Is Engineered Wood Real Wood?

Many people are confused about the difference between hardwood, solid wood, engineered wood and wood laminate. The various styles and finishings available on the market today can be misleading and a little baffling.

We recently had clients get very confused about the finish of their floor. They had purchased a new build flat in North London and opted for the floor upgrade package. Within a few weeks of moving in (and even before we had swept in and provided the majority of the furniture) the floor was scuffed and marked.

The clients questions to us went something like this:

“We’re having issues with the floor (it marks very easily) and are negotiating with the developer to have it replaced (they were marketing it as real wood, which it is not). The engineered wood they had put in marks a lot and I guess hardwood would be a better option (hopefully maintenance is not too bad).”

There are a few problems with this email. They have an engineered walnut floor.

  1. Walnut is a hardwood. The term ‘hardwood’ refers to the tree itself. They tend to be broad leaved trees that grow in temperate or tropical zones, and have require lots of water. Confusingly, ‘hardwood’ does not actually mean the wood is more dense and therefor more hardwearing. Balsa wood, one of the lightest and least dense woods available is also a hardwood. The term refers mainly to the tree’s means of reproduction. Hardwoods produce seeds which are covered and protected, with hard shells like an acorn, of soft shells, like an apple, for example. The hardwood family includes: ash, beech, birch, cherry, chestnut, ebony, elm, mahogany, oak, poplar, teak and willow.
  2. Engineered wood is real wood. Being engineered concerns the substrate of the flooring not the face covering. Engineered floors are pretty much industry standard as they are much more stable than solid wood floors. It involves gluing a thin (or thick) layer of shaved real wood onto the surface of another plank, made up of several layers of wood glued and pressed together, then cut to a precision finish for easy joining. The result is stronger than solid wood, often lighter, creates less sound reverberation, needs less of a structure under it, can be laid quickly, will not need to breath and have room to expand and shrink, and does’t need time to acclimatise.
  3. They are confusing hardwood with solid wood (actual planks of wood), and engineered wood with laminate.

After going over this with the client we came up with a solution to help them avoid replacing the whole floor.

“What may be scratching is the lacquer that is on your floor. You may find you have more luck with an oiled engineered walnut floor but at this stage I would suggest you get a large sample of a floor with this finish and try walking/scratching etc that surface.
If it is the lacquer that is damaging then you may want to consider having the floors stripped (the lacquer layer removed) and have them refinished in an oil finish rather than completely replacing the floor.”

engineered wood flooring

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