Let’s talk wood flooring. When choosing new flooring, it is one of the bigger decisions you will have make, and unfortunately there is no right choice or easy answer to offer. A wood floor will likely be one of your most expensive purchases in your lifetime after a house or a car. What I can do is offer you some info about the pros and cons of each, which will hopefully help you make the right choice for your needs, and put you at ease.
THE MAIN DIFFERENCE
Solid hardwood floors are just that, a solid piece of wood, throughout. Engineered hardwood flooring consists of a thin layer of hardwood on top of multiple layers of different woods, known as ply layers.
Engineered hardwood is not laminate flooring and it is not cheap flooring. Today, it makes up a big part of the flooring market because it has some serious pros when it comes to its usability and resilience. Engineered wood flooring is known to withstand the effects of humidity and moisture better than solid hardwood. The manufacturing process involved in making engineered wood floor creates a highly stable core that is less likely to expand and contract when exposed to moisture and humidity. This allows it to be much more resilient and gives it more freedom to be installed in more areas including sub-levels, even on top of concrete floors.
Solid wood flooring, on the other hand, acts similarly to how your hair behaves. It grows with humidity and shrinks in the cold temperatures.
The effects of moisture are something to think about if you are planning to use wood as your flooring choice within your kitchen or other areas where water is present.
Another major difference between the two is the size of the planks. Because engineered floors have a more stable substrate, the individual planks can come much wider and longer than typical hardwood floors. Open concept designs lend themselves to engineered wood because the scale of the wide plank floor works better in a wide open space. A small plank can look quite busy in an open concept. The widest floor that you can get in hardwood is 5”, whereas the widest floor you can get with engineered is 10”. Engineered wood also comes in much longer lengths than hardwood.
This is another area where these two types of flooring differ. The installation of an engineered floor can happen much more quickly than a hardwood floor because they are typically pre-finished (few require an oiling or a waxing after installation). Engineered floors have multiple installation options including nailing, gluing or floating, which makes it easier to install in certain applications. For example, if you are living in your house while you are replacing your floors, an engineered floor is much easier to deal with since you can walk on it immediately after it has been installed. If you decide to proceed with a hardwood floor, typically, these are finished on site, and will take a number of days to install, stain and protect. It’s best if you’re not in the house during the process, and it’s important that you take precautions for a number of days after your floors have been finished. There are a few pre-finished hardwood flooring options out there if you have to be in your house during install.
Because engineered floors are manufactured and finished in a factory, they come in a wide range of textures, colours, sheens and species. You can get a bandsawn finish, hand-scraped finish, fumed or smoked finish, carbonized finish, wax finish, oil finish, white-washed finish, to name a few. I really love all of the amazing finish options with engineered flooring. For me, the wide variety of textures and colours is what’s most appealing about engineered floors. There are a few hardwood flooring installers out there today who can mimic engineered finishes on hardwood, but it’s a tricky process, and often will be difficult to get the same type of character found with an engineered floor. Installers of hardwood take their craft very seriously and will work your new floors like a canvas to get it just right.
Solid hardwood is known for its longevity. Since it is a naturally solid, it can be sanded down and refinished more times than engineered hardwood. If your hardwood floor gets scratched, and you don’t want to live with the scratches, you will need to refinish your floor by sanding it down, and starting the staining and protecting process all over again. The good news is, you can do this 4-6 times.
I have yet to see someone actually refinish an engineered floor. Some good quality engineered floors do come with a considerable wear layer on top that can be refinished. You might be able to refinish your engineered floors once. But, because engineered floors tend to have a lot of character and more texture, scratches aren’t as noticeable on them compared to your pristine hardwood floors.
At the end of the day, it’s very hard to predict how well your floors will hold up in your home. Manufacturers are always trying to come up with new ways to stabilize how your floors behave. But wood is a natural product that reacts to the climate (inside and out). If you live in a country that has multiple seasons, your flooring will get a workout, no matter what kind of floor you install.
At the end of the day, cost is what often drives the decision of home-owners. At first, the cost of a hardwood floor may seem much more palatable than the cost of engineered flooring. But the truth is, once you factor in the installation, they do often land at around the same price. Like anything you will purchase for your home improvement project, there is a wide range of pricing and quality out there. I urge you not to be tempted to purchase the cheapest option when it comes to your floors. It’s a huge headache to replace them, and the quality of your floor reflects the most on the quality of your renovation.
If you liked this post, make sure to check out our last article on what an Interior Designer does.