Engineered vs. hardwood flooring?

Anyone have experience with these new so-called engineered flooring materials - which are, if you’re not familiar with them, basically plywood with a semi-thin veneer of hardwood (2mm-5mm typically). These so called engineered flooring boards are still fairly uncommon and new where i live now, and i don’t know anyone with experience with them.

Other than local environemntal concerns (how the different core materials react to your specific climate), the only real drawback to a veneer for flooring is that down the road you can’t really refinish them. Is this for your home, or some sort of income property?

My home, but i doubt i’ll be here more than a few years.

“Engineered” flooring boards? Well, one name is as good as any other I guess. Anyway, as Blue Guyute said, once they go all worn and ugly on you that’s it (this includes not only wear and tear but also bleaching in the sun): If you want to pretty things up you either have to lay down new flooring boards or a wall to wall carpet. On the other hand they usually look very pretty and should be quite a bit cheaper than solid wood floors.

Solid flooring boards will last much, much longer: When they start looking worn, you can sand them down and refinish them. And you get to choose between varnish, oil or soap (light woods, like pine and beech, only) finish.

EDIT: If you’re only going to stay for a few years, engineered flooring boards should work just fine: Cheaper, and possibly a bit easier to lay down.

In the US, it seems there are three kinds of popular wood-like flooring - solid wood, pergo/laminate flooring, and this so-called engineered board that’s actually fairly new on the market where i live, although it doubtless has been elsewhere for awhile.

The living room had high quality laminate flooring when i bought it; but laminate sucks. I don’t want carpet. What other options are there? Tile? Grout sucks!

There’s one other (though you might subsume it under “solid wood”, though it isn’t). Bamboo. Pretty new to the market, environmentally friendly, and think it looks quite nice. Something to consider, as it also tends to be cheaper than hardwoods.

I have some experience. I put “Pergo” on my old house,and my new one has solid wood. The “Pergo” has “bounce” feel to it because it has a layer of padding underneath. The solid-wood feels absolutely solid, with no bounce. It actually hurt my feet for a the first month I lived here.

This depends on the specific flooring, though. Some engineered flooring comes with a thin surface veneer; that can probably be refinished once, maybe, but possibly not at all. But I’ve seen a lot of engineered hardwood where the surface layer goes all the way down to the tongue and groove, so you can refinish that until you wear down to the tongue, which is basically the same limitation that solid hardwood has. The boards are typically a little lower in profile than solid hardwood, so you won’t get quite as much wear out of it, but it will likely last through a good 4-5 refinishings.

I can’t really speak to the long-term durability, but I do have a bit of recent experience regarding engineered flooring. One of my friends just bought a house, and one of the many things we did to renovate it and make it habitable was installing several rooms worth of the stuff. He had a batch at first that was supposedly glueless, but turned out to be impossible to get fixed together. The grooves were not big enough to accommodate the ridges that were supposed to fit in them, and after laying about two rows of them (which took something like six hours) he gave up and sent the whole batch back.

The replacement batch was glue-required, but it was absolutely effortless to assemble. Without a day of professional construction experience among us, we were able to do the 20’ by 20’ living room in a day and the rest of the house in a few evenings. It was the bamboo stuff and it looks and feels absolutely wonderful. It has got to be some of the nicest flooring material I’ve ever seen.

Of course, if you’re getting it professionally done this is completely useless I’m sure, but if you’re thinking of DIY, I can attest that at least the glued stuff is an excellent choice.

Bamboo is a great material, definitely, if you like the look (I do). It’s a renewable resource–grass, basically, that grows to full height in just a year or so. It’s also as hard as rock maple, and water resistant (so a good choice if you want to put wood in a kitchen or bathroom). It doesn’t take stain, though, so you are limited to either the natural color, or a somewhat darker color that they create by carbonizing the bamboo with heat. A word of caution–carbonizing makes the bamboo slightly softer and less water resistant, so the natural color is the ideal choice for bathroom/kitchen installations.

