Looking for a new wood floors? This 20-page guide can help you explore flooring styles and options as you narrow down your favorite floors.
4 Things You Must Know Before You Buy an Engineered Wood Floor
There are many reasons that you may be searching for a wide plank engineered floor for your upcoming project — cost, ease of installation, stability. While much of this is true, not all engineered flooring is designed and crafted to meet the same standards.
But, many people do not know what those standards are but they do know that they want their floor to:
- Be more beautiful
- Be of the highest quality
- Be more stable
- Provide enhanced performance in your environment
- Last a long time
- Be easy to maintain
We’ll review four of the most important design elements to engineered wood flooring so you can you look below the surface of pretty flooring samples. Instead, you want to consider the intrinsic differences that will help you find the highest quality engineered floor. We’ll also provide you with some shopping tools and tips to help you along the way.
Construction & Manufacturing
Engineered hardwood flooring consists of a thin layer of wood on top (veneer), and multiple layers of backing (the core). The thickness of the veneer and the core varies depending on the design and the manufacturer. It is this construction detail that will play the biggest role in how your floor looks, how stable it will be, and how long it will last.
As you consider engineered wood flooring, you want to select products that meet certain criteria:
- Overall Thickness: 5/8” or ¾” thick
- Thickness of the veneer: 3/16”
- Thickness of the core: 9-ply or 11-ply
The dimensional stability of your engineered floor can be further improved by the manufacturer if they:
- Design the board so that the core is thicker than the veneer layer.
- Use the highest quality Baltic birch from Finland and Russia (environments with optimum growing conditions for this species).
- Layer each ply of the core so that the grain runs at a 90° angle to the grain pattern of the previous ply. (Both design and manufacturing details that we adhere to with Carlisle engineered wood flooring).
Most engineered wood flooring on the market is mass produced. Even if you order the flooring all at the same time, mass production methods result in flooring boards in varying widths, lengths and thicknesses which can make for a very difficult installation. Even the color and finish of the floor can be completely different because the flooring came from a large batch, rather than made per order.
Shopping Tip: Samples can be a valuable tool during the selection process to compare the thickness of the overall board and the individual layers. It can also help you verify the number of layers and the relative thickness of the core and veneer.
The average width of most engineered wood flooring is 3” wide, the average length is just 3’ long. Let that soak in for a moment. If you have a 20×20 room that is nearly 535 boards that you need to install!
Standard manufacturing practices are designed to produce wood flooring as fast as possible and as much as possible — it’s all about efficiency and volume.
Unfortunately, the appearance and quality of this type of flooring isn’t going to work for the client that wants wide plank floor. Luckily, you don’t have to settle for strip flooring anymore — just check out this gorgeous All 8″ Wide Plank engineered Walnut floor from Carlisle!
When considering engineered flooring you want to work with a manufacturer that can provide more options like:
- All 6” Wide
- All 8” Wide
- All 10” Wide
- 6-10” Wide
- All one width, or random widths depending on the look you want
In addition to achieving wider widths in your floor, you also want longer lengths. Carlisle floors are made in random lengths from 2’-7 or 2-12’ long, depending on the collection, and each floor is graded to achieve a certain average length within the range. This gives you peace of mind that you will receive the longer, most revered boards. This combination of widths and lengths creates fewer seams and far more beauty becuse you can reduce the number of seams in your floor by up to 500% when you use a wide plank floor instead of a traditional 3” floor board.
Shopping Tip: As you are shopping for engineered wood flooring, verify width and lengths specifications on any quotes you receive, and on your final order documents. Don’t just rely on “word of mouth” specification details.
When you install your new wide plank floor you want it to look pretty and be stable, but you don’t need or want to know that it is engineered floor. The only way to do this is to use a veneer layer that is cut a very specific way…this is where we are going to get a little bit technical.
There are two ways to create the veneer layer of an engineered wood floor — use a dry sawn face that is cut with a saw blade or use a sliced and rotary peeled face that is cut with a knife blade. The first one is like slicing a piece of bread and the second one is like peeling a potato. They both produce different characteristics in terms of aesthetics and quality. Many people believe that an engineered wood floor isn’t as beautiful as a solid wood floor, but you can eliminate that concern completely by understanding what type of engineered floor you are using.
The dry sawn face method will create the same exact visual as a solid floor. This is achieved by giving you the same beautiful heartwood, grain and character, while achieving wider widths and lengths. This method also allows you to cut a thicker veneer layer which will become the wear layer of the floor. By using the ideal 3/16” wear layer you now have the same wear layer as a solid wood floor. Now, your floor will last longer and it can be sanded multiple times (if needed).
On the contrary, engineered flooring made from sliced and rotary peeled material is only going to produce thinner veneer layers (about 2 mm). These thinner layers don’t last as long which means you have to repair or replace your floor sooner. This method also boils the wood before peeling it which can cause moisture issues with the wood down the road. Lastly, this method creates floor boards that resemble plywood more than a real wood floor.
Shopping Tip: Ask the manufacturer (or supplier/retailer) if the flooring is made from dry sawn or rotary peeled wood. If they don’t know the answer to this question, you should reevaluate your source. Order samples of the flooring and review photographs of the product to get a thorough understanding of what the flooring will look like. Don’t just look at the color, also consider the grain, heartwood, character and richness of the natural color (if your samples are already finished, you can sometimes see this on the backside of the sample).
Environmental Concerns — Internal & External
When you are selecting a wide plank floor for a residential or commercial space you shouldn’t have to worry about how the floor might impact the indoor air health quality of the space.
But, we live in a global economy, and a majority of the flooring sold in North America today is made overseas where manufacturing practices and environmental standards may not mimic those of US manufacturers. This is where concerns about VOC’s and formaldehyde can become a real concern and impact the indoor air.
The engineered floor covering you choose should be CARB2 compliant — one of the most stringent indoor air quality guidelines in the world. If you are using a prefinished wood floor, you want to make sure it meets or exceeds the guidelines for volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), both of which can impact indoor air health quality.
If you are really concerned about the environment, then also consider the flooring you purchase from a “local retailer” may actually be made outside North America, which creates a more negative ecological footprint on our dear mother earth. Can you really say you are shopping local if its not American made? If you really want to buy local, shop with a company that manufacturers their flooring right here in the USA. (Carlisle floors are proudly made in New Hampshire by American craftsmen, and our wood comes from sustainably harvested American forests.)
Shopping Tip: Ask the manufacturer (or supplier/retailer) where the flooring is manufactured, or what brand it is, then you can do some research to find out where their floors are made. You also want to verify if the flooring meets CARB2 and VOC content guidelines.
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