What’s the Difference Between Engineered and Solid Hardwood?

Many people have asked me what’s the difference between engineered and solid hardwood? And second, which is right for their flooring project?

As to the second question, that depends on a variety of factors as well as things like your budget. The first is a little bit easier to answer generally

The “pros” of using solid wood are easy. First is hardness. This can make a difference because there are wood floors that are harder than concrete. Second is depth: when finished correctly, looking into solid wood is like looking into a pool vs a puddle. Solid wood will have a “fish eye” effect. You can actually look into the wood. With an engineered you just look at the top of the floor. Whatever the color is, the color is.

The “cons” of using solid floors are first and foremost, cost! First, you have to buy the product (wood) and – here’s something many people don’t realize – the glue and moisture barrier. That will add about $2-$3 a square foot. Second, labor: it will cost more to install solids that engineered floors because of the tendency for gaps and boards that are warped. Third, moisture, here in Houston we have a very high water table, houses built on clay, and lots and lots of moisture (see below.) This is not the best region for solid wood because solid wood is kiln dried, so when moisture is in the air or slab it will soak it up quick. Lastly, time: you have to let solid wood acclimate three times longer than engineered wood.

When installing genuine hardwood floors in Houston, we typically battle moisture in our slabs because of the high humidity in the region. Unfortunately, the cost to put down preventative measures (moisture barrier), is expensive and can discourage people from undertaking the project.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed; I never mentioned thickness of veneer on the top of the layers of plywood or sanding layer of wood. This brings us to an alternative: we have “engineered” floors that mimic solid wood floors. We can glue down a 7 inch by 5/8 floor and put an on-site finish and do it 30 percent cheaper, making the project more affordable.

So to sum this up, with the evolution of engineered floors there no reason you can’t put an engineered floor down (that looks 95% percent like a solid) for about 30% of the cost. In my professional opinion, I’ll often tell a customer that, for the money, you can do much more with an engineered hardwood.