I get questions regularly about the differences between solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood flooring. There are so many products to choose from, and for many homeowners it can be confusing and challenging. Today, let’s play the “comparison game” with these two products.
What’s the difference?
Engineered flooring has consumed a fair share of the long-held solid wood flooring market. But what makes the two products unique? The main difference is that solid hardwood is just that—a single, solid product from top to bottom—while engineered wood flooring has a thin slice of hardwood veneer on top of plywood or (sometimes) hardwood.
Comparing the Two Products:
Solid hardwood is usually about 3/4” thick and engineered hardwood is usually 3/8” to1/2” thick. Solid hardwood is typically stapled or nailed down, while engineered can be easier to install—stapled, nailed, glued or clicked into place.
One of the biggest advantages of solid is that it can be sanded down multiple times if necessary. Engineered can typically be sanded down lightly once or twice (some may make it for up to four sandings).
Engineered tends to be a little less expensive, and it’s often more “environmentally friendly” because the majority of it is not made from the more expensive, ornamental wood. Both are durable, but the surface of the engineered flooring can “chip” if it becomes too thin.
Solid wood does not do well with moisture. Engineered is better in this area because the plywood base makes it more stable—it can even be installed in most basements because it can withstand some moisture due to its construction.
Solid hardwoods tend to dent and scratch easier than the engineered, which is designed to take additional wear and tear because of the wood under the veneer. Typically, you can’t tell the difference once installed because they both are wood floors.
Children, Dogs and Heavy Furniture
With dogs, or children with toys that will be dragged across the floor, or in a home where tables and chairs are slid across floors (without protecting them), either type of wood can be a gamble, which is why some folks choose vinyl, laminate, carpeting or tile.
What’s a Janka Rating?
Finally, the species of wood that you choose makes a significant difference! The Janka Test assesses the hardness of wood. It measures how many pounds per square inch (PSI) of force would be needed to embed a steel ball into the wood. Balsa—the wood inexpensive toy airplanes are made of—has a rating of only 100. The highest rated wood I know of is Patagonia Rosewood, which comes in at 3840. Following is a list of some species and their corresponding Janka number.
660 Douglas Fir
690 Yellow Pine
950 Black Cherry/American Cherry
1010 Black Walnut
1260 Yellow Birch
1290 Red Oak
1360 White Oak
1375 Australian Cypress
1450 Hard Maple
1820 Hickory (often called “first hardwood choice of the U.S.)
1850 Tigerwood (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay)
1880 Mongolian Teak
2200 Santos Mahogany- (South American, Southern Mexico)
2697 Red Mahogany (Australia)
2820 Brazilian Cherry
3190 Brazilian Redwood
3585 Brazilian Ebony
3680 Brazilian Walnut
3840 Patagonia Rosewood
Bamboo is not a wood, but it tests in at a rating of 5000! Keep in mind, too, that the finish affects durability.
So, there you have it—a quick primer on wood flooring.
Have a great weekend!