Engineered hardwood is considered a premium material compared to similar multi-layered types of flooring. In fact, some styles can cost as much as solid hardwood, which means it’s a good idea to weigh the benefits beforehand. In this guide, we’re going to do just that by taking a closer look at this material and how it measures up in several key areas.
What is Engineered Hardwood Flooring
If you’re interested in wood flooring for your home or next remodeling project, there are only two options to consider. While the construction of solid hardwood or engineered hardwood flooring is completely different, the cost can be similar depending on the thickness, style, and brand.
Engineered hardwood is composed from multiple layers whereas solid wood flooring is made from a single piece of wood. The core layer of an engineered plank is actually made from several levels bonded together and provides stability to each board. The base layer acts as the foundation while the wear layer or top coat provides protection from daily abuse.
What makes engineered wood look like solid hardwood is a thin piece of wood veneer. That piece can come from a variety of both domestic and exotic species, and if that layer is thick enough, it can even be refinished to a degree.
Engineered Flooring vs. Laminate, Hardwood & Luxury Vinyl
While solid hardwood flooring is the most comparable to engineered flooring in most homeowners' minds, it’s not the only wood-like option. Both luxury vinyl and laminate have image layers that resemble real wood and are constructed from multiple layers like engineered hardwood as well.
Cost can be the first thing people compare when choosing a type of flooring, but the installation process is directly tied to that overall cost of the project. It can be almost 1/3 of the price in some cases, which has led homeowners to turn towards DIY-friendly materials.
Engineered hardwood flooring is a clear winner in this area. While most use a floating click-lock installation method, this flooring can be glued down, nailed to the subfloor, or even stapled. Hardwood flooring is typically nailed down, while laminate flooring is installed with adhesive or glue.
Luxury vinyl tiles are also installed in the same fashion, and all click-lock flooring is usually easy for homeowners to install. That said, engineered flooring offers the most installation options, which makes it the most versatile in our eyes.
Colors and Styles
Are you looking for flooring that has a classic vibe or something a little wilder? You can find multicolored hard flooring options alongside solid-colored styles – with vinyl or laminate. That’s not necessarily the case with engineered flooring, however.
Outside some companies that use vivid stains on their products, most engineered flooring comes in natural wood tones or greys. Weathered planks with an almost white beach-worn look are an exception along with boards that are ebony-like in appearance. The advantage of engineered flooring comes into play if you’re interested in exotic species.
As engineered flooring only uses a wooden veneer, it’s much easier to find exotic species in comparison to solid hardwood flooring. That means you can find Acacia or Wenge engineered flooring along with Hickory and Oak. Depending on the style you’re after, you may find a larger selection of engineered flooring than solid hardwood.
Any hard flooring style is easier to clean than carpet. You can use a vacuum on hardwood or engineered flooring, although it certainly isn’t a necessity. This is especially important for homeowners with pets or allergies. You can quickly sweep the floor in a matter of minutes and never have to plug in a vacuum cleaner.
There are also a variety of “revitalizing products” for engineered flooring compared to laminate, linoleum, or vinyl. We also feel it’s one of the easier products to repair. A board with too much damage will still need to be replaced, but light scratches or scuffs can be managed with ease.
By comparison, once you get through the wear layer to the image layer on syndetic products, there is nothing you can do. Solid hardwood is more resilient and durable overall than any other wood-based or synthetic flooring, although it’s not impervious to moisture or water damage from a leaky pipe.
The biggest issue with engineered flooring is water. Any organic material is prone to damage and rot from water, and wood is certainly no exception. That’s one reason you can find it in living rooms, hallways, and bedrooms, but not necessarily in kitchens or bathrooms.
Excess moisture and high humidity can have a significant impact on engineered wood flooring. It can cause planks to swell or peak, something that can also be a problem with laminate flooring and solid hardwood. For areas where water is a concern, the best option is to transition into a material like vinyl flooring or tile.
One exception to this rule comes through new advances in manufacturing techniques. Several companies have been able to produce water-resistant engineered flooring, which is rated as safe for damp areas. That includes companies like Bruce with Hydropel, which is a waterproof form of engineered wood flooring.
The Green Factor
While volatile organic compounds are something we all encounter every day, there are a number of things you can do to minimize your exposure outdoors. Indoor air quality can be a bigger issue, and something homeowners fight on several fronts from the furniture in their homes to the flooring beneath their feet.
The simple way to look at VOCs and flooring is that any synthetic material can produce VOCs through off-gassing. It’s the same thing that happens when you unbox a memory foam mattress and can even affect plastic appliances in your home. You can usually smell it, and it will fade after a short period of time.
With engineered hardwood, the top layer and most of the plank may be made from wood, but there are still resins and adhesives used in its construction. Off-gassing should be minimal compared to vinyl flooring, but could still affect people with respiratory issues. Just remember to buy high-quality engineered flooring that’s been topped off with a low-VOC finish.
Another area where engineered hardwood shines in the eco-friendly department is recyclability. As it’s mainly comprised of wood, these floors are easier to recycle than other types of flooring excluding solid hardwood. They are also easier to repurpose and reuse than laminate or even vinyl when kept in good shape.
Engineered Hardwood Cost
How much you pay for engineered hardwood depends on three main factors – the thickness, style, and size. Branding is obviously important as well, but this is a competitive industry so you can find smaller brands with similar prices to larger companies like Shaw, Bruce, and others.
Price per sq. ft.
5” x variable
Leather Brown Hickory
4” x 6’
Night Shadow Oak
6.1” x 47”
6” x 48”
5” x variable
Ghost Ship Maple
7.5” x 50”
Hand Scraped Acacia
5” x 47”
6” x 36”
4 ¾” x random
We found that you can expect to pay around $2.00 per square foot on the low end for budget-friendly flooring around 5/16” thick. Mid-range engineered flooring starts at around $3.00 while premium planks can cost upwards of $5.00 or more per square foot.
Engineered Hardwood Pros and Cons
When you want a product that can be installed in almost any fashion, it’s hard to go wrong with engineered hardwood. These planks aren’t as heavy as solid hardwood, but provide more structural stability than LVP. They are one of the more DIY-friendly flooring styles, and one that could actually increase the price of your home if you’re making the switch from linoleum or old carpet.
The unlimited array of styles is another perk considering you can find engineered boards that will match any décor. That includes weathered planks for those who prefer a rustic look along with smooth, natural wood-look flooring. Exotic species are more affordable, and they are considered more eco-friendly than vinyl and other synthetic flooring materials.
Engineered hardwood can come in sizes ranging from narrow 3” planks to boards over 6” wide, and you can choose from variable lengths and widths with some brands. It’s versatile, durable, but also prone to damage from moisture. That’s why it’s not a good idea to install engineered wood flooring in damp areas, although many styles are suitable for below-grade rooms.
Fading can also be an issue with low-quality engineered hardwood, and the same goes for VOCs. Off-gassing isn’t a major concern, but quality can be where the core and veneer are concerned. Price should also be considered as it’s affordable but comparable to other premium products depending on the quality and brand.
Whether engineered floors are worth it comes down to what you’re looking for from flooring and your budget. It’s the next step down from solid hardwood, and while more realistic than luxury vinyl, can still experience issues in moisture-prone areas. If you are ready to start looking for engineered hardwood for your home, check out our ultimate guide to engineered hardwood flooring.