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How to Find the Best Engineered Wood Flooring

April 3, 2020

Congratulations! You’ve navigated through all the different types of wood flooring and decided that engineered wood is the product for you. But now what? Choosing the best engineered wood flooring is a huge mountain to climb. 

There are so many things to consider! What qualities should you look for in the best engineered wood flooring? What qualities should you avoid? Which engineered woods are the most durable? Which types can be refinished? And with so many manufacturers, who should you buy your engineered wood from?

Well, friend, lace up your hiking boots—because we’re going to climb the engineered wood mountain with you. Below, we’re going to answer all of these questions and help you find the best engineered wood flooring for your home.

What is engineered wood flooring, exactly?

You almost certainly know this already, but we’ll get it out of the way right now—if you think engineered wood flooring is fake wood flooring, you are just plain wrong

Engineered wood flooring may not be solid throughout, but it is real hardwood fixed to a composite wood core. So when it’s installed, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between solid and engineered wood. 

That core is usually made out of plywood, but some engineered wood uses fiberboard instead. We’ll talk more about that later. The top layer, called the veneer, is a strip of real hardwood and can come from just about any tree species—and in a variety of widths. 

Installing engineered wood flooring with tools. The bets engineered wood flooring has click-together grooves.

Most engineered wood flooring comes with a factory finish—usually 5-9 finish coats—so you don’t have to worry about any messy applications once your new floors are installed. Some of the best engineered wood flooring even offers a textured finish that creates an antique look, if that’s your thing. And yes—that’s our thing. 

Qualities to look for in the best engineered wood flooring

Ok! Now that we’ve gotten the boring stuff out of the way, let’s talk about the qualities you’re going to want to see in the best engineered wood flooring products. 

Always look for a thicker veneer if you want your floors to last

When it comes to engineered wood flooring, you should always look for a thicker veneer layer. Why? It can be refinished! 

If there’s not enough wood in the veneer layer to allow for sanding, you can’t refinish your engineered wood flooring. And if you can’t refinish your floors, you’re basically out of luck once they’re worn out. And that, friend, is what we call a “major bummer”.

You’ll find a range of veneer thickness on the engineered wood market from 1mm–3mm. This Old House recommends a veneer layer of 3 mm and 7-9 finish layers, as these can be sanded and refinished 2 or more times. 

And look for a durable wood species for your veneer

Picking out your wood species—aka the type of tree your wood comes from—is one of the most exciting parts of choosing a new floor. There are tons of different tree species out there, each with a unique, lovely look. But it’s true—some are more durable than others. So can you have beauty and durability? 

Duh! And thankfully, we have the Janka Hardness Scale to help us figure out which hardwood species stand up best to dents, dings, and scratches. The higher the Janka rating, the more durable your floor is going to be. 

If you have pets or young ones that are hard on your floors, you’ll definitely want to look for a type of tree that ranks higher on the Janka scale—oak over pine, for instance. There are a lot of awesome options out there, so ask your local flooring dealer for the best wood species for your lifestyle. 

The best engineered wood flooring often has a high-quality plywood core

One of engineered wood’s big advantages over solid wood flooring types: it can tolerate fluctuations in temperature and humidity. It’s one of the reasons that engineered wood flooring is often a better choice for kitchens and basements.

But are all cores created equal, you ask? Nope. Like we said, the core of engineered wood is usually made from fiberboard or plywood. Both these materials are made from real wood, but their construction is a little different. 

Fiberboard is constructed from random chunks of wood glued together under pressure. Plywood is constructed with individual wood fibers glued in a perpendicular fashion—often called a grain pattern.  

When it comes to strength and durability, plywood wins over fiberboard. The number of layers in your plywood also plays a part in finding the best engineered wood flooring—the typical range is 3-9 layers, but some floors offer more. The more layers (or plies), the more durable and high-quality the product. 

Of course, plywood with 9+ layers will likely increase the cost of the flooring. Like mom always said, you get what you pay for. 

Things to avoid if you’re looking for the best engineered wood flooring

Let’s be honest—there are pros and cons to just about every type of flooring on the market. Even when we’re talking about the best hardwood floors, there are downsides! Here’s what you should avoid if you’re looking for the best engineered hardwood.

