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All About Engineered Wood Flooring

by Jeff Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring
© 2004 - 2012, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

Engineered Wood Floors—How Are They Made?

The best engineered wood floors are built having 3-12 multiple ply layers (see picture below) that are cross layered, glued and pressed together. The inner core layers are are generally built up with either a hardwood and/or soft plywood type of material, which incorporates the tongue and groove fastening system along the edges of the boards. The top thicker hardwood veneer wear layer is then glued and pressed on the top surface of the core. Engineered hardwood flooring is available in almost any wood species. Take a look at: Vintage Northern Solid Sawn or Somerset Engineered Collection

The benefits of using engineered wood floors include more resistance to slightly lower and higher moisture levels than solid wood flooring, which adds to their appeal to use in damp basements or in regions of the country that have higher or lower than normal relative humidity levels. Also, engineered flooring (excluding the newer Click Lock flooring) can be direct glued-down over (dry) concrete slabs above or below grade or stapled down over a wood subfloor. Quality Engineered Hardwood flooring has the same resale value as 3/4" solid wood flooring, if you ever decide to sell your home. Take a look at: Vintage Flooring Northern Solid Sawn; engineered collections which are able to be installed in a greater range of Relative Humidity.

Engineered hardwood floors range in a wide array of widths from 3-7 inches wide and in thicknesses from 3/8"-3/4" they also come in a wide variety of domestic and exotic hardwood species and some are even available in the popular hand scraped styles. Some brands of engineered flooring have a thin .6 mm wear layer that can only be re-coated and cannot be sanded and refinished new again once they get worn, they have an average lifespan of between 20-30 years depending on traffic. Other brands or styles can have a thicker 2-6 mm thick wear layer that can be completely sanded and refinished new again 1-5 times if they ever needed to be. These thicker wear layer engineered floors are usually more expensive to purchase upfront but can last 40-100 or more years before having to be replaced. See our article on Engineered flooring wear layers for more information. Take a look at: Somerset Wide Plank Engineered Collection for wider engineered options.

Click Loc engineered flooring is becoming a more and more relevant trend in the engineered market. Click locking engineered boards have special tongue and groove systems that simply lock together, forming a tight seam and a seamlessly smooth appearance. Click locking floating engineered floors require absolutely no glue during installation and just lay over a foam or cork underlayment. Click locking engineered floors can be installed on any grade level in the home and not only over traditional plywood or concrete subfloors, but also over old hardwood flooring, vinyl and tile as long as they are flat and well secured. For our best click lock engineered options, take a look at: Kahrs Wood Flooring, Hartco HydroBlok Waterproof Click Lock floors


Engineered wood floors are manufactured two ways. One way is where the top surface wear layer is Sliced/Sawn cut from the log like solid wood flooring is. Engineered hardwood flooring that has a Sliced/Sawn cut wear layer shows the truer natural look of the wood and finer graining. Sliced/Sawn cut engineered flooring also allows a thicker wear layer.

Engineered wood floors can also be Rotary cut, which the veneer hardwood wear layer is peeled off the log using big lathes. This peeling method can show dramatic wilder graining.

Not all engineered flooring is alike!

Some homeowners think that engineered flooring is not as good as solid 3/4" thick flooring because they are under the impression that it's cheaply made. Well, as with all consumer products, manufacturers do make products at all levels of quality, each to fit a certain price point within the market. There are engineered floors on the cheaper end of the spectrum that are specifically manufactured to be affordable to a certain portion of the market. Sometimes, consumers are fooled into believing that these cheaper products are a bargain, but we would like to refute this belief.

There are a multitude of engineered floors on the market today that are made using the best raw materials available, for the prospective buyer who wants a top quality product for his or her home. You have probably heard of the popular adage “you get what you pay for.” This truism is most applicable towards the less costly engineered flooring that you will undoubtedly find at liquidators, home centers and discounter warehouses. These cheaper engineered floors are usually 3/8 IN. thick, have a paper thin wear layer and they are usually made overseas (China). At the other end of the price point spectrum, you will find very high end engineered floors that have an incredibly thick real wood wear layer that can, later on if ever needed, be sanded and refinished. The problem we have in the flooring industry is that the two different types of quality engineered flooring are often intermingled by retailers and the differences between them are either not known or is not often fully explained to the consumer. As a direct result of these missteps, in lots of cases the customer will purchase the cheaper floor that they see as a great bargain, only to have it fail once it’s installed in the home. At that point, an opinion is created and the consumer starts to think that all engineered flooring is of lesser quality than solid flooring. Even if your budget is tight, it is still possible to find a good quality engineered floor, if you know what to look for. The goal of this article is to help the consumer understand the differences between a low quality engineered floor and a high quality engineered floor and, ultimately, what to look for in the specifications of an engineered floor when shopping around.

