Blog Post Highlights | Engineered Wood Flooring Function, History + Installation
+ Engineered wood flooring typically expands and shrinks less than solid wood flooring
+ Wood flooring has existed for centuries, with mass production beginning in the 1800s
+ Engineered flooring offers three installation options: glue-down, fastener and floating
(Wood) Flooring History Timeline | Where Does Engineered Fit In?
Pre-1800s: Earth and wood floors (unfinished) are common
1800s: Mass production of wood flooring begins. Wood flooring often is referred to as wood carpet, with the wood being glued to heavy cotton cloth and sold in rolls
Early 1900s: Tongue-and-groove wood boards are the most popular domestic flooring
1920s: Lower-maintenance alternatives to wood flooring – linoleum and cork – enter the market
Post-WWII: Carpet is introduced as an inexpensive flooring alternative
1950s – 1980s: Popularity of carpet increases, sending wood flooring use into steep decline
1960s: Engineered wood flooring enters the market as a new innovation
Since 1980s: Wood flooring popularity revives and increases so much that other flooring materials – vinyl, tile and even carpet – take on the appearance and texture of wood
2014: Engineered wood flooring makes up 54% of the wood flooring market; 58% of wood flooring sales come from remodeling and 31% from new construction (Source: National Wood Flooring Association)
Benefits of Engineered Wood Flooring
Stability often is a consideration when choosing engineered. (Read “Solid vs. Engineered: What to Choose”)
Stability refers to the flooring’s ability to react minimally to environmental changes in the home. In engineered wood flooring, that comes from the multiple and cross-directional layers that form the product. (Images below provided by the NWFA)
Homeowners in more extreme climate regions, like the arid mountains or super-humid South, need to take more into consideration when choosing a wood flooring type. (Explained: “Humidity Matters” and “Acclimation of Wood Flooring”)
Engineered flooring also offers versatility. It can perform well in basements, where solid wood flooring would fail. There are three installation options: glue-down, fastener (ex. staple) or floating. Solid wood should not be floated.
How Is Engineered Wood Flooring Made?
Engineered wood flooring is made from three to 11 layers. Maybe even more. The construction varies by manufacturer and by product. The thickness of the finished product can range from 3/8” to 3/4”, though most engineered products are less than 3/4”. The layers are bonded to adjoining layers.
The top, or wear, layer is what determines the final appearance of the installed floor. The wood species of the top layer is what is used to describe the product. Core layers often are made from different species, or even a composite. The bottom layer, or backing, can be the same or different as the top.
Like with solid wood flooring, engineered often can be sanded and refinished. But it needs to have a thick enough wear layer to make that possible. It usually cannot be resanded as many times as solid wood can.
Engineered Wood Flooring: Sawn vs. Rotary Peel vs. Sliced Cuts
With sawn engineered wood, logs are sawn straight through the log, cutting the material to be used for wear layers. Sawn-faced veneers are cut from a block of wood and show many of the same characteristics of solid wood flooring.
With rotary-peeled engineered wood, logs are positioned on a large lathe and turned against a sharp blade. The log continues to spin and cut until the whole log is turned into veneer. This technique produces less waste. Rotary-peeled veneers have a distinct grain pattern that is more pronounced than in sliced or sawn veneers, and it will repeat on wide sheets.
With sliced engineered wood, logs are cut into squares called cants. A cant is drawn across an angled blade. The process is repeated until the whole cant is turned into a veneer.
The appearance of sliced veneer is similar to sawn veneers and will have the same natural variation in color and characteristics that a solid wood floor has. But slicing has thickness limits and the process can stress the wood fiber.
One last thought: The successful performance of any floor – solid wood, engineered wood, luxury vinyl (LVT) or vinyl plank (PVP) – installed in your home depends on the quality of its subfloor.
Professional installers should know the valuable information we’ve published for “How to Prepare a Wood Subfloor” and “How to Prepare a Concrete Subfloor.” It doesn’t hurt for all others involved in the decision-making process – e.g. homeowners, designers, retailers – to know what’s-what about subfloors, too.
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