Engineered flooring is the second of two types of wood flooring, the first being solid wood flooring. Engineered flooring is made from a top layer of real wood, on top of layers of ply (ensures flooring stability), MDF (enhances floor stability and moisture-sensitivity), and softwood (resilient and cost-effective core) to result in one completed board. Due to this varied construction and use of natural and artificial materials, it is also referred to as semi-solid wood flooring, man-made wood flooring, and manufactured wood flooring. It is important not to mistake engineered flooring with wood effect flooring such as luxury vinyl and laminate flooring, as these two use a printed layer made to look like wood, while engineered flooring uses an actual wood layer in its top part. In this guide, we will take a closer look at the various mechanisms that compose the engineered floorboard.
The Real Wood Layer:
The list of hardwoods used in the engineered floor construction uses common or exotic woods. Typically in the UK, you will come across Oak and Walnut due to their abundance and therefore favourable price. In terms of visuals, the hardwood is graded based on four levels: Prime, Select, Natural, and Rustic. The higher the grade is, the more uniform and consistent the floor will look. Prime grade, for example, includes very little colour variation, sap, and knots, while on the other hand, natural grade, for example, will include colour variations between the boards, some sap content, small to medium knots, and other natural characters of wood. Prime engineered oak flooring, for example, means an engineered floorboard made from oak in prime grade. Don’t mistake grade for quality; all four grades share the same quality. It is a differentiator for the visual aspect of the floor only.
The ply layer is the core of engineered flooring and consists of multiple layers of cross-grained plywood. These layers are bound together using a strong adhesive, which offers a stable base and prevents warping or movement that might occur with natural expansion and contraction. The cross-grained construction provides a balanced structure that enhances the overall stability and integrity of the floor. The number and thickness of ply layers can vary, and this influences the durability and stability of the floor.
Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is sometimes used as part of the core in engineered flooring. It is a composite wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres and binding them with wax and resin. This creates a strong, dense layer that adds to the floor’s stability. MDF provides a smooth and consistent base, but it’s worth noting that it doesn’t handle moisture as well as plywood, so its application should be considered based on the specific needs and location of the flooring installation.
Some engineered floors may also include a softwood layer, often positioned between the ply and the real wood layer. Softwoods like pine or spruce can add additional resilience and flexibility. Softwood provides a cost-effective solution, offering strength without significantly increasing the weight or cost of the flooring. It also aids in sound absorption, providing a quieter walking experience.
The Finish Layer:
The finish layer is the protective coat applied to the surface of the engineered wood flooring. It plays a crucial role in safeguarding the appearance and functionality of the floor. There are various finishing options, including oil, lacquer, or UV-cured finishes. Each offers different aesthetic effects and levels of protection against scratches, stains, and moisture.
- Oil finishes penetrate the wood and enhance its natural texture and colour. They offer a matte look and can be easily repaired if scratched.
- Lacquer finishes create a glossy surface and provide a robust protective coat against wear and tear.
- UV-cured finishes are cured with ultraviolet light, creating an extremely hard and durable surface that resists scratching and staining.
Is it also possible to purchase unfinished engineered flooring. In this case, the finish would be applied onsite during installation. This option is handy if you are unsure as to the best finish for your project.
Engineered flooring is a complex and versatile flooring product, well-suited to a variety of applications and environments. Its multi-layered construction offers the beauty of real wood combined with increased stability and resistance to environmental factors thanks to the man-made core. It can be used in areas that are off-limits to solid wood flooring, such as the bathroom and kitchen areas. Understanding the components of engineered flooring allows potential customers to make informed decisions and select the product that best meets the needs of a specific project, taking into consideration factors like aesthetics, performance, durability, and cost. Whether it’s the prime grade visual appeal or the technicalities of the finish layer, engineered flooring is adaptable, elegant, and a sound flooring investment for both residential and commercial spaces.
What is Engineered Flooring, and how is it different from Solid Wood Flooring and Wood Effect Flooring?
Engineered flooring is the second of two types of wood flooring, with the first being solid wood flooring. Engineered flooring consists of a top layer of real wood, on top of layers of ply, MDF, and softwood to create a completed board. It’s often referred to as semi-solid wood flooring, man-made wood flooring, or manufactured wood flooring. It is distinct from wood effect flooring like luxury vinyl and laminate, as engineered flooring uses an actual wood layer in its top part, whereas wood effect flooring uses a printed layer made to resemble wood.
How is the Real Wood Layer in Engineered Flooring graded, and what does the grade represent?
The Real Wood Layer in engineered flooring is graded based on four levels: Prime, Select, Natural, and Rustic. This grade reflects the visual aspect of the floor, not its quality. For example, Prime grade has minimal colour variation, sap, and knots, leading to a more uniform look. Natural grade includes variations between boards and other natural characters of wood. All four grades share the same quality, and the grading simply differentiates the visual appearance.
What is the purpose of the Ply Layer in Engineered Flooring?
The ply layer forms the core of engineered flooring, made of cross-grained plywood layers bound together with a strong adhesive. This construction offers a stable base and prevents warping or movement that might occur with natural expansion and contraction. The number and thickness of the ply layers influence the floor’s durability and stability, and the cross-grained structure enhances the overall integrity of the floor.
What are the considerations for using an MDF Layer in Engineered Flooring?
Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is used as part of the core in engineered flooring. It’s a composite wood product made by binding wood fibres with wax and resin, creating a strong, dense layer that adds stability to the floor. While MDF provides a smooth and consistent base, it doesn’t handle moisture as well as plywood, so its application should be considered depending on the specific needs and location of the flooring installation.
What are the different finishing options for Engineered Flooring, and what are their characteristics?
Engineered flooring may have different finishing options, including oil, lacquer, or UV-cured finishes.
- Oil finishes penetrate the wood to enhance its natural texture and colour, offering a matte look and ease of repair if scratched.
- Lacquer finishes create a glossy surface and a robust protective coat against wear and tear.
- UV-cured finishes are hardened with ultraviolet light, creating a durable surface that resists scratching and staining.
Each finish offers different aesthetic effects and protection levels against scratches, stains, and moisture.