Hardwood floors are some of the most sought after floors in residential and bespoke shops around the world. With various wood types such as oak, maple and hickory running in varying supplies, demand far outweighed supply.
The answer is engineered hardwood. These planks are man-made, with a top layer of solid hardwood with more layers of less expensive, composite woods. The result is a locking plank system with actual hardwood with less cost. This article will help you find the best engineered hardwood for your next flooring project.
The Best Engineered Hardwood
- 1 The Best Engineered Hardwood
- 2 What is Engineered Hardwood?
- 3 Buyer’s Guide to Selecting the Ideal Mass Timber
- 4 6 Best Engineered Hardwood Flooring Options
- 5 Engineered Hardwood Vs. Other Flooring Types
- 6 How to Care for Mass Timber Floors
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 In Conclusion
There are dozens of brands that manufacture engineered hardwood. These are the best.
- Boen. Among the highest quality and longest lasting on the market.
- Shaw. Always a top brand for all flooring, including engineered hardwood.
- Armstrong. Affordable, multiple option flooring solutions.
- Lumber Liquidators. Budget-friendly planks with a lot of options.
- Mohawk. Sister company of Shaw, the quality is high while lowering costs.
- Somerset. Shorter boards made with strict standards all made in the USA.
What is Engineered Hardwood?
Engineered hardwood has many names. You may know it as mass timber, man-made wood, hardwood composite or others. The planks are a composite of real woods pieced together in alternating directions.
Much like vinyl or laminate planks, engineered hardwood is made up of layers. The difference is that instead of a photographic image of wood grain under a clear coat wear layer, mass timber has actual hardwood on top.
The boards become interlocking planks, which fit together in a “drop and lock” method. This is also known as a floating floor as the planks are not nailed or glued to the subfloor like carpet or hardwood.
The result is a hardwood floor, with most of the benefits, a fraction of the cost . Unlike solid hardwood the planks won’t add resale value to the home. However, you also don’t have the drawbacks like excessive constriction and expansion, wide gaps between boards and other hardwood features.
Buyer’s Guide to Selecting the Ideal Mass Timber
Buying wood flooring is a lot more than simply finding a color you like and making a purchase. There are several consideration factors that you need to think about first. The following factors will ensure you pick the best hardwood planks for your project.
Hardwood planks (as well as softwood) come in many varieties. The most popular are oak and hickory, however almost any wood can make a great floor. Pine and spruce are also popular wood choices.
The first decision you need to make is to determine what type of wood you want as well as the color. From there, the other factors more easily fall in place.
While the installation method is almost no consideration, it is worthy of a moment’s thought. Almost every engineered wood flooring uses floating planks that lock together. There are a few, though, that use glue or other more permanent methods.
The big consideration when dealing with installation is whether to do the installation yourself or hire it out to a professional . The planks aren’t difficult to piece together but can take some time and require the use of special tools.
If the idea of a DIY project suits you, it is possible with mass timber planks. Likewise, if you want the project completed faster, or with a labor warranty, the professional install may be more attractive.
Both methods have pros and cons, including cost and duration. Each customer will have different views on these advantages and disadvantages. How your floor is installed is up to you.
Core, Length and Thickness
The main differences in brands is the type of wood used in the core layers. While all engineered wood planks alternate the directions of their core layers, the types of wood used also varies. Some composite woods are softer while others provide more stability to the planks.
The biggest factor is the top layer, called the wear layer, which is generally 2mm thick, though 3 or 4mm are also popular.
The length of the boards are what makes the quality of the entire build. Most vinyl and laminate planks, for example, are around 4 to 6 feet long. Hardwood should be longer.
Longer boards leave fewer joint lines and make the floors look more professional. For length, 78 to 80-inches is not uncommon, though these lengths are considered a little shorter than average.
One small factor to think about is in-person versus online product availability. Many manufacturers make a lot of different colors or types. You can choose from all of them. However, not all vendors sell all of the choices online.
