Engineered vs Solid Hardwood Flooring

In a world that is full of comparisons of different products and features, you will find that it can pay to compare items to get the best deal for your money.

By comparing apples to apples (or even apples to oranges), you can find the product that will best fit your needs and your budget.Comparison shopping sound like a lot of work?

Related article:  Best Hardwood Flooring

Related article: Best Engineered Hardwood Flooring

The good news is that this process doesn’t even have to take you out of your home, if you wish, because most research can be done in the privacy of your home on your computer. Additionally, many flooring companies and installers, like Lumber Liquidators will send a consultant to your home to discuss options further.

Compare Prices: Engineered vs. Solid

Want to see a great comparison of prices from a hardwood (engineered and solid) with the guaranteed lowest prices? Take a look at Lumber Liquidators for a huge range of engineered and solid wood flooring.

Today, we are doing the initial work for you! We’re taking the guess work out of the engineered vs solid hardwood flooring debate. Check out the following comparison to help you make the right choice if you are considering either one of these flooring options for your home or a room in your home.

The Great Debate: Engineered and Solid Hardwood Floor

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Engineered vs solid hardwood flooring can start many a lively debate among friends, home builders or remodelers and homeowners. There are pros and cons to both, but for the most part, nobody can tell the difference in the look once the floor is installed. Let price, availability, environment and lifestyle issues help guide your choice.

When considering engineered vs solid hardwood flooring, you first want to take a look at the individual features of each so that you have some basis to compare these two types of flooring. Here are the basics of each of these two types of wood flooring.

Pros of Engineered Hardwood Flooring

1. Versatility and Ease of Installation: Unlike solid hardwood flooring, engineered flooring can be installed in any room that you choose, even a basement, because it can withstand moisture due to the layers of material in the flooring that are designed to withstand buckling and rippling. Engineered flooring can also be installed over radiant floor heating, which can keep your feet warm during those cold winter months.

2. Durability and Maintenance: Caring for engineered hardwood flooring is similar to solid hardwoods, as the top layer, the “wear layer,” that will come into contact with the cleaning materials is essentially the same for both. With any hardwoods (engineered or solid), you will want to avoid abrasive or harsh chemicals like ammonia, and avoid using excessive soaking, as hardwood is susceptible to water damage. Never use a steam cleaner on your hardwood floors-engineered or solid!

3. Price: Engineered hardwood looks just as beautiful as solid hardwood flooring at a much better price that will fit almost anyone’s budget. Engineered hardwood floors also easy to install, saving on the cost of installation if you have the desire to do it yourself.

4. Environmentally Friendly: Engineered hardwood flooring is also more environmentally friendly than solid hardwood floors because the sub-surface layers are made from “junk” or “scrap” wood that would traditionally have been unusable, not the ornamental wood. This approach saves more forests because each tree of the hardwood, the oak, maple, bamboo, etc., can go further than it does with traditional solid wood floors. 

Cons of Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Because the engineered hardwood floors are made by compressing a lower quality scrap wood for the first few layers of the planks and then using the traditional hardwood layer on the surface, you cannot refinish the floors very many times. Depending on the thickness of the top layer, you may be able to get up to three or four resurfacings from most engineered hardwood floors. So, while it’s not as long lasting as solid wood flooring, many engineered hardwood floors can be refinished. Despite only having a top layer of traditional hardwood, engineered wood flooring is a durable floor during its lifetime.

Solid Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood flooring comes in many different varieties of wood species, ranging from the traditional choices like maple or oak to more exotic woods, like bamboo. Solid wood floors are slightly more expensive than an engineered wood flooring, but if you are a diehard wood flooring enthusiast, then you may want to stick with a solid hardwood flooring. As the name implies, solid hardwood flooring planks are the traditional style of wood floors where the planks are made entirely from the hardwood, not from any kind of a wood composite or filler.

Pros of Hardwood Flooring

1. Added Value: When selling your home, if you have a home has solid hardwood floors, the listing price automatically jumps up. This is because the traditional choice of hardwood flooring has long been sought after in real estate and, with the rise in engineered hardwoods and laminates, it is becoming less and less common to find solid hardwoods in newer homes, increasing the demand and the value-add.

2. Potential For Refinishing: Because you can refinish a solid wood floor more times than you can an engineered wood floor, this flooring type lasts longer. This also helps balance some of the environmental problems associated with some wood floors, as you may be using a greater proportion of the hardwood in the initial design, but these solid planks will far outlast the “wear layer” of engineered woods.

3. Enduring and Long-Lasting: While solid hardwoods require a hefty amount of maintenance to keep in pristine condition and solid hardwood flooring can be damaged more easily than engineered hardwoods, there is no doubt that these floors can be refinished and repaired time and again. So while they may not be near the top of the list for durability, they still have a lasting staying power that means they can be revitalized time and again throughout the life of the floor.

