First we have to clarify the words "laminated hardwood" or "laminate wood flooring". These should not be confused with Laminate Flooring which is not wood at all. Laminate flooring is made with a very high quality picture of flooring (usually wood) which is printed in high-definition. "Laminated hardwood" usually refers to a wood floor constructed with layers and fused together (laminated). To avoid confusion with Laminate Flooring, these floors are called Engineered Hardwood Flooring.
The top layer is what you see and is represented by the species of hardwood flooring, like Oak, Maple, Walnut etc. The middle and back layers comprise various species of wood chosen for dimensional stability, so that the entire sandwich becomes stable and more resistant to moisture, humidity or arid conditions. There are typically 5-7 plys in engineered hardwood floors, but can be as low as 3 or greater than 10. The National Wood Flooring Association describes engineered woods floors as:
Engineered wood floors are real wood floors that are manufactured using three to nine layers of different wood veneers. The sub layers can be of the same species, or of different species. The grain of each layer runs in different directions, which makes it very stable. This means that the wood will expand and contract less than solid wood flooring during fluctuations in humidity and temperature. The top layer of engineered wood flooring consists of high-quality wood. While this type of flooring can be sanded and finished, it cannot be done as many times as solid wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring can be installed above, on or below grade.
This is in contrast to solid hardwood which is a continuous chunk of wood with a tongue and groove milled onto the edges.
The image shows an engineered hardwood floor with 10-plys.
One reason is that they can be installed over a variety of subfloors, such as concrete and often times both above and below grade. Another is they offer various different installation methods such as glued down, stapled, floating with glued joints, and floating click-together. Another is potentially lower cost, depending on the species on top that you actually see. Finally, engineered floors help conserve the cherished hardwood on top, by using less attractive and softer species of wood for the middle and back layers.
Solid hardwood floors are a lifetime investment that can be sanded and refinished several times. Whether or not an engineered hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished depends on the thickness of the top layer (the wood that you actually see, like the Oak, Maple etc.) It will need to be at least a 2-3mm thick. The example shown above in the picture has an approximate 4mm top layer.
All of the hardwood flooring sold on our website is engineered, floating and locking.