Hardwood flooring rundown

Few things stand the test of time, and style is no exception. Some of it comes and goes – like shag carpet, statement wallpaper and retro furniture – but there’s no question that design trends are fickle.

Wood flooring, however, seems to be an anomaly. It emerged in the early 1600s and has continued to be a coveted flooring choice across the world. Because of factors like budget, climate and less-than-tidy kids, hardwood alternatives have grown in popularity, with engineered wood at the top of the list.

So, how does it compare to solid wood? Katie Baker-Barnes, owner of Classic Floors & Design, provides a rundown.

“There are many options today for homeowners on the market for hardwood flooring,” Baker-Barnes said. “Knowing the foundation of the house, be it concrete slab or raised pier and beam, will be a factor on which wood floor will perform the best.”

Solid wood

Solid wood is authentic wood with a protective finish. It’s more susceptible to moisture, but it can be sanded and refinished as needed.

Installation can be more time consuming and costly. Wood is nailed or stapled to a plywood substrate over concrete slab foundations, whereas pier and beam allows for wood to be directly nailed or stapled down.

Due to solid wood’s natural tendency to contract and expand from moisture, being able to nail it directly to the foundation is ideal because nails are generally strong enough to withstand buckling. The absence of a substrate also minimizes potential problems caused by changing thicknesses, Baker-Barnes said.

“That thickness is usually not a problem when the house is new and is under construction, but for remodeling existing homes, many factors come in to play prior to making a wood floor
decision. For example, the baseboards usually have to be removed [and] exterior doors may have to be replaced, depending on what area the floors are being
installed and what flooring has to be removed. That is when engineered hardwoods may be a better choice.”

Engineered wood

Engineered wood has a base of plywood or medium-density fiberboard (called MDF, which is a combination of resin, wax and wood fibers) topped by a thin layer of real wood and a protective coating. It is highly resistant to moisture, which means it will not typically not contract or expand as solid wood does. It can sometimes be sanded and refinished, but the thin layer of wood will wear down after one or two times.

Installation is fairly simple and less costly. It is usually glued, but can also be nailed or stapled depending on subfloor. Some manufacturers also make snap and click versions.

To sum everything up, there are numerous factors to consider when choosing solid or engineered hardwood. Consider your budget, foundation type and the level of wear and tear your floors will endure. Most importantly, ask your designer!