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.
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.
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.