Solid vs. Engineered

Solid vs Engineered FlooringThe Pros and Cons

When choosing flooring from Expressive Woods, you have two pivotal decisions to make early in the process.

First, of course, you have to decide which hardwood you want. Nearly as important, you have to decide whether to go with solid unfinished flooring, engineered prefinished flooring or engineered unfinished flooring.

Most of this site is concerned with your first decision. Here, let’s take a look at your second decision.

Solid wood flooring is made up of strips or planks that are completely hardwood lumber from top to bottom and end to end. The wood can vary in length and width, but usually comes ¾ of an inch thick. The wood is delivered to the installation site unfinished. Then it’s installed, sanded and finished on site.

Engineered prefinished flooring is made of several layers of wood/plywood glued and laminated together in a cross-grain pattern. The top layer, the hardwood, is completely finished at the factory with multiple coats of highly durable finish. After delivery to the installation site, the flooring is simply nailed or glued into place.

As you can imagine, engineered unfinished flooring is similar to engineered prefinished flooring. It simply doesn’t have the factory applied aluminum oxide finish. It is, however, precision milled; so only minimal additional sanding is required at the job site.

In the section below, we compare the advantages and disadvantages of solid unfinished flooring with engineered prefinished flooring. We’re guessing that you can read between the lines and determine the pros and cons of engineered unfinished flooring on your own.

Solid Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring

Engineered Pre-finished Hardwood Flooring


Solid Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring

The Pros

It’s the real thing.
Many homeowners like the fact that they’re getting genuine exotic wood for their entire floor. There is nothing artificial about the look and feel of solid hardwoods.

Personality and natural beauty.
Solid hardwoods can show more character and personality than pre-finished floors. As a result, many people think solid flooring has a richer, more distinctive and more beautiful look.

Deeper color with age.
Depending on the species, many exotic solid woods will change color after being exposed to ultraviolet light over weeks or months. Usually, the color becomes deeper and darker.

Initially, less expensive.
As a rule, you pay less for the material costs of solid unfinished flooring than for pre-finished engineered flooring. But when it comes to installation, a pre-finished floor is less expensive to install because it doesn’t require on-site sanding and finishing. When the dust settles, there is probably not a significant difference in price.

Subfloor flaws can be hidden.
Since the floor will be completely sanded before finishing, it can be made perfectly smooth and flat. Even if the subfloor has minor irregularities or height variations, they shouldn’t show up in the finished floor.

Choice of finish.
Since our solid woods are unfinished, you can choose whatever finish and number of coatings you like. This includes the sheen level of the finish, as well.

Capable of many refinishes.
Tropical woods are, for the most part, extremely hard and durable. Still, we are talking about wood floors, which can take a beating. One of the advantages of a solid floor is that it can be sanded and refinished over and over again, restoring the surface to its original beauty. So a solid hardwood floor could last for generations.

Easily cleaned and maintained.
Solid flooring is sanded and sealed at the job site. So there are no cracks between wood strips that act as dirt traps. And most cleaning jobs can be handled with a damp—not wet—cloth or mop.

Simple to repair.
If a solid hardwood floor is damaged, it can usually be re-sanded and refinished, without taking out large sections of the floor. Even if floor sections have to be replaced, it’s usually reasonably easy to find wood that will match the rest of the floor.

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The Cons

Installation is messy and time-consuming.
Since solid hardwood flooring is installed, sanded and finished onsite, the job can take days. So chances are, your life will be disrupted for a while. In addition, dust and chemical fumes can be unpleasant and unhealthy to be around.

Not appropriate for all areas.
We don’t recommend solid flooring for areas that get a lot of moisture. In particular, we don’t recommended it for installation on concrete slabs or for below grade flooring.

Manufacturer warranty on wood only.
While we can recommend professional installers, Expressive Woods can’t take responsibility for solid floor installation and finish. But we do guarantee that our sold unfinished exotic hardwoods are milled to our exacting specified tolerances, that the wood is properly dried to a moisture content of 6-8%, and that it is graded properly.

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Engineered Prefinished Hardwood Flooring

The Pros

Engineered flooring is structurally stabilized. The cross-grain pattern resists expansion and contraction caused by changes in temperature and moisture. The result is flooring that is actually more stable than solid wood flooring.

The attractiveness of solid woods.
With engineered hardwoods, you’re not getting a thin veneer. You’re getting genuine hardwood on the top layer. That layer is just sawn more thinly than with solid woods. So you have the same kind of natural beauty and rich color that you get with exotic solid woods.

Prefinished wood flooring invariably has multiple coats of a highly durable aluminum oxide finish that’s applied at the factory. So it should hold up well for many, many years.

Ease and speed of installation.
Engineered flooring can be installed almost anywhere, including over concrete. With no sanding or finishing needed, the flooring is simply nailed or glued into place. So most floors can be installed within a day.

Capable of refinishes.
Because of the thick, sawn top-layer, our engineered flooring can be refinished 2 – 3 times.

Since engineered flooring has only a sawn layer of the actual hardwood on top—with the rest typically being plywood—you’re using much less of an exotic tree than you would with solid flooring. All of our exotic woods come from renewable forests. But using less of a tree makes good environmental sense.

Extended warranty.
Both the wood flooring and the finish will be under the manufacturer’s warranty. For our Franwood flooring, you’ll have a lifetime limited structural warranty that the floor is free from defects and a 20-year wear-resistance warranty on the finish. (See our Franwood warranty.)

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The Cons

Subfloor flaws show through.
With prefinished flooring there is no sanding done. So if the substrate has any irregularities or height variations, it may require subfloor preparation. Otherwise, the flaws will show up in the finished floor. This is one reason we recommend having any engineered floor professionally installed.

Initially, more expensive.
As a rule, you pay more for the material costs of pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring than for solid unfinished flooring. But when it comes to installation, a pre-finished floor is less expensive to install because it doesn’t require on-site sanding and finishing. In the end, you’ll probably pay about the same.

You’re limited to the factory finish.
With solid hardwoods, you can choose the finish you like. With pre-finished hardwoods, you’re limited to the manufacturer’s choice of finish. That finish will be extremely durable, but if you want a matte finish and the manufacturer only offers a semi-gloss finish, you’ll end up with semi-gloss.

Hard to repair.
If an engineered floor is damaged and repairs need to be made, it’s possible that a whole section of the floor will have to be replaced. Depending on the manufacturer, it can be difficult to match the look of the undamaged floor with the same color and grain of new engineered strips or planks.

Limited refinishing.
A prefinished floor can only be sanded down and refinished two or three times. So if a floor has a lot of heavy wear, it may eventually have to be replaced. Solid flooring, on the other hand, can be refinished over and over again.