If you are not close to a brick and mortar shop, your chosen style and color may not be available for shipping to your home. While it isn’t a deal breaker, as you can ship the choice to the store for pick up, it is a concern for those living more remotely.
There are other features that are available that may interest you. Keep in mind, though, that most additional features add to the cost of the planks.
Some features you may be able to do without and save some money. However, certain features might be the selling point you need. Things like underlayment, padding or longer warranties.
Each feature may help with the decision, but it may make it harder. You need to evaluate the cost of the material and features with the value it adds. If the features add value, then it is a good buy. If the features don’t add value for you, then it isn’t an ideal match.
Price and Warranty
The cost of the materials, tools and installation is going to be a huge deciding factor. Having a budget is important when flooring your home. Going over budget can cause a ripple effect of problems.
Staying within your budget may mean waiting to purchase the perfect model, or that you need to make cuts and opt for a cheaper version. Make sure you read the warranty, too.
6 Best Engineered Hardwood Flooring Options
Below I show you the 6 best engineered hardwood flooring brands. Each one is reviewed and displayed to help you decide which brand to look closer at when choosing your next hardwood floor.
The Norwegian-based European flooring company, Boen, has some of the best engineered hardwoods around . Solid sawn logs are used to create the planks and help control grain, texture and color differences.
The company started with solid hardwood years ago and began making engineered hardwood flooring to lower costs and increase productivity. The result is some of the highest quality planks at reasonable prices that you can find.
There are currently over 300 variations to choose from with 7 different wood types, including ash, birch, oak and cherry. Hand painted, cured and finished planks give you the finish and look to fit your décor and each one is sturdy, with a 2mm hardwood wear layer.
The wood is rugged, natural and feels soft underfoot. There are also multiple real wood layers making up the core. This not only adds stability but keeps the wooden wear layer from sinking, giving way or shifting.
The best thing about Boen is their install methods. They offer two different styles. You can choose the standard tongue and groove style that is similar to laminate and vinyl planks or the 5G click lock style.
Click lock uses an end-locking system that snaps into place like button snaps. It isn’t as secure during install as tongue and groove, but the result when finished is stronger.
With their natural moisture blocking and install methods, Boen offers a 25 year residential warranty and a 5-year commercial warranty on their floors . Note, though, that this is from date of purchase, not date of install.
|Moisture blocking and resistance||Short commercial warranty|
|Over 370 style and color choices|
|Two install methods available|
|Solid sawn wood logs used for construction|
|25-year residential warranty|
Shaw is the leader in residential flooring and their engineered hardwood is no different . Not only do they have a wide and varied selection, but they can also match your décor from a photo.
With Shaw, everything is high-quality . From the wood used in production to the finish and coloring, each plank is crafted with detail and dedication. They even offer waterproof, water resistant and stain resistant lines. Each one has multiple wood types and color choices for you to get the ideal floor for your home.
Unlike some other brands, Shaw even goes further by offering different textures for their planks. You can choose natural, smooth, distressed wood, heavily or subtle scraped, or wire brushed.
Each texture offers a different look, feel and atmosphere to the room it is installed in. If you don’t like the offered colors, you can send Shaw a photo and they will color match any item in the photo so your floors match perfectly.
On top of their dedication to excellence, they also manage to keep their costs low. While they aren’t the cheapest manufacturer on the market, they aren’t the most expensive, either. You get what you pay for, as they say, and Shaw floors offer a lot.
The warranty is a limited lifetime warranty, but doesn’t cover excessive damage . It will cover defects, craftsmanship and abnormal wear, though. If you are looking for a USA company and have a looser budget, Shaw might be the best option for you.
|Limited lifetime warranty||Higher cost compared to others on this list|
|Color match profiles||Need an additional underlayment|
|Multiple textures for all styles|
|Water, moisture, and stain resistant|
Armstrong is a flooring brand that is known for their quality, dependability and durability . While they are one of the more affordable brands, they don’t lack in quality.
