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Advantages & Disadvantages of Engineered Wood Floors

July 13, 2020

Looking into the advantages vs. disadvantages of engineered wood? Starting to get ridiculously overwhelmed trying to understand all the pros and cons of engineered flooring? Never fear! It’s time to stop and take a breath. We’re here to help. 

This guide will walk you through all the engineered wood advantages and engineered wood disadvantages you need to know about. Once you know the pros and cons, you’ll be able to decide whether engineered wood is the right type of wood flooring for you!

First of All: What is Engineered Wood?

Let’s start at the beginning. Does engineered wood fall into the category of “hardwood floor alternatives”? Absolutely not. Engineered wood is real wood. It’s just a little different than solid hardwood.

Solid wood vs. engineered wood: what’s the difference?

While solid wood is made from one piece of wood (no surprise there) engineered wood is made of solid wood plus super-durable plywood.

Think of it this way: solid hardwood grew up in a mansion on Millionaire’s Row. Plywood came from a shack on the wrong side of the tracks. These star-crossed lovers, married together, created engineered wood. 

With its real hardwood veneer and layered plywood core, engineered wood combines the durability of composite wood with the luxury of solid hardwood. 

Engineered hardwood has a veneer layer over plywood

We would never undersell engineered wood by calling it “fake wood flooring”. The best engineered wood flooring uses high-quality materials, has a thick veneer, and behaves the same as solid wood. 

These days, almost all of the best hardwood floor brands sell engineered wood, giving you more choices when buying a hardwood floor than ever before. And once engineered wood is installed, it’s impossible to distinguish it from solid hardwood. You can even use it to make creative wood floor designs, just like you can with solid wood!

Already sold? Us too. That’s why it’s one of the most popular types of wood flooring! But hold your horses, because there are some important engineered wood disadvantages to keep in mind.

Engineered Wood Disadvantages

Look, we love engineered wood because it can go where solid hardwood can’t. Plus, it can make exotic woods more affordable. And, it can sometimes make do-it-yourself flooring projects easier. But don’t run off to your local flooring retailer just yet—there are important questions you need to consider before you start picking out color samples. 

Along with the good stuff, there are a number of engineered wood disadvantages, too—and you could be very disappointed down the road if you don’t consider them now. Let’s jump in!

Some types of engineered wood can’t be refinished 

Even though engineered wood is super durable (engineered products often make our list of the best wood flooring for dogs), it will dent and scratch over time. That’s just life—especially if you have rowdy kids, naughty pets, or heavy furniture!

Many people buy hardwood floors for this exact reason, as solid hardwood can be sanded down and refinished almost indefinitely. Unfortunately, some types of engineered wood can’t be refinished more than once. And some types can’t be refinished at all

It all depends on the thickness of your veneer layer. A thicker veneer layer can be refinished multiple times. But, if there’s not enough wood in the veneer layer to allow for sanding, you can’t refinish it (because you’ll sand right down to the plywood layer)—and you’ll be looking up how to replace flooring much sooner than expected. 

You need to be careful when choosing a veneer (which may increase price)

Because of what we just mentioned, you need to choose a thicker veneer if you want to refinish your engineered wood. But of course, that could increase the price of your floors.

Most veneers range from 1mm to 3mm thick. For refinishing sake, we recommend a veneer layer of at least 3mm, as this can be sanded and refinished 2 or more times. If the veneer layer is thin—1 mm or less—it can’t be sanded or refinished at all. So much for longevity!

If that doesn’t work for your budget, take a gander at the pros and cons of laminate vs. hardwood floors. If you’re thinking “what is laminate flooring”, do yourself a favor and look into it—this composite product is both affordable and durable.

Engineered wood does not like water

Both solid and engineered wood are made of natural materials, and will warp and bend if they get soaked. Even the best engineered wood flooring products can’t resist standing water. Water damage is every homeowner’s nightmare—so if you don’t trust your roof (or if your plumbing is ancient), maybe see how tile vs. wood floors stack up before committing to engineered wood.

That said, engineered wood’s composite construction does make it less susceptible than hardwood to changes in humidity and temperature. Compared to solid wood flooring types, engineered hardwood is a safer bet in moisture-prone areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. 

However, if you’re planning on heating wood floors in your home, stick with hardwood or your surfaces might swell and buckle over time. 

And there are better wood-look options for wet areas

Look, we’re not talking about outdoor flooring options here, but there are some areas that benefit from more water-resistant surfaces—bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, for example. And while it’s more moisture-resistant than solid wood (as we mentioned), engineered wood will swell and buckle if it gets soaked. 

Translation: if you need some super water-resistant wood flooring, you might want to think outside of the engineered hardwood box. Look into the pros and cons of linoleum vs. laminate, or heck, even tile vs. laminate. These days, many types of tile come in wood-look finishes!

If you’re not sold on tile, today’s best types of vinyl flooring (like LVT) blend realistic wood-look visuals with completely waterproof construction. Win-win! And unless you want to install concrete flooring that looks like wood, it’s also the most scratch-resistant flooring option around.

Low-quality engineered wood can be dangerous

Low-quality engineered wood doesn’t just fail the endurance test—it can also be harmful to your family’s health. Talk about your engineered wood disadvantages!

The EPA has found that low-quality engineered wood is sometimes made with glue that contains formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) that goes through an off-gassing process once it’s installed in your home.  

Thankfully, very few types of wood flooring contain VOCs anymore. But when you’re buying engineered wood, it’s still something you should look out for. Our advice? Get your floors from a local flooring store in your area rather than from a big box store. They specialize in helping you find quality materials and don’t sell risky products. 

And low-quality products can wear out quickly

Remember: not all engineered wood is created equal. Be careful to avoid low-quality products from cheaper producers (*cough*lumberliquidators*cough*), as your initial savings will be lost when your floors wear out before their time.

Start with some quick online research. A little work today saves a lot of trouble later. After all, you don’t want to have to google “how to install hardwood floors” again after only a couple of years! 

Engineered Wood Advantages

We admit, we’re biased. Even though there are some engineered wood disadvantages, it’s still one of our favorite types of flooring. There are so many advantages to choosing this material—and not just because it’s an easy way to get the look and feel of the best hardwood floors without breaking the bank. Here are some engineered wood advantages:

Engineered wood can save you money—especially with exotic woods

If you’re obsessed with the look and luster exotic woods like mahogany or teak, you’re not alone. Exotic hardwoods are a gorgeous choice, but they can get pricey—and fast. 

So if you’re considering an exotic wood species like Brazilian Walnut (one of the most durable wood flooring options around), think about getting an engineered product. Because they use less solid wood, engineered exotic woods often cost less than solid exotic woods. Basically, they can help keep your wood flooring cost in budget without compromising on beauty! 

Installation is often quicker, easier, and cheaper

engineered wood disadvantages do not include installation—with click-together systems, it's seriously easy to install

Who wants to spend a week tiptoeing across an unfinished wood floor, ducking workers, and drying glue spots? Not us! Home renovations can drag on, turning a fun transformation into a frustrating mess. 

One of the biggest advantages of engineered wood flooring is how quickly and easily it can be installed if you purchase it as a click-together flooring system. 

Click-together flooring is exactly what it sounds like—flooring boards pre-made to snap together in a jiff. These systems can be installed over existing flooring as “floating floors” (no need to break out the claw hammer), and don’t need to be nailed or glued down. 

This easy installation can make the cost to install engineered hardwood floors a lot cheaper, but make sure to talk it out with your contractor for specifics. They’ll probably thank you for making it easy on them as well! 

Oh, and forget what you’ve heard about the disadvantages of floating floors. If installed correctly, click-together engineered wood can be just as durable as nail-down solid wood.

Engineered wood is DIY-friendly

As we mentioned, click-together flooring doesn’t need to be attached to a subfloor (and “what is subflooring”, you ask?). This doesn’t just make it easier and cheaper to install for professionals—it also makes it some of the easiest flooring to install for DIY-ers, too!

So whether you’re thinking about redoing your wood floors, putting in new surfaces on the cheap, or just looking into the cost to replace carpet with hardwood, remember—there are some engineered wood disadvantages, but ease of installation is not one of them.

There are tons of unusual-but-amazing engineered wood products 

Want all the benefits of an engineered wood floor but with a little added oomph? We hear you. Luckily, tons of wood-adjacent products like bamboo and cork also come as engineered options. 

Have you looked into the pros and cons of cork flooring? You should! What about bamboo flooring vs. laminate? Definitely check it out.

Whatever surfaces you want, from the best cork flooring to the best bamboo flooring, you can find them as easy-to-install engineered options. Don’t believe us? Check out the pros and cons of engineered bamboo flooring. They’ll blow you away!  

Conclusion: There Are Definitely Some Engineered Wood Disadvantages, but They’re Pretty Minor 

Yes, there are some disadvantages of engineered hardwood, even though still one of our favorite types of wood flooring. But in comparison to the enormous upside engineered wood offers, these disadvantages are minor.

Just make sure you carefully consider your own specific circumstances before you buy. While engineered wood might work well for sunroom flooring in San Diego, it won’t work as well for mudroom flooring in Montauk. As always, an in-depth conversation with the professionals at your local flooring retailer is the best place to start!

Ready for more info? Read on! 

About The Author

Rose Mraz

Rose's career has taken her from small-town teacher to mixologist at several award-winning NYC cocktail bars (and everywhere in between). These days, she plies her craft as an SEO writer specializing in the confluence of wellness, politics, and the service industry.

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