When spec'ing the flooring for a new build or a remodel a common question we are asked is, what kind of wood flooring should I choose? For those clients the two main options come down to solid hardwood or engineered flooring. Solid wood is what you generally think of as a hardwood floor: thick, solid planks of wood. Engineered wood is made of a veneer of real wood that sits atop a core of plywood. There are a lot of factors that will determine what kind of hardwood floor your home can accommodate, and what will look best with your existing or planned furnishings and decor. So here's our guide to making the right choice for your home and budget.
First ask yourself where will the wood be going and what is your subfloor made of? The most common types are concrete slab and plywood. This will help you determine whether you can install solid wood floors, or if an engineered wood would be best. If you are thinking about installing in your basement you should stick with an engineered floor, because the moisture coming up through the ground can cause problems, if you have a concrete slab floor, you’re pretty much limited to engineered wood. Plywood is probably the most common subfloor and allows for the most versatility with hardwood floors. You can nail solid wood on top or use engineered wood.
Here is the basic difference between the two:
Wood has a natural warmth, impressive wear resistance, and can be sanded and refinished several times. Pre-finished floors can hold up better than those finished on site, and their warranty comes from the factory, not the installer. Prefinished wood flooring costs more than unfinished flooring, but doesn't require sanding or finishing. As soon as you install the last plank, you can nail up the baseboard trim and carry in the furniture. Solid wood may expand and contract with varying humidity levels and can dent easily. Some can show wear quickly and become discolored from sunlight.
Engineered-wood is composed of three or more wood layers glued together into long planks, with a top layer composed of a thin solid-wood veneer. This laminated construction creates a floor that's much more dimensionally stable than solid-wood flooring, so it's less likely to cup, split, shrink, or warp. It has became the most popular type of do-it-yourself wood floor, because the planks snap together and "float" over a thin foam-rubber layer. Most engineered wood doesn't wear as well as solid wood. It also dents easily. Most can be carefully refinished once, but the veneer on some may be too thin for even one refinish.