Wood Flooring – Part II

Last week we explored the differences between solid hardwood and engineered wood floors. We also looked at what factors impact the price of hardwood flooring. Today we will examine the intricacies of an alternate flooring material – engineered wood.
Engineered wood flooring exhibits outstanding strength and moisture resistance making it a good option for all areas of your home, especially below-grade areas like basements or rooms with radiant heat.
Our Minnesota climate has large temperature and humidity swings. Typical wood does not like these changes in humidity and temperature and can react poorly, if not managed properly. For example, planks will contract in the winter and expand in the summer. This movement can cause damage to a floor. Because of this, engineered wood, which does not respond as dramatically to climate change, is often considered a better choice.
Like solid hardwood flooring, there are several factors that will impact both the price and quality of engineered wood flooring.
The Anatomy Of The Wood: The top layer of engineered wood is called the wear layer, while the internal layers are referred to as ply layers. Lower cost engineered wood uses high density fiberboard, or cardboard, as the core. A higher quality engineered floor on the other hand, uses strong, durable species for the ply layers. While some companies skimp a bit and use scrap wood for the core, well crafted engineered wood will have approximately five internal layers and use multiple wood species. The varying species will oppose each other and, in doing so, help to prevent floor warping, expansion, or contraction.
Wood Certification: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies wood products when they are obtained through responsible forestry. Unfortunately, the red tape involved with this process can significantly increase the price of wood – a price increase that is ultimately passed onto the consumer. As most quality wood flooring is already forested and milled responsibly, an FSC certification is often a costly and unnecessary attribute.
Board Width: The width of the wood board effects stability. A wider board is more popular these days, but one needs to get a good quality engineered product to prevent the warping and cupping of that wide plank.
One of the main things to consider when choosing a flooring material is the location in which the floor will be laid, and specifically, whether it will be above or below grade. Above-grade areas are those that are above ground level, while below-grade areas are those that are below ground level, like basements.
Engineered flooring can be used in either area, as its cross-ply construction makes it more resistant to changes caused by temperature and humidity. It can be stapled, glued down, or floated over existing flooring, and its thin profile allows for smooth transitions to other floors.
Conversely, solid flooring typically needs to be nailed to a subfloor and is more susceptible to temperature and humidity changes. Therefore, while it’s ideal for most rooms in your house, it’s not recommended for areas where flooring is subject to high moisture, high humidity, or standing water.
Engineered wood is generally the only type of product that can be installed below-grade such as in a basement. It is also able to be floated over a pad, which can help to insulate and quiet flooring. However, it is important to note that this will also increase flooring installation costs.
Whether you choose hardwood or engineered wood flooring, there is quite a bit to consider when choosing the product. Are you considering a renovation project involving new wood floors? Contact us for project design and installation assistance!