Disadvantages of Engineered Wood Flooring

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Disadvantages of Engineered Wood Flooring

Are you considering laying engineered wood flooring over solid hardwood or laminate flooring? Worried about the disadvantages of engineered wood? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Engineered hardwood is one of those flooring options that’s a popular as it is misunderstood. Don’t be surprised to even find some homeowners and solid hardwood diehard calling it ‘fake wood’.

This blog discusses everything you need to know about engineered wood flooring, including its advantages; and whether it makes for better flooring material in comparison to solid hardwood.

What is engineered wood flooring?

Engineered wood is a flooring material that features multi-ply or three-ply construction for enhanced structural stability. The term ‘engineered’ only refers to the fact that this kind of wood flooring material has been specifically designed to look the way it does. That aside- engineered wood is comprised of layers of natural wood. Only one type of engineered wood flooring contains any composite lumber components- and that’s HDF-core engineered wood flooring.

You can differentiate engineered wood flooring from laminate flooring by the material used in the decorative layer. The latter uses a print for this layer, while engineered wood uses real wood for the same layer.

Also, engineered wood comprises a base layer- also known as the core board- that’s designed to provide more structural stability than solid wood under conditions of heat and moisture.

The various types of engineered wood flooring are defined below:

1. Multi-ply engineered wood

Multi-ply engineered wood- according to floor experts, multi-ply engineered wood is as close as it gets to solid wood. The multi-layered design helps prevent over-expansion of the wood boards, while the plywood core provides extra strength and stability.

2. Three-ply engineered wood

Three-ply engineered wood- this type of flooring is known to provide enhanced resistance to cupping and over-expansion. Three-ply engineered wood is best used on floors where the subfloor comprises joists with short spans between the supporting columns.

This is because- unlike multi-ply engineered wood- the core of three-ply wood flooring is not strong enough to provide adequate support on subfloors with larger joist spans.

3. High-Density Fiberboard (HDF) Core Engineered Flooring

High-Density Fiberboard (HDF) Core Engineered Flooring- this type of engineered wood flooring using HDF as the core material in place of plywood, resulting in enhanced, strength, stability, and moisture resistance. The HDF core is made by combining recycled hardwood and resin, whereby the mixture is ground and then compressed for a hardy material.

Disadvantages of engineered wood flooring

Engineered wood flooring offers multiple advantages, including enhanced durability, less maintenance requirements, and increased resistance to warping and bowing. Despite these upsides, however, this type of flooring has various disadvantages, which we go through in detail below:

Disadvantages of Engineered Wood Flooring

1. Susceptible to Fading

With prolonged exposure to sunlight rays, engineered wood is susceptible to fading. The good thing, however, is that you can reduce the likelihood of fading by using drapes and blinds to protect your engineered hardwood from direct sunlight exposure.

2. Dents and Scratches Easily

While engineered hardwood has fewer maintenance requirements in comparison to solid wood, it’s still susceptible to dents and pet scratches. Many consider such dents to be unsightly and detrimental to the home’s overall aesthetic appeal.

3. Poor Moisture Resistance

Engineered hardwood will soak up significant amounts of moisture over time, consequently encouraging the growth of mold fungi and other microbes. Mold spores are a health hazard as they can trigger asthma attacks and other allergies.

What’s more, moisture can lead to structural weakening of your wood frame floor system by causing the engineered wood boards to shift and buckle. As such, it’s not wise to use engineered wood for flooring in wet areas like the kitchen or the bathroom.

4. Poor-Quality Core Construction

It’s important to note that not all engineered wood is constructed the same, as different manufacturers use different design ideas for various reasons. You’ll- therefore- find that some manufacturers use cheaper, weaker materials for the core layer, such as oriented strand board. Such alternatives to plywood are structurally weaker and less-tolerant to temperature fluctuations, leading to problems down the line.

5. High Cost

Compared to other alternative flooring options like linoleum and vinyl plank flooring, engineered hardwood flooring is relatively expensive. Depending on the brand manufacturer, prices may vary anywhere between 4-7 dollars per square foot.

6. Maintenance Requirements

While engineered hardwood is relatively low-maintenance when compared to solid hardwood, it still has numerous maintenance requirements. To keep it looking neat, you have to maintain a regular cleaning schedule that involves either sweeping or vacuuming the surface to get rid of visible dust and debris.

You can also clean your engineered wood flooring using water, but you’ll want to watch how much you use as moisture can lead to wood decay and invite microbes. Ideally, you should use a damp, microfiber mop as it won’t leave excess water ling on the surface of your engineered hardwood.

7. Poor Wear Resistance

Some manufacturers of engineered hardwood flooring prefer to use thin veneers due to the cost savings involved. However, this usually results in poor wear resistance.

What’s more, thin veneers that are less than 3/16th of an inch in thickness cannot be sanded and refinished, forcing you to completely replace them. This leads to increased flooring costs in the long run.

8. Presence of Toxic Chemicals

For engineered hardwood that uses composite materials in the manufacture of the core board, toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and VOC are usually used in the process. This enhances the chances of health complications for house occupants with weakened immune systems; as the chemicals convert to a gaseous state when temperatures are high, a process referred to as off-gassing.

Which is better: solid hardwood or engineered hardwood?

There’s no right answer to this question, as the best choice depends on your preferences. For instance, if you prefer flooring that you can restore to its original appearance by refinishing after prolonged wear, you might want to go for solid hardwood over engineered hardwood. This is because the latter flooring material has a thinner design that can be sanded no more than three times (sanding is a crucial part of the floor refinishing process).

What’s more, solid hardwood is structurally stronger than engineered hardwood due to its homogenous structure. Engineered hardwood boasts a layered structure, which somehow lessens its structural strength. However, engineered hardwood makes up for this with higher stability due to its multi-ply construction.

Despite solid hardwood boasting the above benefits at the expense of engineered hardwood, the latter flooring material also has its benefits. For instance, the fact that it has a thinner design means that you’ll get more floor-to-ceiling height in a space with engineered hardwood flooring. Additionally, engineered hardwood is less susceptible to bowing and expanding, in comparison to solid hardwood.

Does engineered wood look cheap?

The answer to this question is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. If you purchase cheap engineered hardwood where the manufacturers have compromised on the core material to cut costs, the flooring will definitely look cheaper, vis-à-vis natural, hardwood flooring. However, top-quality engineered hardwood flooring costs about as much (or even more than) solid hardwood flooring. If anything, it’s difficult to differentiate a solid hardwood flow from a good-quality engineered hardwood floor, as the outer layer of engineered wood is made from natural wood.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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