Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Solid vs Engineered Hardwood

Whether you are moving into a new place or simply renovating an old one, one of the most important things to consider is the type of flooring you want. If you want wood flooring, then this choice diversifies into two categories of hardwood floors, solid hardwood or engineered hardwood. While solid hardwood has been around for a long time and engineered hardwood is relatively new, both choices are excellent for your wood flooring, but the question that arises is which should you pick and why? Here is everything to know about solid and engineered hardwood before making your choice.

Category

Solid Hardwood

Engineered Hardwood

Aesthetics

A beautiful, natural look.

A beautiful, natural look.

Durability

Varies by wood type, but overall very durable, however it is vulnerable to moisture

Varies by finish, but overall more durable than solid hardwood

Materials Used

Variable wood types

Variable composite woods

Pets/ Kids

Not great for kids, spills can damage the floors

Look for types recommended for pets and kids by manufacturer, but overall a good choice.

Cleaning Needs

Sweep, vacuum, dry mop

Sweep and vacuum frequently, traditional wet mops are safe to use (except when otherwise noted by the manufacturer)

Refinishing/Sanding

Can be sanded and refinished multiple times throughout the lifetime of the flooring

Can be sanded and refinished up to 2 times before damaging the veneer

DIY

Not recommended without experience

Can be installed DIY with floating method

What is the difference?


Before you start to feel uneasy regarding the latter, both are made from 100% pure wood so your hardwood flooring will not be lacking in that department with either choice. No need to have real wood or fake wood debate. The difference between solid wood and engineered wood lies in their construction. Solid hardwood is created from a single thick piece of wood, while the engineered one has a layer of hardwood veneer applied on top of a core of hardwood. We’ll discuss how this construction difference impacts the characteristics of these two when used for hardwood flooring.

Moisture

Before you proceed to install hardwood floors taking the environment of your hometown in account is absolutely vital. Hardwood flooring of either type is only going to survive a 55% or less humidity, above that range, there will be damage no matter which you pick.

Below that range, however, engineered hardwood wins over solid hardwood in dealing with moisture in the air. Engineered wood has a plywood base that makes it much less prone to contracting and flexing when challenged with moisture. This is due to the criss-cross patterns of the plywood fibers, which give it a more stable structure.

Solid wood, on the other hand, is never recommended for areas with high humidity such as basements or bathrooms due to its susceptibility to damage in the presence of moisture. Its parallel fibers, as opposed to the criss-cross plywood fibers, are not as stable in structure. So if your wood flooring is going to be installed in areas which will be environmentally challenging, engineered hardwood should be your preferred option.

Standing Water Resistance 

Prolonged exposure to standing water will ruin hardwood floors of any type you pick, regardless of whether it is solid hardwood flooring or engineered hardwood flooring. This is why wood flooring of any kind in areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, which are prone to regular spilling and prolonged presence of standing water is highly inadvisable.

However, if we are to compare solid hardwood and engineered hardwood in this department, engineered wood triumphs over the other type once again because of its stable structure due to its crisscrossed plywood structure underneath the hardwood veneer. Long periods of exposure to standing water will eventually penetrate engineered floors as well, but it will withstand the occasional spill much better than solid hardwood flooring.

Wear and Tear

One of the most important things that your hardwood flooring will face on a day to day basis is the process of wear and tear. It doesn’t matter what type of hardwood floors you choose, wear and tear is as imminent as day and night. So in this respect, you’ll probably want to choose the wood flooring which puts up the best fight against wear and tear and gives you the longevity that you would want out of your household, office or any other flooring. Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are more than adequate to fight wear and tear make no mistake about it, but the question is, which one is better?

Engineered wood is not as durable, tough and resistant to wear and tear as solid wood on the surface as its surface is much thinner and hence is easily chipped away or de-laminated if stressed beyond the average conditions. However engineered hardwood is more capable of fighting moisture and other environmental conditions which gives rise to its durability rating.

Another factor that affects the durability rating of a hardwood floor against wear and tear is its refinishing capabilities, which we will discuss for both types of wood in the following section.

Refinishing

Refinishing is a process which breathes new life into your floors and allows it to continue to serve you for more time. Solid Hardwood and engineered hardwood are very different from each other in their refinishing capabilities.

Solid wood has a wear layer on it that can be refinished 6-8 during its entire life while engineered wood has a wear layer that can only be refinished 1-2 times throughout the course of its life. In such a situation the choice is really up to the buyers depending on which suits them best. If you wish to keep refinishing your hardwood floors for a long time, then the choice is solid hardwood while if you do not intend to keep backing up your old hardwood floors repeatedly, you will lean towards engineered hardwood.

Care and maintenance 

Hardwood floors of any kind are not exactly painful maintenance; however, they are a bit more demanding than carpets or tiles, etc. As the differences between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are merely constructional, this means that the materials used in both are similar and hence the methods of maintenance used for both solid wood and engineered wood are nearly the same.

