...because home doesn't happen overnight.
09.26.12 / Our Wood Floors

I get a lot of emails asking how we’re liking the engineered hardwood we installed in the majority of the house. I haven’t been avoiding the questions. I just wanted to live with the floors for a while before I gave my two cents. So, here ya go…

They are the Jasper handscraped birch in the texas brown finish. We bought them with our own money at $2.04/sq ft through Build Direct after receiving a recommendation from a reader about the online flooring site. We installed them ourselves in the great room {kitchen + family room}, hallway and all three bedrooms. We used an underlayment Рalso from Build Direct Рthat provides added insulation value, acoustic insulation and a moisture barrier.

The underlayment and engineered wood are installed on top of a concrete slab. {We have no crawl space or basement.} It is a floating floor but NOT a snap-and-click installation that you might expect. Each plank is glued to all of its neighbors. There’s a lot of glue and back-breaking time in the floor. If we had to do it all over again, I think we may have shelled out the extra cash to buy something with a similar aesthetic but an easier installation method. HOWEVER, if we had a subfloor instead of a concrete slab, we would use the Jasper birch again since we could easily nail it into the subfloor.¬†That’s not to say we wouldn’t recommend using it on a concrete slab. Just know installation is going to take about 3x longer than the easier snap-and-click method. Consider yourself warned. Hehe.

It’s been nine months since the floors were installed. As far as aesthetics, we absolutely LOVE the wood floors. I’m a high contrast sort of gal so I like the dark wood with the white trim and light wall colors. In natural light they have more of a brown hue while under artificial light they take on a reddish tint. I like them both.

Everyone asks if they show dirt and dust. Yes, they do. But now that I’m no longer living with any carpet, I keep thinking about all the gross stuff that was clinging to the carpet in our previous homes that I never saw. I sweep up the kitchen with a broom daily. But I did that before with light vinyl in our previous kitchen. Then once or twice a week or whenever I can no longer stand it, I sweep up all the dust bunnies throughout the rest of the house. When I notice the floors looking dull, I bust out my Bona cleaner and soft mop to get them shining again. Super easy. {Btw, thanks to all of you who recommended Bona over Murphy’s oil. I love it!} That happens maybe once a month.

How are the floors holding up? Well, they’ve have seen a lot of traffic. We’ve had movers and a plumber with dollies in and out of the house, guests, kids running around and tons of things dropped on the floor.

Unfortunately, we also had a flood scare when the pump on our A/C failed and water leaked under the wood floors and they had to be put on life support.

Even with all that {!}, the floors have held up nicely. Are they in perfect condition? No. Like with any wood floor in a home with small kids, there are scratches, dents and dings. But I was expecting that. We adhere to the ‘no shoes in the house’ rule and we don’t have any house pets.

The handscraped texture does a good job of disguising the imperfections that do turn up. I keep a dark wood touch-up Sharpie handy for deeper scratches and dents that works wonders.

Probably the area of hardwood flooring that sees the most abuse is at the eat-in kitchen island. The boys routinely drop food, silverware and drinks here. It still looks great though.

The flooring in the hallway and entrance to our master bedroom was affected by the aforementioned water leak but it hasn’t warped, rippled or buckled.

Thank goodness! It could be that we acted quickly to dry out the floors and remedy the situation or it could be that the underlayment did its job {the water actually seeped under the underlayment} as a moisture barrier or it could be a combination of those two things. We’ve since had the restoration company back out to test for moisture and the wood floors are dry nearly two and a half months later. Yay! Now we can finally put the baseboards back on.

So, would I recommend the Jasper birch to others? Sure but with some stipulations:

*Birch is a softer wood so I wouldn’t recommend it for homes that have indoor pets with long claws/nails.

*A ‘no shoes in the house’ rule keeps the wood cleaner longer and you avoid scratches from small rocks caught in the soles of shoes. If you routinely wear high heels in the house or any other type of shoe that could easily dent up the wood, then I would suggest buying a harder wood.

*If you are installing on top of a concrete slab, please be aware that this flooring does NOT feature the snap-and-click method. If you’re installing on top of a subfloor, you’re good to go with a nail gun.

*For higher traffic areas, such as a mudroom, I’d suggest a more durable flooring.

*Use area rugs to protect the floor in busy areas: family room, kitchen, entry.

Basically, if you have a house full of cats and wear high heels all day at home then look for something else.

Do you have any other questions about our engineered hardwood floors?

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. I will check out that source for flooring of the home we’re building. We’re set on getting real wood floors but we’re pushing the budget a bit so anything we can do to save money is helpful. Isn’t Bona cleaner awesome? Somehow it’s worlds apart from all the other wood floor cleaners out there.


Thank you for your review. I have a pile of samples from Build Direct sitting right next to me. I will have to rethink my plan, as I have birch samples, 3 cats, concrete slab and 2 kids! It does look beautiful though.


