Customers often ask me “When buying wood flooring should I get 3 ply or multiply engineered wood flooring?” The answer comes down to 3 things.
1. The difference in cost
The cost of wood flooring has many variables. So for an example, lets say that both wood boards are oak, of the same length and width, and have the same finish. Roughly speaking the wider the board with a longer length is more expensive because it wastes more wood in the manufacturing process.
Then it comes down to the thickness of the boards. Those that are made for economy tend to be 15mm thick with a 3mm thick top veneer of oak. The first ply is the veneer, the second ply is a block board making up the bulk of the product, the third ply is a thin layer of wood on the base. A 3 ply board can come up to 20mm in thickness, with the veneer making up 6mm of the board. Buying a thicker board adds to the rigidity of the floor and prevents twisting and warping prior to installing.
A 3 ply board should be about 20% cheaper than its multiply counterpart. If you are installing this type of floor, in a straight forward room, with a dry level surface, then you can be confident to use an economy board.
2. Ease of fitting and stability of setting
Multiply engineered wood boards are normally 20 mm thick. The top veneer of oak is 6 mm. The other 14 mm is made up of 1mm layers of wood, with the grain of the wood placed at a 90 degree angle to the next layer. This makes the boards more stable when affected by a change of temperature or moisture levels. As the center of 3 ply is block board, the tongue is often rough and uneven, where as multiply is sanded and regular throughout the whole length of the board, making it quicker and easier to fit to the next plank.
3. Under Floor Heating
Real wood floors are a natural product and therefore can be affected by a change of temperature. In winter, because of the dryer conditions created by central heating, the wood contracts. In summer, windows are opened letting a good flow of air through a building, increasing humidity and a real wood floor starts to expand again.
This expansion and contraction is made greater when using underfloor heating, as the wood flooring has to deal with greater temperature and larger amounts of moisture loss. This is why I would recommend a multiply engineered board when choosing real wood floors to go over under floor heating Because of its stability and ease of fitting.
So to summarise
If you are fitting in a straight forward room to fit, that covers an existing flat wood floor, I wood recommend 3 ply engineered wood flooring.
If you are fitting over a concrete floor, under floor heating or rooms with a lot of temperature variation throughout the year, for its stability and easy of fitting, I would recommend multiply engineered wood flooring.