Hardwood flooring of all kinds needs to be swept, cleaned, and dried on a day to day basis. When cleaning hardwood flooring, it is recommended to either use a broom or or a hardwood friendly vacuum with a soft flooring attachment. Spills on hardwood flooring must be wiped immediately and not be allowed to settle as moisture can cause irreversible damage. 

Dust and debris must be prevented by installing doormats and rugs on all entrances. Walking on hardwood flooring with high heels or with shoes having spikes on them is also highly ill-advised as they will severely damage the upper wear layer of the wood floors. Using these maintenance measures and exercising caution with all the ill-advised uses of hardwood flooring will allow you to retain its original look for a long time.

In-Floor Heating System Compatibility

If you’re moving somewhere new or are opting for a complete makeover of your current living situation, then you will surely be familiar with the term In-floor Heating system. In-floor heating system is a temperature control system that is very popular these days, which works on the principle of radiation by pumping warm water through special plastic pipes which are located beneath your floors.

Naturally, with the floor being a key element in this system, its compatibility with it is a must. In the case of hardwood flooring, solid hardwood is not as compatible with this system as engineered hardwood. This is due to engineered wood being more resistant to temperature changes as compared to solid wood.

Engineered wood has a more stable structure across multiple temperatures as it does not warp or flex because of its criss-cross pattern plywood base. However even though engineered wood is the more recommended option out of the two, wood is a poor thermal conductor, and hence hardwood flooring is not the best options for in-floor heating systems as compared to some of the other types of flooring. 

Good for Pets?

Whether you are a cat person, a dog person, a rabbit person, or any kind of animal person what so ever, your pets will probably have the liberty to move all around the house and this could spell trouble for your hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood or engineered hardwood, pets will test both as anyone who’s ever owned wood flooring and a pet at the same time will know.

Cats and Dogs both have sharp claws and like to scratch at whatever they can scratch at which may just be the wear layer of your wood flooring. Pets also have a tendency of releasing their “waste products” in undesirable places which not only cause moisture but also have high pH levels that can harm the finish on your wood flooring. Add toys and water containing utensils which are prone to a spill and that makes up for all the hazards to wood floors that we’ve already discussed.

So if you are a cat mom or a dog dad or any other pet owner, should you go for solid hardwood or engineered hardwood? Here again, with its sturdier build and its moisture-resistant properties allow engineered wood to be the more recommendable option.

Self-Installation

Installation of wood floors is a lengthy, difficult, and costly process for traditional hardwood floors. Solid hardwood requires the time and attention of a trained professional and doing it yourself can result in poorly crafted work which will in the long run damage the solid hardwood and pushes your invested money down the drain. In contrast to this engineered hardwood is relatively much easier in its installation.

Engineered hardwood is the choice to opt for if you’re looking to avoid the lengthy, difficult, and costly process of hiring a professional for the job and wish to install it yourself. Engineered hardwood can easily be nailed, glued, or even stapled and requires merely a very basic knowledge of floor installation. For the very beginners, the most popular option is the “floating floor” option in which the engineered hardwood planks are interlocked with special joints and create one continuous flow of engineered wood planks that float above the sub-floor. 

Cost

Whenever we discuss a product or compare a wide variety of products, one of the most important and usually the determining factor at the end of the day is the cost. Which product is providing the most to you for your hard-earned money is a concern that has been raised in the mind of anyone who has ever gotten out to purchase a product.

When it comes to cost differences between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood, the discussion is not really as simple as black and white because the cost of wood, whether it is solid wood or engineered wood varies depending upon various factors such as thickness or finish, etc. If bought with similar characteristics specified the price difference between the two would not show a drastic difference. However, where the cost of the two will really split is the installation.

As mentioned above the installation of the two is very different from each other, and engineered wood’s installation is known to be a saver of time effort and yes, money. So even if you can purchase both types of wood at a similar price point, the installation cost will be the determining factor if you are purchasing while keeping the old wallet in the fore front of your mind. 

Final verdict

So when it comes down to it, keeping all the above-mentioned characteristics and comparisons of solid hardwood and engineered hardwood in mind, which one should you purchase? There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to this situation as both types of wood present their own practical, financial and aesthetical advantages and disadvantages and the buyers of these woods merely differ from each other in profile and requirements.

If you are someone who is looking for the elegant look of wood while having a practical edge to it and installing it in some unusual places where you normally wouldn’t find wooden flooring then engineered wood is the way for you. However, it is not the option if you’re looking for longevity. On the other hand, if you are someone who is looking for a long term investment, doesn’t mind installing different flooring in different rooms of your house, and wish to see your money pay off for a long time then solid wood is the way you’ll want to tilt with this decision.

Either way, both hardwoods are excellent choices, and neither will be a disappointment if you decide to pour money into it eventually. 

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