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Hardwood Floors: Solid vs. Engineered

Choosing the type of hardwood flooring that best suits your space can be a confusing and somewhat difficult task…especially if you have not done your research.   However, with a little basic knowledge about the floor type you are considering, you can make a more educated decision and feel more confident about your purchase. There are many factors to consider when purchasing hardwood flooring.  An important variable to understand is the difference between a solid hardwood floor and an engineered hardwood floor.  As you will find out below, just having this little bit of knowledge can help you make the right decision for your space and save you a lot of headache in the long run.

Solid Wood Floors

As the name suggests, solid wood floors are manufactured from one solid piece of wood.  These floors are sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity and must be nailed or stapled down to a wood type sub floor.


Engineered Wood Floors Engineered wood floors are manufactured by adhering 3-10 layers of wood call “plies.”  These floors have a cross-ply construction, making them less sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity and therefore more dimensionally stable.  These floors can be glued, stapled, or floated over many types of sub floors including wood and dry concrete slabs.

Factors to Consider

You may be asking yourself, “How do I know if a solid wood floor or an engineered wood floor is the way to go?”  The truth is, this question must be answered on a case by case basis.  In order to make this decision, you must first consider WHERE the floor will be installed.   Determining if your room is above, on, or below ground level is a crucial step that you must take before purchasing your flooring.  As you will discover below, different considerations must be made depending upon what level of the home the intended room is located. Solid wood floors are a beautiful addition to any home and can add a lot of extra value…but you must be smart about where you install them.  As the diagram illustrates, solid wood floors should only be installed on or above ground level because they are more sensitive to humidity and temperature changes.  They must also be nailed or stapled to a wood type sub floor.  Installing a solid wood floor on top of a concrete slab could result in a condition referred to as cupping.  Cupping is caused by the presence of moisture in the sub floor and results in a concave warp where the center of the plank is lower than the sides.  If the room you are considering for a solid wood floor has a concrete slab, is below ground level, or is susceptible to moisture you should consider an engineered wood floor.   

Engineered wood floors can be installed on any level of your home. This is due to the fact that engineered wood floors have a cross-ply construction.  Cross-ply construction is a technique where the wood is stacked and glued on top of each other in opposing directions with the grain of each running at 90-degree angles to the adjoining layers.  This process allows the plies to counteract each other and stops the natural tendency of the wood to expand & contract when exposed to changes in humidity.  Also, as mentioned above, these floors can be installed on a variety of different sub floors including concrete.  Considering all of these factors, engineered wood floors tend to be a more versatile option for homeowners. As you can see, there are many important factors that should be considered when determining what floor is best for your situation.  The first step is to think about where the floor will be installed. If it will be at or above ground level and the sub floor suits both types, then the decision between an engineered or solid wood floor becomes more of a preference issue.  Solid wood floors tend require a bit more maintenance than engineered wood.  However, engineered wood floors have a thinner top layer and can only be sanded a few times to remove scratches and dents.  Solid wood floors are thicker and can be sanded many times.  Both types of flooring are durable, and engineered wood has the extra bonus that it won’t warp when exposed to moisture.  If installation will occur in a basement or room that is somewhat humid, an engineered wood floor is the way to go since it is resistant to these changes and can be installed over a concrete sub floor. Installing hardwood floors is an investment…and we want you to be happy with your purchase. So, our best piece of advice is to do your homework.  Consider all of the factors we have highlighted here and you will be better equipped to make your decision. 

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