Solid vs Engineered

Nature Wood Floors offers both Solid and Engineered flooring that comes in prefinished and unfinished options. But knowing which one to purchase can sometimes be a challenge. Below will provide you with some information that will can help ease this decision.




What to Choose: Solid or Engineered Wood Flooring?
When homeowners are buying wood flooring, one of the important question is: Engineered or Solid?

The answer typically depends on where in the house the wood flooring is to be installed. Solid wood flooring should be installed above grade, meaning on ground level or higher, and over a wooden subfloor. Engineered wood flooring is typically the choice for concrete subfloors, lower levels such as basements, and also can be installed above grade but where more stability in the wood is desired.

And, in the case for most homes, whether to choose engineered or solid wood flooring depends on the home environment (relative humidity) and the homeowners’ awareness and willingness to maintain that climate.

Definitions of Solid + Engineered Wood Flooring
Solid wood flooring typically is manufactured to be ¾ inches thick. Like the name implies, each board is a solid single piece of wood milled to be installed tongue-and-groove by nail or staple.

Engineered wood flooring is real wood throughout and can come in a ¾” thickness, but often is less and is made of several layers. The top, or wear layer, of engineered flooring is the species you are intending to buy. The layers beneath are commonly made up of Birch lumber milled from Baltic Birch Trees because of their naturally stable features and fast growing nature. Pine, Eucalyptus, and other species of lumber can be used for these layers as well. Each layer is applied in perpendicular directions, adding stability to the floor. Engineered wood flooring can be installed by nail or staple down, glue down, and even floated when an underlayment is laid down first.

Can Engineered Wood be Refinished?
Engineered wood CAN be refinished just like Solid wood floor. The top wear layer typically comes in thicknesses from 2mm-6mm that can be sanded before you reach the next ply. So you know how many times you can sand an engineered floor, a typical refinisher only takes off about 1mm per sanding. Combine that with how little refinishing is done nowadays because of stronger finishes, an engineered flooring can easily last you as long as you plan to live in your home.

What is Wood Flooring Stability?
Wood flooring stability refers to the woods reaction to changes in the environment.

Engineered wood flooring is considered to be a more stable option. That means the floor responds less to changes in humidity levels when compared to solid wood floors.
Solid wood flooring is considered to be less stable and will expand more than an engineered floor does when humidity levels increase. And when humidity decreases in dry environments, solid flooring contracts (shrinks) more than engineered does.

Wood Flooring affected by Humidity Levels
Across the U.S., engineered wood flooring is often chosen because of its extra stability. To the homeowner, that often means the impact of seasonal and home environment changes are not as noticeable.

In many parts of the country, excess humidity can be more of a concern. This is when higher moisture levels in the air absorb into the wood causing the boards to expand and push against one another. This can cause boards to bow or crown, which then can lead to damage.

In other areas, a climate zone may end up being much dryer on a constant basis. This then causes natural moisture in the wood to dry up, which causes boards to shrink and form gaps. This can also sometimes cause cracks, splits, or separation in wood.

So engineered wood flooring, which tends not to expand or shrink like solid wood flooring, is thought to be more of an “install it and forget it” option in the minds of many homeowners. This doesn’t mean engineered wood doesn’t expand or contract, but just means it is less effected than solid planks.

Proper Humidity Levels for Wood Flooring
Proper relative humidity in wood flooring’s environment, and the moisture content of wood, can’t be overemphasized. The standard range of relative humidity in a home should be between 35% and 55%, according to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA).
Low Humidity + Engineered Wood Flooring
Because the humidity levels in some parts of the country can often be only 25% or lower, wood flooring may require humidification in the home to properly maintain the environment for optimal floor performance.

When relative humidity in the home is kept below the acceptable range, even engineered flooring can:

  • Split: Openings that go through the board, top to bottom
  • Face-Check: Long cracks in the veneer that run length-wise
  • Dry cup: The top layer of wood shrinks across the board’s face, pulling the edges upward while the layers beneath shrink less
  • Delaminate: The top layer separates from the layers beneath

While similar results will happen with solid flooring, typically the first and most common result of an overly dry environment for solid wood flooring is gaps forming between floor boards due to contraction, or shrinkage. When this happens, a homeowner is instructed to use a humidifier in the home right away to avoid further potential movement that can lead to damage. In many cases, the gaps can be closed again by using a humidifier to restore proper humidity in the environment, causing the boards to expand back to their normal size.

Dry environments can sometimes face challenges that require humidification to prevent problems. This means running a humidifier to raise moisture levels to achieve a safe level for the wood. The opposite can be said for high humidity levels that need a Dehumidifier to be run. This is done because once the problems listed above start occurring, humidification may then be unable to restore the floor.
Bottom Line
Both Engineered & Solid wood flooring are worthwhile options that give homeowners that wood look they desire. While Solid floors are the more traditional choice, an Engineered floor can be the safer option but with just as long a life. If additional questions still arise, feel free to contact us by phone or email and we would be happy to assist you further.