Congratulations! You’ve researched all the different types of wood flooring and decided that engineered wood is right for you. But now what? Choosing the best engineered wood flooring for your home is trickier than it sounds.
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, what’s the best engineered wood flooring brand to buy?
Worry not, friend. We’re going to answer all of these questions (and more) below—as we show you how to choose the best engineered wood flooring for your home.
First of all: 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 a type of fake wood flooring, you are just plain wrong.
Engineered wood flooring may not be solid throughout, but it is real wood. Specifically, it’s a layer of solid wood fixed to a composite wood core. As such, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between solid and engineered wood once they’re installed.
Engineered wood cores are usually made out of plywood, but some products use fiberboard instead. We’ll talk more about that later. The top layer of solid wood, called the veneer, is a strip of real hardwood and can come from just about any tree species.
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? Because 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 disappointment”.
You’ll find a range of veneer thicknesses on the engineered wood market from 1mm–3mm and beyond. This Old House recommends a veneer layer of at least 3 mm, as veneers of this width can be sanded and refinished 2 or more times.
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 that some are more durable than others. So can you have beauty and durability?
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. The best wood flooring for dogs and other pets almost always comes from harder wood species.
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. It’s also what enables homeowners to install comfy wood floor bathrooms.
But are all cores created equal, you ask? Absolutely not. As we said, engineered wood cores are 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.
And look for plywood with a higher number of layers
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.
The more layers of finish, the more durable your engineered wood floor
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. Once again, we’d recommend ensuring you have atleast 5 coats of finish, or you might be refinishing (or, heaven forbid, bleaching your wood floors) earlier than you’d like.
Some of the best engineered wood flooring products even offer textured finishes that can create interesting or antique looks, if that’s your thing (and yes—that’s our thing).
Qualities to avoid in engineered wood flooring
Let’s be honest—there are pros and cons to just about every type of flooring on the market. Engineered wood is no different. But if you keep the following advice in mind, you can avoid almost all of the engineered wood disadvantages you may have heard about.
With that in mind, here’s what you should avoid if you’re looking for the best engineered hardwood.
Avoid products that lack a UV-protective finish
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 floors are going to be in the sun a lot (and we’re not just talking about sunroom flooring here), make sure to buy a UV-protected product.
Engineered wood floors are no exception, no matter how thick the veneer layer. So do yourself a favor—avoid softer wood species. Pine flooring and Douglas fir flooring, for instance, are both “softwoods”. Solid softwoods may last a very long time, but because they’re more easily scratched, they need to be refinished more often. And with engineered wood, frequent refinishing can quickly wear through your floors—and goodbye resale value.
Look, we don’t want to make it sound like softer woods don’t make good floors. They do! But choosing between a hardwood and a softwood is like choosing between carpet vs. laminate, or tile vs. laminate, or even tile vs. wood. They’re all fantastic types of flooring, but they each have upsides and downsides. And when it comes to longevity in engineered floors, 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. Once again: goodbye resale value.
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 laminate or different types of vinyl flooring. These days, it’s really hard to tell the difference between vinyl plank and actual hardwood.
Avoid engineered wood floor brands that 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 of engineered wood have been known to use glue that contains formaldehyde in their products. These floors go through an off-gassing process once they’re installed—which can be hazardous to your family’s health.
But luckily, 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.
How much does the best engineered wood flooring cost?
We’ll be honest—the trail gets a little muddy when talking about price. The cost to install engineered wood floors varies widely, and you can pay from $3 all the way to $15/sq. foot for materials alone.
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 replacing flooring on a budget, you can save some cash by installing on your own floor—many engineered wood boards come as click-together floors for easy installation.
What are the best engineered wood flooring brands?
As we said before (and you probably already know because you’ve done your research), there are a bazillion hardwood floor 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 has been producing hardwood flooring for a long time—their motto is “Often imitated, never duplicated”. They offer 156 engineered wood products, of which 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 wood floor colors, species, and textured finishes. The company also offers a variety of veneer thicknesses and plywood core layers.
Armstrong’s engineered wood comes in click-together, glue-down, and nail-down varieties. That means you have plenty of options when it comes to installation! That being said, if you’re going the DIY flooring route, there are some (minor) disadvantages of floating floors you may want to take into account.
Fun fact: Armstrong’s website tells you exactly what experience is needed for a do-it-yourself flooring project with any of their floors.
While the company is now owned by Mohawk, Pergo is best known as the creator of laminate flooring (which they invented back in the ‘70s). And now, they’re a leading engineered wood flooring brand as well.
Pergo Max is the company’s engineered wood line, and they keep the options pretty straightforward with three species choices: hickory, maple, and oak. In addition, they offer a variety of light, medium, and dark shades in addition to 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!
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 anytype of flooring.
Mohawk’s engineered flooring line is called TecWood, which is offered in acacia, walnut, oak, hickory, and maple. TecWood also boasts a variety of textured finishes like “hand-scraped” and “distressed”.
Mohawk’s engineered wood flooring is constructed with Uniclic technology (a click-together flooring system) and can be installed as a floating floor, glued down, nailed down, 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.
Mohawk is one of the largest and well-regarded manufacturers in the world. So if you’re looking for the best engineered wood flooring brands but don’t want to jump down the research rabbit hole, it’s a fantastic option.
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 eco-friendly flooring options that are customizable by tree species, color, wood patterns, and board width. The company also offers a variety of installation methods including glue-down, nail-down, staple-down, or click-together.
Like so many others, you can find Shaw products in big box stores or at your local flooring store. And like most of the other engineered wood flooring brands, Shaw has a ton of options to choose from.
With Shaw’s different engineered wood collections, you can choose from your favorite tree species (maple, oak, pine, or birch, just to name a few) plus a number of textured finishes. 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, glue-down, and nail-down.
Bruce is one of the big manufacturers, 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.
This Canadian company sources the majority of its 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.
A cool 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”. Oh, and fun fact: Mercier offers finishes that are free from VOCs and resistant to mold and mildew.
When perusing Indusparquet’s collection of engineered wood flooring, you’ll see their huge catalog. Seriously, the extent of their tree species and board width options is seemingly endless.
Some of Indusparquet’s engineered wood floorboards are even recommended for wall installation! Pretty cool, if you ask us.
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 patterns 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 hope we’ve given you everything you need to choose the best engineered wood flooring for your home.
Our final advice? Go with an engineered wood 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:
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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