Updated for 2020
If you’ve already started reviewing your options in the hardwood flooring market, then you’ll be well aware that engineered hardwood flooring is an increasingly popular product. Better still, it’s competitively priced compared to solid hardwood flooring; upwards of $2.20 per square foot for engineered hardwood, compared to upwards of $3.40 per square foot for solid hardwood.
But how do you find the best engineered wood flooring and is it any good?
Well, the answer to that depends on several factors. If you’re an architectural purist in the midst of renovating a vintage home, you may balk at the idea of installing what is effectively a composite wood product (engineered wood is made of a top veneer layer of the real hardwood adhered to several other layers of plywood or other wood).
However, for most people who just love the look of wood floors, the fact that engineered wood flooring is often tricky to tell apart from solid wood once installed, easier to install and suited to every area of the home (including the basement where moisture levels can be problematic for solid wood*) means that authenticity is often of lesser concern.
Engineered flooring also allows for those with a tighter budget to access exotic woods or specialist finishes that might otherwise be out of their reach.
But, as with everything to do with your home, you will get what you pay for.
Higher-end, best quality engineered hardwood that has a good 2-6 mm thick top veneer layer that can be sanded and refinished over time (similar to solid wood) and can last between 40-80 years; engineered hardwood with a thinner veneer cannot be refinished and generally will not last longer than 30 years.
Better/best quality will also ensure that the layers are well adhered, which will avoid the possibility of distortion that you can get with lower quality products.
All in all, the best engineered hardwood flooring will meet most homeowners needs. Check out our engineered hardwood flooring guide for more details about installation, maintenance and prices; if you’re already convinced, then read on to discover the criteria we used to choose the best engineered wood flooring.
* NB – Only install engineered hardwood flooring in basements where the moisture level is no more than 4%.
What’s the Difference Between the Best Engineered Wood Flooring Brands and the Rest
To find the best engineered flooring brands you’ll need to stick with the manufacturers who offer the following key elements in their flooring products:
- Quality hardwood veneer wear layer
- Strong and structurally stable core layer
- Non-toxic engineered flooring
- Good selection of plank length and width
Quality hardwood veneer wear layer
The thickness of the solid wood wear layer is crucial to the overall quality and longevity of your engineered flooring.
2mm is a decent veneer thickness, while 3mm and above assures you of a high-quality flooring that can be refinished multiple times with a 50 year plus lifespan.
While we wouldn’t recommend flooring with a wear layer less than 2mm we appreciate that buyers are searching for a budget option which is why we have included brands like Home Legends from Home Depot below.
If you must sacrifice wear layer thickness then choose an engineered product with a strong protective finish, an aluminium oxide finish for example.
Some websites are better than others at disclosing the exact thickness of the veneer layer of their engineered wood products. Be sure to get clarification before purchase.
Strong and structurally stable core layer
Of course, the overall thickness of your engineered plank is just as important as the thickness of the veneer wear layer.
Below the wear layer is the core layer of the plank. Manufacturers construct the core from several layers of plywood, which are cross and glued together.
Typically, there will be between 3 and 12 separate ply layers. It is the construction and thickness of the layers beneath the veneer that give the engineered plank it’s strength and stability.
Consequently, when choosing the best quality engineered flooring look for manufacturers offering planks with an overall thickness of between 3/8 and ½ of an inch.
Again, for the budget conscious, you can choose a thinner engineered product with less core layers, but you should then consider carefully whether it is strong enough for all locations.
Non-toxic engineered flooring
Because of how engineered wood planks are constructed, consumers should look for manufacturers and brands who offer air quality and eco-friendly assurances on all their engineered flooring products.
Plywood construction and the adhesives involved in gluing together the multi-ply planks mean that VOC’s and off gassing of Formaldehyde are a concern for some.
Sticking with leading brands, or manufacturers whose flooring has at least one flooring quality certification, should give you greater peace of mind.
