Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Hardwood
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
A bit of confusion often swirls around the hardwood flooring realm upon hearing the term “engineered wood”. While the term “solid wood” is relatively clear to flooring shoppers, the term “engineered” wood generally invokes a response of “Oh, I’m looking for ‘real wood.’” If you ever thought engineered wood is “fake wood,” allow us to bring the “genuine” facts regarding the differences between solid hardwood flooring and engineered wood flooring.
Is engineered hardwood flooring real wood or an imitation wood looking product? It’s real wood flooring! While engineered wood flooring is not a solid plank of a particular wood species, the surface layer is a 2 to 4 mm veneer of a solid wood species suitable for flooring. Engineered wood floors are constructed in one of two ways. One way is the traditional method when 3 or more thin sheets of wood (called “plies”) are laminated together to form a single plank. The inner plies are usually laid in opposite directions to each other during manufacturing in a process called “cross-ply construction.” The ply constituting the flooring surface is a veneer of hardwood usually anywhere from 2 to 4 mm thick. Another method is to flank a high density fiberboard (HDF) with a bottom layer of hardwood backing and the surface layer with the species suitable and desirable for flooring.
“Solid hardwood flooring must be better than engineered hardwood.” While it sounds true, this not necessarily the case. In fact, solid wood flooring, while solid, is less stable than engineered wood and is unsuitable for a variety of flooring applications; hence, the invention of engineered wood flooring. Wood flooring, in general, is sensitive to moisture and temperature changes; however, solid wood flooring is extremely susceptible to these changes. Since wood is a natural product, hardwood flooring expands and contracts in response to seasonal changes in moisture. High humidity or rainy weather can cause the wood to swell resulting in buckling and cupping. When the weather turns hot and dry or when indoor heating is turned on, wood can contract creating unsightly gaps between planks. Solid wood is far more susceptible to these climatic changes and is a primary reason engineered wood was created. On the other hand, engineered wood is far more stable than solid wood flooring. The cross-ply construction creates a hardwood floor that is not affected by changes in moisture and temperature variations like solid wood floors. The advantage of cross-ply construction is that the wood plies counteract each other, thus prohibiting the plank from expanding or shrinking. Engineered wood planks also offer versatility as they can be installed practically anywhere, including over wood sub-floors, concrete slabs and in your basement. Now throw planks made with HDF in the mix and, voila, you have a super stable moisture resisting ninja plank.
Will I be able to sand my engineered wood floors? This answer depends on the thickness of the veneer. If the veneer is 4 mm, then sanding is possible one time. If the veneer is less than 4mm, then it’s not advisable. However, keep in mind that a benefit of engineered wood floors is its affordability in comparison to the cost of solid wood floors. So the cost of changing them is less significant. Here’s a few other fun facts about sanding wood floors: Solid wood can only be sanded to the point of its joint so even a solid wood floor has a limit of how often it can be sanded. If the wood is hand-scraped, then all that wonderful craftsmanship must be sanded down to a smooth surface prior to refinishing the raw wood.
Additional benefits of engineered wood: Sustainability and Added Durability
Sustainability: Engineered wood floors reduce the amount of durable and exotic wood used in plank construction. Since only the wear layer is comprised of the preferred wood, the remaining veneers eliminate waste of the most desirable wood in the remaining body of the plank. HDF boards are made from post-industrial wood fiber and are a positive contributor to eliminating waste.
Added Durability: Due to its phenomenal density and hardness in comparison to traditionally softer core boards, HDF boards enhance a wear layer’s durability by adding support from beneath the veneer’s surface.
Now that you’re ready to start shopping for hardwood flooring, Western Carpet has a wonderful selection of hardwood flooring choices.
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