Engineered Hardwood: Three Things to Keep in Mind

Kendall 8-ply engineered hardwood

If you have your heart set on installing engineered hardwood, make sure that you know what you’re getting. While there are endless factories cranking out product, flooring is not created equal—far from it!

The beauty of a well-engineered and manufactured hardwood is that you can install it below, on or above grade in pretty much any room of the house. For a truly stable and durable floor:

  • Look for hardwood constructed in a cross-ply construction method of 8 to 12 layers. There are plenty of 3-layer engineered hardwood products on the market, but they don’t stand up well to stress. Cross-ply construction means a layer of plywood is laid with the grain vertical, the adhesive is applied and the next layer is laid with the grain horizontal. The more layers, the more stress is absorbed and diffused layer to layer, and the more stable the floor. (The top layer is a veneer sliced from a quality wood and treated with a finishing coat.)

    Gevaldo 12-ply engineered hardwood by Laurentian

  • Find out what you can about quality controls and moisture controls applied at the factory level. Ask questions and find out what the salesperson can tell you about the processes involved. Look for an ISO 9001 certification on the carton—this ensures international standards of quality control. If you care about the environment, look for the ISO 14001 certification, which verifies that the factory has achieved the highest possible level for sustainable use of resources. Besides which, factories with these certifications are cleaner, safer and healthier environments for workers. Are the plywood and veneer woods subject to moisture controls from start to finish? How? (There should be special conditioning rooms for a start.) Is the veneer heat or vacuum-dried? (The latter is better for the final product.)
  • Learn about the finish applied to the veneer. Look for a solid warranty on the finish/coat layer, and don’t believe anyone who tells you it’s fine to sand it down to the raw wood and refinish. If you do that, you void the warranty in most cases. With a quality product, you should be able to refinish by carefully abrading some of the surface layer and re-coating according to the manufacturer’s exact specifications. Be very suspect if someone tells you to sand an engineered product down to the veneer.

There are actually engineered hardwoods made specifically for northern climates, resulting in floors that are more adaptable to extremes in humidity and temperature than traditional hardwood—you just need to ask the right questions. Your thoughts? Share your comments below!

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Matching shoes, purse…and flooring?

plank & tile leather flooring

Plank and tile leather flooring from TORLYS

Leather makes a classic, elegant and timeless fashion statement. And now you can add a touch of luxury to your home with leather flooring. TORLYS Leather floors are available in plank or tile formats with cork backing  for comfort and noise reduction. This is a floating floor made from recycled leather that comes with a 35 year residential warranty.

By far the most durable, reliable and beautiful leather flooring product on the market, TORLYS Leather floors use Uniclic joint technology for ease of installation. Suitable for most rooms with the exception of bathrooms and wet areas, the floor is fairly simple to install and maintain with TORLY recommended products.

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What’s new in Bamboo?

Bamboo floor in living room

Bamboo flooring feels luxurious underfoot. After swapping out parquet and laminate with bamboo, we were pleasantly surprised at just how good it felt to our feet. Beyond that, it looks beautiful while proving relatively easy to maintain.

Is it as durable as expected? Not quite. While the floor holds up well, it does scratch, just like hardwood. According to Nufloors, residential bamboo rates around the same hardness as red oak, though claims for higher ratings abound for composite strand technology. Darker bamboo tends to be softer due to carbonization, a heating process used to achieve deeper hues.

What is new is the broad range of color selection, and multiplicity of installation methods. Today bamboo floors can be nailed, glued or clicked together like laminate. European manufacturers are even experimenting with bamboo fiber and bamboo/poly blend carpets which were debuted at Domotex earlier in the year.

In Canada, the Eco-Series bamboo line from Nadurra recently earned the FSC stamp (Forest Stewardship Council), assuring buyers that the bamboo is grown, harvested and manufactured in an environmentally sustainable way. For all the claims that bamboo flooring is green, FSC certification is a rare achievement.

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Only in Glasgow?

Whiskey & Wood Flooring

Recycled wood flooring

Recycling has gone to new lengths in Scotland, where an eye for savings and a love of fine malt whiskey meet to combine tradition and practicality in oak flooring fashioned from whiskey barrels.

McKay Flooring of Glasgow launched their “whiskey barrel flooring” in the spring of 2010, and while savings are huge in terms of preserving what amounts to a national treasure, the pricing isn’t too bad either. If conversions are correct, the cost works out to $319.53 (USD) for just under 11 square feet, but it’s not clear if the product is available outside the UK.

The look is variegated and warm with branding marks from the barrel clearly visible on the planks. Planks come in random lengths and widths vary according to the type of barrel used–the flooring is glued down.

Apart from the unique look, whiskey barrel flooring has a distinct scent of oak and vanilla for those who get close enough to sniff–perhaps after a raising a glass too many?


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Choosing a floor? Visit a flooring specialist!

Retail flooring specialist

Ask a retail flooring expert for advice.

Granted, floors are the proverbial “fifth wall” in a home, but I’m betting very few of your walls take anywhere near the abuse that your floors get on a daily basis–and if they do, maybe it’s time to enroll the kids in a rock climbing class at the local gym. Choosing the right floor covering requires you to think about traffic patterns, intended use, decor, durability, ease of installation and price.

So while you’re out “kicking the tires,” make sure you visit a store that specializes in retail flooring along with your trips to the hardware and home supply stores, particularly if you’re thinking of installing it yourself. This is the place where you can ask questions and expect some useful, reliable answers. Flooring is not one of a dozen things they do–it’s the only thing they do, and if they’ve been around for a while, they’re probably doing a pretty successful job of it. You’ll glean a tip or two and gain insight into value-added services such as custom moldings. Surprisingly, day-to-day prices often do compare to the big box stores, although they can’t match them for discounted loss-leader items. Then again, it’s a rare big box store that can match a flooring specialist for service.



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