When building or remodeling your home, there are many important decisions to make. One is what kind of flooring you will install. Hardwood floors have been a popular choice for home flooring for hundreds of years. Wood floors look and feel wonderful, maintain their value, and can last for decades.

Today, homeowners have more options than ever before when it comes to wood flooring. Engineered wood has become quite popular in the last 10-20 years. Unique varieties of solid hardwood are available from all over the world.

With so many options – which should you choose?

Consider the differences between solid wood and engineered wood, as well as the pros and cons of each, before making your final decision.

Solid Hardwood

The Basics:

Solid hardwood is typically made from ¾ inch planks of solid wood. Many different wood options are available, from basic Oak to exotic Brazilian Cherry.

Installation:

Wood planks are nailed directly to the home’s subfloor. Since the planks are pieces of real wood, they are affected by changes in moisture levels. Hardwood floors naturally expand and contract as the relative humidity fluctuates from one season to another. That is why installers must leave space between each wood plank and the wall; this allows the wood to “breathe”.

Maintenance and Durability:

Hardwood floors are made from thick pieces of wood, so they can be sanded down and refinished multiple times over the course of the floor’s life. Some pre-finished hardwood floors come with guarantees on the finish of up to 20 years. Care must be taken, however, since they can be damaged by overexposure to water and moisture.

Engineered Wood

The Basics:

Engineered wood floors look and act much like solid hardwood, but with some key differences. Engineered wood planks are made from multiple offset layers of plywood or high density fiberboard. The more layers there are, the stronger and more expensive the flooring will be. The top layer is made of the real wood desired so that the overall appearance of engineered wood fits a specific type of wood. Thicker top layers more closely resemble solid wood and tend to be more expensive.

Installation:

Engineered wood flooring can be installed directly over concrete slabs, unlike solid hardwood. There are a few different options for installation, though most are glued down. A moisture barrier will usually be installed as well to prevent damage. Because engineered wood is more resistant to moisture, it can sometimes be installed in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, and other places where solid wood is not a good choice. However, moisture can still be a problem and the flooring is at risk for damage in locations with exceptional moisture exposure or great changes in relative humidity.

Maintenance and Durability:

Engineered floors can be sanded and refinished, but not nearly as frequently as solid wood. Most warranties for engineered flooring last 10 to 30 years under normal conditions.

Solid Hardwood: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Look and feel. While engineered flooring has improved greatly over the last few years, it still cannot match the authentic look and feel of solid wood flooring.
  • Value. Solid wood floors increase the value of your home and are a strong selling point when putting your home on the market.
  • Durability. Solid wood floors can last for several decades, being sanded and refinished multiple times.

Cons:

  • Installation. Solid wood cannot be installed over concrete slabs, so you have to go with engineered if you want wood over concrete.
  • Moisture Damage. Solid wood floors are susceptible to moisture damage, so they should not be installed in areas where humidity levels can change dramatically.
  • Cost. While solid wood floors offer great value to your home, they can be tough to afford when remodeling on a strict budget, especially if you want an exotic wood.

Engineered Wood: Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Installation. Engineered flooring can be installed over concrete slabs and in parts of the home where moisture is a problem for solid wood flooring.
  • Cost. While top quality engineered wood can be more expensive than solid wood, engineered floors are available at a wide variety of price points.

Cons:

  • Durability. While good quality engineered flooring can last up to 30 years, most do not last as long. Engineered floors can only be refinished a few times, unlike solid wood flooring.
  • Low end flooring is low quality. While you may be able to find good prices on quality engineered wood, in general, you get what you pay for. Low end flooring has a cheaper appearance, is less resistant to moisture, and will not increase the value of your home the way solid wood does.

Universal Hardwood offers a variety of both solid hardwood and engineered wood options in many finishes and styles. Before deciding which to install in your home, be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons. That way you can make a wise decision and install the ideal flooring for your home and family.
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