Engineered flooring

Hardwood, Engineered or Laminate?

In my childhood home we had dogs and cats and kids with toys in a living room where we were allowed to take the cushions off the sofa and make forts any time we wanted. I remember the electric floor buffer my Mom pushed around that floor. Dad had laid and finished the floor, probably from flooring he made himself — he was a master carpenter. Krikey; those floors took work but they were impervious.

Engineered, hardwood or laminate. How do you choose? What do you do about the sun streaming in through your huge windows, will it damage the flooring of choice? Do you have four-legged family member you don’t want to have to banish to the garage because she might mark the floor? What can you put in the basement?

Engineered floor in cross-section

Hardwood: solid wood all the way through. Some wood is harder than others. Wood hardness is measured compared to American Red Oak. A hardwood floor can last decades and is great for high-traffic areas. Softer woods are better suited for lower-traffic areas. Here is a  link to the U.S. Forest Service hardness chart. BUT it is not necessarily the wood that makes the flooring impervious to scratches and dings, the finish applied makes a huge difference, too.

Engineered flooring: This is a thin layer of real wood glued to plywood. Now that’s an overly simple explanation, but it is basically true. Engineered flooring was designed for use over concrete as in basements and over in-floor heating. And because the wood layer can have the same finishes as hardwood, the product can be just as durable.  The header picture in this column is an engineered floor. Because the top layer is real wood, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between engineered and hardwood.

laminate floor

Laminate: this is a picture glued to composite board. Laminates can be more durable and scratch-resistant than hardwood or engineered wood, and at substantially less cost. Ease of installation and durability are two real advantages of laminate flooring. Yes, that’s a laminate floor on the right.

And, from Kaindl,   the world’s largest laminate manufacturer, a double-sided laminate.  Kaindl is the first manufacturer to apply synchronous decors to both sides of the panel in the form of  Natural Touch².  Rumor has it, it’s almost impossible to tell this from the real thing.

Almost as critical as the product itself is the finish applied: finishes such as aluminum oxide or acrylic applied on hardwood or engineered wood can reduce the susceptibility to scratches and sun-fade. If you have a deep scratch on your hardwood floor, you can sand away if you are able to re-stain, if necessary. If the scratch is on engineered flooring you can only sand a tiny bit before you break through the veneer. But in either case you run the risk of removing the protective coatings. You don’t sand laminate but you probably won’t ever need to. Visit this site for a lot of good info on laminates. You may be surprised.

And, don’t forget to ask the flooring expert for information. Just like other decor decisions, decide what you need from your floor and shop accordingly.

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