What is the difference between engineered and solid hardwood floors?

The easy answer is that solid hardwood floors are just what they sound like – solid pieces of a given species of hardwood that have been milled and finished – most often with a urethane base and, quite often, an aluminum oxide impregnated finished. Solid hardwood floors that have been pre-finished in a factory generally have a longer lasting finish than floors that have been sanded and finished on site.

Engineered wood flooring is still hardwood flooring. They have a layer of true hardwood on the face and alternating layers of other species under the face. This actually gives them greater dimensional stability because the different species of woods ” push and pull” against one another to create a relatively stable floor covering. In an area with relatively high humidity engineered hardwood floors are the best choice. It is important to note here that the term “hardwood” does not relate to hardness or density of the wood used to manufacture the flooring. Instead, it is the distinction between deciduous and non-deciduous trees. Deciduous trees, hardwoods, drop their leaves in the winter whereas non-deciduous, or softwoods, do not.

Solid hardwood floors are generally 3/4 ” thick as to opposed to 3/8 ” to a 1/2 ” for engineered wood though the actual thickness of hardwood on an engineered floor is almost always 1/8″ or less. Obviously this limits the number of times an engineered floor can be sanded and refinished. That said, the factory finishes applied to pre-finished wood floors, both solid and engineered, have been greatly improved in recent years. The addition of aluminum oxide and UV curing have led many flooring manufacturers to warrant their finish for up to 50 years. Please be aware that these warranties apply to normal use and generally exclude things such as water damage, abuse and normal surface scratching. Also note that solid 3/4 ” hardwood flooring is best installed on a wood sub-floor but engineered hardwood can be installed either on a wood sub-floor or concrete slab.

At Crystal Carpet & Flooring Company we offer a wide range of manufacturers and wood species – both domestic and exotic. Visit our warehouse outlet located at 5746 Oleander Drive in Wilmington.

The Pros…

Engineered floors can also be refinished. Refinishing a floor consists of sanding down the top layer of the hardwood. Because engineered hardwood’s surface is only 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick it can only be sanded once or twice. Also, deep scratches and dents cannot be sanded out. These floors are indistinguishable from solid hardwoods. They have similar finish warranties along with similar performance characteristics. They are usually lower in cost compared to solid hardwood floors. Installation is less costly than traditional hardwood floors. There is no sanding or finishing.

The Cons…

The downfalls of engineered wood are that they can fade over time in areas where constant sunlight is a factor. If you decide to install the floors yourself, you need to know the difference between tongue and groove styles and click lock floating wood floors. Most older product lines were made with the tongue and groove styling, a by-product of solid hardwood flooring that requires glue or adhesive to keep the planks together. Newer styles have switched to the click-lock design, convenient for the “do it yourself” flooring crowd and allowing for much faster installation.