From a performance standpoint, engineered wood floors make perfect sense for many commercial applications. Pictured is Mirage engineered Red Oak Select & Better grade 2 in Natural.
The demand for an alternate underlayment for use in solid wood floor installations originated in the construction industry. Residential construction contractors, in particular, broke with tradition when they began utilizing plywood in lieu of the 1-by-6-inch planks of solid fir that were installed diagonally over the floor joists.

Prior to 1965, if a new home was to qualify for an FHA mortgage, solid hardwood flooring was required in the structure. Slab construction typically utilized resilient inlaid flooring materials. As we all know, the federal mandates requiring solid wood floors were eliminated. As a result, "Carpet was King" for a long period of time.

Without question, the three vital components of wood flooring's resurgence in the marketplace were the introduction of new colors/stains, urethane finishes and last, but not least, engineered hardwood floors. The manufacturing developments that led to engineered wood floor innovations became the beacon that guided our industry away from the complacency of solid hardwood floors.

Keep in mind that, today, more than 40% of all new homes are constructed on concrete slabs. For this reason, engineered hardwood floors became a perfect alternative to the "disposable" floor coverings that made inroads in the marketplace after the federal solid-wood floor mandate had been scrapped.

But since the format was introduced, engineered hardwood flooring, which once was deemed suitable only for ground-floor applications, has begun an ascent. The manufacturers of engineered hardwood flooring have carved new niches in the marketplace by showcasing the uniqueness and versatility of their products for the architectural and design communities.

Just as prefinished hardwood opened the door to opportunities in both the new and replacement/remodel residential markets, the rising star that is engineered wood has proven itself quite capable of meeting the demands and criteria of the market's commercial segment.

Hardwood flooring manufacturers, like those that produce alternative floor coverings, generally specify the type of traffic that each individual product can withstand. Commercial buildings can be subject to constant foot traffic. Therefore, product selection is critical to obtaining maximum performance in an engineered wood floor.

Today's commercial wood floor products stand in testimony to the quality and endurance that has long been associated with our segment of the flooring industry. Without question, these commercial wood products are superior to traditional residential wood floors provided they are installed in the intended environment.

It's also true, however, that several residential engineered hardwood flooring products will perform quite well in a specialty shop setting, such as a boutique, where traffic is generated mainly by browsing consumers.

The only way to choose the correct engineered product for commercial installation is to research the characteristics of the species, the manufacturer's finishing process and, perhaps most important of all, the required maintenance to provide maximum performance. Let's begin with the tried-and-true performer commonly referred to as acrylic-impregnated wood floors.

Santos Mahogany in Natural from Mirage's Engineered Cabreuva line.
First of all, the stain and acrylic are permanent in these products. So, color loss due to exposure to traffic or sunlight becomes a moot point. The initial start-up maintenance procedure may require polishing and high-speed buffing several times to obtain a long-lasting sheen. Obviously, the extent of this start-up regimen will depend upon the customer's personal preference. Otherwise, mere periodic polishing and buffing will be sufficient.

A word of caution: avoid installations in wet areas. These products were historically marketed as having "non-urethane" finishes. Water spotting can occur and cause temporary discoloration while simultaneously promoting a need for premature maintenance. The old rule still applies -- water and wood don't mix.

Recent developments in urethane formulations allowed our industry to make a great product even better. Today's acrylic-impregnated hardwood floors are now available with urethane. When you combine urethane with the hardness already associated with the product, the sky is the limit in terms of installation possibilities.

When choosing an engineered hardwood flooring product for a commercial application, you would also do well to consider a wood species with high a psi (pounds per square inch) rating. Two such species are Brazilian Cherry and Walnut. Already noted for their ability to adapt to humid conditions, these species have a variegated appearance with a depth of color that is enhanced by age.

Another advantage engineered hardwood flooring has over the traditional 3/4-inch solid-wood flooring is the reduction in the transition requirements at doorways and any other adjacent flooring material. Combine this attribute with the use of a quality adhesive, and you have an installation that's fairly impervious to heavy usage.

As with all installations on a concrete substrate, check for potential moisture-emission problems and irregularities or lack of flatness in the subfloor. You noticed that I refrained from the word "level." That term, in itself, has haunted many a contractor in their days of installing any hardwood flooring material.

All in all, today's engineered flooring products are not only a "contender" in the commercial flooring market, but could very well be considered a "champion" for their overall versatility and durability. Wood or Wood Knot wants you to share your talent and knowledge. You and the commercial segment will both be richer for it.