Is engineered wood flooring a real wood flooring? Well, engineered wood flooring consists of a top layer of real wood flooring which is bonded to a base usually made of plywood or blockboard. The main function of the base is to offer stability to the top layer. For this reason, Engineered flooring does not warp or twist in the same fashion as a solid wood floor might. Engineered floors, therefore, may be offered in much wider formats and may also be installed by “floating” if required.

When do we use it?

A “floating” floor is installed by glueing one piece of floor to the others around it, without fixing to the subfloor. In Apartments or upper rooms in houses, noise reduction is often crucial. A floating floor can be installed over an acoustic underlay but Engineered flooring must be used and not solid.

The underfloor heating market is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Solid wood flooring should not be used above underfloor heating as it is prone to shrinkage and distortion. This is yet another reason why a good quality engineered floor should be used.

Depending on the method of installation, it is almost impossible to distinguish engineered from solid once it is laid thanks to the top layer of real wood flooring. Fully gluing the floor to the subfloor will give even the thinnest engineered floor a solid feel.

Many people are concerned that engineered floors with thin oak top layers (e.g. 3 mm of real wood flooring) do not offer a durable, long term solution. Whilst engineered flooring is available with thicker top layers(4, 5 & 6 mm), a 3 mm top layer of real wood flooring can be sanded. Putting this into perspective, most homeowners either never sand their floors, or else do it just once and with a sensible cleaning and maintenance regime. 3mm is going to last for many years, certainly longer than, say carpet. Cost is often a factor and there are generally savings to be made on floors with a thinner top layer of real wood flooring. 

Eyebrows are often raised when people learn that engineered flooring can be the same price or more expensive than solid. “How can a board with oak only on the top be more costly than a full solid floor”? The first thing to consider is how much “usable” hardwood you are really buying. Most flooring has a tongue and groove to all four sides. If you were to repeatedly sand these boards, once you get down to the joints, the floor is finished as all you would see is the joins. To put it another way, anything below the joints is unusable and therefore it is only the top layer that you are going to be able to utilize.

The manufacturing process for engineered flooring is more labour intensive. Material for the backing has to be sourced, shipped, manufactured and shipped once again to the flooring producers. Expensive adhesives are used during this production. Oak lamellas have to be produced and bonded to the plywoods, so there is more to the manufacturing process than simply pushing a solid plank into one end of a machine and watching a piece of real wood flooring appear from the other!

Should you choose an engineered floor with a 6 mm top layer of real wood flooring, you will not be too far away from having the same amount of usable wood as some solids anyway. In the end the factors that dictate how thick a top layer you should choose will depend on how you are going to use and care for your floor and of course what is your realistic budget.

So to summarise why you would choose and engineered floor:

  • Solid wood look and feel (top layer of real wood flooring)
  • Greater stability
  • Wider formats
  • Acoustic reduction requirements
  • Underfloor heating
  • Suitable for conservatories

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