Whether to choose between solid or engineered wood flooring is one of the most common questions I get asked so I have decided to tackle it, once and for all.
Let’s start by defining the two types:
Solid wood flooring: as the name suggests, it is made from solid wood of any species or grade.
Engineered wood flooring: cleverly constructed core boards that are effectively layers of plywood that are bonded together and topped off with a top layer or lamella of solid wood, which is what makes engineered wood flooring look like solid wood.
An important point to reiterate – and this is still a common misconception – is that engineered wood flooring is NOT the same as laminate flooring, which consists of synthetic multi-layers simulating wood with a photographic applique, fused together with a lamination process.
In order to help you make an educated decision when choosing between engineered and solid, here are 8 tips:
- Sub-floor and moisture levels
If you are planning a new wood floor, it’s important to measure the moisture levels in your sub-floor. Ideally moisture levels shouldn’t exceed 2-3% and in order to be certain, it is recommended to take a number of readings across the floor. If your sub-floor is borderline when it comes to moisture levels, you would be safer to opt for engineered wood flooring, which – along with a suitable membrane or underlay – will extend the longevity of your floor.
- In the bathroom and/or kitchen
Because of the significant fluctuations in moisture levels and temperatures in the likes of kitchens and bathrooms, engineered wood flooring is the best option if you are thinking of installing a wood floor throughout. Thanks to the way they are constructed, engineered boards expand and contract slightly when exposed to rises and falls in temperature and moisture levels, minimising the risk of damage. On the other hand, when solid wood is exposed to significant environmental changes, it expands and contracts considerably, causing damage to your floor.
- Under-floor heating
If you are thinking of having under-floor heating, your only option is engineered wood flooring. In short, under-floor heating stresses wooden flooring significantly, more than any usual climactic change – such as moisture level or temperature. As mentioned in point 1, timber is susceptible to movement in reaction to heat – mainly shrinkage, but in extreme cases cupping. By reducing the amount of the ‘live’ element of the oak and replacing it with a more dimensionally stable product in furniture grade birch plywood, our engineered wood flooring minimises the risk of adverse movement. There are solid products on the market sold as suitable for under-floor heating but the installation parameters / conditions are practically impossible to achieve in the UK climate and simply don’t work. All in all, engineered wood flooring is realistically the only option with under-floor heating.
- With high or heavy footfall
High footfall means that you anticipate your floor to experience lots of pedestrian traffic. Heavy footfall refers to environments where a higher impact on the floor is expected due to the type of traffic (e.g. wheelchair users, use of high heels or boots, etc.).
Whether it is high or heavy footfall, it’s comforting to be able to re-sand and re-finish your floor, as required. Although an engineered wood floor with a relatively thick lamella or top layer can be sanded two or three times during its lifetime, a solid wood floor will take up to five or six sandings. So, if you are starting a project with high or heavy footfall, your sub-floor is dry and there are no significant temperature or moisture fluctuations, as well as no under floor heating, then solid wood flooring is likely to be your best choice.
With lots of competition in the wood floor market, irrespective of whether you shop online or on the High Street, you will find everything from seriously cheap to high-ticket prices. Typically, there isn’t a significant price difference between solid and engineered. However, if you consider the advantages of engineered flooring and its construction method, it is the most cost-effective solution. With that said, don’t let your budget be the main driver in your decision-making process. Whatever your budget, make sure you are happy with your choice and make sure it ticks all your boxes.
- Consider the environment
When considering eco-friendliness and sustainability issues, bear in mind that from one Oak log we can make 3 times as many engineered boards, when compared with solid Oak boards of the same size. This is especially true if you’re considering an exotic wood. The exotic trees that need to be harvested to make – let’s say – a Rosewood floor go a lot further if only a 6mm-thick top layer is going on each board.
While solid wood can only be glued, it is easier and cheaper with engineered flooring, which can be “floating”.
An engineered wood floor will last from 20 to 100 years, depending on the thickness of the top layer. The best engineered wood floors available will last as long and perform as well as a solid plank floor. How long you want this material to last is another key factor to consider when choosing your floor. All our engineered floors come with a 20-year structural warranty for residential projects and 10 years for commercial ones, even with under-floor heating.
For more information and access to our range of engineered wood flooring, click here.
If you are thinking of using wood flooring in your project and want more information and/or sample, speak to us.