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The Benefits of Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Written by Mike Caroll, Owner of M P Caroll Hardwood
Imagery by Photography by Mark Dellas

Whether you are building a new home or renovating an existing home, one of the biggest considerations is the type of flooring you will choose. Flooring represents a significant investment after all, and there are issues of appearance, durability and environmental impact to consider as well.

Engineered hardwood flooring is real wood, designed and manufactured to rival solid wood flooring. Living in the United States, we don’t realize that engineered wood floors are the most popular flooring in the world. North America is the only area left where traditional solid wood floors still outnumber engineered
wood floors. The current incarnation of engineered wood flooring first became available in the 1960’s. From its inception, it has been designed to be more dimensionally stable than solid wood floors. It consists of several sheets of solid wood veneer bonded together with the top layer being the decorative wood. Below that surface are several layers of less expensive, more sustainable wood or in some cases recycled wood products. Once in plank form, it’s milled with a traditional tongue and groove. The top layer of the flooring is then sanded and prefinished at the factory the same way a solid wood floor is. Ultimately, this process helps save more forests because each tree harvested for the decorative top layer of engineered flooring can go further than it does with producing solid wood flooring.

Another benefit of engineered hardwood flooring is its high level of dimensional stability. This allows it to be installed where solid wood cannot, especially where moist conditions exist, including bathrooms and basements. The key word here is “moist,” not wet. No wood flooring performs well in wet environments. If approved, engineered flooring can be installed over in-floor radiant heat, which is very cozy and warm during those many cold winter months. It’s recommended to confirm in writing that the flooring you purchase is approved by the manufacturer for use over in-floor heat. Concrete slabs are another area where you won’t find solid wood floors. Most retail shops, restaurants and shopping centers are built with concrete slab construction. Engineered floors are usually glued directly to the concrete at those locations or the planks of engineered flooring are glued to each other and installed over a foam pad, as a “floating floor installation.” Specially milled planks that snap together are another popular version of a floating wood floor. Either way when you’re shopping or dining on a beautiful wood floor, it’s usually an engineered wood floor that is indistinguishable from a solid because they’re both real wood on the surface.

Today, factory finished engineered wood floors are available in a wide variety of sizes, species, colors and textures. Thickness ranges from 5/16" to 3/4" and widths are available up to and in excess of 10". Domestic species including Oak, Maple and Hickory are common. Exotic woods, including Brazilian Cherry and Teak are very popular too. Hand scraped and distressed versions are also plentiful in many domestic and exotic species. Locally, here in Buffalo, we’ve experienced a significant increase in engineered flooring sales. At our M P Caroll Hardwood showroom we cater to most consumers shopping for new wood floors in the Western New York area. Every day we get inquiries about engineered products, as a result, more and more people are choosing them for their homes. Buffalo has always been a “solid wood” town until now. Consumers are educating themselves about the advantages of the engineered hardwood via the internet and usually walk into our store with a wealth of knowledge. Once we confirm all of the benefits, it’s pretty easy to convince them that engineered wood floors are a good investment comparable to solid wood flooring. The most important thing to consider when determining which floor may be for you is the thickness of the decorative top layer of the flooring. The top layer will eventually require sanding and refinishing, in most cases, every 20 to 30 years. When purchasing your floor, make sure the top layer is thick enough to be sanded at least once or twice. From my experience, I’ve learned the lower priced engineered floors in the $3 per square foot range usually cannot be sanded due to a very thin top layer. The better quality, higher priced floors in the $5 to $6 range can be sanded two or three times. Prices and longevity go up from there. We offer engineered wood floors with a full 1/4" top layer which can be sanded and refinished the same amount of times as a traditional solid wood floor, six to eight times. Those floors will be around for a very long time, just the way I like it.

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