Engineered Wood Flooring – Options, Prices, Installation & Cleaning
$3 – $16 per sq/ft (Materials Only)
If you love the beauty of natural hardwood but want to install flooring in locations not suitable to solid hardwood flooring, engineered wood flooring is a wonderful alternative. The Home Flooring Pros engineered hardwood flooring report can help you decide if this is right floor for your project.
Engineered hardwood flooring delivers the same beauty of natural hardwood flooring but with greater versatility. The top layer of the material is solid hardwood while the base layers are designed to give the material greater stability and resistance to moisture. The result is a flooring that can be refinished, just like solid hardwood, but also can be installed in basements and humid climates where solid hardwood flooring is not recommended.
The rising popularity of engineered hardwood flooring has led to a wide range of options. You’ll find your favorite domestic hardwoods as well as many imported and exotic woods that can give your home or office unique beauty that will set it apart.
Here’s what we’ll cover in the following sections:
Buying Guide: A good place to begin, in this section we explain how engineered hardwood is made, what you can expect in terms of wear and durability, what the advantages and disadvantages are, and look at the choice of styles, finishes and trends.
Price Guide: The second part of this guide details the average costs of engineered hardwood flooring, the factors that affect those costs, and how engineered hardwood prices stack up against other flooring types.
Installation Guide: If you’ve got solid carpentry skills, you may be able to install engineered wood flooring yourself. We give a step-by-step installation guide and – if you prefer to use a pro flooring installer – we look at what steps you can take to minimize installation costs.
Cleaning and Maintenance Guide: In the last section, we look at cleaning, maintaining, and refinishing your engineered hardwood flooring, with top tips to ensure you get the best from your flooring investment.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING BUYING ADVICE
Engineered wood flooring is often preferred to solid wood flooring because it is more versatile and can be installed in all the rooms of your home. Due to the way the planks are manufactured with solid wood on the top layer only, it is highly resistant to many of the environmental issues like humidity and wetness than can effect solid wood floors. And because the top layer is real hardwood, once installed it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood.
Here’s what else you need to know about engineered hardwood:
WHAT IS ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING?
Engineered wood flooring is made from 3 to 12 layers of wood material, unlike solid hardwood flooring which is made of one material throughout.
The top layer of an engineered hardwood plank is premium hardwood like oak, maple, hickory, Brazilian koa, etc. Depending on the product, subsequent layers are made of soft woods, standard hardwood or plywood. Each layer is glued to the one beneath it with the grain running perpendicular, either cross-grain or cross-ply.
It is this assembly technique that gives engineered hardwood its stability and key advantage over solid hardwood flooring. It vastly reduces the expansion and shrinkage that solid wood flooring goes through with changes to temperature and humidity.
WEAR AND DURABILITY
Engineered hardwood flooring can be very durable.
Note that it comes in different thicknesses, from 3/8” to 3/4″. The thicker it is, the longer it will last. Thinner engineered wood flooring cannot be refinished. It should last 20-30 years depending on traffic.
But by opting for a 3/4” thickness you’ll be getting a thicker wear layer – the top layer made from the species of wood you want – which can be refinished 2-3 times during the lifetime of the flooring. That means it will last 40-80 years depending on how heavy traffic is on it. Read more about refinishing engineered wood floors.
As mentioned before, because of its stability in humid conditions, engineered hardwood flooring can be used where solid wood flooring cannot be – over concrete slabs, in bathrooms and in levels below grade such as basements.
Note that there are usually two options for engineered flooring installation techniques, depending on the type of plank edges. If your engineered wood flooring has tongue and groove edges it can be glued directly to concrete or can be nailed to a plywood subfloor.
Alternatively, engineered hardwood planks with click lock edges are designed so that each plank secures to the ones next to it. This means they do not have to be glued or nailed, creating the same type of floating floor installation used for laminate wood flooring.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Real hardwood flooring remains one of the most sought-after flooring materials for homebuyers, both for its looks and its durability. As a result, it offers a very good return on your investment (ROI) when it comes to selling your home.
