Solid vs Engineered Wood.
Which is better?
Solid WoodA solid wood is just that. It is a solid piece of hardwood that has been shaped into a piece of flooring. It has a tongue on one side, a groove for a tongue to fit into on the other side, and finish on the top. Usually, solid wood floors are 3/4" thick, but not always.
Engineered WoodAn engineered wood floor is initially made like plywood. It has a thin layer of wood with the grain in one direction, then another thin layer of wood glued to it with the grain in another direction. There are several layers of wood glued together with the grain going in different directions. Then the veneer layer is placed on top and finished. It also has a tongue and groove like solid hardwood, or a snap-lock system. Engineered woods are usually 5/8" thick, but not always. Some engineered floors use a stranded fiber core instead of a plywood core. So, which is better? To answer that, we need to address some common misconceptions.
Misconception 1Many people look at a piece of solid hardwood flooring and think "I can sand this forever". That just isn't true. The floor is installed by nailing through the tongue into the sub-floor below. The head of each nail is at the level of the tongue. We can sand until just before the nail heads. After that, we need a brand new floor.
Misconception 2"Engineered wood has a veneer layer on top. Veneer is thin and cheap."
Not necessarily. Some of the veneer layers on engineered woods are quite thick and can be sanded several times.
Misconception 3"I'll need to sand my floor many times for it to look good."
Just not so. Those who do sand their floors, find that their floors are fine for over a decade. Some people have gone two decades between sandings. Sanding just isn't something that needs to be done every year.
Furthermore, sanding is not usually required. If you have gouges in the floor, then sanding may be necessary to remove the gouge. However, if we just want to restore the luster of the finish, then you probably want to screen and recoat your floor instead. Screening and recoating will keep dust in your home to a minimum. What a refinisher will do is roughen the finish to get good adhesion of the new finish. Then a new coat of polyurethane is applied. The wood is restored to a beautiful luster, and deep sanding is not required.
Advantages of solid hardwood flooring:Usually a thicker sandable layer, although not as thick as many people mistakenly believe.
Advantages of engineered hardwood flooring:Because of the plywood like construction, engineered flooring is more dimensionally stable. It is less likely to expand and contract, and less likely to cup or buckle. This makes engineered wood flooring suitable for areas that have higher humidity or moisture content where we just can't put solid wood flooring. (However, no wood flooring should be placed in an area with high humidity or moisture). Engineered floors are also preferable for wide plank floors as they greatly reduce the expansion and contraction of the floor.
Engineered floors also make very expensive exotic woods affordable for the normal home. Since we use the exotic wood for just the veneer layer, and a cheaper wood for the core, an engineered exotic wood floor can cost a half or a third what a solid exotic wood floor costs, while being just as durable and beautiful.