Engineered wood flooring consists of two or more layers of wood adhered together to form a plank. Typically, engineered wood flooring uses a thin layer of a more expensive wood bonded to a core constructed from cheaper wood. The increased stability of engineered wood is achieved by running each layer at a 90° angle to the layer above. This stability makes it a universal product that can be installed over all types of subfloors above, below or on grade. Engineered wood is the most common type of wood flooring in Europe and has been growing in popularity in North America.
Laminate and vinyl floors are often confused with engineered wood floors, but are not. Laminate flooring uses an image of wood on its surface, while vinyl flooring is plastic formed to look like wood.
The several different categories of engineered wood flooring include:
- All-timber-wood floors made from multiple layers of sawn wood. Most engineered wood flooring is in this category, and does not use rotary-peeled veneer, composite wood (such as HDF), or plastic in their construction.
- Veneerfloors use a thin layer of wood over a core that is commonly a composite wood product.
- Acrylic-impregnated wood flooring uses a layer of wood that is impregnated with liquid acrylic then hardened using a proprietary process.
This process involves treating the wood by boiling the log in water. After preparation, the wood is peeled by a blade starting from the outside of the log and working toward the center, thus creating a wood veneer. The veneer is then pressed flat with high pressure. This style of manufacturing tends to have problems with the wood cupping or curling back to its original shape. Rotary-peeled engineered hardwoods tend to have a plywood appearance in the grain.
This process begins with the same treatment process that the rotary peel method uses. However, instead of being sliced in a rotary fashion, with this technique the wood is sliced from the log in much the same manner that lumber is sawn from a log – straight through. The veneers do not go through the same manufacturing process as rotary peeled veneers. Engineered hardwood produced this way tends to have fewer problems with "face checking", and also does not have the same plywood appearance in the grain. However, the planks can tend to have edge splintering and cracking because the veneers have been submerged in water and then pressed flat.
Instead of boiling the hardwood logs, in this process they are kept at a low humidity level and dried slowly to draw moisture from the inside of the wood cells. The logs are then sawed in the same manner as for solid hardwood planks. This style of engineered hardwood has the same look as solid hardwood, and does not have any of the potential problems of "face checking" that rotary-peel and slice-peel products have, because the product is not exposed to added moisture.
The old style of sand and finish in one’s home today is yesterday's technology. We only use manufactures that use a multiple step finish process. Once a selected stain is applied, each plank is covered with numerous top coats of a protective layering either armomax, polyurethane or aluminum oxide depending on the manufacturer, then flashed cured under UV lights. This process increases the hardness in the planks making it more scratch and dent resistant. Another feature is it minimizes color change when exposed to sunlight over time, so the color of your stain will stay more uniform. Only in a controlled robotic environment can this finished process be achieved.
Click" or Woodloc systems: there are a number of patented "click" systems that now exist. These click systems are either "unilin" or "fiboloc" A "click" floor is similar to tongue-and-groove, but instead of fitting directly into the groove, the board must be angled or "tapped" in to make the curved or barbed tongue fit into the modified groove. No adhesive is used when installing a "click" floor, making board replacement easier. (such as "parador solido click") and is designed to be used for floating installations. Additionally, engineered wood flooring may use the glue-down method as well. A layer of mastic is placed onto the sub-floor using a trowel similar to those used in laying ceramic tile. The wood pieces are then laid on top of the glue and hammered into place using a rubber mallet and a protected 2x4 to create a level floor. A floating installation is where the flooring is laid down in a glue-less manner on top of a layer of underlay. The individual planks are locked together, and are not glued or nailed down to the subfloor. By doing this the floor is floating above the underlay, and can be laid on top of existing hardwood or tile floor without the risk of damaging the subflooring.
Make no mistake Engineered Hardwood is the future in hardwood flooring with many more options available and usually at a reduced product and installation cost.