Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood: Eight Essentials You Must Know
If you’re worried about making the
right hardwood flooring choice,
you aren’t alone. Most of the calls
we get every day are from people asking us to explain the differences between solid and
hardwood. So, today, I thought I’d
list for you the benefits of each type of flooring in order to help you discover
for yourself and choose the floor that is just right for you.
In the final analysis, whether you end up with an engineered floor or a solid hardwood
floor, the ultimate beauty, amazingly, will be quite similar.
After your floor has been installed, you’ll never see more than the top surface
anyway. Here are eight criteria to
use in making your decision:
This is the first question most of
our callers ask. Solid hardwood flooring
can generally be refinished many times because it can be sanded and re-sanded nearly
all the way down to the tongue and groove of the boards.
That could be as much as 1/4" or about one third of the thickness of the
board and believe me, that’s a lot of sanding.
But, most engineered floors can be sanded too, especially if you choose one
with a thicker saw cut face. As a practical
matter, for most residential uses, and for most of the brand name floors offered
by Efloors.com, the new factory finishes are so durable
that you will get a lifetime of carefree use before a new finish is ever needed. Refinishing, therefore usually
becomes a secondary consideration in the selection process.
Versatility is always an important
issue in choosing flooring. Today,
engineered hardwood flooring is really quite versatile.
It can be installed using either glue or staples, and as a result of recent
developments in locking systems, now it can even "float".
It can also be installed over all types of sub-floors from suspended wood
to concrete slab. Engineered hardwood
flooring, given proper conditions, can be used below grade.
Solid hardwood flooring, on the other hand, has the limiting requirement
of needing to be stapled down over suspended floors - above grade.
In order to fasten solid hardwood flooring over a concrete floor, plywood
or firing strips would have to be installed first.
It can be done, but it is time consuming and expensive.
Engineered hardwood flooring is generally
thinner than solid hardwood. That means it can be used in many remodeling projects
where a solid 3/4 inch solid floor would create a height problem. Engineered floors range
in thickness from 1/4 inch
to 3/4 inch
For the most part, hardwood
flooring is quite dimensionally stable over time.
Solid hardwood may, under certain climatic conditions, be subject to swelling
or shrinking. Engineered hardwood flooring,
on the other hand while still subject to slight movement is the better choice where
extreme seasonal climate changes may cause problems.
The plywood-like construction of an engineered floor gives it more dimensional
Typically engineered hardwood flooring will cost you less than solid hardwood flooring
for the same look because less of the valuable tree is used than with solid wood. Also, freight costs are lower because
engineered flooring is lighter in weight and therefore less costly to transport. These factors also help make engineered
flooring friendly to the environment.
If there is no limit
to your imagination and no limit to your pocket book, then there is no limit to
the variety of beautiful floors that can be created from custom patterns, exotic
species and fine finishes. Some of the most expensive custom floors
around the world are made from combinations of solid hardwood species, usually 3/4"
thick. Solid hardwood floors
do a better job of minimizing "bounce" over suspended floors.
They convey a lasting sense of value and permanence to your home.
- Choose a Known Brand:
It is recommended that you choose
from major brands such as Bruce,
Shaw, Mohawk, BR-111, etc.
Avoid off-brand floors.
It is easy to find unknown brands at "bargain prices", just make sure that the hardwood
has been properly graded otherwise your installer will end up with a lot of waste
having to cull boards that aren’t straight or otherwise have milling and finishing
irregularities. You can also find "bargains"
in engineered hardwood, where the layers or plies of wood are made from inexpensive
soft pulp woods and the valuable surface is just a very thin slice of wood as opposed
to a properly sawn floor.
- Follow The Installation Instructions:
Finally, your finished floor,
in the long run, is only as good as the installation.
If you are contracting with an independent installer, it is always smart
to verify that he is licensed and that he has good references before you go to contract.
For more information on this topic, be sure to read our blog entry on Hiring An Installer