Solid wood flooring, as the name suggests, is made of solid wood throughout its thickness. It is usually made of a hardwood species, such as oak and its major advantage is that it can be sanded and refinished many times over the course of its lifespan. Engineered wood flooring looks very similar on the surface, but it is made from a relatively thin layer of hardwood bonded over a substrate of high-quality plywood. Engineered flooring is somewhat less expensive than solid hardwood, but most types can be sanded and refinished only once since the surface hardwood layer is relatively thin. There is no clear advantage to one form of wood flooring over the other; your choice depends on how much you value the relative merits of each.
Solid Wood Flooring vs. Engineered Wood Flooring
Solid wood flooring comes in long planks, usually made of a hardwood species. It is milled with tongues and grooves on opposite edges so that the boards interlock when installed. It is always nailed down to the subfloor, a process that requires some skill. Because it is solid wood, this flooring can be sanded down and refinished several times over its life.
Engineered wood flooring looks very much like solid hardwood, but its construction features a relatively thin layer of hardwood bonded over a premium-quality plywood layer that gives the flooring very good stability. A good-quality engineered wood floor typically lasts 30 to 40 years, and it is both less expensive and easier for DIYers to install.
|30 to 100 years
|20 to 40 years
|$8 to $15 per square foot
|$4 to $20 per square foot
|2 or 3 times over life of floor
|2 or 3 times over life of floor
|May warp in humid, damp conditions
|Good resistance to warping
|About 3/4 inch
|5/8 to 3/4 inch
|2 1/4 to 4 inches
|2 1/4 to 20 inches
|12 to 84 inches
|12 to 144 inches
|Nail down, tongue-and-groove
|Nail down, floating, or glue-down
Solid Hardwood Flooring
Solid hardwood flooring boards tend to be narrower than engineered hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood generally has very tight seams between boards, and there is a greater range of colors and species than is found with engineered hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood is available in both pre-finished and unfinished boards.
Engineered Hardwood Flooring
Floorboards tend to be wider with engineered hardwood flooring. Some pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring has slightly beveled edges, which creates slight grooves between boards, while solid hardwood flooring generally has very tight seams between boards. Engineered hardwood flooring is almost always sold pre-finished, and there is a narrower range of available colors and species than with solid hardwood
Best of Appearance: Tie
Which version of hardwood flooring you find preferable really boils down to personal preference.
Water and Heat Resistance
Both types of hardwood have good resistance to heat. Neither material is recommended installation for truly wet locations.
Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation against concrete slabs, since humidity migrating through the concrete can cause solid hardwood to swell and warp.
Engineered hardwood has slightly better performance in humid locations since its plywood construction makes it more stable and less susceptible to warping. If installation against a concrete subfloor is necessary, engineered hardwood is the choice.
Best for Water and Heat Resistance: Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood flooring comes out the winner here, since its plywood base is less susceptible to warping caused by moisture.
Care and Cleaning
This flooring is easy to clean with simple sweeping and vacuuming, and occasional damp-mopping with an approved wood cleaner.
Care and cleaning of this flooring look the same as for solid hardwood: sweeping or vacuuming, and occasional damp-mopping with a wood cleaner.
Best for Care and Cleaning: Tie
Both types of flooring are relatively easy to care for, requiring simple sweeping and cleaning with an approved wood cleaner. Avoid using water or steam to clean any wood floor.
Durability and Maintenance
Solid hardwood is slightly superior here, since it can be sanded down and refinished several times over its lifespan.
Engineered hardwood can be refinished twice, or at most three times, before the surface hardwood layer is exhausted.
Best for Durability and Maintenance: Solid Hardwood
Solid hardwood flooring holds the edge here since it can be sanded and refinished several times over the course of its lifespan. Pre-finished forms of both floors are the most durable since they have a hard, factory-applied finish that holds up very well. All wood floors can benefit from a renewal of the surface varnish coat every few years.
Solid hardwood flooring is installed with a tongue-and-groove system, in which each board is blind-nailed to the subfloor down through tongues at the edges of the boards.
Some engineered wood flooring is also installed with the same nail-down methods used for solid hardwood, but there are also forms with “click-lock” edges that can be installed as a “floating floor.” Engineered wood flooring can also be glued down against a concrete subfloor. Most DIYers find engineered wood flooring to be easier to install.
Best for Installation: Engineered Hardwood
DIYers find that the click-lock or glue-down forms of engineered hardwood are easier to work with than the nail-down methods used for solid hardwood.
Pre-finished solid hardwood averages about $10 per square foot, within a range of $4 to $20 per square foot.
Engineered hardwood flooring is slightly less expensive than solid hardwood. The typical range engineered hardwood flooring is $6 to $20 per square foot, with most types falling in the $6 to $20 per square foot range.
Best for Cost: Engineered Hardwood
The edge here goes to engineered hardwood flooring, but the difference is not huge. For both types of flooring, installation labor can add $2 to $10 per square foot, depending on prevailing labor costs in your area and the complexity of the room layout.
Solid hardwood typically lasts at least 30 years and as much as 100 years, since it can be sanded down and refinished several times.
Engineered hardwood flooring generally lasts 20 to 30 years.
Best for Lifespan: Solid Hardwood
Because its solid wood construction allows it to be sanded and refinished several times, solid hardwood flooring comes out on top when it comes to longevity.
Standard hardwood flooring planks are 3/4 inch thick, 2 1/4 inches wide, and sold in various lengths from 12 to 84 inches. Other thicknesses and widths are also available, though solid hardwood flooring is rarely more than about 4 inches wide.
Engineered hardwood boards are often thinner, with 5/8- to 3/4-inch-thick boards common. Engineered hardwood is often sold in much wider boards, up to 20 inches, and the lengths typically run 12 to 144 inches
Best for Sizes: Tie
There is no particular winner here, unless you have a particular preference for narrower boards (in which case solid hardwood will be preferable for you), or wider boards (in which case engineered hardwood flooring will be a better choice).
In appearance, solid hardwood is not noticeably different from engineered hardwood, but real estate professionals and potential home buyers may place a premium on a solid hardwood floor for its greater longevity.
Engineered hardwood flooring will rarely be a turn-off to prospective buyers.
Best for Resale Value: Solid Hardwood
Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are premium flooring materials that add good real estate value to your home. Solid hardwood may have the edge here, since it lasts longer than engineered hardwood flooring.
Engineered wood flooring was once regarded as a pale imitation of solid hardwood, but improvements in the product quality have eliminated this perception. Solid hardwood may hold a slight edge in prestige for some people, but the lower cost and easier installation of engineered wood flooring give it the edge for others. Further, engineered wood uses less hardwood, a fact that appeals to environmentally conscious consumers.