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The ultimate guide to understanding engineered wood floors

Amy Buxton Amy Buxton
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Choosing the right flooring for every room in the home doesn't have to be a challenge, as professional floorers are now singing the praises of some innovative and stylish options that fall under the mantle of engineered wood floors. 

A perfect combination of the gorgeous good looks of real wood flooring and practicality, these modern surfaces have been specifically designed to offer a continuous aesthetic throughout any home, without there being any concern as to moisture ingress, difficulty in cleaning or cost. Simple to install and maintain, engineered wood surfaces are a handy solution for all those pesky flooring mistakes of the past, such as peeling laminate in a bathroom and don't have to break the bank, thanks to a wide variety of finishes now being readily available. Considered by some to be the more attractive relative of laminate flooring, engineered wood planks are more than worth considering, which is why we've put together this handy guide to explain what they are and how they work!

What are engineered wood floors?

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Engineered wood floors aren't some kind of black magic, they are simply a cost-effective way to get the look and feel of real wood, with some added durability built-in. Because of these elements, they are perfect for absolutely any room in a house, but understanding their composition can lead to a more intrinsic acceptance of them as a potential purchase.

Originally designed to be laid on concrete pads, engineered planks are layers of veneer and moisture-resistant board stacked on top of each other, glued and compressed, to form a solid end result that can resistant water ingress and not warp. For this reason, they have been particularly popular as finishing materials for basement conversions, but thanks to how realistic they look, every room has now been taking advantage of them. The thicker the top layer of veneer, the more the floor can be refinished, which is why a plank with a top veneer of 6mm tends to cost a fair amount more than that of 2mm, but it should be a lifetime flooring investment.

Interior designers recognised that real wood flooring simply isn't always appropriate, but the advent of engineered planks meant that the aesthetic could finally be enjoyed by everyone, in every space.

Engineered wood floors in kitchen spaces?

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So many people have longed for a wooden floor in their kitchen, but given the amount of water and potential damage, chosen something more easily maintained. Those days are long gone now, however, thanks to engineered wood flooring. Where once, laminate flooring would have been chosen for kitchen spaces, now, engineered wood is being installed to create a gorgeous and realistic finish, not to mention a surface that is easy to clean and repair.

Kitchen spills need to be taken care of straight away and while wooden flooring can be wiped, the water will, eventually, create damage, usually in the form of warping, which is why it is frequently sidelined for more practical choices. Engineered wood flooring can be easily washed, wiped and even, should a stray vegetable knife plunge into the top surface, be sanded and re-varnished. You definitely can't do that with laminates, tiles or linoleum, which are the three most common choices for kitchen floor finishes.

Laminate vs engineered wood floors.

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Given that engineered wood flooring is meant to be a suitable alternative to real wood, but with some added practicality, there are natural comparisons to laminate options that need to be addressed. The most pertinent issues include:

- Cost. Laminates tend to be cheaper than engineered wood flooring because they are made of less hardy composite materials and tend to be just a little less sophisticated. With thinner top veneers in place, they simply cannot stand up to the dame levels of wear and tear that engineered planks can, hence they are usually a far cheaper option.

- Quality. Thinner veneers, more need for insulating underlay and not generally usable in wet spaces mean that laminate flooring can look good, but not always live up to desired quality levels. At least certainly not in a cost-effective way! For rooms where heavy traffic isn;t too much of a concern, such as bedrooms and home offices, a laminate could work well, but engineered wood flooring is a surefire bet for everywhere else. 

- Realism. Laminates have come a long way in terms of realistic 

Engineered wood flooring costs.

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It stands to reason that there is a sliding scale when it comes to engineered wood flooring costs, as there are so many different thicknesses of laminates to take into account. The least expensive styles can come in at just $2.50 per square foot, but the top laminate will obviously be rather thin and not allow for any refinishing in the future. The upper end of the engineered flooring cost bracket is around $10 per square foot, but most fall into the middle ground, of around $5.

It's important to remember that the thicker an engineered plank is, the more it will cost and the wood veneers used will also have a big impact on the price as well, as the rarer a wood is, the more it will cost.

Engineered wood floors: easy to clean?

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The durability of engineered wood floors tends to be excellent, thanks to the compressed construction method and in turn, this makes them ideal for every room, from rarely used spaces through to areas that se a lot of traffic every single day. A fantastic extra bonus is that the more expensive engineered floor styles can be reworked and refinished, as and when damage, scratches or uneven surfaces become an issue. Simply sanded back and varnished like regular wooden floors, these flooring boards can be kept in pristine condition very simply and that's to say nothing about regular cleaning techniques.

Resistant to water and soap damage, engineered boards can be vacuumed, mopped and even scrubbed like any other material, but without any fear of rot or damage setting in. 

Pros and cons overview of engineered wood floors.

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Engineered wood floors might sound like the perfect solution for everyone, but of course, they have their pros and cons like any other interior design material. The most notable benefits and downsides are:

Pros.
1. A huge number of varieties are available, so any wood effect can be enjoyed.
2. The surface can be easily cleaned and revamped.
3. Engineered wood is easier to care for than real wood.
4. It's easy to lay and doesn't need to be done by a professional.
5. Few people will be able to tell you don't have real wooden floorboards.
6. It's naturally insulating.
7. It can be fitted over underfloor heating.

Cons.
1. It can be expensive to buy, depending on the thickness of the veneer wanted and the wood variety.

While there are demonstrably far fewer cons to engineered wood flooring than pros, some homeowners simply won't consider anything but real wood, which is why the final decision really comes down to personal taste. 

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