Good selection of plank length and width
The best engineered hardwood manufacturers realise that style trends matter and that not everyone wants a standard plank length of
Top manufacturers recognise this and offer their engineered floors in widths ranging between 3 to 8 inches and you can also buy planks in mixed widths.
Popular Engineered Wood Flooring Brands
Here are our reviews of some of the most popular engineered wood flooring manufacturers.
If you’re looking for the industry standard in engineered hardwood, then Anderson (now know as Anderson Tuftex after a recent merger) are it!
It was the innovative team at Anderson that first came up with the idea to construct engineered wood using their now trademarked Cross-Lock system that alternates the grain direction of five separate wood plies to create a plank that is as strong as steel and uses much less raw wood than solid wood flooring.
Today all engineered hardwood brands & manufacturers use this same method – but Anderson were the first, and are still very highly regarded as one of the best.
Anderson Tuftex currently offers 31 designs of engineered hardwood flooring, with several of the options available in more than one color. Anderson Tuftex is also of particular interest as it is one of the few flooring brands on the market that does its plank texturing (such as hand scraping, wire-brushing and so on) by actual humans as opposed to by machine, giving each plank a truly unique character.
Although there is an emphasis on rustic or traditional aesthetics, there are also some more contemporary sleeker designs in the Anderson brand.
A very trustworthy brand with a great reputation.
Bruce, as you may already know are owned by the same company (AHF Products) that own another very well respected flooring brand – Armstrong.
Whilst Armstrong covers resilient, rigid core and vinyl flooring, Bruce is the go-to brand for quality hardwood flooring, both solid and engineered. Bruce only do hardwood, which to our mind gives it an advantage over other brands that offer all sorts of flooring.
Style-wise, the brand offers on the whole a traditional, classic aesthetic – with collections that have wholesome names such as American Honor, Blacksmith’s Forge and Next Frontier. However, despite the old-fashionend names – there is still a good range of styles and color, with currently a total of 158 different engineered hardwood options.
The other advantage of the hardwood expertise of Bruce is that there are both domestic wood species such as oak, walnut, birch, cherry, hickory, pecan, maple, and exotic wood species including Brazilian cherry, tigerwood, sapele, santos mahogany, acacia and cabreuva.
Their website is a great starting point to review the range as there are several search options allowing you to drill down to the kind of look you want, the type of wood, the plank size or even what kind of DIY level you have.
Plus the site offers a wealth of information about each type of floor; note that their different collections have different warranties, so check the detail of the warranty (also available on their website) to get an idea of the durability of the top veneer.
To Get Started
With excellent green credentials – locally sourced materials from suppliers that have reforestation programs and using eco-friendly manufacturing processes – the engineered flooring available at From the Forest is definitely worth investigating.
Located in Wisconsin, this relative new-comer to the flooring market has been expanding since its launch in 2007 to now offer seven collections of attractive engineered floors covering a range of styles, colors and sizes.
What we like most about their products is that the wood veneer layer of each collection has been sliced from the log in specific ways to create a specific look.
So for example, in the Northwoods Original collection they use rotary slicing to get a bold variegated grain pattern, the Vineyard collection is made with a plain sliced veneer for a more delicate cathedral grain pattern, and the Woodland Treasures collection is done with a décor cut to achieve varied, rustic grain patterns.
It’s that kind of attention to detail that affords their products a quality look and finish. All of the From the Forest engineered wood products are easily installed with either a tongue and groove interlocking or a click and tap system.
And most of their products are finished with a hard-wearing, scratch resistant wear layer made with ceramic based aluminium oxide. And there is no added formaldehyde.
Note that From the Forest do not recommend installing their engineered flooring in bathrooms.
From the Forest also retail their own underlayment, flooring cleaner and – interestingly – a scratch concealer kit. Personally, we find it refreshing that From the Forest admit that scratches are always possible, no matter how hard the wear layer or how careful the homeowner!