4. Timeless Beauty: Truthfully, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a high quality engineered wood floor and a solid hardwood floor. However, there is a certain sentimentality and beauty in knowing that a solid hardwood floor will last through the lifetime of the home. If your home is a place you plan to live in for a long time, there is a certain appeal in knowing that the solid hardwood floors in your home today will be the same floors enjoyed by generations to come.

Cons of Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood can’t be installed (or isn’t recommended) in high moisture areas and should be avoided in rooms where water damage is likely, such as the bathroom, basements, or laundry room. Many professionals even recommend to avoid a solid hardwood floor in the kitchen. This is because the higher moisture content in the air — or excessive water on the floor, as from a leak — can cause the wood to ripple or buckle, which will destroy the flooring.

If you have children or pets, then you may want to consider the durability factor of solid hardwood flooring in your decision. Depending on the hardwood used, these floors can be damaged comparatively easily. All solid hardwoods scratch or dent easier than their engineered hardwood counterparts because the wood composite inside an engineered flooring plank is designed to withstand additional wear. However, the “wear layer” of an engineered hardwood floor is comparable to the solid wood counterparts and both will need to be properly maintained with a regular polyurethane or wax sealant in order for them to last.

It was once true that most solid hardwood flooring needed to be professionally installed. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, then this was traditionally a big negative for solid hardwood flooring. However, these days, most hardwood flooring is designed with tongue and groove style planks that can be installed by anyone with a level subfloor. Check out this video to see how to install the tongue-and-grove style planks typical of modern solid or engineered hardwood flooring.

And the Winner of the Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood Flooring Debate Is...

…entirely a matter of preference!

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which of these two flooring options is the right choice for you. Deciding between engineered vs solid hardwood flooring is a decision that should be made carefully. In some cases, your budget will be the determining factor, but if at all possible, it is better to let other considerations make your decision for you. Consider the rooms that you will be installing the flooring in, the people who will be walking on and enjoying the floors, and what your dream flooring is to help you determine the winner between engineered vs. solid hardwood flooring in your particular situation. I also strongly recommend that you reach out to several different manufacturers and suppliers to check out their products and do some comparison shopping between all of the options.

Compare Prices: Engineered vs. Solid

Want to see a great comparison of prices from a hardwood (engineered and solid) with the guaranteed lowest prices? Take a look at Lumber Liquidators for a huge range of engineered and solid wood flooring.

84 thoughts on “Engineered vs Solid Hardwood Flooring”

  1. Thanks for all the great advice! We are building a new home. The home is on a basement. We would like to put a wood floor in the kitchen (we like maple). No dogs, one 6 yr. old daughter, the kitchen is not a traffic through way, and we plan to live in the house for 20+ years. I think the main concern might be the sink/dishwasher/ice maker leaking? Engineered or Non-Engineered? Why? And is Maple an ok choice or do you have another suggestion? Thanks again!

  2. Hi Smitty!
    I would suggest solid wood, simply because it can last so much longer because it can be redone so many times (stripping/sanding). I can understand your concern about leaks, but leaks can wreak havoc no matter what type of flooring product you choose. Obviously, linoleums and vinyls might be better choices in a kitchen if you’re worried about leaks, but if the leak gets to the edges, it can damage the subfloor. Accidents happen once in a great while, but you just have to deal with that and hopefully if it happens, it can be dealt with quickly. Finishing the flooring properly is so important and if it’s sealed/finished well the water shouldn’t penetrate anyway.
    Keep in mind too, that some maple varieties are softer than others and will get distressed more easily – not necessarily a bad thing if you’re wanting a country or ‘old type’ feel. I’ve always thought it adds character.
    Stone and ceramic tile are other good choices too. Any flooring you choose is going to require upkeep despite what any manufacturers claim.

  3. Thank you for answering my previous questions. Your site has been very informative to this first time home owner. I forgot to ask you about plank size. I like 4 or even 6 inch planks, but should I go with a narrower size for the kitchen? I’ve heard that narrower planks resist warping better. How much if any should that factor into my decision?

  4. In theory, I think solid hardwood floors add more value to a home. However, we currently have hardwood and are consider changing it out for engineered. The reason is simple. NOISE. Solid hardwood is susceptible to any change in moisture, even in our house in New England, with central air. No matter how constant we try to keep the humidity, eventually the wood contracts & expands which makes them squeak.
    The floors have gotten louder every year since we moved in and now we can hardly stand it. We’ve tried everything from drilling screws through to the joists, liquid fillers etc. Nothing has worked.
    Personally, I’d rather have a quiet home with a good look-alike than real hardwood that sounds like a haunted house. Just my opinion, for people who are trying to decide.
    Good luck with all your home improvements!

  5. Hi Smitty!
    You haven’t mentioned what this new flooring would be installed on. Is the kitchen on a concrete slab? Do you have a basement? If you have a concrete slab or only a crawl space, you should make sure that a good vapor barrier is installed as this will help with humidity issues and minimize any warping. Sounds like 4 or 6 inch planks would work well, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about either way. Smaller planks may have less chance of warping, but any wood would can warp – which is why keeping it dry from underneath is so important.

