Your guide to understanding the difference between Engineered vs Solid Hardwood flooring
The process of choosing the right wood flooring product should not be taken lightly. Any professional installer or contractor will tell you that selecting the proper material for your job is essential to achieving the results you want. In today’s market, wood floors are separated into two main categories: Engineered vs Solid Hardwood. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages over the other, and this article will explain how to select the best option for you.
To begin, let’s define Engineered vs Solid Hardwood:
- Solid hardwood means each plank is made from a single piece of wood. This type of flooring ranges from about 3/8” thickness to 1”, but the overwhelming majority of solid wood flooring is ¾” thick.
- Engineered wood flooring consists of a top layer of solid wood over a multi-layer construction beneath. The top layer, also known as a “wear layer” or veneer, can range anywhere from .6mm to about 6mm thick, and this is the wood you will be walking on once the floor is installed. The bottom layer can be a solid piece of a softer wood, such as birch, or a cross-laminated plywood construction.
Engineered vs Solid Hardwood – Dimensional Stability:
The engineered construction has several benefits over solid hardwood. The most important one is how the material reacts to temperature and humidity. We know wood is a natural product, and it will expand and contract with changes in temperature and moisture levels. With solid hardwood flooring, any drastic changes in either temperature or relative humidity will cause the boards to warp, cup or crown, or gap or buckle. These problems can range from requiring simple maintenance to having to completely rip up the floor and start over.
Engineered wood flooring is less susceptible to these issues, due to the multi-layer construction. Each layer of wood will expand or contract perpendicular to its grain. By adhering several layers of wood together, with alternating grain orientation, you have a plank that is significantly more stable dimensionally, and much less prone to warp. This fact also allows engineered planks to have much wider widths and longer lengths than regular solid boards. With engineered wood, you can feel more comfortable installing long, wide planks in an environment prone to climate changes. Please keep in mind that there are still guidelines for temperature and humidity levels that are optimal for engineered wood, but they are far less stringent than those for solids. This is often the main factor when deciding engineered vs solid hardwood.
Installing Engineered vs Solid Hardwood Flooring:
Engineered wood floors also offer an advantage in the installation methods. In most cases, they are much easier to install than a solid plank. When installing solid hardwood, the process usually requires a plywood subfloor which the wood will be nailed to. This adds a costly, and tedious, step to the installation. Gluing down solid hardwood is usually out of the question, since most adhesives are simply not strong enough to grip a ¾” thick, solid hardwood plank, and be flexible enough to expand and contract with it. The adhesives that can do this are much more costly. Engineered wood can be simply glued down over a level concrete subfloor, or in some cases floated using a click-together system where the planks simply “click” to one another, and the boards are simply floated over a padding or underlayment, without requiring the use of glue or nails. The ease of installation is a major factor when considering engineered vs solid hardwood.
Maintenance of Engineered vs Solid Hardwood:
Depending on the thickness of the wear layer of engineered flooring, they can be sanded and refinished only a small number of times as compared to solid hardwood. This is the main advantage of solid over engineered: you are able to prolong the life of your flooring by sanding and refinishing the floor. With an engineered floor, you can do this 1 or 2 times usually, before you completely strip the top layer off. With solid hardwood, you can do this any number of times (until you reach the tongue-and-grooves).
Generally speaking, solid hardwood floors will tend to last longer than engineered with the same levels of care and maintenance. At the same time, engineered floors will react better to seasonal changes. Engineered, prefinished floors also come in a much larger variety of options than solids. The different options for prefinished wood floors will be covered in my next article, found here.
Some information on prefinished hardwood flooring.
Some information on installing and finishing hardwood flooring.
Some information on how to choose wood flooring.
Some information on hardwood floor experts.
Some information on wood floor underlayments.
Some information on getting wood floors online.
Some information on European hardwood floors.
Some information on maintaining wood floors.
Some information on Green Bamboo flooring.