All about the wear layer

When working with a standard 3/4" thick solid floor, the sandable (or renewable) wear layer is approximately 5/16". If you sand down a solid floor below this depth, you will start to expose the nails that were used to install it. Therefore, the maximum wear thickness on a 3/4" solid floor is going to be 5/16 IN. You can sand and refinish 3/4" thick flooring approximately 5-7 times over the lifetime of the floor. The average lifespan of 3/4" thick solid wood flooring is approx 100 years.

With engineered flooring, wear layer thicknesses can vary greatly. Wear layers on engineered flooring can range anywhere from .6mm to 6mm. As an example, an engineered wood floor with a wear layer of 4mm (5/32") usually can be sanded and refinished 4-5 times over the lifetime of the floor. The average lifespan of an engineered floor with this 4mm wear layer is approximately 60-80 years.

Some hardwood brands with the thickest wear layers to take a look at: Vintage Northern Solid Sawn 4mm wear layer or Lauzon EXPERT Engineered approx. 5.2mm wear layer. For more information on wear layers: All About Wear Layers.


What should your concerns be?

Your concern should be what your demands are going to be for that flooring and match those demands to the flooring as best you can. If the area that the new flooring is going to be installed is it going to receive a lot of rough traffic with little or no care or maintenance then you will want a engineered floor that has a thick wear layer that can be sanded and refinished new again later if it ever needed to be. If the area is not going to be heavily trafficked and will be maintained properly then you may not need as thick a wear layer. Quality Engineered floors are very durable and are commonly used in shopping malls which receive a lot of foot traffic.

Engineered wood flooring is Green

Purchasing engineered wood flooring helps conserve expensive prized wood. For every 1 sq foot of 3/4 inch thick solid wood flooring manufactured you can manufacturer approx 4 times that amount into engineered wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring is the best flooring to provide people with to conserve our forests.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hardwood Flooring

engineered flooring grade levelQ. What's the advantage of using an Engineered wood floor over a Solid nail down floor?
Engineered hardwood floors can be installed in areas where there is slightly higher relative humidity levels. Engineered wood flooring being more stable is a great choice to use in summer homes where the heat is turned lower when no one is there. Because manufacturing engineered flooring does not waste valuable prized wood below its wear layer purchasing engineered flooring also helps conserve our forests.

Q. Does it matter what size width board or color to use? Is one width better than another?
No. I would suggest using whatever width board you prefer aesthetically. The rule of thumb is that a narrower board will give you a more formal look and feel to your home. A wider board (over 4 inches wide), will give you a more Country look and feel.

Floor color is a personal choice that would have more to do with your personal tastes and decor. A natural light colored wood floor will go with any décor and will lighten up any room. I usually suggest not using dark colored flooring if your room decor is very dark.

Q. Can I use a Engineered wood floor in my basement?
Yes, as long as the moisture content of the concrete does not exceed 4%. Basements are known to have higher relative humidity due to being under the ground. It is recommended to use a floating engineered wood floor which allows the use of a 4-6-mil plastic vapor barrier in any areas where there is a slightly higher moisture conditions.

Q. Can I install a Engineered floor over other floor coverings such as vinyl or tile?
Yes, as long as the other flooring is a hard surface, secured well and is flat. You cannot install any wood flooring over carpet.

Q. Can I glue down an Engineered wood floor over my concrete slab that is on grade?
Yes, you should make certain that your slab is dry and that the moisture content does not exceed 4%. Again, depending on your particular situation we may recommend using a floating engineered floor.


Q. Are all Brands of Engineered floors the same?
No, like anything else you purchase there can be big differences in quality. Some manufacturers use a lower quality wood along with low grade, cheaper bonding glues for their ply layers. Their milling could also be off and their finish quality could be poor. I generally suggest staying away from names you never heard of and only use Name Brand hardwood flooring from manufacturers that have been around for a long time. They will be the ones who will generally stand behind their flooring if something should go wrong.

Q. Can I install my own Engineered Floor?
Yes, installing prefinished wood flooring is not any more difficult than any other DIY project. If you can measure a board, cut and direct glue it down to a concrete subfloor or in the case of a floating floor installation glue the boards edges together over a foam pad or if you have a wood subfloor staple it down, then you can install our engineered hardwood flooring. It is an easy and rewarding way to save a lot of money—doing it yourself. Our flooring comes with easy to follow instructions. Standard tool knowledge and common sense would naturally help. If you purchase your flooring from Hosking Hardwood Flooring, we will gladly take the time to walk you through your installation.

Q. How much flooring do I need to order? Why do I have to add 5-10% to my square footage?
We provide easy to follow instructions as to how to measure your rooms—see our Measuring Tips page. It is important to remember that all manufacturers recommend adding 5-10% to your actual square footage. This added 5-10% is recommended to cover boards that you may not want to use, that may have gotten by the inspection process at the factory and for cutting and fitting waste.

If you want to run the flooring at a 45-degree angle in the room then you would want to add approx 15% for a waste factor for the added cutting waste.

