Engineered wood, also called composite wood, man-made wood, or manufactured board, includes a range of derivative wood products which are manufactured by binding or fixing the strands, particles, fibers, or veneers or boards of wood, together with adhesives, or other methods of fixation to form composite materials. These products are engineered to precise design specifications which are tested to meet national or international standards. Engineered wood products are used in a variety of applications, from home construction to commercial buildings to industrial products. The products can be used for joists and beams that replace steel in many building projects.
Typically, engineered wood products are made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used to manufacture lumber. Sawmill scraps and other wood waste can be used for engineered wood composed of wood parties or fibbers, but whole logs are usually used for veneers, such as plywood, MDF or particle board. Some engineered wood products, like oriented strand board (OSB), can use trees from the poplar family, a common but non-structural species.
Alternatively, it is also possible to manufacture similar engineered bamboo from bamboo; and similar engineered cellulosic products from other lignin-containing materials such as rye straw, wheat straw, rice straw, hemp stalks, kenaf stalks, or sugar cane residue, in which case they contain no actual wood but rather vegetable fibers.
Engineered wood flooring is composed of two or more layers of wood in the form of a plank. The top layer (lamella) is the wood that is visible when the flooring is installed and is adhered to the core. The increased stability of engineered wood is achieved by running each layer at a 90° angle to the layer above. This stability makes it a universal product that can be installed over all types of subfloors above, below or on grade. Engineered wood is the most common type of wood flooring used globally.
It is difficult to compare solid wood flooring to engineered wood flooring due to the wide range of quality in both product categories, particularly engineered. Solid wood has some limitations. Recommended maximum widths and lengths are typically 5″ / 127mm wide and 7′ / 2100mm long. Solid hardwood is also more prone to “gapping” (excessive space between planks), “crowning” (convex curving upwards when humidity increases) and “cupping” (a concave or “dished” appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the centre) with increased plank size. Solid wood CANNOT be used with underfloor radiant heating. However extra care is necessary with the planning and installation of the heating system and the wood flooring, such as limiting the temperature to 85 °F (29 °C), avoid sharp temperature fluctuations, utilizing an outdoor thermostat to anticipate heating demands, and monitoring the moisture content for the subfloor before installation.
There are some characteristics that are common to each category: solid wood is more frequently site-finished, is always in a plank format, is generally thicker than engineered wood, and is usually installed by nailing. Engineered wood is more frequently pre-finished, has bevelled edges, is very rarely site-finished, and is installed with glue or as a floating installation.
Engineered wood flooring has other benefits beyond dimensional stability and universal use. Patented installation systems allow for faster installation and easy replacement of boards. Engineered wood also allows for a floating installation where the planks are not adhered to the subfloor or to each other, further increasing ease of repair and reducing installation time. Engineered flooring is also suitable for underfloor and radiant heating systems.