Solid vs. Engineered
Which is better? Both perform well, but the important question is which is better for my project? It depends on several factors such as subfloor type, climate/environment, and preferred installation method.
Let’s start by profiling both types of hardwood construction.
Just as the name indicates, solid hardwood floors are manufactured as one single piece. Solid floors are most often ¾” thick. The widths vary in size. The lengths are random. Solid hardwood flooring can be installed over plywood or oriented strand board. These floors are designed to be installed on or above grade. They are naturally durable and can be resanded a number of times to restore its beauty or change its color. These floors are susceptible to expansion and contraction. Typically this movement occurs in the width of the planks. In a dry environment, planks can shrink up to 2%. Therefore, the wider the plank, the more potential for movement. Planks do return to their original dimension once the environment stabilizes. It is always best to monitor your interior heat and humidity. Proper conditions will limit movement and keep your floor looking beautiful. Excessive movement stresses planks and can lead to splits and other surface deformities.
There are many different types of engineered floors. Simply put, engineered hardwood floors are multiple layers of hardwood adhered together in a cross directional format. This method creates a dimensional stability that limits seasonal movement. There are several things to consider when purchasing an engineered hardwood floor. First, what type of material is used in the core. Some products are made with 3 to 5 layers of soft-core material. Others are made with more ply’s and hardwood core material. The harder the core and the more ply’s, the more stable and long lasting a floor will be. Another important consideration is the top layer. Obviously, this is what gives the visual, and it is most directly exposed to foot traffic and the environment. There are 2 methods to cut veneer. The rotary peeled method is widely used in less expensive engineered floors. This method uses a knife blade that is pressed against the log. Then the machinery spins the log and the knife blade removes a thin layer of material as the log spins. It resembles paper toweling coming off a roll. The resulting veneer is then flattened, applied to a core, finished and boxed. Rotary peeled veneers have a wilder grain and a perceptible pattern repeat. They are also thin and susceptible to grain checks and surface issues as they age.
The other way to cut veneer is dry sawn. This method is taken in the same directional fashion as solid floors. The appearance is identical to solid floors, but with the stability only engineered construction can provide. With a thick sawn top veneer, an engineered floor can be sanded as many times as a solid floor.
Which is Better?
The net result is that both have their place. Engineered flooring has more installation options. It can be used anywhere in your project. In wide width products, engineered provides additional stability. Many people are drawn to solid because the idea of one solid piece of wood creates the impression that it is better. Practically speaking, high quality engineered wood flooring has everything a solid has and is more stable. This is becoming more accepted as engineered sales continue to grow.