We have similar floors and I love them. Ours show every speck of dust too, but I am grateful to see it so I can clean it – rather than have it build up in the carpet, like you said – ick. I also use a sharpie to conceal dings. Gotta love that over trying to clean spots out of carpets!

Oh, and I love the high contrast between floors and walls too. Our walls are a pale grey and it looks so crisp against the floors.

I’ll have to look for the Bona cleaner you mentioned. :)


Where do you purchase bona? Do you have the solution and the special mop?


I have engineered hardwood in my house that is the romping zone for two large dogs. I used hickory and it’s held up like a champ. We do no shoes in the house (mostly) and while there are a few dog claw scratches here and there, they aren’t noticeable unless your nose is on the floor right next to them. I highly recommend hickory for a tougher wood!


If you haven’t invested in a good microfiber mop, you must. Sweep the floors and wash the pad in the washer. AMAZING!!


i love your floors. they are so beautiful. i wish we had finished the house in wood since we went with carpet. sometimes i like it underfoot but with my allergies its really a regret :(


Is underlayment really a word? Until you I’ve only heard it referred to as underlay. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing.


I don’t know. Maybe I made it up!


I got the Bona solution in a spray bottle at Home Depot. No mixing, diluting or wiping down on my hands and knees. It came with a dusting mop which has a reversible pad for dusting and cleaning. I just throw it in the wash when it gets too nasty.


Hi Dana!My fiance and I are planning to install new floors in our apartment this year, and have fallen in love with the same floor you chose. I’m curious though, as it’s come recommended through Build Direct – did you have a moisture test for the concrete slab? Our subfloor is also concrete, but we haven’t moved forward with the test yet because I’m not sure we really need it! Thanks!


I am so glad you went into detail about your beautiful floors. I have been eyeing them and loving them and although I never emailed you, I just knew you would eventually get around to it. Voila! Thanks for all the details. They really are lovely and we are seriously considering them for our home. Although we have wood subfloors. When you say you would have to “use a nail gun” do you really mean nailing right through the planks??


Nope, it’s a word alright. “Underlay” might just be a shortened version. Dropping the “ment” saves so much time ;)


Hah, I have a blog draft for our similar flooring (finished installing less than a month ago!) waiting to finish up, and I would say the exact same thing about the install. We have Jasper handscraped maple from Build Direct. Part of our subfloor is concrete slab, so we decided to do a floating, glue-together installation for all of it. Holy heck, it was time consuming!

But we are loving it so far – no kids or pets to scratch it up, though, so we’re just sure to take off shoes (which we’ve always done). And I’m trying to talk my husband into more rugs in high-traffic areas – he doesn’t understand why you’d cover up the pretty wood you spent forever installing (from either a design/styling standpoint or protection/maintenance). Silly boy. :)

Glad you like your floors, and I hope we’re still that happy with ours after the newness wears off!


Thank you so much for your review. We are hoping to do hardwood floors after the New Year. With indoor, large dogs and 1 kiddo (hopefully more soon), I will definitely look for something tougher than birch. Love your site by the way!


Hi Dana!

Thanks so much for the rundown. We are actually shopping around for flooring right now. I really really wanted a hand scraped engineered product so this review was super informative. We will also be installing over a concrete foundation so the tip about installation time comes highly noted. We will also be self installing. Now that I know better ill be going wih a harder wood since we will soon be adding 4 legged members to the family. We already live with a no shoes in the house rule. Thanks again for being so thorough with this review.


You wouldn’t nail straight through the planks – not at a 90 degree angle to the floor. To be more specific, you would use a floor nailer to pop the nails right into the tongue at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Still, a LOT easier than gluing every last tongue and groove.


Good question! We did DIY a moisture test to make sure our slab was okay to use with the engineered hardwood. HH taped down a piece of plastic onto the slab and left it there for a few days to see if any moisture collected under the plastic. Luckily, no moisture was present after several days so we were good to go. It’s a very easy test to DIY that could save you time and money down the road – whether you’re thinking of hardwood or another flooring.

Gosh, they are just so pretty!


I have floors called “Engineered wood” also, but mine seem more like a laminate to me…..when you get a ding or scratch you fill it in with a sharpie….is that because the coating on the floor chips away to the wood under the top layer? I guess I’m trying to figure out whether or not I can actually call my floors “wood” when I decide to market my house. I feel like they aren’t real wood. Maybe you can explain. Thanks!


Was there a reason you chose the birch instead of a harder wood? And, just a word in defense of cats — they retract their claws when walking. It’s the canines that go “clack-clack-clack” on floors.


Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! Here’s hoping we wind up with the same positive results :)


Cost! We couldn’t find any other dark engineered wood we liked in the $2/sq ft price range. Most were closer to $4/ sq ft – nearly double the price. We’re relatively easy on our floors and we actually don’t mind seeing them patina over time so we were more than happy to save $1,000’s and go the birch route.


