Anyone interested in bringing the beauty of the natural world into their home with hardwood floors soon realizes that the search for the right floors begins with a choice: engineered hardwood or solid hardwood.
Both solid and engineered hardwood flooring will add a lifetime of beauty and value to your home and are available in a range of different species, colors and styles. From a purely aesthetic perspective, the two types of flooring are indistinguishable when installed properly. Both allow you to add the unique character and variation of natural wood to your interior décor.
However, if you look a little closer at things like installation, versatility, durability, sustainability, and value, you’ll see that engineered hardwood floors have some distinct advantages over their solid wood counterparts.
So, what exactly are the differences between solid and engineered hardwood flooring? And where does engineered hardwood have the edge? Let’s take a look.
What They’re Made Of
Both solid and engineered hardwood floors are made from real natural wood. The difference is that solid hardwood flooring is milled from a single piece of solid lumber. Traditionally, solid hardwood comes in planks that are 3/4” thick, although thinner planks are often used in parquet-style patterned floors.
While engineered hardwood is also real wood, it is manufactured in layers. Anywhere from three to seven layers makes up the core of the product, with a hardwood veneer layer on top. All of the layers are bonded together with adhesives under heat and pressure. Engineered floor construction can range from 3/8” to 3/4” in thickness, with wear layers ranging from 1mm to 6mm. Thicker products with more substantial wear layers are generally more expensive but also of better quality.
Styles to Choose From
Both solid and engineered hardwood flooring offer versatility when it comes to style and design. Solid hardwood flooring is primarily found in narrower styles from 2¼” to 5” widths. If you’re looking to finish your floors after installing them, solid is the way to go. The floor can be sanded in place and stained to the shade and style you desire.
Engineered hardwood can be produced in the same narrow widths as solid hardwood, but due to the added stability the bonded layers provide also ranges up to 12” in width. This wide spectrum of widths allows for infinitely more styling options. Both solid and engineered floors are available in a wide range of visuals as well, from traditional to specialty to rustic designs. But with today’s design trends opting for more open concepts in homes and commercial spaces, engineered styles offer considerably more choices to perfectly compliment your décor.
How They’re Installed
Solid hardwood floors are installed using nails, which means they require a plywood subfloor underneath them. When it comes to residential homes, only those with raised foundations have such subflooring. If you’re hoping to install solid hardwood floors over concrete, you’ll have to install a plywood subfloor first, which will add substantial cost to your project. Solid hardwood is also unsuitable for installing below grade, including in basements.
Engineered hardwood flooring gives you multiple installation options: glue, nail, staple, or float. These options allow for installation in a far greater range of locations since they aren’t limited by the type of subfloor in the structure. From basements to stairs to second floors and beyond, engineered floors can be installed just about anywhere.
Strength & Durability
Solid hardwood flooring is incredibly strong and durable. As a solid piece of wood, the surface can be sanded and refinished multiple times over the years. However, solid hardwood is much more susceptible to the effects of moisture than engineered wood, resulting in more dramatic expansion and contraction. This movement can lead to warping, cupping, and pronounced gapping between planks. Combine expansion and contraction with nail-down installation and you can end up with creaky floors as well.
Because of its multi-directional bonded and layered construction, engineered hardwood is more dimensionally stable than solid flooring. This means that movement in the flooring is minimized. The distinct construction of engineered wood forms a structure that, when properly acclimated, diminishes the gapping and buckling that comes from fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
Even though engineered floors have a defined wear layer, styles with thicker wear layers can still be sanded and refinished if necessary. But the quality of today’s finishes and warranties means there’s little need to sand an engineered wood floor unless you decide to remove its texture or change its color completely.
Unlike a solid wood floor, an engineered floor consists of at least two different types of wood adhered together. This means that the top layer can be a highly desired (but slow-growing) species of wood like oak, while the bottom layer can be a faster-growing tree species like spruce, pine, fir, birch or poplar.
Manufacturing floors in this way is measurably more sustainable. For every 1 square foot of 3/4” solid hardwood floor produced, you can manufacture more than 4 times the amount of engineered hardwood flooring.
As a whole, engineered hardwood floors tend to be less expensive than solid hardwood. Exceptions include premium collections with thicker top layers, uniquely artistic designs, or enhanced durability.
Due to the fact that they are often indistinguishable from solid hardwood floors, engineered hardwood provide just as high of a boost in the value of your home as solid wood floors.
When it comes to the search for your new hardwood floors, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is also one of the most important: solid or engineered hardwood? After careful consideration of many factors, engineered hardwood flooring is almost always the better choice.
With more versatility in design and installation, better durability against moisture, and a more sustainable manufacturing process—often all at a better value—it’s easy to see why engineered hardwood floors are increasingly the preferred choice of informed consumers.
At DuChâteau, we proudly specialize in beautifully engineered hardwood floors that span the design spectrum from aged and rustic to modern and contemporary.
Contact us today to learn more about our many hardwood styles, colors, and finishes. 1.888.382.4283.