Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Choosing a Floor

Should you choose Solid Hardwood or Engineered Hardwood Flooring?

This is a question that our customers face every day, and to help them make an informed decision, there are a few key questions we ask:

Where are you putting the flooring and is there a wood subfloor in that area?

This is an important one. We do not recommend (and will not install) solid wood flooring directly to concrete. There are various plywood/sleeper systems that we can use over concrete to enable a good install, but these come with height and transition limitations depending on the home, as most of these systems will have an overall thickness of 1 ½” to 1 ¾”. That may cause problems with doors opening, or bulky transitions to other floors.

In most cases, when going over concrete, an approved engineered floor is the right flooring choice, as the multiple layer plywood construction gives you the dimensional stability for an install that lasts.

What width of flooring do you prefer?

Wider planks floors are becoming more and more popular. The key thing to know is that solid wood floors (and engineered floors to a lesser extent) will expand or contract with the changing seasons and humidity levels, particularly in the extremes of our Iowa climate.

When this happens with a wider width solid floor (defining wider width as 3 ¼” or more), it is very common to see significant gaps in the winter months when humidity is really low, and sometimes even cupping (high edges, low center) can occur when humidity in the summer is too high.

Engineered floors, with their multiple layer plywood construction, are designed to be more dimensionally stable, and are a great choice when a wider plank look is preferred.

Do you have a humidifier in your home?

This is important when you have any wood floor in your home, and particularly so with wide width solids. We recommend that you keep the relative humidity of your home between 30% and 50% year round, with a priority in keeping the difference between the highest and lowest humidity levels to a minimum. This is a tall task with Iowa weather, but can be accomplished with careful monitoring, humidification in the winter, and possibly dehumidification in the summer.

What are the advantages of solid hardwood floors?

  • Large wear surface means that solid hardwood floors can be professional refinished many, many times. We are still refinishing floors that are 100 years old or more!

  • Look real, because they are real! Some engineered floors are missing some of the authentic features of real wood.

What are the advantages of engineered hardwood floors?

  • Typically thinner. This can be helpful if you have limited height available. This could be due to doors, appliances or cabinets.
  • Limited ability to refinish, some engineered floors can’t be refinished at all.
  • More expensive options have a sawn wear layer, which give them a similar wear layer as a traditional wood floor. This comes at a premium price.

    So, what should you choose?

    With so many factors, the best way to tell for sure is to have one of our sales professionals assess your individual needs and review your options. Email Us or Call Us today to schedule a consultation!