If you are looking for engineered hardwood products that are best for the environment, then look no further than Green Building Supply (a retailer rather than a manufacturer), who stock a number of eco-building materials and home goods all of which have passed their strict guidelines for sustainability and quality.
They currently stock three key brands for eco-friendly engineered hardwood flooring: one of our favorites, Kährs (see below), USFloors and Tesoro Woods.
The Tesoro Woods product line is particularly interesting as, established in 1992 and then named Eco Timber, it was the first U.S. company founded specifically to sell sustainable wood products. They have been offering engineered flooring from 1996, but in 2004 went the extra mile by being the first to offer an engineered hardwood product made without added urea formaldehyde, showing further proof of their commitment to meet the “very highest environmental and quality standards”.
With both exotic woods and domestic woods in their collections, there’s a good range to suit most homes. Most of their collections favor the unstained or natural aesthetic that fully celebrates the raw beauty of the wood; though the Coastal Lowlands collection does have some pretty stained finishes, particularly in shades of gray. Tesoro Woods do not sell direct from their own website, hence the link to Green Building Supply, but you can purchase samples from all their collections on the Tesoro Woods website.
Our next engineered hardwood review is for an historic hardwood flooring company first established as a family concern in 1898, which went on to be incorporated into Tarkett in the 1980s and more recently has been acquired by Q.E.P. Co., Inc. But despite these many changes it continues to strive for “extraordinary customer service and our superior products exceed your expectations”.
Specializing uniquely in domestic engineered wood flooring that is all certified Made in America, you’ll find that the Harris Wood range is small but very nicely formed, with hickory and red oak heavily featured. Whilst their general aesthetic tends towards more classic looks, there are a few more contemporary floors such as the Red Oak Sterling Grey from the Traditions SpringLoc Collection and the hickory floors in the Highlands collection is available in an on-trend 7” wide plank.
Most of the flooring from Harris Wood has a top layer of around 2mm, which makes it a good option if you’re on a tight budget but still want a floor that will last a while. Retailing from around $2.90 per square foot, Harris Wood flooring is a good mid-range choice.
To Get Started
If your budget is extremely tight, then your best option is to look at the Home Legend engineered hardwood floors that are widely available through Home Depot.
Retailing from as little as $1.98 per square foot and with a fairly decent reputation and equally decent 30 year warranty, Home Legend floors will allow you to get a good looking hardwood floor without breaking the bank.
Another advantage is that most Home Legend floors use the Click Lock installation method – useful if you’re planning to go down the DIY route.
Home Legend distinguishes itself with its aim to capture “old-world craftsmanship with high quality flooring products that provide fashion and beauty to your home”.
In reality what this means is that style-wise, the range is fairly traditional in aesthetics – mainly brown, red and tan tones – with predominantly domestic wood species, though they do have a few options in exotics such as Brazilian cherry, cumaru and tigerwood too.
Because the overall brand look tends towards the traditional, you will also find some quite attractive Home Legend engineered floors with hand scraped and distressed finishes.
OK, perhaps it’s just because I do a fair bit of work online, but website design does matter to me – and I have to say that the Kährs website has been designed superbly!
For a start when you reach the wood floor section (Kährs also make resilient flooring) you get to see ALL their ranges, collections and color options, all at once in small thumbnails.
It makes it so much easier to compare different collections. You can then easily drill down to find the specific ones that match the species, thickness, design features, surface treatment or look you want.
They also have a super cool interactive room design tool! But – of course -a great website is not the only reason to review Kährs.
Like all the best engineered wood flooring brands, Kährs has stood the test of time (it was established in 1857) by consistently offering good quality products by embracing innovation.
One of the best innovations they pioneered in the 1980s and still used today are their solvent-free surface treatments (in the silk matt, matt and oil finishes).
