Which is Better? Engineered or Solid Hardwood

February 21, 2019

Most homeowners have no clue what the difference is between Engineered and Solid hardwood flooring. Yet, the differences are worth noting. One is not better than the other in every situation, and it’s important to know which one is right for you. Today we’ll cover the basic differences between engineered and solid hardwood, and key need-to-know information (installation, durability, refinishing, price).

so what’s the difference between the two?

In the most basic terms; one is a solid plank of wood, while the other only has a “thin” (relative to the plank thickness) wood layer.

Solid hardwood is made from solid wood… each plank is a whole piece of hardwood generally 3/4 inch thick. Engineered hardwood is a more stable alternative to solid hardwood that is also made of real wood but that’s not it. Engineered hardwood is made of a plywood core layer with a varying thickness hardwood veneer layer on top.


A key difference between the two is how many times you can or cannot refinish it. A solid hardwood floor can be refinished 8-10 times (or until too thin) during its lifetime. An engineered hardwood floor usually never gets refinished because the hardwood veneer layer is too thin.

Hardwood Durability

This is a tough one, both solid and engineered hardwood are created for durability. Depending on your situation though, one is better than the other.

Engineered hardwood is a more stable product, it is more resistant to fluctuations in moisture levels and will not buckle, ripple, crack, or be prone to expansion and contraction. The bottom line being; humidity doesn’t affect engineered hardwood flooring as it does solid.

Solid wood flooring is less resistant to humidity and moisture changes because it is nailed or glued to the subfloor. Solid hardwood is a tricky business (especially in the pacific northwest). The wood needs to be properly acclimated and the subfloor must be at a balanced moisture level in order to install solid hardwood correctly. With moisture, solid hardwood can swell and crack (if installed incorrectly) causing extensive and expensive damage.

See our Hardwood Installation Checklist (things to discuss with your installer)

What if you have pets or children?

Both engineered and solid hardwood is great for pets and children, one thing to pay attention to is a type of wood (some woods are harder than others).

Go take a look, we explore hardwood durability levels, and how to prevent damage in both engineered and solid hardwood.

Installation: DIY or Not?

A key difference between solid and engineered hardwood. Solid hardwood is one of the most difficult types of flooring to install. If you want to do it yourself… good luck but you probably shouldn’t. Solid hardwood installation requires either gluing it down, nailing it down, or stapling. This requires years of experience to be able to do it correctly.

On the other hand, Engineered hardwood can oftentimes be installed by an amateur DIY’er. Engineered hardwood also comes to nail down or glue down, as well as floating. Floating hardwood is not attached to the subfloor but is just laid on top. Floating engineered hardwood is what you should look into purchasing for DIY installation. It’s designed with a click and lock technology that allows you to install above the subfloor without the use of glue or nails.

Price: Is cheaper better?

To no surprise, engineered hardwood is the cheaper alternative to pre-finished hardwood 9/10 times. Be careful though, cheaper doesn't always mean better. If you’re in it for the long run, solid hardwood is a much better choice. You can refinish a solid hardwood floor to any style whenever you want and not worry about replacing your floors for decades. Engineered hardwood won’t last as long and may need to be replaced if you are planning on living in your home for 20+ years and you don’t have the convenience of adjusting your floor to trending styles like you can when refinishing.

All in all, it depends on your personal choice. Weigh the pros and con’s of each and make a tailored decision to your needs. Below you can shop some of our greatest engineered and pre-finished solid hardwood styles on our online store.

Bottom Line: It’s up to you

Both solid and engineered hardwoods are wonderful choices for almost any home. Depending on your lifestyle and budget either one of the hardwood choices may be the right one. Write out the pros and cons of each and see which one fits you best. You can’t go wrong.

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