Not All Hardwood Floors are Created Equal

Not All Hardwood Floors are Created Equal

When you consider making flooring upgrades in your home, there are several options, but nothing seems as truly beautiful as when you install hardwood floors. Their presence just adds a genuine warmth, and it’s a popular choice among consumers. But remember, not all hardwood floors are the same, and you must keep that in mind when deciding what you want.

Solid hardwood floors are made out of solid wood. Each board is made from a single piece of hardwood that’s about 3/4 of an inch thick. Because it’s thick, it can be sanded down and refinished for however long the flooring is in the home. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity. Normally, installers compensate for this movement by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall. Base molding or quarter round is traditionally used to hide the extra space.

On the contrary, engineered hardwood is more versatile and resilient, and it can be installed in most areas of the home. It’s made of genuine wood and it gives you an updated look and feel. It’s made of a core of hardwood and plywood with a layer of hardwood veneer affixed to the top surface. It’s more resilient to moisture and heat compared to its counterpart, hardwood.

Solid wood floors are only recommended for rooms at ground level or above. The unique construction of engineered wood creates a structure that is less likely to buckle, gap or react to fluctuations in humidity and temperature. You can install engineered flooring on any level, including below ground. It’s a great choice for finished basements and bathrooms.

Both types of floors are designed for beauty and durability and can stand up to active homes. However, they have different performance attributes. Solid wood is permanently nailed to the subfloor. When engineers install hardwood floors, they typically leave a gap between the wall and the floor to accommodate swelling. Engineered floors tend to have enhanced stability, making them more reliable against everyday wear-and-tear and also to buckling or rippling. In the right conditions, engineered hardwood can go over concrete.

Solid hardwood flooring installation is perhaps the most challenging of all flooring types. However, with the right tools and planning, skilled DIYers can handle the job with stunning results. Engineered hardwood flooring is an easier and faster DIY installation.

In terms of cost, solid wood tends to be cheaper overall, but it takes more time to install, as previously mentioned. Exotic or highly-coveted hardwood, such as maple, may be more expensive than engineered flooring. In terms up upkeep, here are some major differences.

Conveniently, upkeep for all types of hardwood floor is simple. Just avoid moisture, use pads on the feet of furniture to prevent scratches, do not let water sit and ensure you’re using the proper cleaning supplies.

Engineered floors, on the other hand, are considered more environmentally friendly and sustainable than most types of flooring, including solid hardwood as it makes use of “leftovers” from other wood manufacturing processes. However, solid hardwood could also be considered environmentally friendly if it is bought from a responsible supplier. Look for hardwoods certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Here are more differences between solid and engineered hardwood.

Solid

  • Deeper color with age: It depends on the species, but many exotic solid woods will change color after being exposed to ultraviolet light over weeks or months. Usually, the color becomes deeper and darker.
  • Choice of finish: Since our solid woods are unfinished, you can choose whatever finish and number of coatings you like. This includes the sheen level of the finish, as well.
  • Easily cleaned and maintained: Solid flooring is sanded and sealed at the job site. So there are no cracks between wood strips that act as dirt traps. And most cleaning jobs can be handled with a damp—not wet—cloth or mop.

Engineered

  • Capable of refinishes: Because of the thick, sawn top-layer, engineered flooring can be refinished 2 – 3 times.
  • Attractiveness: With engineered hardwoods, you’re not getting a thin veneer. You’re getting genuine hardwood on the top layer. That layer is just sawn more thinly than with solid wood, so you have the same kind of natural beauty and rich color that you get with exotic solid woods.
  • Stability: Engineered flooring is structurally stabilized. The cross-grain pattern resists expansion and contraction caused by changes in temperature and moisture. The result is flooring that is more stable than solid wood.

When refinishing these floors, it is also important to be aware that many refinishing products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Varnish and lacquer are the most dangerous, while water-based finishes are less so.

To recap, consider the following factors before deciding on solid wood or engineered flooring:

  • Location: Traditional solid hardwood flooring is not well suited for below-grade installations because of the possibility of moisture issues. The construction of an engineered hardwood gives it enhanced structural stability that allows it to be installed at any grade level
  • Type of Subfloor: If you plan to install over concrete, you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. Solid wood flooring or engineered flooring may be used over plywood, existing wood floors or OSB subfloors.
  • Moisture in the Room: If you are considering floors for a bathroom where continuous moisture is expected, you will want to select a product other than hardwood. While the moisture resistance of an engineered hardwood makes it suitable for rooms below grade or ground level when installed with a moisture barrier, it is not advisable to install any hardwood flooring in a bathroom.

All in all, you have to think about what’s best for you and your family in your current living situation. While one may be more affordable, it may not be the most financially-responsible decision in the long run. You need to consider all factors before making any concrete decision about installing new wood floors. For more information and for help having your hardwood floors installed, click here.