What Is Engineered Wood? The Perfect Hardwood Compromise

The type of flooring you choose matters. If only to the person living in the home that is to have a new floor installed. So try not to rush things when picking a new floor out. Instead, take your time and make sure you know what you want. 

what is engineered wood

Engineered wood has its pros and cons, it also can be compared to both hardwood and laminate, so that’s what we’re going to do. Here’s everything you need to know about engineered wood flooring.

What Is Engineered Wood?

Engineered Wood floor

You may have heard the term engineered wood a lot, but do you really know what it means? Engineered wood is different than hardwood or laminate. Engineered wood is actually layers of wood in multiple types. 

Strong Base

It all starts with a strong wood base. The base may be thin but it will be strong, probably with 90-degree grain crossing. This means that the wood won’t chip or crack as easily as it has grains running vertical and horizontal.

Plywood Core

There will be a core of plywood due to the price and strength. This core will be made up of a few layers. The more expensive the flooring, the more layers of plywood it has. This is the core and majority of the plank. 

Top Veneer

The top veneer is what you’ll see. It is hardwood on most occasions but it is very thin. Unlike solid wood, this wood can’t be used alone and needs the base and plywood layers to keep it strong. The hardwood veneer is for looks only. 

Polyurethane Coating 

Just like hardwood, a polyurethane coating is added to the planks. In this case, it is used to protect the top veneer. Multiple layers are usually added for ultimate protection. It’s important the veneer is protected as you don’t want to scratch it. 

What Is Engineered Hardwood? 

What Is Engineered Hardwood? 
Image from MacArthur Construction Company

To be honest, engineered hardwood isn’t a term you’d see in the construction or flooring business. This is because “hardwood” is often a term used to let you know that it is solid wood rather than engineered wood. 

However, as stated previously, engineered wood usually contains a top veneer made of hardwood. But if you start using terms like hardwood, then you’ll get overcharged, so use “engineered wood” when shopping. 

Engineered Wood Vs. Solid Wood

Engineered Wood Vs. Solid Wood

So, now that you know that engineered wood and solid wood are different, let’s take a closer look at those differences and the pros and cons of each. Since we already know more about engineered wood, let’s compare it to solid wood.

Pros Of Solid Wood

  • Lasts Longer – engineered wood rarely lasts longer than 50 years, whereas hardwood can last 100. This is the biggest pro for solid wood vs. engineered wood. Both will do well, but solid wood will do better.
  • Can Handle Scratches – solid wood can handle a lot more than engineered wood. If you scratch it, you can sand and refinish it. But engineered wood can’t be scratched and sanded or it will lead you to the plywood layers.
  • Thicker – solid wood is usually a lot thicker than engineered wood. In most cases, it’s twice as thick. Though you can get thicker engineered wood, you’ll have to pay for it. Hardwood isn’t even sold in thinner lots. 
  • Better Resale Value – of course, hardwood and engineered wood might not look different on the surface, but people care. If you say you have hardwood floors, your house will automatically be worth more. 

Cons Of Solid Wood

  • Higher Price Tag – although there are some engineered wood flooring that is the same price as some hardwood, in general, hardwood is more expensive. You can get engineered wood for $3 an sqft.
  • Hard To Install – solid wood is harder to install than engineered wood. Engineered wood comes in a lot of different types with different installation processes. But hardwood is almost always difficult.
  • Needs Maintenance – solid wood needs a lot more maintenance. This may be because you can’t sand engineered wood freely like you can solid wood. But it’s still a fact that hardwood will take time to maintain.
  • Warps When Moist – engineered wood is less susceptible to warping and swelling. Hardwood will warp if it gets wet or if it’s too humid. This can really affect your hardwood over time and even make it slick. 

Engineered Wood Vs. Laminate Flooring

Engineered Wood Vs. Laminate Flooring
Image from Highland Homes, Inc.

Now you know the differences between engineered wood and solid wood. But what about the difference between engineered wood and laminate. After all, installation is similar and some people can’t tell the difference by looking. 

Pros Of Laminate Flooring

  • Versatile Top Layer – because laminate has a versatile top layer, you can actually have anything printed onto it that you want. You can probably find what you have in mind online, but you may also be able to do custom laminate.
  • Durable – despite its “cheapness,” laminate is one of the most durable floorings you can get. That’s why it’s great for pets and kids. Dropping something on it won’t dent it, unlike wood floors.
  • Stain-resistant – another reason laminate is good for pets and kids is because it is stain-resistant. You can use a little floor cleaner to clean up even the most stubborn stains. It really is a breeze.
  • Easiest To Install – laminate is one of the easiest floors to install. Even easier than carpet. All you have to do is lock the planks together. If you have a straight wall to start with, you won’t have any problems at all.
  • Cheap – laminate is really affordable. You can get it on sale for less than a dollar. Or get something really nice for $3 or $4. This is where engineered wood flooring starts its pricing, so this is a huge plus.

Cons Of Laminate Flooring

  • Photographic Layer – let’s face it. Even though this makes it more customizable, no one wants a photographic layer as opposed to a wood veneer. It’s simply not as high-end, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.
  • Not Real Wood – again real wood is always more preferable as far as looks go. Wood is nice and laminate rarely is called nice. However, you can fool people with the right laminate flooring and make them think it’s real.
  • Not Much Protection – as far as protecting subfloors and offering soundproofing, laminate is practically non-existent. It has a lot of other benefits, but soundproofing a room is not one of those benefits.
  • Low Resale Value – everyone wants wood floors. That’s why people choose to put hardwood in when flipping houses. Laminate may be cheap but just like laminate countertops, they bring the value of your house down. 

Cost Of Engineered Wood Flooring

what is engineered wood

Engineered wood is in the middle price range when it comes to flooring options. Laminate is cheap and vinyl is even cheaper. But hardwood is one of the most expensive options, with engineered wood right behind it.

You’ll notice that when you start shopping for different engineered wood flooring that it is sold both in boxes and per sq ft. Even if they are in boxes though, there is a cost per sqft or at least how much sq ft the box will cover.

Whether or not you are planning on hiring a professional matters. If you do, you can add about 25% to 50% to your total cost. You will also need to add about 10% for mistakes. Now, let’s put that all together. 

Doing The Math

The range for engineered wood flooring is $3 to $15. The average cost is probably about $8. So you take that and times it by your square footage. For example, if you have a 500sqft room. Start with $4000.

Then, you take about 30% of that for labor and add $1200. Then, you add room for mistakes, which would be 10% of the original cost. That adds $400. So the total cost would be about $5600. So budget that in.

It’s best to find out what the price of the engineered wood you choose is before doing the math. If you get it for $4 per square foot then your total price will be cut in half. So try to find a good sale if you can.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Can I Install Engineered Wood Over Radiant Floor Heating?

Yes. In fact, engineered wood is better than hardwood for radiant floor heating for two reasons. For one, it’s easier to take up when you need to do maintenance and it’s more porous so you will get more heat. 

What Do I Put Under Engineered Wood? 

You will need an underlayment, which you can buy from any hardware store or wherever you buy the engineered wood. Any type of wood flooring needs this, even laminate which isn’t real wood. So don’t forget.

Does Engineered Wood Look Real?

Yes. Most people can’t tell the difference at all after it is laid. Even after decades, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between engineered wood and hardwood flooring because of the top veneer hardwood. 

Can Any Wood Be Used For A Top Veneer?

Pretty much. Hardwoods are better options in general, but any wood can be a top veneer that is used for solid wood flooring. Though soft woods won’t last as long, with enough protective layering, they will do alright.