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Inspiration • June 07, 2022

What Is Engineered Hardwood? Pros, Cons and Where To Use It

by Floor Authority

Naturally beautiful, wood floors give a home a timeless appeal. In fact, engineered hardwood gives solid hardwood flooring a run for its money, with the same classic appearance and a unique set of perks. 

In this guide, we cover the pros and cons of engineered hardwood vs. solid hardwood, the differences in their composition and various advantages and disadvantages when it comes to factors such as cost, durability, cleaning and maintenance. Read on to learn more about engineered hardwood and decide if it’s the right option for your home.

Main Differences Between Engineered and Solid Hardwood

Wood flooring is broken down into two types: engineered hardwood and solid hardwood. While on the surface they may seem very similar, each has a unique set of characteristics that must be taken into account to pick the right flooring option for your home. 

Below we look at what differentiates engineered wood from solid hardwood

Engineered Hardwood

Solid Hardwood  

Lifespan 20-100 years 30-100 years
Appearance

Limited variety in colors and species

More variety in colors and species

Thickness

⅜ inch - ⅝ inch

Can be sanded/refinished once

¾ inches

Can be repeatedly sanded and refinished
Cleaning and Maintenance Sweep, seasonal damp mop
Sweep, seasonal damp mop
Durability and Longevity Resistant to moisture and warping Susceptible to warping and damage in damp conditions
Cost per Square Foot $2.50-$16  $2.50-$16 
Ease of Installation Nail down, floating or glue down Nail down or tongue and groove
Pet-Friendliness Can be pet-friendly with the proper finish and surface Not pet-friendly

 

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood is 100% natural wood that’s made up of 5 distinct layers: the stable core, the wear layer, a visual layer, an added protective layer and a top usable surface layer. The grain of each of these layers runs in opposite directions, creating a grid-like grain pattern that prevents moisture. This makes engineered hardwood a great option for warmer climates. It is also created to allow for more designs, so homeowners have more options to choose from. 

The thickness of engineered hardwood can range from ⅜ - ⅝” with a veneer on top ranging from .5mm-4mm that can be sanded and refinished depending on the thickness.

NOTE: If you find a retailer selling engineered flooring with a pressed plywood center, the flooring is laminate with a wood top which is a far lower grade of flooring.

Engineered hardwood can be purchased at virtually any price point – starting at $2.50 per square foot all the way up to $16 per square foot. A cheaper engineered wood may cost you less but probably won’t last as long. A quality engineered hardwood product has the potential to last just as long, if not longer, than solid hardwood. 

Pros:

  • More durable and moisture-resistant than solid hardwood and more stable due to the plywood core
  • Typically cheaper unless you opt for premium options
  • Less likely to shift or expand and contract with temperature changes
  • Can be installed over radiant heat

Cons:

  • Can typically only be sanded down and re-finished a few times depending on the size of the veneer
  • Can feel hollow underfoot when installed as a “floating floor”
  • Less expensive options can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC)

NOTE: If you're going to a certified or trusted retailer of wood flooring, it is unlikely they carry engineered wood flooring that emits VOCs after installation.

Solid Hardwood

Solid hardwood (like the name suggests) is constructed from one solid piece of hardwood all the way through and is generally three-quarters of an inch thick. Planks are usually very long and have grooves and tongues that allow the planks to easily interlock during installation.  

Solid hardwood planks are quite thick which works to their advantage, as they can be sanded down and refinished repeatedly over their lifetime — lasting anywhere from 30-100 years if properly taken care of. 

Pros:

  • Can increase the value of your home
  • Sometimes more durable than engineered wood as it can be sanded down and refinished several times.

Cons:

  • Very susceptible to moisture damage and warping
  • Expensive — solid wood floors are some of the most expensive flooring options on the market

What Does Engineered Hardwood Look Like?

what does engineered hardwood look like

On the surface, engineered hardwood looks very similar to solid hardwood flooring. However, it does have a few distinct differences.

  • Planks: Engineered hardwood planks tend to be wider and thicker than solid hardwood. Some pre-finished engineered wood planks also have beveled edges. This can create small grooves in between the planks while, in comparison, solid hardwood has very tight seams when installed properly.
  • Finish: Engineered wood flooring is generally sold pre-finished, although it’s possible to get some unfinished variations should you want to finish them yourself. 
  • Variety: When it comes to variety in appearance, engineered hardwood offers many of the same design and wood characteristics as solid hardwood. However, it does have a slightly narrower range of colors and species compared to solid hardwood.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Just like solid hardwood, it’s recommended to not expose engineered hardwood to excess water or moisture. For this reason, cleaning and maintaining engineered wood is very simple. You should follow a simple sweeping or vacuuming routine daily and occasionally damp mop with an appropriate wood cleaner. You should never use a sopping wet mop as this can cause the wood planks to buckle. 

