With real wood veneer on top and underneath more thin wood layers, all glued together to make a plywood sandwich called engineered flooring.
Good, better, best
To judge quality, check the thickness of the "wear layer," or top skin of wood; the number of veneers in the core; and the number of finish coats—all of which affect price and warranty. Typically, the more layers, the better. Below, see how the three common classes of engineered boards stack up.
Good: 3-ply construction; 1-2 mm wear layer; 5 finish coats; 10- to 15-year warranty; ¼ inch thick; Options limited to common species, such as oak or ash, and just a few stains.
Better: 5 plys; 2-3 mm wear layer; 7 finish coats; 15- to 25-year warranty; ¼ inch thick; More species, such as cherry, beech, and some exotics; all stains and a few surface effects, such as distressing.
Best: 7-9 plys or more; 3 mm-plus wear layer, which can be sanded two or more times; 9 finish coats; 25-year-plus warranty; 5/8 to ¾ inch thick; Widest selection of species; reclaimed options; and more surface treatments, such as hand scraped and wire brushed.
Why Hardness Matters
The harder the top layer, the more resilient it is to dents and the longer it'll keep its like-new looks. But hardness isn't the only factor to consider. Dense woods with less grain, like maple, show dings more readily than a slightly softer wood with a bold grain, like red oak. And floors with little or no gloss are better at hiding scratches and wear.