When you’re shopping for a new hardwood floor, you’re going to encounter a lot of different terms. Some of them, such as unfinished hardwood, are pretty self-explanatory. Others, however, are more confusing. An example is engineered hardwood and prefinished hardwood. What does it mean for hardwood to be engineered? How is that different from finished hardwood?
Engineered and Prefinished Hardwood
Engineered hardwood is hardwood that is made from several different layers. The top layer is a thin veneer of the desired hardwood. This is the layer that forms the surface of the floor. Underneath there are several layers of a lower quality wood sandwiched and glued together. They could be layers of hardwood plies or even pressboard made from chipped wood that is glued together.
In contrast, prefinished hardwood generally refers to planks of solid hardwood that are stained and finished in a factory. They’re coated in polyurethane or an aluminum-based protectant by a factory instead of applied by hand on the jobsite. Engineered hardwood is also finished in a similar manner.
Which is Better?
There are reasons to choose both kinds of hardwood. If you want your floor to float, either option will work. A floating hardwood floor is one that is not actually attached to the subfloor; the different planks are attached to each other. If you’re installing the flooring in a basement or other humid area, engineered hardwood might be the better choice. Engineered hardwood does not cup or warp in the presence of heat and humidity the way solid hardwood might.
Prefinished solid hardwood is a great choice if you plan to sand and refinish the floor at any point. The veneer on engineered hardwood is so thin that it can’t survive many aggressive sandings.
One big difference between engineered hardwood and prefinished hardwood is versatility. The engineered hardwood options will be generally more diverse than prefinished hardwood. That’s because engineered hardwood only needs to have a thin layer of the desired hardwood. For example, ipe hardwood flooring is in high demand. Ipe, also known as Brazilian walnut is an incredibly hard wood. To make a plank of engineered ipe, the manufacturer only needs a thin layer of ipe. Solid ipe planks require much more wood. That will serve to limit the availability of ipe and other less common woods for the domestic market. It also could affect the price.
These are just a few of the differences between engineered and prefinished hardwood.