For many years a solid hardwood timber floor has been seen as the cream of the crop when it comes to choosing a flooring option for a house. However, with the advancements in the manufacturing of engineered timber flooring, the choice has suddenly become a lot more difficult. No longer is engineered flooring seen as an inadequate substitute, or lesser option.
That is not to say that solid hardwood floors are in any way detracting in quality. A solid hardwood floor offers many benefits. They are durable, solid (no pun intended), perfect for living areas with lots of heavy furniture, and come in a large variety of timber choices. Because each board is cut from a single piece of timber, a solid hardwood floor picks up the patterns in the grain and subtle colour changes in the wood, meaning that each floor is different and unique. Manufacturing solid floorboards in this way also means that the boards are thick, and hence they can be sanded many times and refurbished as needed over the years.
Engineered timber flooring is a little different. It comes in layers. The bottom layer or base is generally constructed from a heavy-duty plywood, while the top layer, which is the part that is seen and walked upon, is usually made from a thin strip of hardwood timber. Whereas a laminate floor is simply a high-quality image of some wood fused to some fibreboard, an engineered timber floor is actually a real timber floor.
A Modern Comparison
Because the strip of hardwood in an engineered board is much thinner than a traditional solid floorboard, it does mean that an engineered timber floor is not as durable over time, nor can it be re-worked and touched-up in the same way that a solid floor can; this doesn’t mean an engineered floor can’t be sanded and re-polished from time-to-time, it just can’t match the overall durability of a solid floor. With that said, the layering system offers some benefits that a solid floor does not. The plywood base, for example, is more resistant to moisture and offers more stability, particularly as the grain of the hardwood strip on top tends to run in the opposite direction to the grain in the base. This means an engineered timber floor is less likely to shrink or warp, or permanently cup when exposed to moisture and variations in humidity and temperature. When it comes to installation, an engineered floor is easier and can be installed via a variety of different methods. This results in a faster installation time, and an overall cheaper cost when compared to a traditional solid timber floor. The increased stability also allows for engineered timber floors to be installed in areas where solid floors often don’t work so well, such as areas with underfloor heating, or in front of large windows and other areas with excessive sunlight.
In some ways, an engineered timber floor offers many of the benefits of a solid timber floor without several of the drawbacks. But for someone who’s more of a purist with longevity in mind when it comes to their floor, the solid option may be harder to overlook.