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engineered flooring

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kahrs_ash_sandvig_smallDespite the fact that hard and softwoods have been utilized as flooring mediums for several centuries now, pre-finished engineered flooring is a relatively recent development, and was invented by Kahrs, who in 1941 were granted a patent for the engineered wood floor construction that is now the standard for non-solid wood floor manufacturing all over the world.

Engineered wood is now the most common type of wood flooring used globally, with only the USA having a larger solid wood market than engineered. Even then, engineered wood is quickly catching up in market share.

The construction of all engineered flooring nowadays is essentially composed of the following component layers;

kahrs engineered construction_small(1) On the surface 4-6 layers of UV hardened acrylic or natural oil are applied onto (2) the hardwood decoractive wear-layer (properly known as the “lamella”), which is typically a sawn piece of hardwood timber. This wear-layer is glued onto (3) a core-board, or substrate, which is commonly composed of either multi-layer plywood, softwood lathes, or HDF (high density fibreboard). The board is then backed with (4) a thin stabilizing layer of pine or spruce, although on Multi-layer boards this backing is generally not necessary.

 

Multi-layer Plywood

multiply construction_smallA ply, or multi-layer board, is composed of multiple layers of thin wood veneer, each laid at 90 degrees to each other. Whilst used by some manufacturers in 14-15mm boards, it is more often found in 21mm thick boards where the top wear layer is 6 or 7mm thick. This construction provides the best dimensional stability and in the case of the 21mm thick boards, is what provides the strength and density that enables these floors to be nailed to joists.

Soft wood Cores

spruce construction_smallSoft wood cores are used exclusively in 14 to 15mm thick engineered floors that have 4mm wear layers. The core material is composed of a series of softwood laths which are arranged at 90 degrees to the top layers of the board; the crossed grain direction providing the dimensional stability. The board is finished at the back with a thin veneer of softwood.

 

Balanced Board

balanced board_smallA variation on the softwood and multi-layer boards is where on the rear-side of the board a final layer of the same timber type and thickness that is used for the wear-layer is applied. Because of the structural symmetry (hence the term “balanced board”) in cross-section, this is thought by many to be the most stable of engineered floors.

 

HDF

hdf construction_smallHDF, or High Density Fibreboard, is generally used in boards with thinner veneer style wearlayers; it’s high compressive strength being able to provide additional support. You will often find the more exotic wood species available in this construction, as the scope for using a thinner wear-layer (and hence less material) can make what would otherwise be a costly floor in a solid exotic hardwood, comparatively inexpensive.

It should be noted that ALL wood floors are susceptible to the effects of moisture, but that those with an HDF core are particularly hygroscopic and must never be exposed to large amounts of water or very high humidity - the expansion caused from absorbing water combined with the density of the fibreboard, will cause it to lose its form.

Environmentally speaking, although HDF is notable for being made of waste material from the timber industry, and as such does not involve the cutting down of trees, it is not VOC free and is in that respect not environmentally friendly.

Thickness

Engineered flooring is available in several thicknesses; 12mm, 14-15mm and 21mm. 12mm generally has an HDF (high density fibreboard) core, or substrate, and usually comes in a Click system. The 14 - 15mm and 21mm thicknesses have either softwood or plywood cores. All 3 thicknesses can be either floated or glued, but only the 21mm is load bearing and therefore can also be secret-nailed direct to joists or timber sub-floors.

NOT engineered flooring!

Laminate, Veneer, and even Vinyl strip floors are all sometimes confused with engineered wood floors.

In fact, Laminate flooring uses an image of wood on its surface, sealed with a protective wearlayer, with an HDF core. The boards are generally between 7-8mm thick, and manufacturers include companies such Quickstep, Pergo, Balterio and Witex.

Wood Vinyl strip, such as that manufactured by Amtico and Karndean, is essenially a layered plastic formed to look like wood and is typically 2.5mm-3.5mm thick, and comes in 900mm x 100mm strips. The "wood" surface, is like laminate,  a digital image of a real wood, set behind a protective vinyl wearlayer. If you are looking for this kind of flooring click HERE

Veneer is usually a thin layer of wood (around 1mm thick), with a core that could be one of a number of different composite wood products, although most commonly, high density fibreboard. Despite the apparent thinness of the wear-layer of veneered floors, they are normally extremely durable, and because of the  inherent economy in manufacturing floors from very thin veneers, can often make floors of very rare and exotic species, that would otherwise be completely unaffordable, relatively inexpensive. An example would be "Parky" floors, where you will find species such as Rosewood Santos, Olivewood, Stained Ebony, Wenge and Zebrano.

However, just to confuse things, it should be noted that Veneer is also available as a sub-category of engineered flooring known as acrylic impregnated wood flooring.