Cleaning tips:
  • Use a soft-bristled broom: This will help remove debris from your floors while preventing scratches to the finish. Nylon or rubber bristles are both static-charged to pick up crumbs and protect your floors.
  • Use a soft-bristled vacuum: You can vacuum your wood floors, but similar to the recommendations for a broom, you should use only vacuums with soft bristles to avoid scratching the surface of your floors. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the vacuum has a retractable beater bar.
  • Have two microfiber mops: Use one to capture dust and small debris and another for damp mopping for the most efficient and gentle cleaning.
  • Tackle messes as they happen: Don’t allow any dry or wet spills to sit, as these can cause water rings or warping. Tackle spills within a few minutes of them occurring.

Damp mop seasonally: If you regularly sweep and spot-clean your floors when messes occur, you should only need to damp mop a few times a year, which is recommended to avoid excess water exposure. Damp mop in the direction of the wood grain with an appropriate wood cleaner.

Durability and Longevity

Contrary to what you may think, engineered hardwood can last just as long, if not longer, than its solid counterpart. Although engineered hardwood can only be sanded down and refinished once or twice before the natural wood layer has been exhausted, the top or “wear layer” provides excellent protection against scratches and stains. As different flooring manufacturers have different finishes, it’s important to make sure the finish on your engineered wood floors can withstand scratches, moisture, and humidity to increase the lifespan of your floors.

Average Cost 

Engineered hardwood is a great choice if you’re looking to save a little money but still want the classic look of hardwood floors. Engineered wood can range from $2.50 to $16 per square foot, with most options falling somewhere between $4 and $7. 

In comparison, solid wood floors typically cost around $8 to $16 per square foot, which can be a significant price jump for many homeowners. 

Additions like a lifetime warranty, a specialized texture or a good protective finish can all add to the final price tag of engineered wood floors. 

Ease of Installation of Engineered vs. Solid Wood

Engineered wood has a handful of options when it comes to installation methods. This includes the nail down method (requires a subfloor of plywood or a board) or the click and lock method — often referred to as a “floating floor” — where the planks are locked together but neither nailed or glued down to the subfloor. This method is often popular for homeowners who want an easy, DIY installation. However, floating floors can have a hollow sound when walking on them, so it’s important to consider how acoustics will impact your overall happiness with your engineered wood floors. 

Engineered wood can also be installed using the glue down method where the planks are glued down to a concrete subfloor.

Like engineered hardwood, solid wood flooring can be installed by either nailing or stapling wood planks to a sub floor. However, solid wood cannot be installed as a “floating floor” with a click and lock method, which makes engineered hardwood the easiest to install.

Is Engineered Hardwood Pet-Friendly?

As engineered floors have limitations when it comes to being refinished, it’s important to consider the durability of the wood and finish before you buy. Find out where your type of wood falls on the Janka Hardness Scale — a scale designed to measure the hardness of wood. Some manufactures also offer a scuff and scratch-resistant finish, which can help make engineered wood a more pet-friendly flooring choice

 

Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood: Which Is Best for Your Home?

With all these considerations in mind, how you decide between engineered and solid hardwood depends on which factors are most important to you and how your lifestyle will impact the longevity of your flooring choice. 

While solid hardwood is often more costly, it is well sought-after flooring and can potentially increase the value of your home. If you’re certain that you can properly care for your solid wood floors, these may be a better long-term investment. 

If cost is the deciding factor for you, then engineered wood floors definitely have an advantage. They’re also easy to install if you’re looking for a DIY project and can hold up to spills and moisture better than solid hardwood. A large variety of pricing options makes engineered wood a more versatile choice. And with a high-quality engineered wood flooring product, you can expect beautiful, sturdy, long-lasting flooring.

Whichever option you choose, rest assured that both engineered hardwood and solid hardwood floors are beautiful options for your home, each with unique advantages. If you’re still not certain on which flooring option is best for you, our flooring experts are here to help and offer personalized recommendations to suit your needs and home aesthetic.

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