What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Engineered hardwood flooring is a type of flooring made from layers of plywood, hardwood, or softwood, topped with a veneer from a hardwood species such as acacia, cherry, or oak. This product is considered more dimensionally stable than true hardwood flooring, meaning that it will withstand temperature and humidity changes better, and it is significantly more durable and often more attractive than laminate flooring, in which an image of wood is laminated onto a backing.

Engineered hardwood flooring is considered more stable than true hardwood flooring.
Engineered hardwood flooring is considered more stable than true hardwood flooring.

Hardwoods have been prized for flooring for centuries because they are beautiful, durable, and diverse. However, hardwood flooring can be very expensive to install, requiring professionals to do the work, and it takes several days to fully prepare the floor for use. Hardwood flooring also shrinks with time, creating cracks and gaps, and it can buckle in response to moisture. These problems are avoided with engineered flooring, due to the way in which the flooring is made.

Some homeowners choose engineered hardwood flooring over solid hardwoods because it is more resistant to changes in temperature and moisture.
Some homeowners choose engineered hardwood flooring over solid hardwoods because it is more resistant to changes in temperature and moisture.

To make engineered flooring, manufacturers take three to seven thin sheets of plywood, high density fiberboard, hardwood, or softwood, and they glue them together, alternating the grain of the sheets. Then, a layer of hardwood veneer is added, and the entire piece of flooring is subjected to pressure to ensure that the pieces join fully. The resulting strip of engineered hardwood flooring will resist expansion and contraction because of the crossgrain of the pieces of wood used in its construction, and it will be much easier to install than traditional hardwood flooring.

This type of flooring is usually manufactured with a tongue and groove pattern which allows it to snap together with other pieces of engineered hardwood flooring, including flooring which uses other hardwood species, for people who want to create patterned floors. The flooring can be glued, nailed, or floated over a subfloor, and it is suitable for moist environments like basements where hardwood is impractical. It is also easy to care for, allowing for three or four sandings and refinishings during its lifetime.

People who are interested in using engineered hardwood flooring should order samples from several flooring companies to see how the flooring looks and feels. They may also want to ask to see if they can visit sites where the flooring has been installed, so that they can see how well it performs, and how it looks when it is installed as a complete floor, rather than being viewed alone as an isolated sample. Engineered hardwood flooring can be installed by people who are handy with tools and good at following directions, or a professional flooring company can perform the installation.

Engineered wood flooring includes a layer of plywood.
Engineered wood flooring includes a layer of plywood.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Vincenzo

@Soulfox -- That's the great thing about hardwood vs. engineered hardwood vs. even laminate. Which one is best? That is an entirely subjective opinion.

Frankly, I'm glad there are so many choices. People can get what they want and stick with it. The best thing people can do when trying to decide what kind of flooring to get is to do some research and figure it out for themselves.

Soulfox

@Logicfest -- Engineered hardwood may be more durable and resist warping and moisture damage, but some people still want "genuine" hardwood flooring. It is a bit more trouble to take care of and install, but the real thing has remained popular for a reason.

Logicfest

Quite often, engineered hardwood flooring is the best of both worlds. You have the flexibility and cost savings of laminate, but the look and feel of hardwood flooring.

As a testament to the durability of this stuff, walk across and old hardwood floor. The chances are good that the planks have warped over time, meaning they squeak and move as you walk over them. You avoid that happening with engineered hardwood flooring.

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