There is nothing like a beautiful dark mahogany or golden oak solid hardwood floor. The way its polished surface catches the light adding depth, dimension, warmth and charm to a room. In the 80’s and 90’s a whole generation of new homeowners experienced the thrill and beauty of solid hardwood floors, stripping away the orange and green wall-to-wall dappled shag that had reached its height of popularity in the 1970’s. Hardwood floors are resilient and long lasting. They don’t peel or crack. Best of all, unlike that old shag, they don’t get moldy. Real hardwood floors are easy to refinish and restore and are sure to add value to any home.
For many years solid hardwood floors were out of reach for many homeowners. If you were lucky to have purchased an older home that had them, all well and good. Pull up the carpet, hire or rent a sander, add a few fresh coats of polyurethane and voila, gorgeous hardwood. But for those newer homes built in the 70’s and 80’s you were generally out of luck. Beneath the ubiquitous creamy wall-to-wall, was little more than a plywood sub-floor or even worse, cold concrete. Installing a traditional solid hardwood flooring was costly in itself not including the professional installation that it required.
Then, as so often happens where there is a need, a new solution appeared in the form of engineered hardwood flooring. Unlike traditional or solid hardwood floors which are milled from a single piece of timber, engineered wood flooring planks are made up of two layers, the lamella, or top surface over a supporting core layer. The core can be made of a “wood ply” which uses multiple thin piles of wood glued together, “finger core” made of small pieces of milled timber that run perpendicular to the top layer, or a fiberboard. Engineered floors maintain stability by running each layer at a 90 degree angle to the layer above. A true engineered hardwood floor uses sawn wood for its surface layer, not veneer. It also uses no wood composite or plastic in its manufacturing process. Engineered hardwood can be installed over concrete and doesn’t generally require a separate sub-floor.
Shopping for Flooring
When shopping for an engineered floor you’ll find many wood choices, from oak to exotic Brazilian cherry. Mahogany, oak, maple and walnut are considered traditional, whereas beach and pine, which are lighter, are more suitable for a contemporary space. You’ll have a variety of choices when it comes to plank width – wide or narrow, edging, beveled or square, as well as the type of installation system. Perhaps the best known of these is “tongue-and-groove.” Each plank or piece having one side and one end grooved so that they fit tightly with adjoining planks.
Unlike tongue-and-groove which must be glued down, a number of manufactures have developed patented “click” systems of installation. While similar to tongue-and-groove, instead of fitting directly into the groove, the board must be angled or “tapped” in to make the curved or barbed tongue fit into the adjoining modified groove.
Other floor connection systems are available that allow for the incorporation of other materials including metal and rubber. Parquet style floors use a glue down method. Small pieces of wood are affixed to glue applied directly to the concrete surface and then tamped down with a rubber mallet
Engineered wood flooring has made it possible for a generation of DIY homeowners to upgrade rooms and add value to their homes. A word of caution. The top layer of your engineered hardwood floor is much thinner than a solid hardwood floor and cannot be sanded nearly as often. A true solid hardwood floor will last for generations. Engineered hardwood flooring? It remains to be seen.
For more on installing an engineered hardwood floor