When choosing the look of wood flooring, you can achieve the look of natural wood with either solid wood or engineered wood flooring but which is better? The short answer is that it depends on where it will be used. It helps to understand the differences.
A solid wood floor is just that. Hardwood boards are milled into consistent widths with a tongue on one side and a groove on the other for the next course of boards to fit into. The most common type of hardwood flooring has been finished in the factory and is ready to be installed and enjoyed.
Engineered wood flooring is actually quite similar to plywood. The layers or plys are layed in alternate directions and glued together. Some engineered floors use a stranded fiber core instead of a plywood core. The veneer layer is placed on top pf the assembly and finished. Engineered flooring has a tongue and groove like solid hardwood, or a snap-lock system. Engineered woods are usually 5/8″ thick, but not always.
So, which is better? To answer that, we need to address some common myths:
Myth # 1
When you look at a piece of solid hardwood flooring you may think “I can sand this forever”. Technically you could, but remember the tongue and groove and the fasteners? When you get close to that point, your sanding options are over.
“Engineered wood only has a veneer layer on top so it is thin and cheap.” There are some budget varieties of engineered flooring where this is true but many of them have a thick veneer on top that can be sanded multiple times. Keep this in mind when comparing and look for one that behaves more like solid hardwood.
“I’ll need to sand my floor to look good.”
This is just not so! The factory finishes that are available will keep solid and engineered hardwood looking good for many years. Compare finish warranties to compare apples to apples and prepare to have you floor installed and enjoyed. If your floor is damaged, rather than sanding out the imperfection, a qualified repairman is often able to do a spot repair with filler or remove and replace the damaged piece. Keep leftovers for this very reason.
Engineered hardwood flooring advantages:
Because of the plywood-like construction, engineered flooring is more dimensionally stable. This makes it ideal for areas of greater relative humidity variations over the seasons . When the look of wide-plank flooring is desired, engineered flooring is substantially less likely to cup or buckle. (Keep in mind that no wood flooring should be installed in an area with high humidity or moisture.)
When an exotic species of wood is desired, you will usually discover that engineered flooring will be less expensive (often a third to half the cost) than solid hardwood because only the veneer is the exotic wood and the remainder of the core would be a less expensive wood species.
Advantages of both solid and engineered hardwood flooring:
No matter which you choose, both solid and engineered hardwood floors come in a wide range of colors, species, widths, finishes and patterns. Both will provide you with a floor that is absolutely beautiful and will last for decades with appropriate care.