Engineered timber flooring is particularly popular because it is indistinguishable from solid timber, but offers a host of benefits solid timber doesn’t. Those include increased stability, which means it won’t cup, tent, shrink or expand. “And because it has a layer of real timber on top, you cannot tell the difference between engineered and solid timber. So it’s a win-win – better stability and durability while looks-wise, the two products are the same,” Di Legno’s Alan Scott says.

According to Alan, a common misconception about engineered timber flooring is that it can’t be refinished. “However, that’s not the case. Engineered timber can be resanded three or four times, so the aesthetic can be changed every few years.”

Once you’ve decided on engineered timber flooring though, the options don’t stop there. And it’s in these detailed choices where it’s important to think carefully about the functionality and aesthetic you want to create. The first, and perhaps most obvious choice, is whether to specify finished or prefinished boards.

“Unfinished timber is laid on your floor and then finished on site,” Alan says. “That involves sanding, staining and coating, which means more time is needed on site, however with this option the colour is completely customisable.”

Prefinished timber, in comparison, is installed as a finished product, which reduces the time on site significantly. “While it isn’t completely customisable, there is a large selection of timbers and colours to choose from.”

The grade of timber chosen is the next clear choice to make, but these only matter in regards to aesthetic rather than functionality – with no difference in how each grade will perform. “There are three grades of timber to choose from: prime grade, natural grade and rustic grade,” Alan says.

“Rustic is the most affordable option, with the cost going up from there and prime the most expensive option. Overall, the price varies typically about $10 – $35 per square metre between the three grades.

Once these two choices have been made, it comes down to the finishes. The most common – brushed and bevelled finishes – are often used together. A brushed finish is one that is achieved with the timber being brushed with a wire brush to remove the soft parts of the grain and create a textured finish. Bevelling is a separate detail used to highlight where one board ends and another begins. “It is where the edge of the timber has been rounded so you can see a defined end to each board. Square edge, on the other hand, is another option where the edges of the planks meet perfectly creating a seamless flow. These, again, are purely cosmetic and don’t change the way the floor will perform.”

The next choice relates to how the floor will be treated; with oil or polyurethane. Oil is increasing in popularity because of its natural qualities and matt finish. “Polyurethane is available in matt, satin matt and gloss, but even with the matt finish, when the light hits it you still see a slight sheen,” Alan says.

The other main difference between the two finishes is that oil improves with age. “What puts a lot of people off oil is the misconception that it is high maintenance. It does require a moisturising cleaning solution to be mopped on every four to six weeks, but other than that there is no additional maintenance.”

Oil is also easier to touch up, but at the same time is easier to mark than polyurethane. “If it does get scratched or marked though, it can easily be touched up. Polyurethane doesn’t mark as easily but if it does get scratched, there are limited ways to patch it up and the only way to get rid of some scratches is to sand it back and re-coat the whole floor. Polyurethane also starts off at its best and slowly deteriorates.”

Oil, unlike polyurethane penetrates the timber so you are walking on the timber itself, while polyurethane is a coating that sits on top of the timber rather than soaking into it. “Because of this, it has a smoother feel than oil, but really, it’s up to what people prefer and how they will use it.”

For hard-use areas or situations where dogs or children are involved, Alan recommends the unfinished brushed and bevelled boards with an oil finish because it is easily repairable if it is marked or scratched. “The texture created by the brushed and bevelled look also makes it difficult to see any imperfections, and the oil finish enables easy touch ups, whereas with polyurethane, once it’s scratched you’re stuck with those marks until you’re ready to redo the entire floor.”

In wet areas, engineered timber can be, and is often being, installed in rooms such as laundries and bathrooms. “While it can be installed in these areas, it must be noted that due to the wet environment, the flooring can be prone to some movement.”

Visit Di Legno on ArchiPro here to find out more about how engineered timber works and what option is best for your next project.