There is a lot of information online about the technical differences between engineered flooring and solid hardwood flooring. Heck, we've even got some on our own site! But unless you're a hardwood flooring manufacturer or installer, you probably don't care about cross-directional layers and dimensional stability. You care about how your new floors will look and feel, and probably how much they're going to cost.
With that in mind, we've taken the liberty to break down the engineered vs. solid flooring debate into four categories that are important to you: look, cost, longevity, and installation process. We hope this helps clear up some of the confusion surrounding this common question!
Since engineered flooring is made with a top layer of real wood there is very little difference in appearance between it and solid hardwood flooring. Both solid and engineered flooring can be purchased prefinished or unfinished, and both come in a wide variety of species. Both varieties are available as planks or strips, but only solid hardwood flooring comes in parquets.
Engineered flooring usually costs less than solid hardwood flooring, mainly because it contains less of the actual wood than its solid counterpart. Engineered wood also weighs less than solid wood flooring, so transportation costs are. Finally, engineered wood is generally easier to install, meaning it will cost you less in installation costs.
There are two schools of thought on this subject. The first looks at how likely the wood is to experience buckling or warping over time. Engineered flooring is made using a cross-directional lamination process, which helps counteract the wood's natural tendency to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. From this point of view, engineered flooring is the top choice for durability.
On the other hand, because engineered flooring has only a thin layer (about 2mm to 3mm) of natural hardwood, it makes refinishing much more difficult. Solid wood, however, can be refinished many times - as much as one-third of the board in some cases. So from the point of view of repairing scratched or dented floors, solid hardwood is a better choice.
The Installation Process
Solid hardwood flooring can really only be installed one way and in one type of location: stapled (or nailed) down, and at-grade or above-grade. Engineered flooring, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile. It can be installed in almost any part of the house, including the basement and second or third floors. It doesn't need to be stapled or nailed down, either. Engineered flooring can also be glued or, in some cases, "floated" over different subfloors.
By now you're probably thinking, "There's no contest! Engineered flooring is clearly the best!" Well, not exactly. If you have a creative decorating mind and a fairly large budget, solid hardwood flooring should be your first choice. You can combine solid hardwood into beautiful custom floors in a way that can't be done with engineered flooring. Solid flooring tends to raise the value of your home more than engineered flooring as well, mainly because it is a more costly and more permanent addition to the house.
What are your thoughts on the topic of engineered flooring vs. solid hardwood? Leave us a comment and let us know!