Decorating & Design

January 9, 2009

Engineered Wood Vs. Hardwood Flooring

Flooring is a very important consideration with any new home construction, renovation or remodeling project. If either hardwood or engineered wood is your flooring of choice, there are a few considerations to keep in mind with each option.


While hardwood flooring is a wise choice for adding style and value to any home, its longevity is dependant on where and how it is installed.

Solid wood floors are manufactured as one complete piece of wood, generally 3/4” thick. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity. This, however, is compensated for by leaving an air or expansion gap between the floor and the wall, which is covered by baseboard trim. In the humid summer months, solid wood can expand and if there is too much moisture, the planks or strips may “cup”. Alternatively, in the winter the wood dries out and can shrink, leaving visible gaps between planks.

Strip, plank and parquet are the three basic types of solid wood. Strip flooring is the most popular and ranges between 1-1/2” wide to 3-1/4” wide. Plank flooring is typically wider than 3-1/4” while parquet comes in 6” by 6” squares and is available in a variety of patterns.

Solid wood flooring should only be considered for moisture controlled environments, can be used on ground or above-ground installations and must be nailed or screwed to a wood subfloor. Solid wood can also be installed on a concrete slab, providing it is on or above ground level.

Engineered wood

Engineered wood flooring is actually sheets of wood layered on top of each other in opposite directions. The cross-layering of the wood sheets provides a dimensionally stable floor which stands up to moisture much better than solid wood. While solid wood tends to expand across the width of the planks rather than down the length of the boards, the cross-layered quality of engineered wood sheets helps resist expansion or shrinkage when in the presence of high humidity or moisture.

Engineered floor planks range in thickness from 1/4" to 9/16” and from 2-1/4" to 7" in width. The top layer can be one of many different types and finishes of wood, including exotic species such as Brazilian cherry.

Due to its moisture resistant qualities, most engineered floors can be nailed, stapled or glued down, or floated over a wide variety of subfloors including some types of existing flooring such as vinyl tiles. Caution should be used to ensure that your installation application meets the manufacturer’s recommendations. While engineered wood is a little more expensive than solid wood, it is typically guaranteed for 25 years and a number of sandings.