Engineered Hardwood Pros and Cons

engineered wood floor installed in home

If you’re researching wood flooring for your home, you’ve undoubtedly come across engineered wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring is as close to traditional hardwood floor as possible, but with some real pros that make this flooring a viable contender for many homes.

The main difference between traditional wood floors and engineered wood floors is the construction. Engineered hardwoods are manufactured with core layers of plywood and a top layer of wood. The thickness of the top layer is different for every product; typically, the width of the layer can range from 3/8 inch – ½ inch. In contrast, hardwood floors are on average approximately ¾ inch. Hardwood floors are milled from a single piece of wood.

Because of the difference in construction, one of the main differences between the two floors concerns the swelling and contraction that typically occurs with wood floors. Wood floors tend to swell during humid times and contract when the air is dry. Installers compensate for this swelling by adding an expansion gap around the edge. With a plywood core, engineered wood floors do not typically swell or contract as much as traditional wood floors. This difference is just one of a list of pros and cons that come with engineered wood floors.  

Pros

Engineered hardwoods are extremely durable.

Just like wood floors, engineered wood floors wear well in high-traffic rooms. Some wood products are so durable they are even used in gyms and dance floors. For homes with a lot of traffic (both paws and foot), it’s best to talk to a flooring professional to decide what type of wood is the best fit for a busy home.

These floors look great.

When it comes to looks, engineered wood floors get the same reviews as wood floors (because they are both wood). Most people won’t be able to tell the difference between engineered and wood, because the top layer is identical.  

Engineered wood floors are easier to install than solid wood floors.

The installation costs for engineered wood flooring tends to be lower, because these floors are easier to install. Engineered wood flooring can even be installed as a floating floor, making it a do-it-yourself flooring option.

Some engineered wood products are less expensive than wood flooring.

This pro can also be a con. Engineered hardwoods with a thicker top layer are similarly priced to wood floors. The exact cost depends on the engineered wood flooring product and can be found by visiting a local flooring store.

There is a huge selection of engineered hardwood floors available—in all colors and plank widths.

Modern engineered wood floors come in all types of woods, plank widths, colors, and grains. For homeowners looking for engineered wood floors, there are a lot of options, both in classic and modern styles, that fit with any décor.

Select engineered wood flooring products can be refinished.

Like wood floors, some engineered wood floors are thick enough to be sanded down and refinished. This property dramatically extends the life of engineered wood flooring—and makes it a viable option even after the floor is cosmetically damaged. Unlike wood flooring, engineered wood cannot usually be sanded down continuously many times.

Engineered wood is easy-to-care for.

The care of engineered wood flooring is the same as wood flooring, making floor maintenance fairly easy. Wood floors should be swept or vacuumed and dry-mopped regularly to keep them looking like new.

Engineered wood floors are suitable for basement installs.

Because of the plywood core, engineered wood flooring is on the list of floors suitable for rooms below grade. Engineered wood floors are more stable and can withstand the porous moisture of a basement slab. Wood floors are not recommended for basement installations.

Wood floors can add value to a home.

Engineered hardwoods are wood flooring, meaning they add value to a home.

Cons

Engineered hardwoods are prone to water damage from spills and puddles.

Like wood floors, engineered hardwood can be damaged from standing water. The easiest ways to prevent damage are to immediately clean up water puddles and spills and place rugs and mats in areas that could get wet (like in mudrooms and inside doors). Because of the possibility of water damage, engineered wood floors should not be installed in high-moisture rooms, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.

These floors may scratch.

Some softer wood floors are prone to scratches, but there are ways to prevent it. Large area rugs can help prevent scratching. Inexpensive felt pads on tables and furniture minimizes the possibility of damage, especially in living rooms.

Engineered wood floors cannot be refinished as many times as wood floors.

Many wood floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times. Only select engineered wood floors can be sanded down and refinished, though only once or a few times. If refinishing is a priority, ask a flooring pro to direct you to thicker engineered wood floors that specifically can be sanded down.

Some engineered hardwood flooring can emit gases.

Both engineered and wood floors come in pre-finished products that are easier to install (and cleaner, with minimal dust). However, these pre-finished floors can emit gases that can trigger allergies or cause other symptoms. The good news is that there are pre-finished wood floors on the market that are manufactured with materials that do not emit gases. Many of these products are available at local flooring stores.

How to Keep Engineered Hardwoods Looking Great

  • Place rugs by all exterior doors to keep water, gravel, and debris off engineered hardwood floors.
  • Add felt protectors to all furniture and tables to prevent scratches
  • Clean up water puddles immediately to prevent water damage.
  • Use non-abrasive cleaners to deep clean floors. (Visit local flooring pros to find manufacturer-approved cleaners ideal for the job.)
  • Avoid using steam cleaners, which can damage engineered hardwood floors.
  • Regularly sweep and vacuum debris off engineered wood flooring.
  • Use a soft pad to dry mop floors.
  • Purchase a vacuum that is built for soft wood floors.

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