Solid wood flooring, as the name suggests, is made of solid wood throughout its thickness. It is usually made of a hardwood species, such as oak, maple, or walnut, and its major advantage is that it can be sanded and refinished many times over the course of its lifespan. Engineered wood flooring looks very similar on the surface, but it is made from a thinner layer of hardwood bonded over a substrate of high-quality plywood made of hardwood as well. Engineered flooring is somewhat less expensive than solid hardwood, but don’t let that fool you!. The engineered flooring has a factory aluminum oxide or ceramic bead finish that is formulated to not require re-sanding during it’s lifetime. Also, if sanded, you would be sanding out the characters that made you fall in love with the floor in the first place. The clear advantage to one form of wood flooring over the other boils down to the geographic area you live in and your lifestyle. Your choice depends on how much you value the relative benefits of each.
Solid Wood Flooring vs. Engineered Wood Flooring
Solid wood flooring comes in long planks, usually made of a hardwood species. It is milled with tongues and grooves on opposite edges so that the boards interlock when installed. It is always nailed down to the subfloor, a process that requires some skill. Because it is solid wood, this flooring can be sanded down and refinished several times over its life.
|Solid Hardwood||Engineered Hardwood|
|Lifespan||30 to 100 years (depending on structure, |
lifestyle & atmosphere)
|20 to 50 years (most having a 50 year warranty)|
|Cost||$10 to $15 per square foot||$5 to $14 per square foot|
|Sanding, Refinishing||2 or 3 times over life of floor||50 Year finish, not required|
|Stability||May warp in humid, damp conditions, too dry or seasonal shrinkage||Great resistance to warping, cupping and seasonal changes|
|Plank thickness||About 3/4 inch||3/8 to 5/8 inch|
|Plank Width||2 1/4 to 4 inches||2 1/4 to 9 inches|
|Plank Length||12 to 72 inches||36 to 72 inches|
|Installation Method||Nail down, tongue-and-groove||Nail down, floating, or glue-down|
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring boards tend to be narrower than engineered hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood generally has very tight seams between boards, and there is a great range of colors and species. Solid hardwood is available in both pre-finished and unfinished boards. This article mainly compares the unfinished sand & finish solid hardwood.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Floorboards tend to be wider with engineered hardwood flooring (due to it’s stability.) Some pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring has slightly beveled edges, which creates slight grooves between boards causing a more defined look, while solid hardwood flooring generally has very tight seams between boards. Engineered hardwood flooring is almost always sold pre-finished, and there is a broader range of available colors, character, species and application than with solid hardwood.
Best for Appearance?: Tie
Which version of hardwood flooring you find preferable really boils down to personal preference and which floor fits your needs and lifestyle.
Water and Heat Resistance
Both types of hardwood have good resistance to heat. Neither material is recommended for installation in truly wet locations. Engineered can however be installed over concrete and in basements below grade.
Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation against concrete slabs, since moisture migrating through the concrete can cause solid hardwood to swell and warp.
Engineered hardwood has much better performance in humid locations since its plywood construction makes it more stable and less susceptible to warping. If installation against a concrete subfloor is necessary, engineered hardwood is the choice.
Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood flooring comes out the winner here, since its plywood base makes it less susceptible to warping caused by moisture. Engineered flooring is also great over a floor heating system as well.
Care and Cleaning
This flooring is easy to clean with simple sweeping and vacuuming, and occasional damp-mopping with an approved wood cleaner.
Care and cleaning of this flooring look the same as for solid hardwood: sweeping or vacuuming, and occasional damp-mopping with a wood cleaner.
Best for Care and Cleaning: Tie
Both types of flooring are relatively easy to care for, requiring simple sweeping and cleaning with an approved wood cleaner. Avoid using water or steam to clean any wood floor.
Durability and Maintenance
Solid hardwood has the disadvantage here, but since it can be sanded down and refinished several times over its lifespan it would be something to consider as a more long term durability.
Engineered hardwood can be refinished once, or at most twice, but honestly, should not need any sanding as the engineered floor has a very hard aluminum oxide or ceramic bead factory finish (designed to avoid the need of sanding and refinishing) that will withstand years, if not decades of use before the surface hardwood finish layer is exhausted.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood flooring holds the edge here since it has been designed to be more stable and the factory aluminum oxide finish eliminates the need for sanding and refinishing for many years. All solid-wood floors can benefit from a renewal of the surface varnish coat every few years.
Solid hardwood flooring is installed with a tongue-and-groove system, in which each board is blind-nailed to the subfloor down through tongues at the edges of the boards.
Some engineered wood flooring is also installed with the same nail-down methods used for solid hardwood, but there are also forms with “click-lock” edges that can be installed as a “floating floor.” Engineered wood flooring can also be glued down against a concrete subfloor, yes, even in “below grade” basements.
Best for Installation: Engineered Hardwood
You will find that the click-lock or glue-down forms of engineered hardwood are easier to work with than the nail-down methods used for solid hardwood.
Sand & Finished solid hardwood averages about $10 per square foot, within a range of $8 to $14 per square foot.
Engineered hardwood flooring is slightly less expensive than solid hardwood. The typical range engineered hardwood flooring is $5 to $10 per square foot, with most types falling in the $5 to $8 per square foot range. But, keep in mind it also requires less maintenance due to it’s factory finish.
Best for Cost: Engineered Hardwood
The edge here goes to engineered hardwood flooring. For both types of flooring, installation labor can add $3 to $10 per square foot, depending on prevailing labor costs in your area and the complexity of the home layout. Solid wood sand & finish having the more expensive variables.
Solid hardwood typically lasts at least 30 years and as much as 100 years, since it can be sanded down and refinished several times.
Engineered hardwood flooring generally lasts 20 to 50 years. Most engineered floors having a manufacturers 50 year warranty.
Best for Lifespan: Both Hardwoods
Because its solid wood construction allows it to be sanded and refinished several times, solid hardwood flooring comes out on top when it comes to longevity. Engineered takes the maintenance over time lead because of it’s lack of need for sanding and refinishing. Engineered will also hold up better to humidity issues and will show less seasonal changes.
Standard hardwood flooring planks are 3/4 inch thick, 2 1/4-4 inches wide, and sold n various lengths from 12 to 84 inches. Other thicknesses and widths are also available, though solid hardwood flooring is rarely more than about 4 inches wide.
Engineered hardwood boards are often thinner, with 3/8- to 9/16 inch-thick boards common. Engineered hardwood is often sold in much wider boards, up to 9 inches, and the lengths typically run 36 to 72 inches
Best for Sizes: Tie
There is no particular winner here, unless you have a particular preference for narrower boards (in which case solid hardwood will be preferable for you), or wider boards (in which case engineered hardwood flooring will be a better choice).
In appearance, solid hardwood is not noticeably different from engineered hardwood, but real estate professionals and potential home buyers may place a premium on a solid hardwood floor for its greater longevity.
Engineered hardwood flooring will rarely be a turn-off to prospective buyers, though they may recognize that these floors have a shorter lifespan but excel in character and finish.
Best for Resale Value: Both Hardwoods
Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are premium flooring materials that add good real estate value to your home.
Engineered wood flooring was once regarded as a pale imitation of solid hardwood, but improvements in the product quality have eliminated this perception. Solid hardwood may hold a slight edge in prestige for some people, but the lower cost, easier installation and lower maintenance of engineered wood flooring give it the edge for others. Further, engineered wood uses less hardwood trees, a fact that appeals to environmentally conscious consumers.