The realm of real wood flooring is comprised of two distinct types: traditional solid wood flooring, and the relatively newer alternative known as engineered wood flooring. At a glance, solid wood flooring might seem like the superior choice, but a more nuanced exploration may shift your perspective (or not, let’s see). This guide offers an in-depth analysis of both options, providing essential information to help you decide the better choice for your specific needs.
Solid vs Engineered Composition
Solid Wood Flooring: As the name implies, solid wood flooring consists entirely of natural wood. This wood is either left in its natural colour or treated (in oil, lacquered, wax, or varnish) or stained to achieve colours beyond the natural shades of black, grey, and white. Solid wood floorboards typically range from 16mm to 20mm in thickness and start at around £50/m2.
Engineered Wood Flooring: Engineered wood flooring incorporates solid wood only in its top wear or veneer layer, which typically ranges from 2mm to 6mm in thickness. Below this, there’s a man-made core of 3 to 12 layers of ply and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), determining the floorboard’s total thickness. These floorboards are available in thicknesses from 10mm to 21mm and cost from around £30/m2.
Though the description might initially lead you to believe solid wood is the better choice, a deeper investigation into their unique characteristics is essential.
Solid vs Engineered Durability
Durability isn’t simply a matter of the amount of natural wood in a floorboard; it also involves the floor’s service life and how many times the floorboard can be sanded and retreated, a process that rejuvenates the floor’s appearance.
Natural wood is stronger than ply and MDF, so it may seem that solid wood is automatically more durable. However, solid wood flooring shouldn’t be sanded below 10mm to maintain structural integrity. For example, 16mm solid wood flooring can only be sanded 5 to 6 times, as each sanding process removes about 1mm.
Interestingly, a 21/6mm engineered wood flooring can also be sanded 5 to 6 times, as its man-made core maintains structural integrity due to the lighter weight of the floorboard. Even 10mm engineered wood flooring with a 2mm top wood layer can be sanded 1 to 2 times, with the remaining core providing ample service life.
Solid vs. Engineered Room Suitability
The most significant difference between these two types lies in their room suitability.
Solid Wood Flooring:
- Excessive Moisture: Wood’s moisture content changes with humidity, leading to swelling or shrinking that may affect appearance or cause cracks.
- Excessive Damp: Long-term exposure to water can cause wood to rot, soften, and promote mold growth.
- Limitations: Using solid wood flooring over underfloor heating or in areas prone to dampness or moisture (bathroom, kitchen, basement, or conservatory) can quickly lead to damage.
Engineered Wood Flooring:
At Wood and Beyond, many projects use a combination of solid wood flooring in specific areas and engineered wood in others, like the bathroom and kitchen, without compromising visual cohesion.
Solid vs. Engineered Cost
Solid wood flooring’s use of complete wood makes it more expensive compared to engineered wood flooring, whose man-made core is more affordable. If budget is a concern, engineered wood flooring might be a more attractive option.
What About Alternatives?
Though the look and feel of real wood flooring is distinct, close alternatives like laminate flooring and luxury vinyl flooring exist. However, a discerning eye may spot differences, as natural wood’s unique characteristics are hard to replicate in mass-produced alternatives.
Comparison Side by Side
|Feature||Solid Wood Flooring||Engineered Wood Flooring|
|Composition||Made entirely of natural wood.||Solid wood top layer, core of ply & MDF (3 to 12 layers).|
|Colour Treatment||Can be left natural or treated/stained for various colors.||Same as solid wood.|
|Cost per Square Meter||Starts at around £50/m2.||Starts at around £30/m2.|
|Durability||Strong but shouldn’t be sanded below 10mm.||Strong but shouldn’t be sanded below 8mm incl. core|
|Room Suitability||Not suitable for areas with excessive moisture, damp, or with underfloor heating.||Suitable for bathroom, kitchen, basement, conservatory due to man-made core.|
|Visual Cohesion with Other Flooring||Can be used in combination with engineered wood for visual cohesion in various areas.||Same as solid wood.|
|Cost Comparison||Generally more expensive due to complete wood composition.||More affordable due to man-made core.|
|Alternative Options||Laminate and luxury vinyl flooring but lacks natural wood’s unique characteristics.||Same as solid wood.|
|Better Option?||Depends on specific requirements and budget.||Depends on specific requirements and budget; flexibility and more budget-friendly.|
Which Is Better: Solid or Engineered?
The answer is complex and depends on your project’s specific requirements and budget. Many customers at Wood and Beyond are drawn to engineered wood flooring for its flexibility and more budget-friendly price. Still, hybrid approaches combining both types are also popular, proving that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The decision rests on understanding your needs and weighing the features of both solid and engineered wood flooring.
Is Solid Wood Flooring Better Than Engineered?
The answer is complex and depends on your specific requirements and budget. While solid wood flooring might initially seem superior due to its all-natural composition, engineered wood flooring offers more flexibility and might be more suitable in areas prone to moisture or dampness. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer; both have their unique characteristics and advantages.
Can I Sand Engineered Wood Flooring?
Yes, you can sand engineered wood flooring as the top layer is made from real wood. For example, a 21/6mm engineered wood flooring can be sanded 5 to 6 times, and even a 10/2mm engineered wood flooring with a 2mm top wood layer can be sanded 1 to 2 times.
Can I Fit Solid Wood Flooring In The Kitchen?
Solid wood flooring is not suitable for areas prone to dampness or moisture. Depending on the kitchen’s exposure to these conditions, it might not be the best choice, and engineered wood may be more appropriate.
Is Engineered Wood Flooring Strong?
Engineered wood flooring is not made entirely of natural wood (like solid wood flooring), but its man-made core does provide structural integrity. The top layer of real wood on top of man-made core is as strong as solid wood flooring.
Can I Fit Both Solid and Engineered Wood Flooring In My Home?
Yes, you can fit both solid and engineered wood flooring in your home. Many projects use a combination of both, allowing for visual cohesion across different areas of the home without compromising aesthetics.