Difference Between Solid and Engineered Hardwood

Solid vs Engineered Hardwood

Step inside a historic Victorian home, built more than one hundred years ago, and you are almost certain to be standing on the same hardwood floor that was installed when the house was originally built. Hardwood flooring can enhance the appearance of any home or office. It is a natural product that is harvested from a wide variety of trees. Beautiful, durable and available in shades and tones ranging from white and grey to red and brown, hardwood flooring is the preferred floor covering in many homes and commercial floors.

Before purchasing hardwood, you will have to decide whether you want to buy solid hardwood flooring or engineered hardwood flooring. Both types can be outstanding choices, but each has some unique characteristics that you should understand before making a final choice.

Solid Hardwood Flooring

Standard solid hardwood flooring consists of planks that measure three quarters of an inch in thickness and two and one-quarter inches in width made from a single piece of wood. Planks can be cut to varying lengths and a tongue and groove edge assures a tight fit when the planks are laid side-by-side.

Facts about Solid Hardwood

  • Made from 3/4″ solid planks of wood, this product can be sanded and refinished many times without losing its integrity or natural grain patterns.
  • Must not be used in bathrooms or other areas where moisture is present or likely to be a problem.
  • May be installed over plywood, an already existing wood floor, or OSB sub floors.
  • Can be installed on grade or above grade, but not below grade. On grade is ground level, above grade is higher than ground level and below grade is below ground level.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Engineered hardwood flooring is made from at least three, and as many as five, layers of thinly sliced hardwood. Hardwoods are cut in in thin sheets or plies and then each ply is laminated under heat and pressure to create a bonded final sheet that is of the highest structural integrity. To achieve maximum strength and durability, sheets are laid in a cross-ply pattern, where the grain pattern is alternated between each ply layer.

The finished engineered sheets can then be cut into planks of varying widths and lengths to create a more natural and random floor layout. Widths typically range from a couple of inches to up to seven inches while lengths normally range from one to five feet. The thickness of engineered planks can be as thin as a quarter inch on up to 9/16 of an inch.

Facts About Engineered Hardwood

  • Engineered hardwood is a very versatile flooring product that can be installed almost anywhere. It can be installed at grade, above grade or below grade.
  • All plies in engineered hardwood do not have to be from the same type of tree. You can have an exotic engineered hardwood floor that will cost a fraction of the price of a solid exotic hardwood floor because the underlaying plies are made of a more common and affordable species of wood.

What is Considered “Hard” Wood?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory created a standardized test to measure the hardness of the different types of species of wood. Called the Janka Hardness Test, it rates the hardness of the wood of each type of tree on a scale of 0-4,000, with a higher number signifying wood that is harder than a lower number. Northern Red Oak is used as a benchmark and has a Janka rating of 1290.

Select Hardwood Janka Hardness Ratings (Softest to Hardest)

  • American Black Cherry – 950
  • Northern Red Oak – 1290
  • Hard Maple – 1450
  • Santos Mahogany – 2200
  • Brazilian Teak – 3540
  • Ebony – 3692

Making a Choice

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors can beautify your home and have a very long life. Often times, your decision over which type to install depends on where you want it installed. Solid hardwoods like oak are a great choice for natural looking floors without glossy finishes. Engineered hardwood is more versatile and you usually have a wider selection of wood species from which to choose. Look at both options and visit Contract Carpet One’s flooring showroom in Beltsville. Ask to see samples of each product and talk to a flooring expert. By the time you are done, you will know exactly what to buy.

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