Engineered hardwoods are real wood. They are made up of several different layers of wood as opposed to traditional hardwood that is the same wood throughout. Because of certain layers, the engineered wood is a better option for concrete slabs/basements in that it is less susceptible to expanding/shrinking due to changes in moisture, humidity and temperature. Since we installed onto a concrete slab, there was no way we were going for the traditional solid hardwood.

I’d say your best bet would be to call it what it is – engineered hardwood.

One drawback of engineered wood is that the top ‘finished’ layer is thin and doesn’t run the depth of the entire plank. So, when I get a really deep ding or dent from something heavy or extra sharp, the unfinished {non-stained and thus lighter in color} layers of the wood are visible. I just run my Sharpie over it and no one knows.


I loooove Build Direct! I recommend them to everyone. We just installed the carbonized strand woven bamboo on our main floor from them. Although, we are wusses and paid the extra for the click together pieces! (although we do have a subfloor and a basement, so it was different than yours.) I’m glad you still love yours; we’ve only had ours for just under a month, so I am still in the baited breath “I hope these are as nice as they seem” stage :)


Hi Dana, It’s me again with another question, one more on this subject I promise. I went to purchase the Bona and discovered they actually have two kinds, one for Wood Floors and the other for Stone, Tile and Laminate…..which one do you use for your Engineered wood floors? thanks again.



Wood! I treat engineered wood floors the same as hardwood.



Thanks again for your help with this! I went to their website for clarification, but I didn’t think they very specific.



Absolutely love your floor, I’m green with envy! (it’s ok, it’s a pretty green ;-) ) Cats won’t damage your engineered flooring, even something as soft as birch. Their claws are retracted way up above their toe pads when they walk/run. Dog are another matter though since they claws don’t retract up. I expect small to medium sized dogs wouldn’t be an issue unless they’re hyper, but larger ones may, especially when the floor surface is textured such as yours (I can see skid marks easily happening!). I have high-grade laminate floors (8+ years now) and my giant indoor dogs (think 180-200lbs each) haven’t done any damage whatsoever. I do have a spot that’s been rubbed past the “wood” layer but that’s due to the constant drag of my office chair.

Our house had floors beyond finishing (think patches every.where.) so we wound up laying all new floors.We will also be installing over a concrete foundation so the tip about installation time comes highly noted.


I know this is an old post, but if you see this message can you give us an update on your satisfation with the floors? How are they holding up?


We are still happy with them. They have some dents and dings – as to be expected with kiddos and the price – but overall we love them. Especially since they work over our concrete slab and survived a small flood! When our yard was non-existent last fall during excavation to remove/replace patios and walks, there was nothing but dirt everywhere. I don’t think the darker color would work well in really dry or dusty places…the desert?


How was your experience with Build Direct? I’m about to place an order and really have enjoyed working with them so far.

Thanks for any info.


Build Direct was recommended to us by a reader. I had never heard of them before. We had no issues with ordering, shipping or delivery. We didn’t really know about them before then. I would recommend them if you find something you like.


I found Builders Direct by doing a web search for hardwood floors. They have a sale on the birch Texas brown for $1.99 sq ft. That is what lead me to you. I am very happy to read your thoughts on the hardwood. I also love contrast and I am looking for dark floors for my white walls. What you said is helping me with my decision. What you said about soft wood, high heels, and kids makes me not eligible for these floors. Not to mention we want to get a dog. I still MAY consider them because of the price and the look. Thank you!


Obviously I’m a little late to this thread. I had been admiring your floors and am really glad you’ve posted so much information.

Have you had any experience with laminate floors? I’m looking to do my stairs and upstairs hall and bedrooms in either laminate or engineered. I want to keep cost down, yet still have a lasting floor that is attractive and stands up to my child and pets.

Is it worth it to just pay the extra for the engineered wood?


I absolutely love your floors. Since it’s a floating floor laying on top of an underlayment, do you get any hollow sounds when walking on it? or does it feel really solid on your feet?


It feels really solid because we’re on a slab…not a plywood subfloor. (We don’t have a basement.) We’ve even had guests comment on how solid it is underfoot.


Now that it’s been 3+ years, how have the floors been holding up. I love that look, but have read some not so great things about the company/quality. Could just be the whole “squeaky wheel” talks the most thing. What are you opinions now?


Can you tell me what is the largest open space you have these floors over? I also live on a slab, with no sub floor, and we are trying to figure out how to do engineered floors. Our living room is pretty large, I think too large to do click lock flooring. We are planning to do glue, but I was interested that you used an underlay and only glued the boards to one another, rather than using a glue that contains a moisture barrier and glues the boards directly to the floor, which is what we are planning to do.