Engineered hardwood has the same excellent ROI value. This is because engineered hardwood is virtually impossible to distinguish from solid hardwood, because it can be refinished therefore lasts longer, and because it can be installed throughout your home.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD TRENDS & BRANDS
There are three main factors when considering your engineered hardwood flooring look: the wood species you want, the finish style and the size of the planks.
Engineered hardwood comes in all the same species as for solid hardwood. Domestic woods include red and white oak, ash, maple, walnut, cherry, hickory, birch, yellow birch, mahogany and pine. More types of exotic wood are being added each year including Brazilian koa and cherrywood, sakura, tigerwood, teak and kempas.
As well as different species, engineered hardwood flooring comes in different pre-stained finishes, such as white-washed or gray toned, and different textures from smooth to hand-scraped.
In terms of width, you can find it as narrow as 2 ¼” and as wide as 7” or sometimes wider. In general, narrow widths give a room a more formal or contemporary feel. Wider widths are associated with design schemes like country, old world, French provincial and colonial.
Plank lengths vary from 12” to 60”, and boxes of flooring should have planks of differing length to help ensure a random plank field which looks more natural.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING BRANDS
All the major manufacturers of natural hardwood flooring are making engineered hardwood. The best industry leaders include Anderson Tuftex, Lifecore, DuChateau, LM Hardwood, Kahrs, Mannington, Mohawk, Muskoka, Scandian and White Mountain. For more information on leading brands see our reviews of the best engineered wood floors. See also our guide for where to buy hardwood flooring.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD TRENDS
Because of the vast variety of wood species, finishes and widths you might want to drill down your choices by choosing a style trend that you like best.
Here are the most popular trends in engineered hardwood flooring:
Hand scraped: Until the 20th century, each piece of wood flooring was often milled and prepared by hand from the large piece of lumber. Draw knives were used to cut each piece from the log, and knife marks were left behind. The result was a very authentic look. In today’s busy world, homeowners are looking for this same connection to the past, when life moved at a slower pace. Hand scraped planks are well suited to the country chic / farmhouse aesthetic that gained in popularity recently.
Wide planks: This is very much in keeping with the hand scraped trend. Flooring of the 1800s was wider. Wide planks reminiscent of early America or old world Europe are very popular.
Distressed wood flooring: This look was very popular in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s back and better than ever with a greater variety of styles and wood species. Distressed wood has the look of reclaimed/recycled wood that began to be used in the 1990s. It works very well with both the urban industrial look and a coastal / beach vibe.
Exotic woods: Domestics are still popular, but now you’ve got our choice of a wide range of imported wood specie such as Brazilian cherrywood and koa, kempas, sakura, teak and tigerwood. Combined with a sleek, semi-gloss finish, these exotic hardwoods are the perfect backdrop for classic upmarket interior design.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING BUYING ADVICE SUMMARY
Engineered hardwood flooring has a lot going for it: it looks just like solid hardwood flooring with the added advantage of being suitable for all parts of your home.
Its increased popularity means that there is a large selection of styles and finishes to choose from.
It is just as durable as solid hardwood, and provided you opt for a plank that has a thick wear layer, you can refinish engineered hardwood to increase its longevity and keep it looking great.
OTHER ENGINEERED WOOD FLOOR BUYING FAQ’S
Q: Does engineered wood flooring cause allergies?
A: No. Unlike carpet and some vinyl flooring, it will not cause allergies. It does not trap allergens like carpeting does. Read more on carpet vs hardwood.
Q: Are there degrees of quality with engineered wood flooring?
A: Yes, and you usually get what you pay for. The best engineered flooring has the thickest wear layer, the top layer of solid wood that can be refinished if needed.
Q: Can engineered wood flooring installation be a DIY project?
A: Yes, if you’ve got moderate to good skills (see below).