Where it matters, Armstrong wood planks are highly durable. They have a thick top layer that can be treated, coated, or even sanded. If you don’t like the scratches, mars or “character” that develops over time, you can sand the planks down to a like-new finish.
Armstrong uses the tongue and groove installation method, also known as drop and lock . This is the standard installation method, but it makes the process simple and fast. Armstrong planks won’t wobble or break when you are tapping them in place.
You also get your choice of colors, woods and finishes. All told there are over 150 different options. When it comes to texture, you have some choice, but nothing like Shaw offers. For the most part, though, consumers want soft or rough. The various textures between seem not to matter too much except in specialty installations.
Armstrong gives you a great lifetime warranty , too. As long as you are the original buyer, the warranty is in effect. This covers defects, craftsmanship and even the gluing on the layers.
With wide boards, various lengths and multiple color options, you can’t go wrong. The affordable (for almost every budget) Armstrong flooring is always a top contender.
|Budget-friendly option||Not all styles available in all markets|
|Lifetime warranty for original buyer||Limited colors compared to other brands|
|Simple DIY install|
Lumber Liquidators is a wallet-happy shopping experience that aims to save you money at every turn . However, the quality drops off a little from our top three choices.
To lower their costs and give you hardwood options are unbelievable prices, some of their models use an MDF core. It is treated and surrounded by plywood, but it isn’t as sturdy as you may want.
Their waterproof and higher-end pieces use a lumber core, but mostly it is pressed plywood. The top layer, though, is solid hardwood and the beauty shines through. Having a hardwood floor for the price of a laminate one may be enough to make you overlook the shortcomings.
If it isn’t, you can still get a great price on their mid-range line. These use plywood cores and most don’t come with an underlayment. You will want to choose your own underlayment anyway to get the proper thickness.
The planks themselves come in three widths (medium, wide and extra wide). You can also, like Boen, choose tongue and groove or click-lock installation. The choices do go down when making this decision, but there is a color or style that will be what you are looking for.
With over 80 choices total, Lumber Liquidators doesn’t have the biggest selection, but once you have decided on a color, there are enough options to make it worthy of a good, hard look.
They also have waterproof styles as well as stain resistant ones. The choice is yours, but all of them, like any other flooring, will still require regular cleaning and maintenance.
The warranty is a little hard to follow, so make sure you read through the small print and ask questions if you don’t follow.
|Best budget brand on the list||Warranty is tricky to follow|
|Click-lock or tongue and groove install||May not have the style or finish you want|
|Multiple core options for more savings|
|Waterproof and stain resistant options|
Mohawk, sister company to Shaw, offers an elegant solution to engineered hardwood flooring . Their bigger focus is on solid wood flooring, but they do have a selection of engineered wood. It is here that you will find the best of both cost and style.
Their most popular choices come from the 19th century inspired edition. These extra wide planks offer a deep color and super wide plank that seems to take all of the focus in the room for itself. In larger spaces the planks look right at home. In smaller spaces they help expand the room’s appearance.
If you prefer a more modern width, those are available, too. Mohawk also offers various lengths so you get the perfect size and look you are after. Of course, the quality is top-notch, too.
Mohawk is known to provide dependability and value in their planks. The engineered process uses all lumber for base, core and hardwood on top. You can install on, above or below the grade and on any level of your home.
You will need an underlayment, which isn’t provided in almost any case. However some home improvement stores will carry a bundle deal from time to time.
Like Shaw, Mohawk also offers a lifetime warranty on all of their hardwood floors . This, of course, extends to the homeowner and original buyer. It isn’t transferable, but as long as you live in the house, everything is covered. A great deal all around.
|Lifetime warranty||Limited selection of planks|
|Easy to install planks||Underlayment generally not included|
|Widths and lengths to fit any room|
A thicker wear layer, an attention to detail and choices to fit any home . That is what makes Somerset a top choice for many homeowners.
