A few weeks ago, the NWFA put out a very informative article all about engineered wood flooring. I sat down with the owner of Universal Hardwood, Jeff Meltzer, and asked for his take on this article. The questions in bold are the ones from the article, will Jeff’s answers below.

“Let me start by saying, it is really important to inform customers about engineered wood floors, and though it is known by us in the industry, we want to share this info with customers so you can make an informed decision.”

How can I tell a good-quality engineered floor from a poor one?

“There are a lot of things involved:

  1.   “How thick is the wear layer? The wear layer is the sand-able surface on top, usually 2-3 mm thick. You should get one that can be sanded 1-2 times minimum, however premium flooring can be sanded 3-4 times.
  2.   “What type of structure/core does it have? The structure or core is the plywood or substructure that is below the wear layer. Can be birch or plywood typically. The better the core, the longer the boards will last.
  3.   “What is the quality of the finish? We just posted a blog about hardwood flooring finishes that can help you see the most popular right now and what makes a good finish.
  4.  “What is the length of the board? The longer the better; short boards are 3 feet or so in length. The best boards are between 7-12 feet. If you look in room scenes across flooring websites, you may even notice they always post pictures of longer boards. Longer boards are more luxurious looking with fewer cut marks.

“One trick you can use for checking if a flooring sample is higher quality is finding out if the store has multiple varieties of the same color flooring. The store should have 3-4 qualities or styles for the same color. We have over 2,000 samples so every color and variety we have 3-4 good samples.”

When I am installing an engineered wood floor, I don’t have to worry about moisture, right?

“That’s not true. Moisture is still an issue. If you have a house that’s flooded you can still have damage. If you have a house that’s too dry, the flooring can crack. We have heard of customers in Santa Monica who have had engineered wood floors that have cracked because it is so hot and dry there.

“Some engineered woods are more resilient than others. Look at the solid core and see if it has a balanced core, those have more stability and resiliency. Plywood not resilient.”

I’ve heard that engineered wood flooring is often made with formaldehyde and I should look for “CARB” flooring if I want low emissions. What does that mean?

“Formaldehyde, as it relates to engineered floors, can be avoided if you look for a solid core construction. The less glue you have, the less risk you have. Some manufacturers have zero formaldehyde, but they carry higher end prices. All products at UH are CARB II compliant and the floors we sell are laboratory tested to confirm they are compliant.”

I hear people refer to “balanced” construction of engineered wood floors. What does that mean?

“There are different ways to make floors, such as taking oak and mounting it on plywood. If the wood veneer is exposed to moisture, the oak will expand and contract, but the plywood expands and contracts at a different rate. With a solid core construction, they use veneer on top and solid wood in between and then the balancing layer below. There are 3 layers in balanced whereas the engineered wood floors are sometimes 2 layers.”

I’ve heard many people complaining about the warranties that come with engineered flooring. Can you help me understand them?

“You need to be cautious about warranties. You need to be careful so you can exercise your rights. There are usually two parts to the wood floor warranty, similar to what you find in a car warranty where there is a separate section for the powertrain and one for electrical systems.

  1.  “Finish warranty-this usually means that if you walk on your floors in a normal way, they shouldn’t wear out until 15-20 years down the line. However, it is not absolute, only applies to typical wear and tear. They will “ugly out” first, but won’t be technically worn out. That’s why it is important to get a floor you can refinish.
  2.  “Structure warranty-won’t split or delaminate. Look at the warranty, look at the exclusions, look at the quality of the wood. Rely on quality and then the warranty.”

How long do I need to acclimate my engineered hardwood flooring prior to installation?

“There are two answers:

1.   “Generally accepted answer: 7-10 days

2.  “Technical: look at the conditions today and what they will be for the next 12 months. Get an average for your temperature and humidity levels. You should make adjustments to condition the flooring for the mean of your 12 month average of temperature and humidity levels. For example, if you shipped wood flooring from Indiana to Hawaii example, it would probably have 7% moisture in Indiana, but in Hawaii, you can have much warmer weather and it would be much more humid too. You would want to acclimate the wood until it got to 12% moisture. This could take weeks if not a couple of months.

“Overall, don’t make a decision for your wood floors based solely on price. Ask dealers these questions and if they don’t know the answers, go somewhere else.”

Please read the full article on the NWFA Magazine website at: http://www.hardwoodfloorsmag.com/installation/engineered-101-understand-the-fundamentals-of-engineered-wood-flooring.html.
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