Undoubtedly, one of the elements of our industry that most excites hardwood flooring dealers/contractors is the opportunity afforded them to "grow" their businesses. The time and energy they devote to developing proper solid-wood floor installation practices that eliminate unwanted product expansion at the job site could be dramatically reduced if they'd only consider the selection and installation of alternative hardwood flooring. I guess you could say that some of these folks just can't see the forest for the trees.
That's unfortunate, because engineered hardwood floors have become probably the fastest-growing product segment in our industry. Back when engineered hardwood was introduced, it was described as a "laminated" product -- which may give you a notion of just how long it's been since the product hit the marketplace. Obviously, no one sought any kind of trademark registration for what was considered a generic term. However, some confusion was created in the minds of consumers when wood-look laminate floors entered the North American market from Europe.
Unlike laminate flooring, our laminated wood floors were never a hybrid derivative with a fiberboard core and decorative wood-look overlay. And it goes without saying that you'll never see an engineered wood product used for any type of countertop installation.
Initially, engineered hardwood flooring was developed with the residential slab-foundation home in mind. At one point, these concrete slab homes accounted for approximately 40 percent of the entire residential market.
And when one took into account potential transitional problems associated with solid wood floor installations on slab, engineered hardwood -- particularly for those of an intellectual bent -- became the wise choice. The differences between the two products were even more dramatic when it came to preparation of the concrete subfloor for the flooring installation. Clearly, the engineered alternative was much better suited for slab installations.
Resistance to engineered hardwood flooring was probably more of an issue for the installer rather than the dealer. At least at first, manufacturers were cautious and limited their engineered product lines in both stains and species. Red oak in natural, followed by a chestnut and or medium brown, ultimately proved the engineered product to a point that put the industry's troops at ease.
Well, that was then and this is now. Today's engineered wood floors are anything but shy in terms of their latest product introductions. Just as solid hardwood flooring has gone through a metamorphic marketing approach, so too has engineered flooring. A full range of species, both domestic and exotic, gleam ever so brightly in the showrooms of today's dealers. The same holds true for the wider look as well.
When you factor in all of the product options available, engineered has everything to offer in terms of looks as any solid prefinished hardwood floor does. Although limited in number, there are engineered products that can be job site-finished as well. Even the recent craze for hand-scraped wood flooring can be addressed in the engineered-product format.
Let's review both suitable locations and conditions for the installation of engineered hardwood flooring. First off, the product may be installed on all grades. Solid hardwood flooring has always been restricted from below-grade installations. Ironically, engineered hardwood continues to be overlooked for above-grade installations.
Actually, there are several reasons why engineered could and should be the product of choice for above-grade applications. On a remodel, for instance, greater height elevation of a solid hardwood floor can complicate the installation. Kitchens that currently have a second or even a third floor covering will require removal of all the old flooring -- including the underlayment -- because of the height requirements for a solid hardwood flooring.
Without removal, you reduce the clearance even more. The toe kick of the cabinets will no longer accept toes. The dishwasher could become trapped should its repair become necessary in the future. The cabinet over the refrigerator that once cleared may require a cutting modification. The transitions to any adjacent flooring may require rework and/or shimming so that the neighboring floor covering that was once considered friendly remains friendly.
The dimensional stability of engineered hardwood and its resistance to environmental changes are appealing. It doesn't, however, afford the installer a carte blanche approach for qualifying the job site. Proper acclimation and delivery are still very important. One day stored in a freezer, and the next day rapidly thawed in a oven-type conditions, is no recipe for a "tasteful" installation. Both moisture content and relative humidity need to be realistic and consistent. If the sublfoor is concrete, multiple moisture readings should be taken. Just because a concrete slab is elevated in a high-rise setting is still no excuse for omitting the testing process.
Although engineered wood floors are predominantly installed with adhesive, approved and recommended mechanical fasteners can also be utilized for installations on non-concrete subfloors. Adhesive technology has come along way from the days of black cut-back. Adhesive needs elasticity and, simultaneously, superior tensile strength. A word of caution: If the installer opts to utilize an adhesive that is not on the "10 most wanted list" provided by the hardwood flooring manufacturers, the warranty responsibility falls on the adhesive manufacturer and not the flooring manufacturer.
Proper adhesive choice and proper application go hand in hand. Observing the recommended spread rate per square foot is vital for the necessary transfer of adhesive from the subfloor to the back of the hardwood flooring product. A dusty or poorly prepared subfloor will also create an inferior bond.
All adhesive has some type of flash time (the period required for the solvent and/or water to dissipate). Trapping undissipated solvent (the curing agent) will also decrease the quality of the bond. In the case of water-type adhesive, trapped water can also cup the hardwood flooring product. Because of the risk associated with these factors, more and more dealers/contractors are opting for urethane-based adhesives.
Except for children, most everything comes with instructions. The hardwood flooring that you are about to install does as well. Trust me, these instructions are definitely worth far more than just the paper they are printed on. Wood or Wood Knot was created with that same principle in mind. You just keep on installing for us, and we will keep on printing for you.