Kährs are also one of the few engineered flooring manufacturers who seem to truly embrace today’s design trends and offer flooring that really will work with contemporary and modern/ minimalist décor, as well as offering several more classic flooring options too.
If you weren’t sure which brand offers the biggest choice of engineered hardwood floors, you can be sure now… Over the past ten years or so, Mohawk has been acquiring smaller flooring brands and slowly integrating them and consolidating them into its current offering of engineered hardwood called TecWood.
At the time of writing there were 50 TecWood designs, with many available in several different colorways, resulting in a total of 289 different engineered wood options!
Whilst this at first it seems like a huge choice, when you drill down into the detail the TecWood the collection features a relatively limited range of wood species: the standard domestic woods – Hickory, Maple, Oak and Walnut, and just one exotic – Acacia.
Having said that, the styles and colors that are offered are extremely varied. These include rustic planks with varied tones and distinct grain patterns like knots and so on, smooth and streamlined contemporary planks in numerous shades of gray, weathered and distressed designs in washed out colors for that coastal vibe, classic handscraped floors in deep chocolatey browns, scandi-inspired pale colored and finely grained planks for that extra zen feel and more.
As with most engineered flooring, TecWood is suitable for installation on, above or below grade, and whilst it can be installed by experienced DIYers, Mohawk recommend using an experienced professional floor installer.
One final bit of advice before you explore the full collection, be sure that you choose a TecWood floor with a long duration warranty – Mohawk floors warranties range from as little as 10 to as much as 50 years.
As you may already know, Shaw Floors are one of the industry giants, operating for over 40 years to bring quality flooring in a range of materials to the market. With so many years’ experience, it’s no surprise that they have also brought several technological advances to the market too, and are often ranked #1 in consumer and industry surveys.
Shaw Floors offers a good range of engineered hardwood products: there are currently four main collections, which translates into around 23 different designs, most of which have at least 3 color options! That’s a lot of choice!
Their most recent collection, and one which is definitely worth a look is their EPIC Plus collection. Shaw Floors claim that the improvements that they’ve made to their innovative Stabilitek core makes it “the most durable, impact-resistant hardwood on the market”.
Shaw’s first version of the Stabilitek core – a high density fiber board – was already pretty good, and now they made it even stronger and more dimensionally stable, particularly good for areas that are prone of high humidity levels, such as below-grade basements.
Aside from the strength of the actual boards, the EPIC Plus collection features some pretty good looking engineered planks. There are essentially three domestic wood species in the collection – oak, maple or hickory – available in five different textures including reclaimed/ distressed, wire brushed, hand scraped and smooth, and with four width options and several colorways.
There’s basically something to suit everyone’s tastes in this collection.
If you’re not into oak, maple or hickory, then have a look at Shaw’s other three engineered flooring collections offer some different wood species options such as ash, walnut, kupay, and birch alongside those three stalwarts.
Somerset Hardwood Flooring is one of those rare things in the flooring industry these days: a privately owned, independent company, that still has its roots exactly where its story began – in the heart of Appalachian timberlands in Somerset, Kentucky.
The brand prides itself in producing quality hardwood flooring, both in solid and engineered specs, and has a strategically chosen range of products to suit a broad client base.
The other great thing about Somerset is that, because the entire operation is vertically integrated, they control every step of the manufacturing process, from milling the lumber to applying the finish.
There are currently eight Somerset engineered hardwood flooring collections. As you would expect each collection has its own identity, from the subtly textured Hand Crafted collection to the Character collection that highlights inherent knots, markings and variations in the grain.
Of particular interest, and almost unique to Somerset, is their Unfinished engineered hardwood flooring collection, which features red oak, white oak hickory and maple planks that you can then stain and finish on site.
One final thing to note is that as timber is sourced locally, the Somerset collections are made using Appalachian oak, hickory, maple and walnut; so if you want to support great American industry, Somerset is the way to go!
Do you have an engineered hardwood flooring review? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.