Where most planks have a 2mm hardwood top layer, Somerset planks are 3mm. This allows you to sand them if needed (at least a few times). You also get the benefit of solid sawn log construction, making the appearance more natural, uniform and easy to pair with slight coloring differences in the wood.
Somerset has a wide variety of colors and woods, but focuses mainly on oak and hickory . Though you will find various others thrown in, such as birch and maple. While your choices are limited, they are also thorough.
One advantage the company has over their competitors is a new line called High Gloss. While many brands offer a glossy, or shiny finish, the ones from Somerset are incredible. Once installed, they do take on a bowling alley type appearance that really looks incredible.
If, however, you want a more realistic wooden appearance, they have those, too. rough texture or smooth, shiny or matte, whatever you are after, you can find it in the Somerset collections.
Installation requires a little more effort than some of the others, as each piece needs a few extra taps to lock in place. However, when your room is complete, you can forget it for the life of the floor, which might just outlive you.
The lifetime warranty covers the construction, milling, grade and defects for as long as you own it . This, like most others, cannot be transferred or assigned. You have to install the floor in a home you own for the warranty to take effect.
|Attention to milling process produces cleaner boards||Harder to install than most others|
|High gloss line up available||Only 2 widths to choose from|
|Hand sawn boards from the US|
Engineered Hardwood Vs. Other Flooring Types
While considering flooring options, you no doubt have seen or researched other choices like laminate or vinyl. How do they compare to mass timber, though? Let’s take a closer look.
Engineered Hardwood Vs. Laminate
Laminate and engineered hardwood are similar in a lot of ways. Each type consists of planks made up of different layers. The primary difference here is the core and wear layers.
Laminate cores are made of MDF boards, which makes them susceptible to swelling and damage when exposed to moisture . While most laminate planks are coated to help protect against moisture, this isn’t a lifelong protection.
Laminate also has a photographic layer that has an image to resemble wood grains covered by a clear top coat. When installed the appearance is similar to a hardwood floor, but it doesn’t have the feel or weight behind it to be convincing.
Engineered hardwood has a core layer that is made from real wood. Most of these are compressed wood and each layer is pressed in a different direction. This helps the stability of the plank.
The top layer, though, is actual hardwood. Complete with the texture, feeling and strength of an actual hardwood floor.
Laminate is cheaper when bought in bulk, though, which is a consideration factor. However, the end result is less than impressive when compared to a real wood floor.
Engineered Hardwood Vs. Luxury Vinyl Planks
LVP is one of the most popular choices in home flooring options. Vinyl is waterproof, making it ideal for any room in the home, including wet areas. The core layers aren’t made from MDF and can withstand a little moisture.
The reason LVP are so popular is that they are fairly inexpensive, look great and have amazing warranties (some even lifetime). The main downside is that when they do get damaged, they cannot be repaired.
Engineered hardwood also gets damaged, it is natural wood after all. However, instead of repairs or replacements, most owners see the damage as making the flooring better. It gives an authentic touch to the wooden wear layer.
While engineered hardwood does cost more, it does have real wood. Like laminate flooring, LVP uses a photographic layer to mimic the appearance of wood, but loses the texture and feel underfoot of real wood.
Engineered Hardwood Vs. Carpet
Carpet is one of those flooring types that goes in and out of style, when talking about selling a home . However, it has remained a staple in bedrooms and living areas for decades. Compared to hard flooring, it is all a preference call.
Carpet absorbs sound, retains heat and is soft for bare feet. For these reasons it is nice to have in bedrooms and in larger spaces that may echo otherwise.
Of course, there are plenty of options including pile height, material, thickness, colors or patterns and weave type. Wood planks also have a lot of styles and options to choose from, but you will always have a wooden floor. The thickness isn’t noticeable, nor is it plush or soft.
Noise will also echo in most cases, and ambient room temperature can affect how the floor feels to your feet.
