Both solid and engineered hardwood floors are available in a variety of traditional and specialty designs. There are also many widths available, with engineered hardwoods offering the same narrow widths of solid wood flooring, along with wider widths up to 12 inches. This provides endless options to complement any home decor style. Solid hardwood planks are usually offered in narrower styles and you can choose the finish, unlike some engineered hardwood where the plank comes with the finish out of the box.
WHAT ARE ENGINEERED HARDWOOD FLOORS?
Also known as manufactured or composite hardwood, engineered hardwood is a type of hardwood flooring that is made up of several layers of different types of wood. The top and bottom layers are usually made of a natural species of wood that is in high demand but takes a long time to grow. The middle layers (which are usually made of 5 to 7 layers) are made of plywood that are crisscrossed in different directions. The plywood is made of a combination of hard and soft woods that are more resilient against moisture and are a great option for rooms where solid hardwood floors shouldn’t go, like the basement.
The thickness of individual planks can range from 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch, while standard widths are 3 1/4-inch to 5 inches, but there are also some companies that offer up to 12-inch planks. Most engineered wood floors are pre-finished, though some companies do offer site-finished engineered hardwood flooring.
It is the crisscross pattern that creates a highly stable design to help prevent warped hardwood floors. The layers that make up the majority of the planks are typically made from at least two different types of wood like spruce, pine, fir, birch, or poplar. The manufacturing process is more sustainable this way.
Engineered hardwood floors can be installed in a way that is similar to the tongue-and-groove system, but instead, they must be tapped in at an angle to make the curved tongue fit into the tight groove. These methods of installation rarely need to be nailed or glued down.
NOT ALL ENGINEERED WOOD IS THE SAME
There are two ways to make engineered wood. One way involves the top layers being sliced, which shows the natural look, the finer graining, and a thicker top layer on the individual planks that take longer to wear down. The other way involves a rotary cut, which involves the would-be top layer being peeled off the log using a large lathe. This peeling method is known to show dramatic wilder graining.
Companies often make their engineered wood floorings to compete with solid hardwood and offer them in favorite species, like hickory, oak, and maple. It is common to find them in a variety of surface effects like hand-scraped, wire brushed, or distressed for a rustic or time-worn appearance. There are many finish options too, including matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.
Some manufacturers use a lower quality wood along with low-grade bonding glue in their ply layers. On the cheaper end of the spectrum, consumers notice that the milling (cuts) can be off par and the quality of finishes can also be poor.
Your safest bet will be to use name brands that you recognize or that were recommended to you by someone happy with their purchase. Another good tell about a company is whether they stand behind their product; longer warranties tell you what the company thinks of their own work.
WHAT ARE SOLID HARDWOOD FLOORS?
Solid hardwood floors are constructed from a single type of wood and only from hard woods. Thickness of solid hardwood is usually 3/4 of an inch and standard width of 2 1/4 inches. Solid hardwoods are the most durable. This includes exotic woods from South America or Indonesia, along with traditional woods like maple, walnut, and birch. Solid hardwood floors work well in living areas, bedrooms, hallways, and dining rooms, but should be kept away from moisture.
The planks are made from a single piece of timber and commonly use the tongue-and-groove system of installation. This means one side end of the plank has a groove, and the other side and end have a tongue. These are placed together like puzzle pieces; the tongue-and-groove system works well to prevent cupping. To further prevent cupping, they must be nailed or glued to a subfloor.
ENGINEERED HARDWOOD VS SOLID HARDWOOD – WHICH IS BETTER?
The biggest difference between engineered hardwood of solid hardwood is the effect of moisture. Engineered hardwood also has a few other advantages of solid wood. However, when it comes to lifespan, nothing beats solid hardwood floors.
DISADVANTAGES OF ENGINEERED HARDWOOD
Typically, the cheaper engineered woods cannot be sanded or refinished, but there are more expensive types that can be lightly sanded and refinished; it all depends on the thickness of the top layer. The top layer can also chip or de-laminate if subjected to stress or scratches.
The biggest issue with engineered wood floors is how easy for floating floors (not glued or nailed down) to sound and look fake. If the flooring is not secured tightly to the floor, it should never be sanded. The weight of the sanding machine will move the planks and it will be nearly impossible to get a clean, smooth finish. If the floor is floating, it can creak and some may even feel the planks give into their weight, which means the planks have started cupping. Fortunately, there are many types of engineered flooring that can be installed in different ways.
ADVANTAGES OF ENGINEERED HARDWOOD
Engineered woods offer a range of ways to install, including stapling, nailing, fold-and-lock, and gluing. And because these planks are also made of real wood (even if it is only part real wood), they can be advertised as real hardwood floors in real estate listings to attract more buyers. In terms of resale value, engineered hardwood is on the same level as solid hardwood, as long as it is good condition.
Solid woods are considered the most durable and they can last for years if properly maintained. Depending on the possibility of coming into contact with moisture, engineered hardwood may be a better choice for flooring options. Solid hardwood is known to expand and contract, especially when planks are wider. In rooms like basements and kitchens, designers do not recommend installing solid hardwood, but engineered wood can be installed. It was designed to handle moisture better than traditional solid hardwood floors.
Because of its resilience against moisture, engineered hardwood can be installed directly onto concrete, unlike solid hardwood, which requires subfloor to be properly installed. The requirement of a sub-floor can add considerable height to the floor. Special considerations like door clearance should be taken into account before choosing the type of hardwood flooring. Some plywood subfloors can be 3/4-of-an-inch thick, and with another 3/4-of-an-inch of solid hardwood flooring, you will have a floor that is 1 1/2 inches higher. If you cannot cut the door down to the proper size (because it is hollow or metal), it will have to be replaced.
DISADVANTAGES OF SOLID HARDWOOD
Solid hardwood flooring is never recommended for bathrooms, basements, or other areas where moisture is expected. They also require regular maintenance checks to prevent termite attacks (if you are located in an area that is known for termites).
Site-finished solid hardwood floors typically require re-polishing every 3 or 4 years to maintain the glossy finish. High-traffic areas may need to be refinished more often, especially if subjected to high-heeled shoes or untrimmed pet nails.
ADVANTAGES OF SOLID HARDWOOD
However, if there are scratches on engineered wood, it can only be lightly sanded, if sanded at all. Most engineered hardwood shouldn’t be sanded. On the other hand, unfinished solid wood can be sanded numerous times until it reaches the point where it affects the structural integrity.
Solid hardwood is usually easier to repair, even against water damage. During the repair, the damaged section of flooring can be removed and the new planks will be easier to match, install, sand, and refinish so everything is flush and level. When trying to replace damaged engineered wood, it will be more likely that the entire floor should be replaced. It can be harder to find a perfect match for engineered hardwood floors. Also, when installing into smaller spaces than a whole plank will fit, solid hardwood can simply be cut or sanded down until it is a perfect fit. You cannot just cut into engineered wood; instead, you must use a blade that is specially designed to cut engineered hardwood.
Another advantage of solid hardwood is that is is easier to add onto existing solid hardwood than engineered wood.
Solid hardwood floors have a return value that will last for decades. On the other hand, engineered wood may have a great return value, but it may not have the lifespan of traditional hardwood. However, if you are looking for more versatility and durability against moisture, engineered hardwood can be a better choice. While solid wood looks great, engineered wood is better for high-moisture rooms, so make sure to take into account which room in the house you’ll install the flooring.