Avoid products without a UV-protective finish (if your floors will be in the sun)

As said, there are pros and cons of hardwood flooring. One of the cons: wood (solid or engineered) can fade in direct sunlight if it doesn’t have a UV-protective finish. 

If your desired engineered wood doesn’t come with such a finish, ask your local flooring specialists about other options. They can help you compare laminate vs. hardwood floors, bamboo flooring vs. laminate, even the pros and cons of tile vs. laminate. The list goes on forever.

If you want the best engineered wood flooring, avoid softer woods

The truth about engineered hardwood flooring is that it can be one of the most durable flooring options out there. But all wood flooring types are susceptible to damage from pets, kids, heels, you name it. Even the best bamboo flooring types (which are crazy durable) can be dented or scratched.

Engineered wood floors are no exception, no matter how thick the veneer layer. So do yourself a favor—avoid softer wood species. Pine and American walnut, for instance, are all in the soft wood category. Instead of these, opt for something like oak. 

To protect against scratches from dogs, use a thicker veneer in your engineered wood flooring

We’d also suggest looking into the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring, or even taking a peek at engineered cork flooring (seriously, it’s surprisingly durable and one of the best types of cork flooring around). 

Look, we don’t want to make it sound like softer woods don’t make good floors. They do! But choosing between a hard wood and a soft wood is like choosing between carpet vs. laminate flooring. They’re both fantastic, but they each have their upsides and downsides. And when it comes to longevity, harder woods are the way to go.

Avoid engineered hardwood with a veneer thinner than 2mm

When the veneer layer of an engineered product is thin—1mm or less—it can’t be sanded and refinished at all. Goodbye, longevity.

That means you should avoid buying an engineered wood floor with a veneer layer thinner than 2mm. If that throws a wrench in your budget, maybe think about taking a peek at other options like vinyl plank flooring. These days, it’s really hard to tell the difference between LVT/vinyl plank and actual hardwood. Plus, it’s often a waterproof flooring option.

Avoid manufacturers who produce low-quality products  

The cons of engineered wood flooring are far and few between. However: we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the elephant in the room—volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some manufacturers have been known to use glue that contains formaldehyde in engineered wood. The floor then goes through an off-gassing process once it’s installed. 

But: most manufacturers do not use these adhesives, which is why—and we can’t stress this enough—you need to buy your flooring from a local flooring store rather than a big box store. They specialize in this stuff and don’t sell low-quality products like the box stores do. 

Engineered wood flooring costs

Okay, so the trail gets a little muddy when talking about cost. The price of engineered wood flooring ranges hugely, from around $3 to around $15 per square foot for material. 

It all depends on the type of wood, the thickness of the veneer layer, and the quality of the core—specifically, the number of plies. 

If you’re looking for ideas on how to replace flooring on a budget, you can save some cash by installing on your own floor—most engineered wood boards are made with click-together flooring technology.   

The best engineered wood flooring brands

As we said before (and you probably already know ‘cause you’ve done your research), there are a bazillion wood flooring brands out there. We’re going to snapshot 9 companies producing the best engineered wood flooring options on the market. The list is in no particular order. We don’t play favorites.

Armstrong

Armstrong has been producing hardwood flooring for a long time—their motto is “Often imitated, never duplicated”. They offer 156 engineered wood products and 34 are made in the USA! #Homemade. 

One big advantage of shopping with Armstrong is the company’s high number of engineered wood options. Armstrong offers a variety of colors, wood species, and textured finishes. The company also offers a variety of veneer thicknesses and plywood core layers. 

Installation methods vary since their engineered wood floors can be installed as floating floors, glued, or nailed. A cool thing about their website: they tell you exactly what experience is needed for a do-it-yourself flooring project with any of their floors! 

Just remember: if you’re going the DIY flooring route, there are some disadvantages of floating floors to think about (but most of them are quite minor). Take it into account though!

Pergo

Pergo is best known as the creator of laminate flooring (which they invented back in the ‘70s), and they’re a leading manufacturer of engineered wood flooring as well.

Pergo Max is the company’s engineered wood line, and they keep the options pretty straightforward with three choices: hickory, maple, and oak. In addition, they offer a variety of light, medium, and dark shades and fun finishing options like hand-scraped, smooth, and wire-brushed. If you’re interested in buying from Pergo, don’t forget to check out these Pergo reviews first!

Mohawk

In the past, Mohawk was the company to go to if you wanted to know all about carpet. But today, they’re the company to go to if you want to know about any types of flooring

Mohawk’s engineered flooring line is called TecWood. With TecWood, you can choose from acacia, walnut, oak, hickory, or maple. They offer a variety of textured finishes like hand-scraped, distressed, and traditional. 

Mohawk’s engineered wood flooring is constructed with Uniclic technology (a click-together flooring system) and can be installed as a floating floor, glued, nailed, or stapled to the subfloor. TecWood also has a lot of board width options, from narrower 3” boards all the way up to beefy 7½ ” boards. 

Mannington

Mannington is a 4th-generation, family-owned company. If you’re looking for an environmentally-conscious manufacturer who offers thoughtful, sustainable products—this is the company for you. 

You don’t have to worry about toxic VOCs because Mannington uses water-based finishes. They’re one of the few manufacturers that we’ve found who boast the use of no VOCs, formaldehyde-free adhesives, and sustainable forestry practices! #EarthWarriors

Mannington engineered wood products offer a bunch of options including tree species, colors, wood patterns, and a variety of board widths. Mannington also offers a variety of installation methods including glued, nailed, stapled, or floating.

Shaw

Like so many others, you can find Shaw products in big box stores or at your local flooring store. Like most of the other big companies, Shaw has a ton of options to choose from.

Among the different collections, you can choose your favorite tree species—maple, oak, pine, or birch, just to name a few. Shaw products have an interesting list of textured finishes to choose from, too—smooth, subtle scraped, heavy scraped, wire-brushed, or distressed. Whether you want a modern look or an old-colonial feel, Shaw has you covered.

Like the competition, Shaw also offers a variety of installation methods including click-together, glued, or nailed.

Bruce

Bruce is one of the biggies and you can find their engineered wood products all over the country. They have a ton of options to choose from. 

Bruce also has a good reputation for ease of installation. And of Bruce’s different engineered flooring options, they have a few dozen that are DIY-friendly for the “beginner” installer. 

Mercier

This Canadian company sources the majority of their wood in North America. Mercier is a GreenGuard company that manufactures quality, eco-friendly, and sustainable products. They offer a lot of engineered wood floor options for just about any personal taste.

Mercier offers many collections with a variety of wood species to choose from: walnut, maple, hickory, and oak. A fun option that separates Mercier from some of its competitors is the range of board width you can find in their products, from 2¼” up to 8 ½”. 

Fun fact: Mercier offers finishes that are free from VOCs and resistant to mold and mildew.

Indusparquet

Indusparquet began in Brazil in 1970. Since then, the company has become a manufacturer of some of the best wood flooring types in the world. 

When perusing Indusparquet’s collection of engineered wood flooring, you’ll see the limitless options. The extent of their tree species and board width options are seemingly endless!  

Some of Indusparquet’s engineered wood floorboards are even recommended for wall installation! Pretty cool, if you ask us.

Kahrs

Kahrs is a Swedish company and is known for its high production standards and sustainable forestry practices. The Kahrs website is quite impressive. They provide a lot of information about the quality of their engineered wood flooring products—they even include the number of times the selected choice can be sanded.   

Kahrs offers a variety of wood species, color options, and design features—hand-scraped, brushed, smoked, saw marked, beveled edges, etc.

Oh, and we can’t forget to mention the beautiful, unique wood floor designs that you wouldn’t normally expect from engineered wood flooring! Above all else, Kahrs is probably best revered for the ease of installation with their quality interlocking system.

Conclusion: what’s the best wood engineered wood flooring?

If your research into different types of wood flooring has taken you all the way here, we’re sorry—the answer is a bit underwhelming. Because the best engineered wood flooring for you and your family is…totally your choice!  

Go with a brand that resonates with you. Focus on quality construction. Keep our lists of things to look for and things to avoid in mind. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

And now that you know all there is to know about the best engineered wood flooring, use our flooring stores near me tool to connect with a knowledgeable retailer. They are, without a doubt, your best resource for buying new floors. 

And for other inspirational flooring ideas, check out these articles:

About The Author

Kimberly Severance

Best known as a therapeutic horseback riding instructor and mom to a 3-year old sassy dachshund, Kim enjoys writing and a good research project. She also loves a good DIY project—probably inspired by growing up in an old Connecticut colonial.

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