When Wood Is Good

When Wood Is Good

Part I: Engineered hardwood flooring can be a greener option than solid, but there are many factors to consider before you buy

We knew the day would come. Many of us in the green products industry pushed engineered wood floors because they require less premium wood to manufacturer than solid hardwood floors.

Many customers resisted. Solid wood is stronger, lasts longer and doesn’t echo when you walk on it, they argued. Not true, we countered. When properly manufactured and installed, engineered wood floors can be more durable and feel almost the same underfoot as a solid, hardwood floor.

Today, the argument has dwindled. Engineered hardwood is a top pick for people building green homes on the West Coast. And the trend also has spread across the country. It’s even apparent in the Midwest.

Engineered wood is finally starting to catch on because of better customer education. It used to be that when we said, ‘engineered,’ the customer thought, ‘laminate,’ instead of ‘real wood.’ ”

The premium wood used in this product is the top veneer or layer, which can be up to ¼-inch thick. This veneer is glued to a wood core and backing, which make up the rest of the tongue-and-groove board.

This construction results in a floor that is more dimensionally stable, meaning less expansion and contraction in response to changes in humidity and temperature. Engineered floors also can be sanded and refinished – often as many times as a solid floor can be, with a quality product.

Engineered hardwood floors also can be used in basements, where solids usually cannot. And, engineered floors can be floated, meaning installed without being nailed or glued to the subfloor – though this is where the issue of how the floor sounds and feels when you walk on it arises. An underlayment, such as those made from recycled tires, can address this because they have superior sound-deadening properties.

Trying to choose the best green engineered hardwood floor, however, is more complicated than understanding the construction and the fact that it uses less premium wood. In addition to being glued together in layers, most of these floors are prefinished. So if you are considering the impact on your indoor-air quality, you will want to know what is being emitted from the glues and finishes that are used.

Many of us also are not just concerned about using less premium wood. We want to know whether that wood was sustainably harvested. So this involves some investigation of whether the product has FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification or other sustainable documentation.

Starting next week, we will explore these factors as they apply to many of the major brands being sold today. So come back. ©

— Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com

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