20 Jul Part 2: Natural Is …
Once frowned upon by healthy-home experts, engineered hardwood flooring is becoming a people- and planet-friendly choice
If you are looking for a new hardwood floor in today’s popular, wider widths, you most likely have seen engineered flooring.
Unlike solid hardwood flooring, an engineered floor is put together in layers, using adhesives. And when the healthy-home movement began more than a decade ago, these products were a no-no.
But with today’s No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF) adhesives, used by many leading manufacturers, concerns about unhealthful chemical emissions are diminishing. And because engineered products use the premium wood species only on the product’s surface, planet-friendly product seekers can make a stronger case for engineered hardwood.
Solid hardwood has been favored by some people who believe it is stronger, and can be sanded and refinished more times than engineered wood. But a number of engineered floors will last just as long, and they offer some advantages that solid hardwood can’t.
The premium wood used in engineered floors 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 temperature and humidity.
For this reason, engineered floors also can be installed in basements when as a general rule, solid hardwood can’t. And in some cases, they can be refinished or recoated like a solid product.
A focus on indoor-air-quality
Because of adhesives used and finishes applied during manufacturing, today’s focus on indoor-air quality has driven many manufacturers to have their products tested and certified for meeting limits set for emissions of multiple Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These certifications include FloorScore, GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold.
Many indoor-air conscious consumers will prefer a prefinished solid or engineered hardwood floor simply because the finish already has been applied and had time to off-gas, meaning little chemical odor during installation.
Custom, on-site finishes
Most engineered floors are stained and finished at the factory. A few companies, including Somerset Hardwood Flooring and Stoehr Flooring, offer unfinished engineered floors, which can be custom-finished after installation.
Today, custom finishing offers many indoor-air friendly options. These include low-VOC waterborne polyurethane and zero-VOC, plant-based oil. The plant-based oil is very matte in appearance, and offers the advantage of being spot-repairable. You do not need to sand and refinish an entire area, as is needed with a polyurethane finish, simply to recoat an area that is showing wear.
There also are several manufacturers who now offer solid and engineered products that are prefinished with zero-VOC, plant-based oils.
The potential for spot repairs saves money over time, but the oil-finished, engineered wide widths usually cost more up front. ©
— Nancy Kibbee is editor at www.naturalinteriors.com.