What is Engineered Wood?

This article sheds light on what is engineered wood, why choose it, how does it compare to hardwood and plywood and where should you install it. 

For someone who may ask, “what is engineered wood?” let’s begin by saying that it is also called manufactured board, man-made or composite wood. It encompasses a wide spectrum of derivative wood products that are made by fixing or binding the particles, strands, veneers or fibers of wood along with adhesives to make up composite materials. These products are made or engineered to pre-set precise design measurements that are tested to match domestic or international standards.

engineered wood flooring


Well, it comprises wood products made of engineered wood. They can be successfully used for a variety of applications, including home construction or in building commercial complexes or industrial products. They can also be used for beams and joists, thereby replacing conventionally used steel in construction projects.

These days, engineered wood products are created from the hardwoods and softwoods that go to make lumber.

Why choose engineered flooring?

With people increasingly opting for engineered wood, you might be wondering why this is happening. Well, for a multitude of reasons, such as:

  • Engineered flooring can be had in a wide variety of timbers to suit all kinds of homes.
  • They are available with several kinds of effects.
  • You can lay them over several kinds of existing flooring, such as concrete.
  • It is also available in pre-finished form, so it does not require lacquering, waxing or oiling but being ready for use the moment it is laid.
  • It can be done as an easy DIY project, thus saving labor costs.

How to tell if it’s right for you

When choosing flooring for your home, much depends on the kind of footfalls you expect. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, engineered flooring is good for you as it is highly resistant to moisture and humidity.

If you have a large family or expect many people to enter your home each day, you need to check out the thickness of engineered wood’s wear layer. It is normally right for highly trafficked areas, and for homes with little kids or teens and pets. That’s because this wood surface is scratch-resistant and waterproof.

Where to install engineered wood

You can use this kind of wood in the following places:

  • Basements: Engineered wood is good to use in basements since it is highly resistant to moisture that usually collects here. As in the case of plywood, here too the veneer layers crisscross, thereby reducing its predisposition to expand and contract. Since these boards are thin, they are particularly useful in those basements where headroom is minimal.
  • At doorways and stairways: The thickness of this wood begins at ¼”. This lets you to transition between different flooring types at doorways and stairways that wouldn’t work well without a conventional ¾-inch wooden flooring. This kind of flooring can also be used on any flat and stable surface, such as a ceramic tile, wooden flooring or vinyl sheeting.
  • On radiant heat: Engineered wood is better at transferring heat than conventional wood, apart from also being increasingly stable. This makes engineered wood a better option to use with the radiant system.

Engineered wood vs. hardwood: Which to choose?

One of the many options to engineered wood available today is hardwood flooring. Should you choose solid or hardwood or engineered wood flooring. An answer to this would only be possible after knowing the pros and cons of each kind of wood. Here they are:

  • Thickness: Solid hardwood is usually ¾” thick and is milled from one piece of wood. So, it can be sanded down and refinished for several years. However, engineered hardwood is made of three to five wood layers that have been stuck together using heat and pressure.
  • Expansion and contraction of wood: Solid hardwood is made using one piece of wood, so it is affected by changes in humidity levels, causing the wood to expand or contract. This could make the wood warp in the long-term. Engineered hardwood flooring is strong enough to be installed in basements where humidity levels are high, often ranging between 30% and 60%.
  • Cost: Solid hardwood costs more than engineered wood because the latter has only one layer with a 100% hardwood surface. The layers below this one are engineered pieces.

Engineered wood vs. plywood

Your preference for either of these kinds of wood depends largely on what you’re making and the conditions under which the material will be used. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), a form of engineered wood, is usually more inexpensive than plywood. However, it isn’t as hard as plywood and sags under heavy weight. There are other differences between the two, as outlined below:

  • Exposure to moisture: MDF cannot take much moisture, so it’s best used indoors for furniture. The strength of plywood is also affected by exposure to moisture, so it would help to glue plywood before it’s used outdoors. For best results, plywood should be used in areas of low moisture.
  • Strength: MDF isn’t as hard as plywood and, with rough handling, can damage easily. Plywood’s cross grains may improve dimensional stability by eliminating shrinkage and expansion, giving it strength in both directions. Its odd number of sheets also helps reduce warping.
  • Applications in construction: When building homes, MDF is best used to make doors and internal panels, where moisture is less prone to damage it. Plywood, however, has applications in making doors, stairs, flooring, framing, staircase, balustrades, etc. Since plywood bends easily along with the grain, it can be used to make cured objects.
  • Cost: Though MDF isn’t as expensive as plywood, yet everything depends on the grade of plywood you choose and the kind of wood. As you choose the better quality of plywood, the prices increase since they are more beautiful, revealing the wood’s natural grains. When used in the construction field, the lower qualities are usually chosen.
  • Prone to water damage: Plywood may be more resistant to water than MDF, yet it is porous and prone to damage when overexposed to water for protracted periods. MDF isn’t water-resistant. It can be made water-resistant by using a thick primer and paint to seal MDF.

Author: John Clax

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