“What exactly is engineered flooring?” is a question often asked by floor-hunters and it’s easy to understand why. The wood flooring industry has become quite complicated in recent years, thanks to both new products which have been developed and the range of wood species which have become available thanks to global trading.
In a nutshell, engineered wood flooring is a man-made wood flooring product, which is made up by bonding layers of different woods together and topping them off with a solid wood top layer. The end result of this clever development is a floor which looks just like solid wood but has the benefit of being able to be installed in areas where moisture and temperature fluctuations would cause a real problem to solid wood.
So how is engineered wood flooring made?
Engineered wood flooring is made up of bonding a number of layers of ply or high density fibreboard (HDF) to create a core board, which effectively becomes the inside of a “sandwich” which is then topped with a solid wood lamella or top layer. These core boards are made by bonding layers of ply together or by introducing a thick layer of HDF, laid in different directions to create a strong, stable base for the solid wood top layer.
When it comes to the solid wood top layer or lamella, there’s a whole host of species to choose from, just as there is with solid wood. That said, the most common are oak, larch and walnut.
In order to recover the lamella from the log, there are three principle cutting methods, which, depending upon which is used will affect the look of the final product. These methods include dry, solid-sawn; rotary-peel and sliced-peel, each of which create a slightly different effect.
- Dry solid-sawn lamella is arguably the lengthiest process and involves drying out the wood slowly over time to reduce its humidity level. This slow drying process means that the wood is less likely to suffer from cupping in the future. What’s more, this way of recovering the wood produces the most visually impressive lamella.
- Rotary-peel lamella is made after boiling the log to enable the scraping of the top layer of wood from the outside, which is then pressed flat. This type of lamella has more of a ply look to it and is less resistant to cupping than dry solid-sawn.
- Sliced-peel lamella finally, is cut from the end of the log after it has been boiled, again producing a very stable top layer.
Once the inner core has been produced and the top layer has been recovered from the log, the parts are combined to create planks. The adhesive used to bond the different elements in many respects affects the quality of the final product.
One concern surrounding the adhesive process used is that the final product is, if not treated carefully, capable of emitting high levels of formaldehyde. It is important therefore to check the formaldehyde safety of your floor before purchasing it. If this is something you’re in any doubt about, a good flooring supplier will be able to reassure you.
Once the planks have been constructed, they are then milled to produce their tongue and groove structure. When it comes to finishing engineered wood flooring, like solid wood, you’ll commonly find distressed options, scraped options and oiled and brushed options, which means that pretty much whatever style you can buy in solid wood, there’s likely to be an engineered wood equivalent.
When you buy these, you’ll typically find that it comes already finished, but if you look around, you’ll be able to track down untreated planks if your project requires it.
What makes engineered wood flooring so special?
In a nutshell, engineered wood is special because it withstands temperature and moisture fluctuations much better than solid wood. This means that these planks can safely be used in bathrooms, kitchens and even basements. Furthermore, its stability means it can be successfully installed over under floor heating. Add to this, the fact that it’s quick to install, particularly when the floating method of installation is used and you really begin to see why this flooring option is so popular.
Here’s our video overview of these floors