Of the two wood flooring variations—solid wood and engineered wood—the latter is by far the more popular. When comparing the composition, pros, and cons of each, it’s easy to see why engineered wood flooring is the preferred choice. Its top layer, made from real wood, assures an authentic appearance, making it indistinguishable from solid wood flooring once fitted. Moreover, its man-made core makes engineered wood flooring more affordable and eliminates the disadvantages associated with solid wood flooring, such as expansion and contraction that leads to imperfections. However, not all engineered wood flooring is created equal. Lifespan can vary considerably depending on the quality of the floorboards. So, what does quality mean in the context of engineered wood flooring? With over 15 years of experience in selling engineered wood flooring to both the public and trade, and boasting a 4.6/5 Google review score from over 1,000 customers, we at Wood and Beyond are well-positioned to elucidate what sets high-quality engineered wood flooring apart from inferior options.
The Misconception of ‘Grade’ as a Quality Indicator
Before diving into the quality factors of engineered wood flooring, it’s important to dispel a common misconception. Product names often include grades such as Prime, Select, Rustic, and Natural. These grades solely indicate the visual aspects of the floorboards and have no bearing on their quality. For example, rustic-grade engineered wood flooring can be as expensive or even more so than prime-grade options. The choice between grades ultimately depends on the visual outcome you desire. At the end of the day, grade is merely a design indicator and is unrelated to the engineered wood flooring’s quality.
Factor 1: The Wear Layer Thickness
The top layer of engineered wood flooring is known as the ‘wear layer.’ This layer, subject to foot traffic and general wear and tear, can range from 2mm to 5mm in thickness. While wear layers of varying thicknesses may look the same once installed, the differences become apparent when you attempt to sand and recoat the floor. The option to sand a 1mm top layer, exposing fresh wood and then recoating it, is the pinnacle of wood floor ownership. It refreshes the floor’s appearance and eliminates surface imperfections. At Wood and Beyond, we find that customers typically sand their engineered wood flooring every 5 to 10 years. Therefore, the thickness of the wear layer significantly impacts the flooring’s quality in terms of lifespan.
Factor 2: Type of Wood on the Wear Layer
Different wood species have unique characteristics in terms of hardness, grain patterns, colour variations, and overall durability. Oak is a popular choice due to its inherent strength and durability. It’s a dense hardwood, making it highly resistant to wear and tear. Walnut, although softer than oak, offers darker colouration that can often mask minor imperfections. However, for quality considerations, you might want to avoid certain wood species like Basswood, Cork, Pine, and Fir, as they are generally less durable, stable, and aesthetically pleasing.
Factor 3: The Finish of the Floor
The finish applied to engineered wood flooring significantly influences its quality, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. Lacquered and oil finishes stand as indicators of high-quality engineered wood flooring. A lacquered finish provides a robust, protective layer that is both durable and low-maintenance. An oil finish penetrates the wood, enriching its natural colour and highlighting its grain. Varnish and wax finishes, although effective, may require more frequent reapplication and maintenance.
Factor 4: The Warranty You Receive
A long-term warranty like the 20-year domestic/residential Product Manufacturer’s Warranty offered by Wood and Beyond signifies confidence in the product’s durability and quality. It serves not only as peace of mind but also as a quality assurance from the manufacturer. Shorter warranties may be a red flag, indicating potential issues with durability or overall quality.
Factor 5: Customer Reviews
Customer reviews and overall review scores can provide invaluable insights into a product’s quality. Wood and Beyond’s 4.6/5 Google review score, supported by over 1,000 customer reviews and 4.5/5 TrustPilot review score, supported by over 4,000 customer reviews, serves as a testament to our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Therefore, taking the time to read customer reviews and evaluate the overall review score can offer a comprehensive, 360-degree understanding of what to expect in terms of both product quality and customer service.
Conclusion: Navigating the Maze of Engineered Wood Flooring Quality
When it comes to engineered wood flooring, the marketplace is fraught with misconceptions, conflicting information, and a range of options that can make the pursuit of quality seem like a labyrinthine task. However, as we’ve elucidated, quality doesn’t hinge on superficial attributes like ‘grade’—a term often misleadingly associated with quality but that solely indicates aesthetic traits.
Instead, several key factors should guide your journey to finding high-quality engineered wood flooring: the thickness of the wear layer, the type of wood species used, the finish applied, the length and terms of the manufacturer’s warranty, and—last but not least—credible customer reviews. When evaluating these elements, remember that shortcuts and compromises often lead to reduced longevity, aesthetic imperfections, and ultimately, disappointment.
In summary, quality in engineered wood flooring is not a singular trait but a composite of multiple factors. Ignoring any of these can compromise the integrity of your investment. So, look beyond superficialities and delve deeper into these critical aspects to make an investment that stands the test of time, both in terms of functionality and aesthetics.
Why is engineered wood flooring more popular than solid wood flooring?
Engineered wood flooring is generally more popular than solid wood flooring because it combines the authentic appearance of real wood with a man-made core. This design feature leads to improved affordability and reduced issues such as expansion and contraction that affect solid wood flooring.
Is the ‘grade’ of engineered wood flooring an indicator of its quality?
No, the ‘grade’ is merely a designation of the aesthetic attributes of the engineered wood floorboards. It does not serve as an indicator of quality or durability.
How important is the ‘wear layer’ thickness for the quality of engineered wood flooring?
The ‘wear layer’ is the top surface of engineered wood flooring that is exposed to daily use and wear. The thickness of this layer, which can vary between 2mm and 5mm, has a direct impact on the longevity of the floor and its capacity to be sanded and recoated.
Are some wood types better suited for the ‘wear layer’ than others?
Yes, different species of wood have their unique properties in terms of hardness, grain patterns, and durability. For example, oak is a preferred choice due to its inherent durability and resistance to wear and tear.
What role does the finish of the engineered wood flooring play in its quality?
The type of finish applied to engineered wood flooring has a significant impact on its quality, lifespan, and aesthetic appeal. Finishes like lacquer and oil are indicators of high-quality engineered wood flooring, providing a durable, low-maintenance surface.