Hardwood flooring has long been a favored décor choice. There are a wide variety of colors and textured patterns to select to fit any style. However, hardwood isn't always an affordable or wise choice for your space.
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An engineered hardwood floor can be much less expensive in purchasing and installing. The lightweight and durable engineered hardwood flooring is a snap to install compared to traditional hardwood planks. Although easier to install than hardwood, it is still a major home improvement project.
There are two ways to lay down this hardy faux hardwood flooring. The boards can be glued down or floated. Each method has its pros and cons, with a few things to consider before choosing which installation process will work best for your space and the engineered wood you've selected.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring Construction
Engineered hardwood is highly processed and consists of multiple layers of wood products. The topmost layer that is showcased is actually a thin veneer of a slice of wood. This can be a rich, deep mahogany or a light, knotty pine.
The thin slice of wood that lies on top of the layered board is typically less than 1/8 of an inch. However, the compressed layers that lie beneath create a solid core that makes the board very sturdy and stable. This outside layer offers authenticity to the engineered wood plank, and the inner layers make it more stable than traditional hardwood boards.
Engineered Hardwood vs. Hardwood Laminate
It may be hard to tell the difference at first glance, but engineered hardwood is often a better choice over hardwood laminate. Hardwood laminate doesn't have the same style or durability as engineered wood based on how it is constructed and how it achieves its wood look.
Engineered wood is considered to be a superior product over hardwood laminate due to that top layer of true wood. The surface of hardwood laminate is an assimilation of actual wood, and beneath that photo is a core of high density fiberboard. This makes it less expensive than engineered wood, but also more susceptible to damage and not as easy to repair.
Pros of Engineered Hardwood
There are a few advantages to laying down an expanse of gleaming engineered flooring.
Designed to reduce the moisture issues that come with conventional hardwood flooring, engineered wood can be placed in areas such as basements or garages that have been converted into family spaces. The layers beneath the thin veneer of actual wood block out moisture and provide stability to an uneven concrete floor. This means it is very low maintenance and won't swell or warp under normal traffic and conditions. Plus, engineered wood is more environmentally-friendly because the actual wood veneer is cut cleanly and thinly, reducing sawdust.
Cons of Engineered Hardwood Flooring
The beauty of engineered wood doesn't just lay in its aesthetic. It has very few actual drawbacks when compared to hardwood flooring and laminate. It is more expensive than laminate and can be more expensive than some hardwoods, but it is more durable and comes in a vast array of shades and patterns.
Engineered hardwood floors are considerably more expensive than laminate faux wood flooring, as well as tile and carpeting. Some manufacturers can create veneers that are too thin to stand up to remodeling and refinishing if the owner decides to change the look of the otherwise viable flooring.
Thin veneers can warp or fade prematurely. Always check that the top layer of real wood is around 1/8 of an inch to ensure you are purchasing and installing a quality product. The core layers should also be made of high-quality wood to ensure the product is stable. Engineered wood planks with oriented strand board or inexpensive fiberboard can compromise the flooring's durability and structure.
Floating Floor Advantages
The floating method for installing engineered floors is probably the most user-friendly for the average homeowner with a little do-it-yourself experience. Floating engineered wood flooring problems are few and the process is faster.
Each board is connected and snapped into place by tongues and grooves. Some glue can be used to further secure the planks together. If you have an uneven subfloor, this is the best way to go about installing the pristine planks in your living space.
The floating floor installation method allows the boards to expand and contract together, leading to less safety and aesthetic issues, such as single boards popping and warping over time.
Disadvantages of a Floating Floor Install
Floating engineered wood flooring problems mainly come from moisture and not taking the proper steps to ensure the wood is protected from underneath.The main drawback of using a floating floor installation for the engineered wood is the initial extra step to secure the boards.
The underlayment protects the boards from seeping underground moisture, humid air and other dampness that can come from the subfloor.An underlayment cushions the boards and can be made from foam or plastic. Although it is an extra step that does take some patience, the underlayment ensures that your problems with moisture won't arise on your beautifully installed floors.
Glued Down Flooring Advantages
The glue down method of engineered wood flooring installation is typically the most common and creates a highly-stable floor. When working on a clean concrete subfloor, the glue-down method is often the go-to choice. Boards adhere well to the rough surface of the concrete subfloor, and therefore lead to less gaps or planks lifting and buckling.
The glued down method keeps the planks firmly in place so that they don't creak and moan as you move over the surface. Fasteners, nails and even tongue-and-groove installation methods can allow the wood to rub against each other, creating unwanted noise when friends, family, kids and pets walk across the floor.
Disadvantages of the Glued Down Method
If you plan on installing the engineered hardwood flooring yourself, or with a few friends, the glued down method isn't recommended. This is due to a few reasons that have nothing to do with the actual flooring.
When using the glue down method, the subfloor needs to be prepared correctly and evenly, with no hills or valleys more than 3/16 of an inch high or low. The subfloor must be completely clean of dust, debris and other detritus that can cause the planks to pop or gape. Any moisture from cleaning or unseen water issues can create problems fairly quickly after installing.
Not all adhesives are alike. The adhesive for the flooring you chose should be approved by the manufacturer, or it will not bond to the boards correctly. It won't be long before problems arise with lifting or loose planks.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.