Solid vs Engineered Flooring

By: Debbie George

July 06, 2017

Flooring

 Solid vs Engineered Wood Flooring

Trying to decide between solid hardwood flooring or engineered hardwood flooring can be tricky. This article is written to help you understand the differences as well as when it is best to use each of them.

Important to note, is that both solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood flooring are made from 100% wood, and they will both look the same once they are installed. However, they are constructed very differently, meaning some environments are better for one wood flooring option rather than the other. With that being said, let’s explore them both.

An Overview

Solid

A solid hardwood floor is made from a single piece of wood usually starting off as 1” thick and milled to ¾” thick. When the boards are milled, a tongue and groove is put on all four sides and a series of kerf grooves that run the length of the boards are added to the bottom face. These kerf grooves work as stress relief and help prevent cupping and crowning of the boards.

An engineered hardwood floor is made up of two pieces glued together: the lamella (the top layer -- also known as the wear layer), and the plywood base. The lamellas are cut from a 1” thick piece of lumber and are reduced to 5mm or 7mm thick boards that are then glued onto a precut piece of plywood. Once the glue has set, the boards are milled to add a tongue and groove, sanded, and ready to be finished.

Engineered

Moisture

Wood is a natural material which means it will respond to changes in the environment such as moisture. The thicker the wood, the more strength the boards contain to be able to move -- which means that solid wood floors are easily affected by moisture changes. In Contrast, engineered floors will take either a lot more moisture or a longer time exposed to be affected to the same extent as a solid wood floor. This is because engineered wood flooring has a thinner layer of wood glued onto a layer of plywood. The thinner the layer of wood, the less strength the board possesses to move in response to moisture. Engineered floors also have a higher level of stability because of their plywood base -- which is very stable due to its construction of multiple thin layers glued together.

Installation

Solid wood floors are suitable for installation at ground level and above and must be kept in a moisture consistent environment.

Firstly, a solid wood floor must be acclimated to the building. The solid floor should sit in the building where it is to be installed for at least a week to get used to the environment. Having the wood adjust to the environment allows the boards to ‘settle in’. Around the edge of the room a gap should be left; this will be covered by the base trim. This gap gives the solid wood floor room to expand slightly if necessary. After installation, if the moisture does not fluctuate considerably, the floor should not move much.

On the ground level, a solid wood floor needs to have a subfloor. A subfloor is usually composed of either screeds or a layer of plywood. The solid wood floor is then installed to the surface of the subfloor. Often, the foundation of the building is dropped by at least ¾” when a solid wood floor is to be installed on the ground level. This means that when you transition from a solid wood floor to another floor covering, such as tile, you do not have a big difference in levels.

Engineered wood floors are suitable for any area and can be installed in areas where the moisture is not always consistent. Engineered wood floors can be installed directly onto the slab. This eliminates the need to 

drop the slab and still achieve level transitions to other floor coverings, such as tile.

Look and Longevity

Both floor types have a real wood layer at the top so you will get the same look, texture, feel, and sound if you choose either solid or engineered. With standard use on your new hardwood floor, you can expect to have to refinish the floor about every 7-14 years to keep it in optimal condition.

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors can be refinished, but the amount of times it can be refinished depends on the thickness of the wear layer. For example, on a solid wood floor, you can only sand down to about 1mm above the tongue and groove before you have cracking problems. A solid wood floor usually has about a 5mm wear layer while our standard engineered wood floors have either a 4mm or a 6mm wear layer. This means that an engineered floor with a 6mm wear layer can be refinished more than a standard solid wood floor.

Conclusion

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors are great options. Both flooring types will provide a great look, substantial wear life, and the feel of a high-quality wood floor. Engineered flooring tends to be more versatile, lower installation costs, and less overall maintenance. Solid wood flooring tends to have a more extensive installation process but, when completed, you get to enjoy the luxury of a 100% solid wood product.

If you are still not sure about which hardwood flooring option is best for your project, try our interactive solid vs engineered wood flooring guide tool here.

I encourage you to browse our website and see the different types of hardwood floors we have available. With so many options at WoodCo, one is sure to please your eye! At any time, feel free to call one of our friendly Wood Experts at (855) 864-7867 to discuss your individual flooring project needs.