Solid Or Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

by on 09/26/2014 - 10:29 am

Categories: Building & Remodeling, Kitchen & Bath

Once you've decided to go with real hardwood flooring, you're not done making decisions. You'll be confronted with a choice—solid or engineered hardwood?

The Candidates

Solid hardwood floors are continuous slabs of wood (and only wood) that have been cut and treated for use in the home.

Engineered hardwood floors are composed of a top layer of "display wood," and then multiple thin layers of wood underneath that have been arranged and bonded with heat and pressure. The top "display wood" layer is what the product will be sold as (oak, maple, cherry).

There is absolutely no difference in the top-down appearance of solid and engineered hardwood floors; you'll need to look at a cross-section to differentiate the two. Any and all finishes and textures that can be achieved on a traditional solid hardwood floor are also possible with engineered flooring.

Why Go Engineered?

First, and probably most importantly, engineered hardwood typically costs less than solid planks.

Engineered hardwood floors are popular in Northeast Ohio because of the many different ways they can be installed. Solid hardwood floors can only be installed on top of wood sub-floors.

That's bad news if you live in a concrete slab home and wanted hardwood floors. Or at least it was, until engineered hardwood was developed. Because it's a generally more versatile product, engineered hardwood can be glued, nailed, stapled, or floated on a variety of surfaces.

Engineered flooring also does a better job of standing up to the changing humidity and temperature that characterizes the Northeast Ohio climate. Solid hardwood boards will push and pull each other as they gain and lose moisture due to the porous nature of the wood. If you've ever walked across a hardwood floor and felt a series of hills and valleys that make the surface uneven, you've felt the effects of moisture in hardwood.

Engineered flooring is still wood, so it will retain some moisture, but the configuration and composition of the product prevents it from becoming an issue.

Why Go Solid?

Assuming proper installation and a basic level of care and respect, solid planks mean quality and a long floor lifetime. That's not to say that engineered flooring is in any way "cheap", but there are low quality options in the market, which means consumers need to be diligent about looking at cross-sections and asking probing questions.

Solid hardwood planks are also more versatile once they've been installed. Imagine your floor is 10-years-old, and you're sick of the finish. If the floor is one continuous piece of wood, you can sand away the top layer of finish and start with a blank canvas. This process can be done several times, so one solid hardwood installation might go from glossy, to hand-scraped, back to glossy over its lifetime.

In fairness, it is possible to refinish engineered floors. It is done far less frequently, it can probably only be done once (due to the thinness of the top "display wood" layer), and floor suppliers don't recommend it.

Here's Shawn and Monica from Guhde Flooring America with their take: