Are engineered hardwoods an environmentally friendly option?
While any fan of real wooden flooring would covet a pristine parquet hardwood floor, unless it’s already in situ a hardwood floor is not considered to be the most environmentally friendly type of flooring on the planet. Hardwood trees are much slower growing than softer woods such as pine, and harvesting valuable hardwood forests has a notorious reputation as one of the most ecologically damaging and unsustainable branches of forestry. The world’s hardwood forests have suffered a massive decline over the last few years, so if you care about the environment and the welfare of our planet’s hardwood forests, you’ll never be able to have that gorgeous hardwood floor, right?
Well now you can, thanks to a method known as ‘engineered hardwood’. Durable and kinder to the environment too, engineered hardwood is the next generation of hardwood flooring – and it’s really starting to take off in the UK.
What is engineered hardwood?
The secret is that engineered ‘hardwood’ flooring is actually a little bit of a cheat! Traditional hardwood flooring is cut from solid pieces of particularly hard and rare woods such as teak. However, engineered hardwood is actually a veneer on top of strips of plywood that are cross-layered and then glued together. On top of this sandwich of sustainable timber a thin top layer of the more exotic hardwood is laid, creating the appearance of a floor made of exotic or rare wood. The floor is then finished in the usual manner, either with wax, polishing or varnish. Once that finish has been added it is practically impossible to tell the difference between a ‘genuine’ hardwood floor and an engineered one.
This clever technique creates the illusion of a genuine hardwood floor, but with none of the massive environmental impact that a real hardwood floor would have. Choosing this veneer version over the ‘real McCoy’ could help to protect and preserve some of the world’s most delicate ecosystems for generations to come.
And the numbers support the theory. For every square foot of solid ¾” hardwood flooring from unsustainable hardwood sources, approximately four times the amount of engineered hardwood flooring can be produced.
Good for the environment, good for you
So engineered hardwood a good thing for the environment, but it also opens up your options if you want all the beauty of a hardwood floor but don’t want your décor to impact on the planet – or your wallet. An engineered hardwood floor is vastly cheaper in cost than a genuine one, and the installation process is reasonably simple too. Engineered hardwood floors can be installed on top of existing wooden floors or directly onto a dry concrete surface, so your wooden floor experts should be able to install an engineered hardwood floor with the minimum disruption. However, one important factor to remember with engineered hardwood floors is that the moisture content of the surface the floor is being laid on should not exceed 4%. Any higher than this and the integrity of the bonding between the layers could eventually be compromised.
An engineered hardwood floor can also add substantial value to your home, despite the fact that it doesn’t cost as much as the ‘real thing’. It could also become quite a selling point – both as an environmentally sound concept and as a beautiful addition to your home décor.
Floor sanding and polishing on wooden floors are losing none of their appeal, and the appearance of hardwood flooring is still as desirable as it was when traditional parquet floors were all the rage 50 years ago. However today, we are far more aware of our impact on the planet and how much of an effect a particular style of interior design can have on our world’s most precious resources. Engineered hardwood flooring is a viable alternative to solid hardwood, and one that is set to become even more popular in the coming years.