A Guide to Engineered Oak Flooring

What to Look For.

Once installed, engineered oak flooring can be difficult to distinguish from a solid oak plank floor. However, even a trained eye can be fooled as often as not. Even though both types of oak flooring are able to bring the look of natural wood into a home, they are very different. When to use planks and when to use engineered can seem to be confusing.

However, it really isn’t!  Engineered oak flooring behaves a little differently than plank floors do and they tend to be easier to install.

Wood floors are a classic addition to any home. Barring damage from fire or flood, a well-made and correctly installed oak engineered floor will add warmth, character and value to your home.

Originally, engineered oak flooring was developed for use on the ground floor of a home built on a concrete slab or in a basement. However, engineered oak flooring technology has exploded over the last 20 years and can be used just about anywhere.

Engineered oak flooring can be more resistant to moisture and tends to be more stable. While no untreated wood product can tolerate water standing on it, the stable moisture levels over under floor heating aren’t a problem for most engineered floors.

The key to this increased stability and moisture tolerance comes from how an engineered wood floor is made.

This photo shows a cross section of a high-quality, engineered wood floor. They range in thickness from 11mm to 20mm. The top layer is a veneer of the desired wood; the thicker that veneer is, the more expensive the floor will be.

engineered oak flooring
A quality engineered oak floorboard

When this top veneer is very thin (.6mm or so) the resulting floor cannot be re finished (i.e. sanding back and the re applying of a varnish or oil etc)  should that ever be needed. However, when the top veneer is between 2 mm and 6 mm, it can be refinished multiple times.

The layers in the build up underneath the veneer top layer are important and also play a role in the final price. There can be anywhere between three and 12 layers of plywood and unfinished white wood, depending on the thickness and quality of the finished product.

When you are shopping for an engineered wood floor, pay attention to how it’s made up, almost as much as you pay attention to how the top layer looks.

The different thicknesses available enable the engineered wood flooring to be laid without awkward transitions between different flooring materials. The most common transitions people have trouble bridging are areas between a tiled kitchen or bathroom floor and the rest of the house. By using an engineered wood floor, you can remove the need for large transition strips and the trimming down of doors.

Engineered oak flooring was developed for use over concrete slabs, but the thicker versions can be nailed down over a wood subfloor, the same way you would install a solid oak plank floor. However, nailing down a wooden floor is probably best left to a professional.

Engineered wood floors can also be glued down. Gluing down an engineered oak floor is a project a do-it-yourselfer can usually take on provided he or she has a lot of time and a fair amount of experience with DIY projects. It may make more sense to have it installed if you aren’t overly confident and competent!

If sustainability is a priority, engineered wood floors tend to be a more sustainable option. This is especially true if you’re considering an exotic wood. The exotic trees that need to be harvested to make, say, a Rosewood floor go a lot further if only a 6mm-thick veneer is going on each board.

There’s a lot of sustainability innovation that applies to the sub layers too, so do your homework and look for those FSC logos on anything you buy.

An engineered oak floor will last from 20 to 100 years, depending on the thickness of the top veneer.

The best engineered oak floors available will last as long, and perform as well as a solid plank floor, so another consideration to keep in mind is how long you want this material to last.

Using a high-quality, long-lasting engineered wood floor won’t affect your resale value, but using a cheap one will.

The characteristics of the wood that ends up on the top layer will always play into the longevity and resilience of an engineered wood floor, though the effect is moderated somewhat.

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