The Problem with Engineered Wood Flooring

August 24, 2022

Hardwood flooring is a sought-after look in homes across the world.

The problem with hardwood floors is twofold, however. First, solid wood planks are not environmentally friendly as they take up a lot of timber. Second, hardwood floors are expensive.

Engineered wood flooring is a popular alternative to hardwood floors because not only does it use less wood, but it is far more affordable without losing any aesthetic appeal. It’s a phenomenal product but it isn’t always suited to all installations, so getting expert advice on some of the below issues is important.

How is Engineered Wood Different to Hardwood Planks?

Engineered wooden floors go by other names, such as composite or man-made wood flooring, which lets us know it is not 100% natural. It is a wood-alike solution made by bonding layers made from wood by-products such as fibres, lumber, sawdust and strands.

Using adhesives as well as high heat and pressure, the layers are fused to form strong and sturdy planks. To the untrained eye, these planks make for a convincing alternative to hardwood because it has a top veneer of real hardwood that makes the plank seem real.

There are currently several kinds of engineered wood flooring on the market, such as plywood, particleboard, high-density fibreboard (HDF) and medium-density fibreboard (MDF).

Exploring the Advantages of These Floors

Before getting into the problem with engineered wood floors, it is important to remember that there are several redeeming qualities to the product. It is, after all, one of the most popular flooring solutions on the market today. It remains an innovative solution that offers a beautiful finish and features some exceptional advantages such as:

  • Durability and a long lifespan. When installed and cared for properly, these floors can last years without a problem.
  • They offer design flexibility because of how many shades and grains are available. No matter your décor needs, you will find a product suited to your preferences.
  • You can choose between a wide array of styles, plank thicknesses, grades and quality. Various brands in South Africa have put out stunning options.
  • You get the look and feel of real hardwood at a fraction of the price per plank, and installation is cheaper too.
  • They are easy to maintain and clean due to their laminated finishes.
  • Unlike hardwood, the planks will not swell or warp as easily with temperature and humidity changes. With the right chemical treatments, they are also highly resistant to termites and rotting, which is sometimes a problem for hardwood.

Issues that are Unique to Engineered Wood Flooring

You will be hard-pressed to find any kind of floor without its own set of failings. The problem with engineered wood flooring is that its difficulties are sometimes harder to foresee than those of its hardwood counterpart. This is because manufacturing methods vary across brands, and not all products are created equal. Construction differences across these products present variables that affect the floor’s performance in various environments, which is why the advice of an industry expert is essential.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Dry Cupping on Individual Planks

Dry cupping is a common problem with engineered wood flooring, and it happens when the edges of individual planks rise higher than the centre of the planks, forming peaks at the seams. The cause is often due to low humidity levels that cause the top layer of the boards to dry out and shrink. This warping can pull the edges of the boards inwards, causing the cupping appearance. In some cases, this issue is seasonal and resolves when the weather becomes more humid again. Keeping the room’s humidity at the level required by the product manufacturer is possible with an HVAC system that controls temperature and humidity.

Delamination When Layers Separate

Sometimes the layers in the composition of the planks separate at the glue-line, resulting in delamination. This is caused by an improper adhesive application during the manufacturing process, or when the planks are repeatedly exposed to moisture and is another problem with engineered wood flooring. High-quality engineered wood floors are less likely to face this problem.

Telegraphing Core Material on the Plank Surface

When the core material inside the plank starts to show through the surface of the plank, it is called telegraphing. This can happen when the plank loses or gains moisture, which changes the core composition’s dimensions. Other issues with the manufacturing of the core may also lead to telegraphing.

While these are the most common issues, other challenges may occur. Fibres in the core can be torn apart due to external stresses on the boards, resulting in wood shear. It is also possible to sand through the top veneer of the plank too much, revealing the core layer. Lathe checks can appear on the surface due to fluctuating environmental conditions too.

While some of the above issues can be remedied, it is important to avoid them altogether by consulting a professional supplier and installer such as Top Carpets and Floors.

We will help you assess whether your home is suitable for engineered wooden flooring products, or if an alternative such as luxury vinyl tiles and laminates are preferable.

Our installations also come with guarantees that ensure your product performs as it should without a problem.

To speak to us about a custom quote or any of your concerns, click here.



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