What’s the difference between solid wood and engineered wood floors?

So you’ve decided that you want to invest in some beautiful and practical wood flooring for your home. That’s great. Then you realise that there are countless different kinds of wood flooring, and most of them fall into one of two camps – engineered wood or solid wood. What’s the difference? Does it matter? In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and potential disadvantages of both, helping you confidently arrive at the best choice for you and your family.

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colin | 4th September 2019

Step into someone’s home and it may take you a few moments to figure out whether they’ve got a solid or engineered wood floor, if you can figure it out at all. Engineered wood flooring is designed to look wholly authentic, replicating the look of hardwood perfectly without giving way to some of its drawbacks. That’s not to say that engineered wood is ‘better’ per se, but it’s important to note that the two styles act and react very differently. Engineered wood is usually tougher and more resilient, but solid wood will often last longer and have that almost elusive feeling of authenticity. To round up the advantages and disadvantages of each, perhaps it would be a good idea to break things down into categories…

Construction and longevity

Engineered wood floors are usually made from several  layers of wood which are tightly pressed together. The top layer will often be a layer of solid wood, with ‘softer’ woods like HDF or plywood underneath. This will help give the floor some ‘give’ and make it a little more comfortable underfoot. It may also help with insulation and be easier to fit as a result. Solid wood flooring on the other hand, is cut from a single piece of timber which is then treated and sized before installation. It’s an incredibly simple and effective way of bringing elegance into your home and will usually last much, much longer than engineered wood. The main takeaways here are that solid wood is simply constructed, takes a bit longer to install but will last decades. Engineered wood may be more comfortable, easier to fit, but will often need replacing every several years.

Resilience and durability

When it comes to wood floors of any kind, moisture is public enemy number one. As we all know, moisture can be very damaging to wood, causing things like rot or warping, so it’s important to think about the environment you’re flooring and what type of wood floor might be most suitable. Beautiful though solid wood floors are, they are by their very nature vulnerable to moisture damage. A hot, dry environment can make a solid wood floor dry out and shrink, where as a cold, damp environment will cause the wood to take on moisture and expand and warp. This process will happen slowly over many summers and winters until you feel the need to do something about it. A good way to combat this is to keep your home at a consistent temperature and only invest in solid wood flooring that has been treated to cope temperature demands. For these reasons, we always recommend against using solid wood floors for things like conservatories, basements and bathrooms – basically, anywhere damp or fluctuating temperatures are common. It’s also worth noting that for similar reasons, solid wood flooring cannot be used with underfloor heating.

Engineered wood, on the other hand, is able to deal with moisture slightly better so long as you put some thought into it. They layered form of engineered wood (outlined in the paragraph above) makes it very stable and durable, with a particularly high resistance to moisture. That means engineered wood is a viable option for your conservatory or bathroom, again with the right advice and research. For this reason, many people choose to alternate between solid wood and engineered wood in larger homes to maintain the same look and feel throughout the property.

Wear and tear

Wear and tear is inevitable. Over the weeks, months and years, your floor will see a lot of action. From kids scraping their toys along the floor to pets running in and out with scratchy claws, not to mention the sheer number of steps and pairs of shows your floors will encounter. While preventing wear and tear is futile, it is something you can consider at the point of purchase when considering what kind of wood floor to choose. Engineered wood can have more ‘bounce’ and comfort, and can be quite resilient, but surface scratches can be difficult to deal with and due its ‘layering’ formation it can’t be repeatedly sanded down. Solid wood, on the other hand, can be sanded down and resurfaced multiple times over the course of a lifetime, making it a clear winner when it comes to sheer longevity. Many solid wood floors stay in the same home for centuries, and if they’ve been well looked after they can still look magnificent. If, however, you want convenience and comfort and don’t mind considering touch ups or even a new floor every several years, engineered wood might be the better option.

With nearly 50 years trade experience, and showrooms in St Albans, Harpenden and Barnet, 1 to 1 Flooring are Hertfordshire’s leading independent flooring retailer. Not only do we stock one of the broadest ranges of wood flooring in the UK, we’re also committed to provide excellent service and advice at no obligation. To learn more about our range and our complete door to floor service, call today on 0208 3442455 or book an appointment at one of our showrooms. 


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