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Engineered Is Not Immune To Moisture

Sid Bourne on engineered wood flooring

THE wood flooring industry has changed immensely over the years with engineered flooring ruling the roost. My concern is how many times I go to site and find that there is a complete misunderstanding on the product.
So I have decided to put my teacher’s hat on and try and educate people on how engineered wood flooring works and how to avoid problems.
Engineered wood flooring has gained in popularity because it is seen as a product that can be installed to a multitude of surfaces and locations. This is unlike solid wood flooring which, in my own professional opinion, is feared by some who wrongly believe that solid wood floor is much more prone to giving problems to the installer.
Just for the record it is not the product that is at fault, it is the installer not knowing how wood works and refusing to get any formal training. It is these people who have taken their lack of knowledge to installing engineered floors and finding less issues.
The question from installer that I find the most irritating is ‘will the engineered wood flooring need acclimatisation’?
Virtually every manufacturer’s instruction will tell you something different. Some say no acclimatisation is needed; some say it needs days; and some say weeks. Please manufacturers: Get your act together.
The correct answer is: Just because the product is engineered does not mean that the installer should not take moisture readings of the flooring and the subfloor.
The relative humidity range and equivalent moisture content applies to the condition where the flooring is stored, as well as installation areas.
If, for example, there is a temperature fluctuation at storage or excess moisture in the subfloor, problems will inevitably occur with the floor later. This is mainly that the planks will start to bow after installation and you get complaints of deflection issues. This is typical of what I come across when both parties agree that there was no deflection at time of installation.
The time to discuss this is before you sell the product. Ask the consumer whether they have the ability to control the environment to what that manufacturer states the floor will be best kept in.
If not then re-think your installation method. A full glue down may be more beneficial providing the subfloor is dry, flat and suitable. This will help prevent any deflection.
Many engineered products are wrapped in cartons designed to reduce airflow and moisture transfer. Some manufacturers of engineered flooring may tell you not to acclimatise the products at the job site, as it may distort or affect the product in some way prior to installation.
But another manufacturer may tell you to acclimatise. If you follow my advice and discuss it with the consumer, this is by far the best option and will allow you to make your decision.
Can I install engineered flooring anywhere? The answer here is simple. While engineered wood flooring is more stable than solid wood flooring and can be installed in areas you would never install solid wood flooring, it is extremely important that you do not install engineered wood flooring in extreme conditions which is what I see daily.
If you know there will be large humidity swings and/or excess moisture present with no environmental controls, then expect the floor to fail. This won’t be immediately, but most likely well within six months. This why it is so important to ask your client all the right questions to make sure. And don’t forget to get the document signed.
Generally, engineered wood flooring tends to move length-ways as well as width-ways when they expand or contract. The most common complaint here is end-joint gapping due to moisture imbalance.
I will continue this theme in future months. So do go through the checks concerning delamination and so on.
The British Wood Flooring Association plans to run one-day educational themes in 2014 where all of this type of information will be demonstrated first hand. There will be a one-day technical classroom on solid wood flooring and one-day classroom on engineered workshops.
If you are interested please email me and I advise you of prices and dates. These one-day technical workshops will only be held if there is sufficient response. So please get back to me if you are interested.
T: 01564 703900
T: 07841 500940

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at