FAQs: Solid vs Engineered Wood

So you know you want wood floors. But how are you going to narrow down the best product when faced with hundreds of samples in the showroom? The first step is to determine whether you need a solid or engineered hardwood product. Here’s some common questions our customers ask about solid and engineered hardwood floors.

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A sample of solid oak wood flooring vs. a sample of engineered oak wood flooring. The solid wood is one piece while the engineered wood is made of layers.

What is a solid hardwood and engineered hardwood?

Solid wood is milled from a single piece of 3/4″ hardwood. Engineered wood is made with layers of hardwood or plywood as the core, with a hardwood veneer on top. The veneer is made of the preferred species of wood, such as oak or maple.

Is engineered real wood? Isn’t it the same as laminate flooring?

Engineered wood is real wood, made in layers instead of as one solid piece. Laminate flooring is a different product altogether; it is a picture that simulates the look of wood, stone, or tile on top of a fiber board, but is not made of wood.

What is “below grade” and why does it matter?

Rooms in your home can be at grade, above grade, or below grade. At grade means the room is at ground level, usually the first floor of a house. Above grade means the room is above ground level, such as an upstairs bedroom. Below grade is below ground level, like a basement.

Traditional solid wood does not perform well in room that are below grade. Below grade rooms tend to have higher levels of moisture. Solid hardwood expands and contracts with changing moisture levels. Engineered hardwood has more structural stability so it is more resistant to moisture. Engineered hardwood can be installed at any grade, while solid hardwood can be installed at or above grade.

Hardwood Flooring in NJ Beach House
Engineered wood floors are ideal for areas with variable moisture, like basements, kitchens, and down the shore.

What’s the difference between how solid and engineered wood flooring is installed?

Solid hardwood flooring can be nailed or stapled to a wood subfloor. Engineered flooring can also be glued, nailed, or stapled, but can also be floated. Floating installation is a technique where the engineered boards are attached to each other and stay over the subfloor without adhesion. Solid wood flooring cannot be installed directly to a concrete subfloor; concrete subfloors usually have high moisture levels and solid hardwood does not react well to moisture variability.

Solid wood contracts and expands more than engineered wood, so installers should leave more space between the boards to allow the wood to expand and contract.

Can solid and engineered hardwood flooring be sanded and refinished?

In most cases, solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times throughout the life of the floor. Many engineered woods can be sanded and refinished, but it depends on the the thickness of the hardwood veneer. Engineered wood flooring with thick veneers can be sanded and refinished up to three times, while engineered wood flooring with thinner veneers may only be sanded and refinished once or, in some cases, not at all.

Which costs more?

It depends. Solid and engineered hardwood flooring vary in price–and quality. The type of installation also affects the overall cost of your project. Solid hardwood and engineered hardwood have comparable costs, so you shouldn’t rule out either option when considering price.

Which is better for my home: solid or engineered?

The best floor for your home depends on so many factors, it’s best to consult an expert to help you evaluate your project and find the best product.

Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring

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