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD PROS AND CONS
- there are a wide range of wood species, colors and styles
- very popular, very good ROI
- versatile in terms of installation
- can be glued directly to concrete
- can be installed below grade (basements) and in bathrooms
- works well in humid areas where solid hardwood might not
- durable; quality material will last up to 80 years if refinished
- relatively easy to keep clean
- safe for your home environment, does not cause allergies
- suitable as a DIY installation if you’re experienced
- not the cheapest flooring option
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING PRICES
The cost of engineered wood flooring along with the ease of installation make it a relatively affordable flooring option. On average, the price is slightly lower or comparable with solid hardwood flooring prices.
Please note that following prices in this guide are approximate, for a more accurate we invite you to request free estimates from local professionals in your area by CLICKING HERE.
The least expensive engineered wood flooring costs as little as $3 per square foot. The most expensive engineered flooring may cost $16 per square foot. The vast majority of the products are $4-$7 per square foot.
The thickness of engineered wood planks plays a major role in the price. Flooring 3/8” is less expensive than 3/4″ flooring. However, note that the lower cost engineered hardwood flooring may not have a wear layer that is thick enough to be refinished.
The wood species is the next factor that plays a role. Domestic hardwoods like maple and oak are the most affordable. Imported exotic woods like Santos mahogany, bamboo or Brazilian koa cost the most.
Most engineered wood flooring is prefinished at the factory. However, some manufacturers do make unfinished engineered flooring, and you can save $2-$3 per square foot by finishing it yourself. Your wood selection might be limited however, but you will get to choose a natural finish or any stain you want for it.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING COST VS OTHER FLOORING TYPES
Whilst we do highly recommend engineered hardwood flooring, it is usually at a higher price point than other wood style flooring which you may wish to consider.
With advances in digital photography and manufacturing techniques, wood alternative flooring like luxury vinyl or composite vinyl are often considerably cheaper; like engineered hardwood, both of these options have the advantage of being suitable for humid or below grade conditions.
Engineered hardwood flooring is in a similar price ranges as good quality wall-to-wall carpet, and ceramic tiles and natural stone such as slate.
Also worth considering is that engineered hardwood is not much cheaper than solid hardwood; if you’re keen on authenticity it may be possible to select matching options to have the same style/ species of wood through your home, using the engineered version only in the rooms where solid hardwood would be unsuitable.
Further Reading: Flooring Cost Comparison for Hardwood
|TYPE OF FLOORING||PRICE RANGE PER SQUARE FOOT|
|Hardwood – engineered||$3 – $16|
|Hardwood – solid||$3 – $22|
|Bamboo||$3 – $9|
|Carpet (wall-to-wall)||$1 – $20|
|Ceramic tile||$0.50 – $15|
|Concrete||$0.60 – $2|
|Cork||$3 – $12|
|Laminate||$0.70 – $5|
|Linoleum||$3 – $8|
|Natural stone – slate||$3 – $15|
|Natural stone – marble (basic range)||$4 – $15|
|Natural stone – marble (top range)||$10 – $45|
|Rubber||$1 – $15|
|Vinyl Sheet||$0.60 – $5|
|Luxury vinyl tile (LVT)||$1 – $7|
|Composite vinyl (aka rigid core, WPC / SPC)||$2 – $12|
DETERMINING THE AMOUNT OF FLOORING YOU’LL NEED
To get an closer estimate of your engineered flooring cost, the first step is to determine the square footage of the area to be covered. Next, add 5% for trimming and waste. If you’re going to do the job yourself and are inexperienced, consider adding slightly more for waste.
When measuring rooms, multiply the width times the length from wall to wall. The flooring will go under the baseboard, so don’t measure baseboard to baseboard.
If the room is “L-shaped”, measure each rectangle separately and add the totals. Once you’ve determined the square footage for all the rooms where new flooring installation will take place, multiply the total by 1.05 (or 1.10 if DIY with no experience).
If covering 1,200 square feet of ground, you’ll need 1,260 square feet multiplying by 1.05 to 1,320 square feet if multiplying by 1.10.
If you are planning to hire home flooring pros to do the job, the contractor you choose will handle the measurements for you. When looking for the right contractor, get several bids before choosing. Using a free, no obligation service is a fast, convenient way to find the most competitive bids in your area.
