Solid vs. Engineered: Choosing The Right Hardwood Floor

dining-roomHardwood floors add warmth and natural beauty to any home décor. They are strong and durable, and their value increases over time. They are also versatile, and well suited for any design style from rustic to contemporary.

The many hardwood species, from Brazilian cherry to white oak, and finishes from distressed to high gloss, can make choosing the perfect hardwood floor for your home a bit overwhelming.
Knowing the basic differences between solid and engineered hardwood flooring, and what types of wood are best suited for your specific environment, will help make the decision a little easier.
Both engineered and solid hardwood floors are made from real wood, but there are some significant differences you should be aware of in order to decide which is the better option for your home.

While thickness can vary, solid hardwood is made from a single piece of wood. Engineered hardwood flooring is made up of a core of hardwood, plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF), with a top layer of hardwood veneer that has the natural characteristics of the selected wood species.

The location of your hardwood flooring falls into three categories: on grade (at ground level), above grade (second level or higher) and below grade (below ground level, such as basements or sunken living rooms).

Because solid hardwood expands and contracts with changes in moisture and temperature, it’s not recommend for below grade installations, or rooms such as bathrooms and laundry rooms that might see an excess of water.

Engineered wood floors are more resistant to moisture and humidity, making them a more ideal flooring option in basements and over radiant heating systems, which tend to dry out solid hardwood. Each species reacts differently to moisture, humidity and radiant heat, so contact me, Daniel, about which option is best for your climate/region.

Hardwood species vary in density, durability, grain pattern and color. Oak and maple and hickory are among the most common species. Exotic woods such as mahogany and Brazilian cherry are extremely durable, and their striking appearance makes them popular in high-end homes. For busy households with pets and kids, it’s a good idea to choose a hard species, such as red oak or pecan, that can withstand wear and tear. The Janka Scale is a great guide for information on the hardness of each species. You may also find Hardwood floors with special finishes to help protect it from wear and tear.

Hardwood flooring comes in a wide variety of colors from white-washed to black, depending on the species and finish. Keep in mind, though, that dark floors will show more dirt and wear than light floors.
Different finishes will impact wear and tear differently. For example, scratches in a hand-scraped wood floor are easy to remedy with a stain pen or putty stick. But the more distressed the wood finish is, the easier it is to hide scratches and dents.

Board Widths
Hardwood floors come in narrow strips, wide planks, parquet squares, and even rectangles. Different board widths will convey different looks in your space. If your room is rustic, for example, you might want to go with a traditional plank. For more contemporary, formal spaces, a Parquet square might be a better option.

Your hardwood floors can look brand new or have a timeworn character. Distressed and hand-scraped hardwoods disguise heavy use and give floors an appealing antique appearance from the moment they are installed. Both Solid Hardwood and Engineered Hardwood floors come in a variety of textures from which to choose.

Along with protecting the surface, hardwood finishes give floors additional color and shine, or low gloss/matte appearance. Most commercial hardwood comes prefinished to provide long lasting durability.
Another option is to have your floors finished on-site. This provides the opportunity to select from among a wider selection of stain colors and allows for fixing imperfections after boards are in place. The drawback to on-site finishing is that installation takes longer and you may have to deal with the dust and fumes.
Solid hardwood floors look more appealing as they age, but their protective coating does dull over time. The good news is that solid wood can be sanded and refinished many times without damaging the floors.

But while Engineered floors can only handle one to two refinishes before breaking down, they are generally highly durable and don’t require frequent refinishing. Keep in mind that refinishing a pre-finished hardwood removes all of the protective finishes applied at the factory, as well as any textures.

Many factors will affect the cost, including the species (especially exotics), texture, installation and labor fees, and more. It’s best to determine which type of flooring suits your space, have it installed by one of our qualified trade professionals, then determine your pricing.

Whether you choose Solid Hardwood or Engineered floors, you will add character, warmth and beauty to your space, and get years of durable flooring for your home.

hardness-ratingYou may contact me at to find a local ProSource Showroom and schedule a viewing of our wide selection of both Solid Hardwood and Engineered Hardwood flooring!

Janka Scale
On the picture you’ll find the hardness ratings for common species of wood. Specific Janka ratings will differ per the manufacturer.

Due to the construction of Engineered Hardwood, it does not have a Janka rating. Only Solid Hardwood floors can be tested. Engineered flooring may have a Janka rating based on the vaneer hardness.

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