Carpet should be professionally installed, adding to the overall cost. However engineered wood can be a DIY project, saving you time and money.
Engineered Hardwood Vs. Solid Hardwood
The biggest debate is between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood. The two appear identical once installed and function much the same way.
The biggest difference is overall cost. Solid hardwood is much more expensive than engineered . It also requires multiple layers of underlayment, including felt, paper, padding and plywood. As far as DIY projects go, solid hardwood is the most difficult to install. Professional installation is recommended.
Engineered wood suffers the same wear and damage or “character” that solid wood goes through. However, engineered wood doesn’t have the other drawbacks.
For starters, it is a DIY install. Engineered wood also doesn’t succumb to the deep crevices, swelling and constricting that solid wood does. The downside is that engineered wood won’t increase home resale value where solid hardwood can.
For the look, the cost, and the benefits, engineered hardwood is a better buy in most cases over solid hardwood . Unless you want more value in your home so you can sell at a higher price, there isn’t a real reason to choose solid over engineered.
How to Care for Mass Timber Floors
Hardwood flooring requires a bit more care than carpet, laminate or vinyl. Because you are dealing with real wood, it can dry, crack, dent and scratch fairly easily.
You will need to sweep and mop it to keep it clean, of course. However, you also need to pay attention to the manufacturer’s care instructions. Some engineered wood will need to be waxed, polished or treated.
Some only require the wet mop with a cleanser designed specifically for wood surfaces. Since each one is different, I won’t bother covering them all here. However, for basic cleaning and maintenance, the following guidelines work for all wood floors.
- Sweep the floor regularly.
- Mop at least weekly to maintain cleanliness.
- Clean up spills and footprints/mud immediately. Wood floors can stain.
- Use only cleaning products for wood.
- A vacuum is good to use to get in cracks and crevices without causing damage.
- If wax or sealant is needed, ensure you use the type made for your specific wood (pine, oak, etc.)
- Avoid sliding furniture or heavy items, choosing to pick them up and place them, instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below, I offer answers to some of the more commonly asked questions regarding engineered wood flooring. If you need further answers, please use the comment section below the article.
Q. Do I need any special tools to install engineered wood floors?
- For the most part, you won’t need any specialty tools. You will need a table or circular saw and measure to cut the planks. You also need a chalk line, rubber mallet and a tapping block. Rubber spacers are also recommended.
If you need to remove baseboards and thresholds or trim pieces, a crowbar is also needed. Beyond that, you just need time and effort.
Q. How long to wood floors last?
- With proper care, regular cleaning and maintenance, engineered hardwood floors can last 15 to 20 years. Some reports state they are lasting longer, while others only have a 5 to 10 year life span.
The biggest factors will be care, quality of the planks and how well they are installed.
Q. Will engineered wood flooring increase my home’s value?
- Wood flooring, like carpet or vinyl, won’t hurt the value of your home. However, the only current flooring that increases resale value is solid hardwood. Engineered wood doesn’t qualify and won’t add zeros to your asking price.
Q. Do I need a contractor to install my flooring?
- For most engineered hardwood floors you can install them yourself. However, you should expect several hours per room and being on your hands and knees a lot. If that doesn’t appeal to you, a professional contractor can have the floors installed faster and more efficiently. At a cost, of course.
Q. How much do engineered wood floors cost?
- For high-quality, well warrantied planks, you can expect the materials to cost you between $5 and $9 per square foot. This price range will also offer you a longer life expectancy, better wear protection and a stronger, more durable finished product.
Engineered hardwood, mass timber, man-made wood, whatever name you give it, the flooring choice is exquisite. It looks just like solid hardwood, because it is hardwood. The texture, composition and feel are all natural.
Unlike solid hardwood, you can install the planks yourself with little effort. The result is a long lasting floor that brings character, a warming atmosphere and sense of accomplishment, all on a budget. Hopefully this article has helped you decide which brand you prefer to buy from when choosing your next engineered hardwood floor.