Engineered Flooring - 5 Questions Your Customers Will Ask You

By Ben Nystrom, 01/10/12

We're a big fan of Hardwood Floors Magazine. It's informative, entertaining, and timely. Take their latest in-depth article, for instance: Engineered Enigmas: Know These Answers to Avoid Problems. It features five great answers to common questions you'll be asked by customers interested in engineered flooring. It's a bit long - over 1,600 words, in fact, - so we've condensed the article a bit to bring you the most important parts in a scaled-down version. Enjoy!

1. Do I need to acclimate the flooring?

Unlike solid wood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring doesn't require an acclimation process. It does, however, often require you to acclimate the environment in which it is being installed to the manufacturer specifications. These guidelines will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, with appropriate relative humidity ranging anywhere from 35% to 60%. It's up to the installer to know what the manufacturer recommends. As Hardwood Floors Mag says, "Just because the product is engineered doesn't mean that installers should skip taking moisture readings on the flooring or subfloor. Knowing the recommended RH range and keeping the flooring within that range for the life of the product ensures the best performance of the product."

2. Can I use it where I live?

This is one of the most common (and frustrating) problems people face when researching engineered flooring. The simple answer is - maybe not. Engineered flooring needs to be kept in an area with an appropriate relative humidity, and some places have an RH that is either too high or too low to support engineered flooring.
"If you live in Las Vegas," the article explains, "where the average RH hovers around 30%, and the flooring manufacturer's low range is 40%, it becomes more difficult to maintain acceptable living conditions, especially without strict humidity control."
One answer to this problem is to find a manufacturer that produces engineered flooring that fits the RH of the area in which you live. However, this can limit the style of flooring you can choose.

3. Can I install it in more areas than solid products?

In a word, yes: "Engineered flooring is more dimensionally stable than solid wood flooring, allowing for more installation options. The plywood core under the wear layer is less susceptible to expansion and contraction than solid wood flooring, which makes it possible to install it on a variety of surfaces and choose from several installation methods and systems."
There are still limitations, of course. It is not meant to be installed in extreme conditions, such as places with big shifts in humidity or excessive moisture.

4. Will different wear layer cuts, finishes, and species perform differently?

Yes. Different cuts, species, and finishes react differently to different environments. Certain finishes, like oil, show fewer imperfections than others, while certain closed-grain species like beech tend to show more imperfections.
"If the floor is going in a high-rise in a drier climate like Denver," the article explains, "where you can expect the floor to experience more shrinkage, a tropical species with a hard finish may not be the best option."

5. Is a thicker wear layer always better?

The old axiom of "The thicker the wear layer, the better" isn't always true. Yes, thicker wear layers allow for more sanding and refinishing, but thicker wear layers also tend to react more to moisture, causing some engineered flooring varieties to act more like a solid: "A thicker wear layer may have a tendency to react to moisture like a solid product, with greater expansion and contraction than a thinner wear layer."

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To learn more about engineered hardwood flooring, visit Elemental Wood Flooring.

By Ben Nystrom, 01/10/12

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