Do Engineered Wood Floors Expand and Contract?

This is one of the questions most commonly asked by homeowners considering installing engineered wood flooring. Knowing that solid hardwoods are heavily prone to expansion and contraction, the question is are engineered wood floors the same?

Atmospheric changes

Compared to solid timber, engineered planks have a more stable structure due to their layers of hardwood combined with plywood. This means they are able to withstand atmospheric changes more than solid hardwoods. However, as with all real woods, engineered planks naturally change shape due to variations in humidity and temperature within the home. As engineered wood is not an artificial product, it will react to seasonal changes the same way our bodies do.

When the weather is humid, planks absorb moisture causing them to expand. Alternatively, during cold seasons, planks shrink as they become dry. Although engineered planks resist these seasonal changes more than solid hardwood, you should still expect a small amount of expanding and contracting. With this in mind, there are steps you can take in anticipation of possible expansion.

Expansion gaps

To prevent serious problems with your engineered floor in later life, expansion gaps should be left around the edge of the room, wherever the floor meets a fixed object such as the walls or a doorway. This will allow engineered planks to naturally expand and contract without causing disfigurement to the overall floor. Without an expansion gap, planks may be forced upright, leaving you with an uneven and unstable floor.

In general, leaving a space of 10-15mm is adequate, however always ask one of our flooring experts as gaps may vary depending on the type of wood and the size of your room.

Other tips to reduce expansion and contraction

One of the simplest things you can do is adjust the relative humidity in your home to maintain the shape of your engineered floor.

In the summer, the aim is to keep the moisture out of the air before it is absorbed by the wood floor. An affordable hygrometer is a good gadget to have, as this monitors the amount of air moisture indoors. A dehumidifier or air conditioning will then extract this moisture, keeping your planks at their ideal temperature.

In the colder months, a humidifier will stabilise the increased indoor heat, reducing the chances of gapping between planks.

To sum up, the expansion and contraction of engineered planks is likely to be minimal compared to solid wood but it’s always best to leave that small expansion gap during installation to counteract any small movements. You can also maintain the relative indoor humidity to prevent spreading and separation of planks.

 

Vinyl Plank vs. Engineered Hardwood

For homeowners shopping for a new floor, there are two flooring choices that are quickly gaining in popularity – vinyl plank and engineered wood. Both are able to mimic the authentic look of true hardwood and are considered affordable alternatives. They also boast a number of excellent features, making it difficult to decide which is the best floor for your lifestyle. To help you decide, here is a list of how vinyl plank and engineered wood compare in 5 important categories:

Resistance to water

One of the main design features of engineered hardwood was to resist moisture which is often associated with typical hardwoods. The plywood base acts as a barrier against light moisture but cannot withstand anything heavier. Vinyl plank, on the other hand, is renowned for being 100% waterproof, making them ideal for spaces prone to moisture like kitchens and bathrooms.

Appearance

Engineered hardwood has an identical look and feel to solid timber at a fraction of the price. Vinyl plank also has a strong resemblance to real wood however it is much softer underfoot, losing that wooden sound associated with a natural timber floor. This can be an advantage though, as some people favour soft textured floors, especially in areas where you stand for long periods like the kitchen.

Maintenance

Engineered and vinyl floors require minimal maintenance as they are made from resistant materials. Both are stain resistant, making spills and mess easy to clean. They are therefore both good options for families with children or pets.

Installation

Both floors have the benefit of being able to be installed directly over existing subfloors. Depending on the brand of engineered hardwood, floors can be installed by glueing, stapling or floating, all of which are considered easy installation options and may even be done by the homeowner. Vinyl planks vary between glue and lock-in installation, which again are simple, hassle-free processes.

Scratch resistance

Though neither floor is scratch-proof, engineered hardwood is extremely hard-wearing and does not scratch easily when it comes to daily activity. Vinyl plank is also durable however it can be dented by sharp or heavy objects.

As you can see, there are many similarities between the two floors and both would be durable, long-lasting additions to any household. However, there are distinctions that may suit floors to certain lifestyles and spaces. Vinyl plank is ideal in wet areas and for families with young children and pets where spills and mess are more likely. Engineered hardwood is best for homeowners that crave the look and feel of real timber.

To find out more about engineered wood and vinyl plank, talk to one of our experts here at Floormania.