Faster to Install
Engineered flooring is almost always machined to a higher standard that solid timber flooring, with joint profiles for the most part being highly consistent. The boards are usually pretty straight too, and the tongue and grooves tend to maintain their size well due to being engineered so they do not swell with moisture. Therefore engineered boards usually fit together very smoothly. On the other hand, solid timber is often difficult to install due lower tolerances in the machining which leads to variances in joints profiles. Also boards can take up moisture, causing the joints to swell and/or causing bowing or cupping to the whole length of the board. This is not always the case but when it does happen it can make the floor very difficult to install.
With any engineered flooring, you should be able to use every piece of flooring that you buy as it has been strictly graded and should have no structural defects or characteristics outside of the grade that you ordered. However with solid timber flooring, there is always a percentage of product that is not usable, due to cracks or loose knots, or other structural defects.
Things to be Cautious of Before Buying Engineered Flooring
Price vs Quality
As with most products on the marketplace, there are some good brands and some really bad brands. Generally you get what you pay for – so if an engineered floor is unusually cheap, it is probably poor quality. Try to buy from a reputable store that has been in the industry for a reasonable amount of time and has a wealth of knowledge on the product, rather than a cheap importer who is here today, gone tomorrow and can’t help you with product information.
Compare Apples with Apples
If you are looking at a number of different products, ensure you are taking into account the plank thickness and width, and wear layer – thinner, narrower planks will usually be cheaper but that is because they take less resources to make, they are not necessarily a bargain. Remember not to judge solely on price, but to compare the quality also. Check the makeup of the core – a 6-12 layer cross-directional ply will be more stable than a 3-layer product.
Check the Warranties
Check that the product has a warranty. Often this will tell you a lot about the quality of the product – Poor quality products usually have shorter (or nonexistant) warranties, while good quality products should have a longer warranty.
For Pre-finished Engineered Floors:
Check that the floor will not need further finishing after installation. Some suppliers cheat customers into thinking their flooring is pre-finished when it is really only partially finished and will require a final finishing coat after installation. This means the supplier is able to give you a cheaper price but in the long run it may end up more expensive (and time-consuming) than a fully-finished floor.
Be cautious of pre-finished natural oiled floors. Although they have a beautiful matte finish, most require regular maintenance oiling, a fact which some suppliers fail to advise the consumer at the point of sale. If left untended they can dry out and crack, and are then ruined. For this reason we do not supply them.
How to Choose the right Engineered Flooring Product for your Project
The first step to working out what product you need is to assess your budget and also check if there are any height requirements for the situation it will be used in and the intended installation method.
Generally the thicker the product (and wear layer), the more expensive it will be. If you’re on a tight budget a thinner flooring option will be a more affordable option. If your budget is unlimited, the world is your oyster – you could get the thickest flooring available, in the widest plank and with the biggest wear layer, giving you more resands.
In some situations you there may be a height requirement you need to meet – it is wise to always check with your builder on this. For example, if you are overlaying the flooring on an existing surface and need to minimise thickness you may require a thinner product like a 15mm option. On the other hand, if laying over joists, you will need a thicker option such as 21mm to ensure ultimate stability.
Intended Installation Method:
We usually recommend timber flooring to be installed using the direct-stick method, as it gives a firmer feel underfoot and eliminates any hollow noise. Most flooring can be direct-stuck regardless of joint system (tongue & groove or locking joint), although please check with the manufacturer. However, in some places installers prefer to float flooring over an underlay – in which case your flooring will need a locking joint system.
From here it all comes down to personal preference – what colours are available, whether you like the idea of a solid-equivalent thickness of floor, what plank width you prefer, etc.
Choosing an Installer
Almost more important than the product you choose, is the person you choose to install it. Installing an engineered floor is a tricky task and we highly recommend you get a skilled flooring installer to do the job. No, not your builder – even if he thinks he can do it! Most reputable suppliers will be able to recommend a good installer for their product. If not, you could try looking online – be sure to check for positive reviews. The ultimate is an installer that is approved by the ATFA (Australasian Timber Flooring Association), as they will have done the required training to become a master at flooring installation.
Good luck on choosing your new Engineered Timber Flooring!