Some decisions are more important than others when it comes to your home renovations. Flooring tends to be one of the most important decisions overall because it’s a high-ticket item with major aesthetic significance in your home. It’s not easy (or inexpensive) to change your mind after the fact. Once your renovation is complete and you’ve moved into your home, it’s very unlikely that you would want to reconsider your flooring. This means research in the early stage is imperative when it comes to flooring and since you’re here, it seems like your research is well underway. There’s a lot to consider when reviewing hardwood vs engineered wood. I’m sharing the 5 most important factors in your decision.
HARDWOOD VS ENGINEERED WOOD
Before we dive in let’s talk about what each of these materials are. Hardwood is a flooring material made from solid wood through the entire thickness. It’s usually ¾” thick.
Engineered wood has a top layer of solid wood but under that layer it’s made up of high-quality plywood. Depending on the quality of the engineered wood, the top layer of solid wood can be thick or thin so pay attention to the specifications if possible.
There is little to no difference in the appearance of these two types of flooring. In the past, it was obvious when you were looking at engineered wood flooring, but technology has seen massive improvements in recent years.
The joint seams on hardwood flooring are tighter, giving the illusion of solid flooring and not planks. Engineered wood tends to have a bevelled edge and creates gaps between the boards.
Hardwood comes in either finished or unfinished and, in both cases, the range of colours tends to be much greater than engineered wood. If you select unfinished flooring, you can have a custom stain made to match existing flooring. This is a great option for someone who wants to replace and match previously installed flooring. Plank size for hardwood flooring varies between 2” and 4”.
The colour selection is more limited with engineered flooring but if you prefer the look of wider planks, your selection is greater here. The range of plank size goes from 2” to 7” for engineered flooring.
2/ THE COST
There’s no straight or easy answer as to pricing with hardwood vs engineered wood. There are too many factors to consider but this is where you should research your options.
HARDWOOD COSTS & CONSIDERATIONS
- Hardwood species
- Is it prefinished or site finished?
- Plank size
- Hardwood costs between $4 and $12 per square foot but on average, expect to pay $8/sq. ft.
ENGINEERED WOOD COSTS & CONSIDERATIONS
- Thickness of hardwood top coat
- Installed or DIY?
- Plank size
- Engineered wood costs between $3 and $10 per square foot but on average, will cost $4-$7/sq. ft.
Hardwood flooring is long lasting and can look great in your home for 30 years or more. Some manufacturers claim their hardwood flooring has a lifespan of 100 years. Since it will last the lifetime of your home it’s important to note that hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished numerous times. If you change your mind about the finish, you can have a flooring specialist update your flooring without having to replace it.
Engineered flooring will last 20-30 years. During that time, it’s possible for most engineered flooring to be refinished once but not more than that. The thin layer of solid wood on top is only thick enough to withstand one round of changes. Note that refinishing is not available for flooring that is floating. The weight of the sanding machine will cause a floating floor to move so be sure if you’re considering this you install using a nail or glue method.
If you are considering sanding and refinishing, make sure you get the information before you install it. Some veneers are not thick enough to handle even one round of sanding. If that’s a selling feature, be sure to know what you’re buying.
Having beautiful floors in the long term means you’ll need to know how to care for them. The first consideration is understanding where they can be installed in order to perform their best.
Hardwood expands and contracts in areas of high humidity. They shouldn’t be installed in areas that are prone to water coming into contact with the floor. That means avoid bathrooms and possibly the kitchen as well. If your flooring is being installed on top of concrete, you’ll need to avoid hardwood floors. The moisture from concrete will damage the hardwood.
Conversely, engineered wood can sustain higher levels of moisture because the plywood base is not as susceptible to warping. Engineered hardwood is also a better choice for basements since there is a natural tendency for moisture to escape from the subfloor and damage solid wood.
In terms of general maintenance, both hardwood and engineered floors can be swept or vacuumed regularly. They can both be wet mopped with a wood cleaner from time to time.
Hardwood requires a ¾” plywood subfloor for installation. It’s installed using a tongue and groove system. Each board is nailed to a subfloor through tongues at the side of each board. It’s not recommended to install hardwood on top of radiant heating.
The most common installation method for engineered wood is a click lock system. This creates a floating floor that can be installed on concrete subfloors, unlike hardwood floors. There are also glue down and nail down methods of installing engineered wood so be sure you know what type you’re buying. The installation costs will vary depending on the type of installation method required.
There may be other factors that are important to you, but these areas will definitely ensure that you’re an informed buyer before you make your final decision regarding hardwood vs engineered flooring.
If you’re planning a renovation and need some help, you can contact me to discuss how I can help.