  6. Hi Kate,
    I know lots of people who live in very humid areas that don’t have problems with their wood floors squeaking. This is usually caused by weak floor joists, or the joists being too far apart to provide the stability wood floors need. Sometimes this can also be caused by humidity if on a concrete slab or there is only a crawl space. Termite damage will also make your joists weak (obviously!) You might want to do a little investigating before you sink your money into new flooring.

  7. My husband and I are debating between installing solid hardwood or engineered wood floors in our great room. We want to install the floor that will be the most valuable for resale. The room is on a concrete slab and there is currently no subfloor (it used to be a garage), just concrete. Is it possible to create a low profile subfloor by floating plywood on a moisture barried such as Delta FL or something similar to prevent us from having to raise exterior french doors that we have in the room? I know engineered hardwood are the easiest solution, but I’m concerned that they are not the best value for resale.

  8. Hi Nicki,
    You are correct, solid hardwood would be best for resale value. Your idea of using a moisture with floating plywood would work well too. You can either nail or glue the hardwood onto it.

  9. I am debating over engineered vs. hardwoods also. I found a beautiful 3/4 inch X 5 Koa at a discount flooring store vs. a Cherry hardwood from a distributor. The installer says the Cherry has 4-6 ft lengths which causes a problem with a tight seam for glued down hardwood whereas the cheaper Koa lengths are shorter. Cutting the 4-6 ft lengths causes the saw to fray the edges. Is this why wide plank 3/4 hardwoods are not recommended for glueing? Is there a wide plank solid wood product with long lengths available for glueing? I would prefer the solid hardwood but I keep hearing engineered is better to glue.

  10. Hi Angie,
    Either one can be glued, but solid is considered more durable and will last longer. You haven’t mentioned what this new flooring is going over (slab, wood or plywood subfloor…..).
    If it is tongue and groove flooring, it can be set into place with a hammer (for click and lock flooring) or nailed down. Some types of hardwood flooring are secured with glue as well, so be sure that you understand what type of flooring that you have before you begin the installation process.
    Using the proper type blade and making sure to replace when it gets even a little dull will help to insure that you don’t get splintering when cutting the wood.
    You might also want to read this article.

  11. I’m sorry for the ommission. I have concrete slab which is part of the problem. I would love the look of wide plank pine(I know it’s soft), but I’m told you can’t install it on slab because the lengths are too long and its too wide to stay glued down. I talked to a guy who specializes in reclaimed wide plank and he says it can be done if you put concrete blocks on the planks after placing it to ensure a tight seal throughout the board. Does this make sense to you and is there other options available to me? Thanks for listening.

  12. i wish to install engineered cherry floor in my first floor, over concrete slab. I found a nice 5 inch wide 1/2 inch thick engineered at a local store. My question, is it better to glue the boards straight onto the concrete, or to float the floor over a sound and moisture foam padding. And in floating the floor do you glue each board on the tongue and groove to the next board, or do you just snap each to the other using no glue. I have a dog which is getting to the age that he has accidents, and im worried that urine might seep into the joints and cause problems. Im also concerned that if i have to glue the boards directly onto the concrete, that might be to much for me to handle, causing me to hire a professional increasing my costs.
    I dont know if the weather has anything to do with which install is best. But I live in virginia and the winter is not too bad in this part so i dont run the heat much and i dont think the temperature changes are that drastic.

  13. Hi Angie,
    Yes, it does make sense to me – it helps to ensure that the planks stay in their proper position while the adhesive is drying. Make sure that your concrete is level too. Your contractor will have some tricks up his sleeve for that too I’m sure. Make sure too that there are no moisture issues (not just leaking, but dampness that rises through concrete). Good luck!

  14. I am trying to decide whether to go with hardwood or engineered floor for 2 bedrooms. They are on a concrete slab and we’re in Texas. My concerns are if you use a trowel applied moisture barrier and glue 1/2″ thick hardwood down, will there be a potential problems vs using an engineered floor? (I do have a humidity control on my thermostat) And secondly, is there a big difference using hardwood vs engineered flooring for resale?.

  15. Hardwood is better for resale purposes. There shouldn’t be any problems (hardwood vs. engineered) with the method you propose. On engineered though, I prefer the moisture barrier underlayment that is designed for installing a floating floor. Floating the floor allows for the expansion/contraction that is due to variances in humidity/temperature. It sounds like that won’t be much a problem for you though with the humidity control that you have installed.

  16. I am considering engineering vs. hardwood for a kitchen floor. It is on the first floor and would be placed over plywood. We have a pet who does get water on the floor. We are fairly handy diy’s (this will be the third kitchen we have installed). I am very concerned for resale as well. I was unaware that engineered floors may detract from the resale value. Any advice?

  17. I live in a manufactured home with plywood floring and a crawl space. The craw space is separated from the outside by aluminum siding with no backing attached on 2 ft centers to metal furing strips. I want to install 3/4 inch hardwood or should I use engineered wood. I am doing my kitchen, large living room and bedroom 1100 sg ft. Please advise


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