Hardwood is a classic flooring choice. It rose in popularity in the 19th century and has since grown and evolved into many stylish colors, widths and finishes. When considering hardwood flooring for your home, you have two choices: Solid wood or engineered. So, what’s the difference?
For starters, solid hardwood comes in 3/4- inch thick planks of your chosen species. It can be bought factory-finished or unfinished; either way, it can be safely sanded and refinished up to three times. A couple of advantages to selecting unfinished wood are that it can be stained to match other wood in your home (such as kitchen cabinets or trim), and the sanding process makes it possible to achieve a true, square-edge profile.
Unfortunately, your solid hardwood is still a tree and is greatly affected by moisture. If you live in an area with high humidity or large temperature changes, you may run into some issues. Wood planks will expand and contract causing gaps in the joints when humidity is low and swelling or possibly “cupping” when humidity is high or the floor has been exposed to moisture. Cupping occurs when the planks expand, and the joints point upward because of lack of space. It’s usually easy to tell if your floor is cupping, but you can also run your foot horizontally across the planks and feel it. With solid hardwood, gaps and cupping are more likely when the width of the planks gets over 2 1/4 inches.
Engineered hardwood is much better equipped to handle moisture. With the cross-ply design, the effects of swelling are almost nonexistent. This is how it works: on top, you have the species or “wood wear layer” (such as oak, maple, etc.), then under that are several layers of wood stacked with each layer’s graining in the opposite direction of the layers above or below it. This layered design means that no one layer can grow or shrink too much in any direction because when they expand, they’re basically pushing in on each other, helping to keep their original size.
The cross-ply effect also allows you to have the wider planks that are in style right now, with little to no risk of cupping. Where solid hardwood can be installed only on or above grade, engineered hardwood can handle certain amounts of moisture from the subfloor and can be installed anywhere in the house—on, above or below grade, on concrete or plywood subfloors with glue, staples, or even by floating.
Ultimately, you need to choose the wood that you love and that works in your space. At Ted’s Abbey Carpet and Floor, our trained flooring consultants and installers will make sure you’re happy with your flooring for the life of your home!