Solid vs Engineered
Solid wood flooring is made of one piece of wood from top to bottom and can be used on practically any foundation. One of the many benefits of solid wood flooring is it can be sanded and refinished many times but it is also greatly desired for its authenticity, timelessness and durability. Installation of solid hardwood flooring must be done by nailing or stapling.
For concrete slabs, we lay down polyethylene sheeting to minimize moisture migration from the concrete up into the wood flooring and then nail a 5/8” plywood sheet into the concrete. We then lay down a felt underlayment on top of the plywood and then nail our 3/4” solid boards into the plywood. This brings our new floor 1-1/2” up from the slab level. This extra height needs to be considered for door heights, cabinets, and transitions to other types of flooring. When solid hardwoods are being placed over existing plywood subfloors, we simply lay the felt underlayment directly over it and nail our boards into it. In these cases, our 3/4” boards typically doe not cause any height issues as they level with most other flooring options.
Engineered wood flooring is made of real wood but is made of multiple layers with the top layer being high-quality wood and the bottom base layers being made of plywood. There are a variety of positives to engineered wood flooring but there are also some drawbacks.
A benefit of engineered wood flooring is the ease of the installation process. Floors can be installed by stapling/nailing, glue down, or floating click-and-lock. The ease of installation is also enhanced by the fact that most engineered flooring products are pre-finished as opposed to site-finished. This proves beneficial in design elements and expectations being more easily envisioned and the elimination of the sand/finish process that must take place with raw wood floor. Pre-finished products are also able to achieve particular looks and finishes that are not able to be done by hand on raw wood. Another benefit of engineered floors is its greater toleration of moisture. Due to its plywood base, it is more dimensionally stable with its cross-wise fibers than the parallel fibers found in solid wood. This helps limit warping/flexing in the presence of moisture and, in turn, allows engineered floors to have very wide board widths without great concerns movement that might occur in wide, solid boards. Engineered flooring is typically between 3/8” and 1/2” in height which can be advantageous in creating level flooring transitions on slabs.
The first drawback to be considered with engineered wood is the wear layer. With the thinner ware layer, future re-sanding/finish is very limited. Depending on the product, some floors are able to be lightly sanded once or twice before the structural integrity is in jeopardy but a lot of pre-finished products have a thinner veneer wear layer that does not allow for any re-sanding. The thinner wear layer tends to make the boards more susceptible to irreparable scratches and chips if stressed beyond normal conditions. Due to this, the longevity of engineered wood is not quite comparable to solid hardwood but it is constructed in a way that greatly returns its value.