When most people talk about hardwood flooring, they are generally referring to traditional solid wood flooring materials. Many times engineered hardwood floors are thought of as inferior to the "real thing," produced from man-made, less desirable materials. This could not be farther from the truth. Engineered hardwood flooring is 100% real wood – "engineered" only refers to the manufacturing process. On the surface, engineered floors have the same luxurious look and feel as traditional solid wood floors, but that is where the similarity really ends.
A side view of an engineered flooring plank actually bears a close resemblance to a sandwich in structure. Several layers of wood are bound together to form the final flooring plank. The base typically consists of a specially constructed hardwood plywood layer. During manufacture, the grain of each consecutive layer lies at right angles to the previous layer. The resulting engineered plank is stouter than a comparable solid wooden one. This cross-grained arrangement results in a floor that resists cupping, twisting and buckling that often found in traditional solid wood flooring materials.
A thin strip of hardwood veneer comprises the top most or "wear" layer. The thickness of this layer varies by manufacturer, but most varieties range from as little as 1/8 ", up to 5/8". Although any species of hardwood is appropriate for this layer, with hickory, oak, cherry, walnut and maple proving to be the most commonly used hardwoods. White pine and cedar are popular softwood materials. Several exotic species, such as Brazilian cherry and teak, are also common choices for those looking for a non-traditional look.
It would be extremely difficult for a casual observer to distinguish a traditional solid wood floor from an engineered one once installed. To the naked eye, they are virtually identical. This should really come as no surprise to anyone, considering the top wear layer of the engineered floor is actually real wood. For many homeowners, engineered wood flooring is an attractive, economical alternative to traditional solid wood flooring.