FACTORS THAT EFFECT THE INSTALLATION COST
The first factor in the installation cost is whether or not existing flooring must be removed first. If the floor is hard, such as vinyl flooring, concrete or ceramic tile flooring, it may not have to be removed unless necessary for matching floor heights. Carpeting, padding, tack strip and staples will need to be removed.
Next, the complexity of the job will affect the installation estimates you get. The more trimming and tight areas there are, the more the estimates might be.
If extensive work to the subfloor must be done, such as filling cracks in concrete, this will increase the estimates you receive. If subfloor installation is required, to make the floor level with another type of flring it will meet, this will add to the cost too.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING
Engineered wood flooring often goes on sale in home improvement stores or many of the places to buy flooring online. Waiting for a sale may save you 15% to 30%. In addition, manufacturers make frequent changes to their product lineup, so engineered flooring is often put on clearance. You can save up to 50% if you buy flooring that is on clearance.
New lines come out in the spring, so sales and clearance specials pick up after the first of the year.
If you choose unfinished engineered flooring and have good DIY skills, finishing the floor yourself can save you a significant amount of money, as much as $2-$3 per square foot or more.
For installation, you’ll save money if you remove any existing flooring yourself. Also, the baseboard trim and toe kick will need to be removed and reinstalled. If you plan to replace it, removing the old material is easy. You don’t have to be careful not to break it. If you’ve got fine carpentry skills, installing new trim will save you quite a bit of money.
ENGINEERED WOOD PRICING FAQ’S
Q: What are the advantages of buying engineered wood flooring instead of solid wood flooring?
A: There are several, though they may not apply to you. First, engineered flooring can be installed directly over concrete but solid wood cannot be. Next, engineered wood handles moisture better, so is a preferred choice in very humid climates and basements. Engineered wood is more stable than solid wood, so if you’re installing flooring in a cottage or vacation home you close up for the winter, engineered flooring is a better choice.
Q: Does it matter what brand you buy?
A: There are cheap engineered hardwood floors, mid-priced floors and high-end floors. Some brands sell mostly cheap stuff; others favor high-end engineered floor. Most have a blend of flooring. You tend to get what you pay for.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORING INSTALLATION
If your DIY skills are pretty good, you’ll probably be able to handle the installation of engineered flooring succesfully. On a scale of 1-10, we’d rate this project in the 6-8 range, since you need to have a good bit of knowledge on wood work, as well as having the right tools in place to finish the installation project. The toughest part of installing engineered flooring is trimming around obstacles such as floor vents or pipes. If you’ve done any fine carpentry in the past, you’ll probably be good to go.
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need for installation.
- Hand tools: Tape measure, pencil, framing square, coping saw, hammer, jamb saw, glue knife (if gluing the flooring).
- Power cutting tools: Table saw or circular saw, jig saw, compound miter saw.
- Installation tools: Air compressor, pneumatic nailer, pull bar and tapping block.
- Supplies: You’ll need staples/nails if nailing the flooring and glue if you are gluing it.
Prepping the Floor for Installation
Floor preparation is very important. The floor needs to be flat and free of debris such as drywall mud, nails and staples. You must remove carpeting along with the padding, staples and tack strip.
If the existing floor is hard and level, and if it won’t make the engineered wood floor too high, they you could keep it. If you’re using a locking floor that will float, use a foam or cork layer as underlayment.
INSTALLATION TECHNIQUES FOR TONGUE AND GROOVE ENGINEERED PLANKS
Most flooring manufacturers recommend bringing the engineered floor planks indoors 2-3 days before installation. This will allow it to acclimate to the indoor temperature and humidity which is important to prevent shrinking or swelling later.
The next technique is to open 3-4 boxes of material and mix them up. It’s possible that the same style product made in different runs might have very slight shading differences. Mixing planks from several boxes blends them and will create a floor that looks natural. Once you’ve used about half the open stock, mix in another few boxes.
