On the surface, engineered and solid hardwood flooring often (though not always) appear nearly identical. However, there are some significant differences, usually related more to construction of each flooring option than its aesthetic. These differences are important to consider, as they will impact both the style and construction of your home. So, we’ll briefly explore them here.
Types of Flooring
Solid hardwood – as the name implies, it is composed of solid wood, literally milled straight out of the tree. The more traditional choice, it’s often found in older homes, especially cabins.
Engineered (aka pre or factory finished) – It’s also similar to the way it sounds. It is composed of layers of plywood (layered wood). In fact, when viewed from the side, most selections resemble the layers found along the side of plywood. Due to its dimensional stability (resistance to warping), it can be used virtually anywhere in the home, from the attic to the basement.
The top layer of engineered hardwood is a thin sheet of solid wood. This is what maintains the similar aesthetic between the two types of hardwood flooring. Both engineered and solid hardwood flooring can come in almost any species. However, oak, hickory, pine and maple are among the more common selections. You will also see pecan, walnut and pear but they are considered “domestic exotics”. True exotics are also available like acacia, ipe, wenge and Brazilian cherry.
Environmental Advantages of Engineered Flooring
Besides using less desirable wood, engineered flooring features an added benefit. It uses either mill by-products such as sawdust or wood that is cheaper and would be undesirable as a finished floor for its core that would otherwise go to waste, thereby reducing environmental impact. Engineered flooring still retains the resilience and durability frequently associated with conventional engineered flooring; it simply does so in a more practical manner.
Differences in Construction
Not all engineered hardwood flooring features a layered construction. Some still appear solid, even from the side. In this case, it’s actually pressurized sawdust, compacted using a modern engineering process that strengthens the sawdust into a highly-dense, solid core. Durability is greatly enhanced, making it far more resistant to dents and scratches than solid hardwood.
Engineered hardwood is more resistant to moisture in humid environments, making them lower-cost options for us in locations where moisture is possible like basements.
Engineered hardwood is often compared with other hard surface flooring types, such as laminate, due to its layered construction. However, it can still be referred to as “real wood” since it is composed entirely of wood.
Similarities Between Engineered and Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid and engineered hardwood flooring do share some similarities. Both are typically available in planks that are 3.25” wide. However, the more modern widths are 5”, 6”, 7” and even 9” in engineered. It would cost a fortune to have solid hardwood at these widths.