Despite the similarity in appearance between laminate flooring and engineered hardwood, they are more dissimilar than alike. Laminate flooring is composed of several layers of material and can be considered a hybrid floor covering.
To dispel any notions that laminate flooring is real wood, it is not. In fact there is often little or no actual wood product used in the manufacture of laminate flooring. It is in actuality a photograph of real wood grain, transformed to thin sheets of paper, and fused together with resin to hold everything together.
Uncannily, it looks and feels just like real wood. It resists stains, mold, and holds up well against scratching, heels marks and even moisture- but still not real wood. Read on to know more about the difference between laminate flooring and engineered wood flooring.
Engineered Wood Flooring
Unlike laminate flooring, engineered wood flooring, is real wood (hence the word “wood” in its name). Engineered hardwood is real wood, top to bottom, (unlike the compressed layers of laminate, that may or may not contain elements of real wood (sawdust, or wood chips). Like laminate flooring, engineered wood flooring is still man-made, or composite compared to natural hardwood flooring.
It should be noted, however, that engineered wood flooring is not solid planks of natural wood (hardwood flooring). The term “engineered” refers to the process of making the wood flooring, which consists of taking a thin layer of natural wood (the finished layer-also referred to as wood veneer). This layer generally consists of between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch of wood veneer (see the types of wood used below) that is glued or laminated on top of a layer of plywood (the unfinished layer).
In order to strengthen the flooring planks, the top finishing layer is glued or laminated cross-ways atop the plywood layer providing less shift and increasing overall rigidity.
Since all of the component layers are made of real wood, engineered wood flooring is thus differentiated from laminate for this reason.
Types of Hardwood used in Engineered Flooring
Akin to solid hardwood flooring, engineered wood flooring, uses the same type of natural wood (with engineered versions using only 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch compared to complete planks). The most common wood species used for flooring consist of the following:
- Bamboo: All bamboo wood flooring is actually engineered, and it has become more popular over the years due to its strength, look, texture and cost.
- Hickory: Provides a rich-looking finish, and is often scraped or distressed to provide a rustic look.
- Maple: The most elegant of the woods and stainable to varying degrees.
- Oak: Traditionally the favorite in hardwood manufacturing, it has seen a comeback in recent years.
- Walnut: Considered one of the most hardy, dark-toned woods.
The advantages of Engineered wood flooring
Pre-finished for quick use after installing: Because the top-most layer of engineered wood flooring is already pre-finished (veneer level), once the flooring has been installed, it does not require sanding or staining prior to use. Once laid into place, it can be immediately put to use, and walked on. In contrast to engineered wood flooring, natural hardwood, must first be sealed, and allowed to dry before finishing. Of course pre-finished hardwood is also available these days, but at a premium cost.
Installation options: Unlike hardwood flooring which must be nailed to the sub-floor, there are a few options to installing engineered wood flooring (however, the installation method is dependent upon the type of engineered flooring chosen):
- Nailing to sub-floor. If you have selected engineered flooring 3/8″ thick, you will need to nail the flooring down to the sub-floor to increase overall stability.
- Gluing to sub-floor. If you have selected engineered flooring 1/2″ thick, you can either nail or glue the floor down.
- Floating Floor. For engineered flooring 5/8″ thick, since the planks are thick enough and provide independent stability, you can simple snap and lock the flooring together without the need for nails or glue.
Can be sanded and refinished: Unlike laminate flooring, engineered wood flooring (like hardwood) can be sanded to remove scratches and dings and refinished as well; however there are limitations:
- Sanding is dependent upon the thickness of the wood veneer (1/16 of an inch can be sanded one or two times at most, compared with 1/8 of an inch which can be sanded three times.
- Due to the limited thickness of the veneer level, it is recommended that a professional perform the sanding to minimize errors. Once the supportive plywood level has been breached, the wood flooring will require replacing.
You can read about the top 10 reasons to choose the laminate flooring here, since these floors have their own advantages. So you have to decide what type of floors you are looking for that would go in your home.
The uses of Engineered wood flooring:
Engineered wood flooring can be installed anywhere hardwood and laminate flooring is installed including kitchens, bathrooms, and even basements, (where light-to-moderate moisture may occur). It should not be used in high-moisture areas (like in basements that are prone to flooding, or children’s bathrooms (kids tend to overflow the tub on a regular basis).