Choosing an Engineered hardwood floor may seem a bit daunting, especially if you've never done it before. Whether you're a new buyer or a professional installer, understanding the basics will certainly increase the odds that you end up with the very best engineered hardwood floor for your lifestyle, space and budget.
Instyle Oaks Collection
What is Engineered Hardwood?
Engineered wood flooring is constructed from multiple layers of wood with a hardwood top layer that is 100% natural. Below the top layer, cross layers of plywood are pressed to create a strong, stable core. This multi-ply structure gives engineered wood the flexibility to be installed in places where solid hardwood isn't an option, such as over concrete floors or over radiant heating systems.
Can I install Engineered Hardwood in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries?
In short: Kitchens, yes. Bathrooms and laundries, no.
Engineered wood flooring is suitable for kitchens, and is often installed there — especially in open floor plans where the living, dining and kitchen areas flow together — but surface spills should still be dried quickly. Engineered Hardwood floors are versatile and beautiful, but they’re not the best material for every room. In bathrooms and laundry rooms, high potential for humidity and pooling water can create problems.
What factors will affect the durability of my hardwood floor?
That said, there are some factors to keep in mind as you narrow down the best engineered hardwood floor for your specific lifestyle needs:
How Busy is Your Home?
Is it just you or do you have a family? A revolving door of visitors or relatively quiet? A big, rowdy dog or a declawed cat? Consider how active your household is, and the kind of foot traffic that the room (or rooms) will be getting. Engineered hardwood durability may turn out to be one of the most important factors for you, beyond the look of the floor.
Engineered hardwood species used in flooring are given a hardwood hardness rating which indicates how resistant the wood is to dents and wear. As you would expect, harder woods are better able to withstand indentations than softer woods.
Regardless of the species, the type of protective finish that coats an engineered hardwood will also play a big role in how scratch and stain resistant it is. (This is different from gloss level, which is purely cosmetic). All engineered hardwood styles from Armstrong Flooring come with a protective finish.
Gloss and Texture
Though the level of gloss on your floors won't impact the durability at all, a low-gloss/matte floor will hide scratches and other wear better than a gleaming, high-gloss style. If you have an active home with high traffic, you might also consider an engineered hardwood style with hand-scraped texture, wire brushing or distressing. These rustic looks can hide everyday wear better than a smooth floor.
Is hardwood flooring a good pick if I have pets?
Yes, but take precautions. The type of wood species you choose for your floor affects how well it holds up to wear and tear (see above). You can also help ensure a beautiful-looking floor by keeping your pets' nails trimmed, sweeping regularly to remove dirt, grit and fur, and wiping up spills and accidents as soon as they happen.
So many hardwood flooring styles! How will I ever choose the right one?
First step: don't panic. This is a good problem to have! With so many stylish choices, you'll be able to find a floor that looks amazing — and fits your good design tastes and your installation and durability needs.
Next step: know what to expect. Here are some of the characteristics that will affect the look and feel of your floors, so start thinking about the overall style you want to achieve.
- Colour – The great variety in wood flooring choices comes from the species’ natural colours, stains and finishes, and the wood’s tendency to lighten or darken subtly with age and sun exposure. Different species also have different levels of colour variation, which is the extent to which the natural colours and shades vary on individual wood planks. Less variation creates a more uniform look, while highly varied colour adds more eye-catching character.
- Texture and Surface Treatments – Hardwood flooring can take on a ton of different looks, depending on the textures, finishes and surface treatments that are used. Smooth floors look more traditional, while wire brushing and distressing mimic the look of reclaimed wood. Liming and etching create weathered looks, and hand scraping evokes a sense of heritage that can appear traditional or rustic, depending on the gloss level.
- Wood Species – The differences in wood species are as fascinating as they are beautiful, from the pronounced grain of Oak to the fine, straight grain of Blue Gum.
- Character and Grade – The natural character of engineered hardwood can vary from product to product. Some collections and species feature high colour and character variation with filled knots, filled splits and large mineral streaks. This look can feel more casual or cozy, while flooring with minimal character is polished and classic.
- Board/Plank Width – Board width dramatically affects the installed look of a floor. Narrow strips are more traditional looking, and can create the illusion of space in a smaller room. Wide width hardwood planks can create a sense of openness and sophistication, but if installed in too small of a room can feel overwhelming.
- Edge Styles – Hardwood edge styles are the different ways ends and edges of each board are finished, creating (or lessening) definition and affecting the overall look.
- Home Lighting –Many people don't consider how home lighting can affect how your finished floor will look. Ask your retailer for samples to view in your home.
Can I refinish my hardwood floors?
Even engineered styles, if they have a thick enough top layer of wood, can be sanded and refinished a few times. Look for premium collections with thicker top layers.
Can I install my own hardwood floor?
An engineered hardwood flooring installation takes time, precision, and know-how to get it right. Even for experienced DIYers, hardwood installations can be challenging. A lot depends on your ability to take the time to learn what you need to know to properly install an engineered hardwood floor, so that it will look and perform beautifully.