If you’re sure that the subfloor is very clean, you’re ready to begin.
Step 1: Remove all of the baseboard/shoe molding from the room. Be very careful when removing it so that you don’t split the wood. Pry it away from the wall, and when you find a nail, use a flat bar to pull the trim off the nail or use a hammer to remove the nail with the trim.
Step 2: Start installation along the longest exterior wall in the room. For the first row, place the tongue side of the plank against the wall. Unlike solid wood flooring and laminate flooring, you do not need to leave a gap for expansion. Butt additional pieces in the row short end to short end. Measure and cut the last piece to fit before installing it.
Step 3: For installing over a wood subfloor, use your nailer to drive fasteners through the groove and into the floor at a 45-degree angle. Make sure the nail head is level with the wood or slightly below the surface. Adjust your nailer to get the right depth. Put in a staple every 6” to 8”.
Alternative: If you are gluing the flooring to concrete or tile flooring, apply the glue to the bottom of each plank with a glue knife. Read the manufacturer’s direction for how much to apply.
When gluing, gently tap the piece using the tapping block so that the tongue fits tightly into the groove.
Step 4: Start the second row by choosing a piece of different length than the first one. Add glue if necessary. Gently tap the piece with the tapping block so that the tongue and groove fit snugly. Then, staple the piece if you are using a nailer. Continue with this method row by row throughout the room.
When you get near the far wall, space may become tight. You won’t be able to get a tapping block between the wall and the new piece. That’s where the pulling bar comes in handy. Slip the lip over the far end of the new piece, and use your hammer to tap on the upright piece of the pulling bar. This will pull the new piece snug with the installed piece.
The last piece may need to be cut lengthwise. You can make the cut just short of what you need, since any minor gap will be covered by trim. Before installing it, make sure the trim covers any gap. You should glue this piece to the subfloor. Another option is to face nail it right next to the wall where the nail will be covered by trim. If you’re going to do this, consider drilling pilot holes or the wood might split.
Step 5: Trimming pieces to fit around floor vents, pipes and through door jambs is the most difficult part of the job. As they say, measure twice and perhaps you’ll need to cut only once. Take your time. Your jigsaw and coping saw will be useful for these cuts.
If cutting around a pipe, measure to the center of the pipe. Cut a piece that length and then cut a slightly-oversize half-circle for the pipe. Make an identical cut at the start of the next piece and fit it around the pipe.
For door jambs, it is easier to remove the jamb and slide the wood plank beneath it than it is to scribe around the jamb. Lay a piece of scrap flooring next to the jamb so you know how high to cut in order to remove it. Use a jamb saw or coping saw for the job.
You may make a mistake or two when trimming, but that’s what the 5%-10% overage on the order is for.
FINISHING THE JOB
Once the floor field is in place, replace the old trim or add new trim along with thresholds to complete the project. Before moving furniture back into the room, clean the floor entirely.
See below for details on how to clean your new engineered hardwood floor to keep it in great shape through the years.
Also, get cushioning pads for all furniture legs. This is true even for kitchen chairs. Carry furniture to its location rather than sliding it across the floor. If you must slide furniture, place carpet pieces under each leg with the nap side down.
ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING INSTALLATION FAQ’S
Q: How long does it take to install a hardwood floor?
A: It can take processional hardwood installers up to 15 days to install engineered hardwood but that includes a week for acclimation. Further reading: How long to Install Hardwood.
Q: What is the best time of year to install engineered wood flooring?
A: Fall or spring are best, when humidity levels are more average for the year. If you do it in winter and your home is very dry, run a couple of humidifiers in the house while the flooring is being acclimated. Do this for 3-4 days before installing.
Q: If using a moisture barrier, what type is best?
A: Home Flooring Pros recommend 15lb black tar paper.
Q: Do you need to remove tile, vinyl or wood in order to install engineered wood flooring?
A: No. As long as it is secure and flat, and hard material can remain.
Q: Can you install engineered flooring in a basement?