It can also be refinished just like hardwood.

I’m not sure if pergo and other laminates are included in the “engineered” category, but I think they’re great. In my experience, with high quality ones they’re cheaper, durable, and more easily replaced than natural wood. It’s also a bit springier than natural wood. On the downside, it doesn’t look as good as natural wood.

The ideal place for it I think is in a high traffic, informal area–the kitchen for example. But I wouldn’t use it in a formal room, like a nice living room or entranceway. Also, cheaper pergo looks terrible, like glossy plastic wood.

I would say it’s more long-lasting: natural wood floors can last over a hundred years but will need to be refinished every 10 or so years in high traffic areas to stay fresh looking. The pergo in my kitchen is practically immaculate after 17 years of use, with just a few chips and no discoloration.

Its my understanding that pergo and laminates are not considered engineered wood flooring. The stuff I looked at a few years was as Ben described upthread, the solid wood down to the tongue and groove, so you can refinish it a few times. Its supposedly more stable than solid hardwood, because the plywood underneath doesn’t expand and contract as much as real wood. Or maybe that’s just sales talk. Anyway I was all sold on getting it until I got offered a great deal on some solid maple. Which looked great until I moved a rug and discovered that maple darkens with UV exposure…

All woods do that to some extent (maple less so than others, actually; cherry darkens a whole lot more dramatically), and some finishes darken as well (oil finishes, specifically). We have a light spot on our oak floors under the living room rug. The good news is that the darkening doesn’t go on indefinitely. Most of it happens relatively quickly, and then it slows and eventually the floors reach a point where they are as dark as they are going to get. This means that if you leave the lighter area exposed for a while, it will “catch up” to the rest of the floor in a relatively short period of time. How long depends on the type of wood and the tannin content, but probably a couple of months at most.

Tigerwood! or Muiracatiara.

Solid or engineered? Did you put it in yourself or have it done?

Whatever the answer to the former, I’d be interested in hearing about it if you put it in yourself.

I’ve been looking at houses for the past month and a half and am about to the point of saying “Fuck it, I’ll put the finish in I want after the fact” and hardwood floors are one of those things I’d really like to have in certain rooms (Kitchen, dining, probably a couple of the bedrooms). It doesn’t look like it’d be that hard to put in (even the old, traditional kind), but I’m a bit leary since this would be my first house. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the price differentials I’m seeing between engineered and real hardwood is pretty minimal ($1/sf, maybe $2 unless I’m looking at exotic things like hand planed solid hardwood planks). For a whole house that adds up, but it’s hard to feel like the $$$ saving of engineered is substantial for a few hundred square feet.

I do not recommend ‘doing it yourself’ for any number of large home remodeling projects, but I am adamant in warning you to not be tripping balls while doing so.

A few years ago, my wife & I batted around various ideas for flooring. We eventually went with travertine, and have been very happy with it. It is installed with very thin grout lines, a few millimeters at the most. If you do a lot of roughhousing with the kids on the floor it is a bad choice, but for most everything else it is great.

It might be a little expensive if you are not planning to stay long, but I hear you tend to get most of the value out when you sell.

I am a huge fan of hardwood floors, but I’d be careful about putting one in your kitchen. Kitchen floors take a nasty beating, much more than any other floor in the house. Lots of spills, lots of scuffing, lots of traffic. You’ll be refinishing it all the time if you want to keep it looking really nice, and even with a good finish, you can still stain it with some of the sorts of spills that happen in a kitchen. I personally prefer tile for that room of the house. For the rest, absolutely hardwood.

I never heard of these engineered floors before, but audio people say that pergo floors are really bad for a listening room. They’re also mostly insane and/or assholes, though.

One of the things I found out recently is that if you’re purchasing “hardwood” floors these days, you aren’t, actually. Forests that are used for hardwoods are grown and cut too quickly for the wood to mature enough with the same trees that they used to use for the hardwood. Now, hardwood isn’t as durable as it used to be.

Every carpenter and contractor I know now is recommending bamboo.