Q. What tools am I going to need to install an Engineered wood floor?
Some flooring styles may require more or less tools that are mentioned here but generally you will need some small basic tools such as, a Combination Square, Miter saw, Hammer, Jig saw, small table saw, a pull bar, a few packages of small wood shims and a tapping block. For Staple down styles or installation method you would need a pneumatic stapler.


Q. Are there different styles of Engineered flooring?
Yes, aside from their smooth surface styles some wood flooring manufacturers also produce character or hand scraped versions that are available, which would show more light and dark boards along with more pronounced character -- with the possibility of small pinholes and knots. What is extremely popular nowadays is a rustic or hand scraped look.

Q. What are the benefits of using Prefinished flooring rather than Unfinished flooring?
Purchasing prefinished flooring eliminates the time consuming chore of the sanding and refinishing and gives you the added benefit of a perfect finish all done for you at the factory. Most of the brand name manufacturers carry a variety of stained colors to choose from and are coated with a durable 7-10 coats of the Aluminum oxide finish, which is far more durable for wear than anything that can be purchased in a hardware store, or home center. Using prefinished flooring allows you to move right back into the room after installation. No waiting for days while the finish is being applied and drying!

Remember: Even the best wood flooring will react to the presence of moisture. In the dry winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract, which can leave unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood will absorb excess moisture and expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. This is why it is important when installing a wood floor to acclimate the wood to the home from 4 to 7 days or more prior to installation and to leave the proper expansion gap around the perimeter and at all fixed objects. It is also important to keep the home's relative humidity level at between 30 - 50% or what the manufacturer recommends. Doing this will help minimize any movement within the wood flooring later. See our article on Avoiding Gaps, Cracks in Hardwood Flooring 

Click here to read more frequently asked questions about Hardwood Flooring.

Review on the benefits of buying an engineered wood floor:

  1. The best engineered floors have a Lifespan anywhere from 30 - 100 years.
  2. Using an engineered wood floor allows you to have a wood floor on any grade level.
  3. Engineered hardwood flooring can be used on wood subfloors or dry concrete slabs.
  4. Better suited for humid areas of the country.
  5. Engineered floors are very easy and fast to install.
  6. Engineered wood floors are more dimensionally stable than solid wood floors.
  7. Engineered floors are available in many different sizes, colors and styles.
  8. Some of the best engineered floors can be sanded and refinished if ever needed.
  9. Hardwood flooring is the only floor covering that increases the value of your home.
  10. Hardwood flooring does not cause allergies, recommended to use by allergists.

Before you purchase your flooring read our other articles

All About Wear Layers on Engineered Flooring
All About Solid Wood Flooring
All About Floating Engineered Wood Floors
All About Installing Hardwood Flooring Over Radiant Heat
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Page Reviews

Web Page: Engineered Wood Flooring
Overall Rating: 4.8 stars - 442 reviews

Date: March 4, 2024
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
I am so glad i found this information. I am just starting to replace poor quality engineered hardwood over radiant heat. The salesperson tried to sell me solid wood and didnt know that engineered wood is recommended for radiant heat. Now i have done my homework. I understand how and why engineered wood is better for radiant, and the significance of the veneer thickness for the possibility of resurfacing. I would not even know what questions to ask to rate a flooring supply company and installer. When a low cost looks like a good deal, chances are its not.
Date: June 17, 2023
Page Rating: (2.0/5)
I have original hartco flooring with acrylic imbedded. I can no longer find pattern plus and spray tone products for it. Please advise on where to purchase these products or what to use in place of them
Reply by HoskingHardwood :

That's an old product  contact them directly to see if they have any cleaning products for that floor -


Date: February 26, 2023
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Can I use engineered flooring on a ceiling?
Reply by HoskingHardwood : You can (and many people do) but you need to nail into the wood ceiling joists not just into the plaster which won't hold. If the ceiling has wood strapping you can nail into that. 
Date: August 21, 2021
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Are they bullnose available for stairs ( 1" thich and up ) to match exactly the finish layer of the engineered wood?
Date: March 5, 2021
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very good information.
Date: December 29, 2020
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Well presented and organized
Date: November 2, 2020
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
I am an Architect that would like to obtain CSI specifications and details for the installation of glued down engineered wood flooring in a new school project. contact: T
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Hi you should contact the manufacturer of the flooring you are using for that information. Or the NWFA
Date: July 25, 2020
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
The information that I wanted was not presented. I wanted to know the benefit or detriment to an 1/8" difference in the "filler" wood. It seems to be about a dollar per square foot but is it worth it?
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Hi Not quite sure what your asking, but if your referring to the thickness of a center core of engineered wood flooring whether or not an added 1/8 inch can make a difference. Yes it can add more stability. 
Date: August 31, 2019
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Extremely helpful information! Especially the tips about installing over existing hardwood.
Date: February 27, 2019
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Can engineered flooring be laid over engineered flooring? Example, we used a thin flooring that was glued down. Contractor says it will be heck to get up, splintering etc. It is glued tight, just cannot be matched in thickness.
Reply by HoskingHardwood :

I can refer you to one of our articles "All about Subfloors" 


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