Solid Vs Engineered Hardwood Floors
If you’re thinking of remodeling your home, it’s important to understand the differences between solid wood flooring and engineered wood flooring. Solid wood flooring is still the most prevalent choice for site finished floors due to its wear layer and cost. However, there are some great benefits to using engineered flooring, and, in some circumstances, it is a must for a proper hardwood flooring installation that will last generations.
Solid Wood Flooring:
Solid wood flooring is milled flooring that comes straight from the tree. A tree is milled into planks, and the planks are milled into flooring. Because there are relatively few processes that go into milling solid wood flooring, it is less expensive than engineered flooring.
Since there is no veneer you can sand through, the only thing limiting the life of the floor is the groove. Once the flooring is sanded down to around 1/8″ or less of the groove, the top of the groove can break, and the floor is at the end of its life.
There is no veneer you can sand through
There is also the likelihood that the blind nails (the fasteners used to hold the wood flooring to the subfloor) will start to show on the tongue side of the flooring.
The downside of solid wood flooring is it tends to be more susceptible to swings in moisture.
Wood loves to take on moisture, and if the wood is allowed to hold this moisture for a long enough period, it will bond with the cells of the wood, causing the wood to swell. And conversely, in the absence of moisture, the cells will dry out, and the wood will shrink. Wood will always acclimate to the conditions it’s in and find equilibrium. This causes hardwood floors to “cup” or have “gaps.”
Most houses have the means to control moisture enough not to have severe cupping or gapping in their hardwood flooring, but, in some cases, such as lake homes and cabins, high moisture swings are inevitable. This is especially the case when hardwood flooring is installed over a concrete slab. It's here where engineered hardwood flooring can shine.
Engineered Wood Flooring:
Engineered hardwood flooring is fabricated by laminating several thin layers of wood together where the grain of each layer is at a 90-degree orientation to the layer above and below it.
Wood tends to be relatively dimensionally stable along its length (along the grain) but is not stable across the width. (It is slightly more stable across its thickness, ie. quarter-sawn).
There is a much wider range of quality with engineered products
When you have multiple thin layers of wood laminated together, the 90-degree rotation of each layer holds the adjacent layers in check. If this sounds like a description of plywood, it’s because it is. Engineered hardwood flooring is essentially plywood made into flooring.
Because manufacturers have much more leeway in the fabrication process, engineered products have a much wider range of quality. Let me address two essential qualities that differentiate between a great engineered hardwood flooring product and a lousy one.
A good engineered product that will last generations will be at least 1/2″ thick or, preferably, 5/8″ thick. Any thinner and there will not be enough wood for a re-sanding when the time comes. Conversely, a good 5/8″ product will have an equal wear layer to that of a 3/4″ solid wood product.
A quality product has an equal wear layer to that of a 3/4″ solid product, whereas a poor quality product has little to no wear layer. This is due to 5/8″ products having a thick enough top veneer (the top layer of wood) to be sanded several times. Low-quality products have paper-thin veneers (1/8″ to 1/32″ or less), which will never allow for sanding and wear out very quickly. Typically, products with thin wear layers only come prefinished since they can’t be sanded.
Still not sure which type of flooring should you choose?
Not to worry. When we come out to measure up your floors and provide a free estimate, we can bring along samples of both types of flooring so you can see the difference for yourself. We'll be able to talk about your specific flooring needs and what type of wood floor will be best for your project.