to look and feel like real wood, some may sound hollow underfoot. Proper stapling or gluing of the planks to the subfloor can help avoid this issue. Ask your flooring contractor about the right installation method for your engineered flooring.
- There Are Health Concerns
Engineered and manufactured wooden planks contain adhesives and resins (used to bind the layers of plywood) that can give off potentially harmful gasses.
However, some high-quality engineered flooring planks do not off-gas. Ask your flooring contractor what kind of adhesive is used and if exposure to it can cause health issues.
- Sunlight Can Fade It
Like traditional solid wood flooring, engineered hardwood can be faded by too much exposure to UV rays, and this can’t be fixed instantly. To prevent this damage, choose light-coloured flooring, use curtains/blinds or UV-shielding windows, or lay down some rugs.
- It Can Only Be Refinished a Few Times
While solid wood can be refinished repeatedly, engineered wood can only be sanded and refinished a few times during its lifetime. This is because its veneer is usually thin and repeated external force permanently damages the wood underneath.
If you’re installing engineered flooring in a high-traffic area, or have pets or toddlers, it‘s better to choose one with a thick layer so you can sand and refinish your floor as required.
Engineered hardwood flooring is a fantastic choice for any homeowner seeking the warmth and beauty of natural wood, minus the hefty price tag. Its pros heavily outweigh its cons, making it the perfect flooring option for almost every residential and commercial setup.