A: Yes. It is not as susceptible to moisture problems as solid wood flooring, and this is one of its chief advantages.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOOR CLEANING & MAINTENANCE
One of the reasons people love engineered flooring, is that its easy to care for! With proper hardwood cleaning and maintenance, your engineered wood floor should provide many years of high quality luster, and durability to your home. Not to mention, if you decide to sell your home, engineered hardwood floors go a long way in helping people decide to buy your home.
Wood surfaces, even those protected by a rugged coat of polyurethane or other finish, need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Dirt and sand on the surface will act like sand paper, dulling or removing the finish. Liquids spilled on the floor that are not attended to quickly, can lead to damaged wood and staining.
You’ll get the most from your investment with consistent floor care and maintenance. Here’s what you need to know:
TOOLS, EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
You’ll first need something to get up the loose dust, dirt and debris. A soft broom and dustpan can be used, but for ease we like a microfiber mop.
You might prefer to vacuum the floor. If so, use a lightweight vacuum that does not have a rotating bristle bar or one with a “hard floor” mode that does not engage the bar.
A slightly-damp mop can be used to remove remaining debris. If excess water remains on the floor after cleaning, use a towel to dry it. If you want/like to use a cleaning solution and add a shine to your floors while cleaning then you can use a bestselling product like the Bona range of wood floor cleaners, just lightly spray your floors before using your microfiber floor mop.
For tough spots, use the manufacturer-recommended cleaner and use it as instructed. In fact, most manufacturers make cleaning kits for use with their flooring.
What you DON’T use is as important as what you do use.
- avoid ammonia or other harsh detergents as cleaners
- NEVER use a steam cleaner on engineered wood floors because moisture can be forced down into the wood and cause damage
- don’t use scouring pads or steel wool
- follow manufacturers instructions for your specific floor
REFINISHING OR REPLACING
You’ve got two options when buying engineered flooring – planks that can be refinished or planks that must be replaced when worn. The thickness of the wear layer – the top layer of solid wood – will determine whether or not it can be refinished. Of course, the cost of engineered flooring is also effected by the type you choose.
Some thicker flooring, usually ¾”, can be refinished more than once, significantly extending its useful life. If so, you’ll get up to 80 years of wear from it, possibly more. Thinner materials, often just 3/8”, may have a wear layer that is too thin to be refinished and will give you 10-15 years of wear.
How heavy the traffic is on the flooring and how well you care for it will have a lot to do with how long it lasts.
The different thicknesses give you options. You can make your decision based on how long you intend to live in your current home or use the building if it is a commercial setting.
Further Reading: Refinish Engineered Hardwood Cost
FAQ’S RELATED TO THE CARE AND CLEANING OF HARDWOOD FLOORING
Q: How to clean engineered hard wood floors without using a damp mop?
A: We’ve found the best way to clean engineered hardwood floors is to avoid using water all together. There are some great microfiber floor mops that will take up dust and light dirt just as well as a damp mop.
Q: How often should I be cleaning engineered hard wood floors?
A: The short answer is as often as is needed, but like hoovering carpet, once a week is usually a good idea.
Q: What’s the best way to keep dirt off of engineered flooring?
A: Place a mat at each entryway for foot-wiping or encourage people in your household to take off their shoes when entering your home.
Q: What kind of mat is best?
A: Choose a mat that DOES NOT have a rubber backing. The rubber can trap moisture underneath it that might harm your flooring.
Q: Is there anything special that should be done in winter?
A: Place a mat outside with tough bristles on, so snow and ice can be removed from the treads. Then, do not leave shoes or boots directly on the wood surface in case snow or ice melts from them onto the floor. A plastic shoe tray works well, but be careful to dry any moisture that might get beneath it.
Q: Should engineered floors be waxed?
A: It depends on the finish. Most look better with a fresh coat of quality wax. Consult the manufacturer or the installer of the engineered flooring first.
Q: Is refinishing engineered hardwood a DIY project?
A: It can be, but you should have very good skills to consider doing it.
Here are some more hardwood floor cleaning tips.