This is one of our most frequently asked questions and there is a great deal of misunderstanding and assumption about both options.
Firstly here are the two different products simply explained.
Engineered wood flooring – There are different construction methods but generally speaking good quality engineered wood flooring is constructed using a base of glued multi-layer ply board that is then topped with solid wood therefore making it look like a solid wood floor but giving it extreme stability. Many people say that they can tell the difference between solid and engineered wood but they are normally referring to Laminate.
Solid wood flooring – is exactly that solid wood.
Just to confirm neither of these floors are Laminate. Laminate is a lacquered photograph of wood copied onto hardboard or very thin ply.
When you start planning a new wood floor, it is very important to measure the moisture levels in your sub floor. Moisture levels should be very low and in order to be confident about the levels, it’s important to take a substantial number of readings across your entire floor. If your sub floor is borderline when it comes to moisture levels, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’d be safer to opt for engineered wood flooring than solid wood. There are other ways around this but cost can become be an issue. A suitable DPM (damp proof membrane) will normally be sufficient to safely lay an engineered wood floor.
When installing a wood floor in your home, the decision for engineered or solid can depend on which room you’re looking to re-floor. Because of the significant fluctuations in moisture levels and temperatures in the likes of kitchens and bathrooms, there’s no doubt that engineered wood flooring will be less problematic in these areas. Thanks to the way that engineered boards are constructed, while they will expand and contract slightly when exposed to rises and falls in temperature and moisture levels, in comparison with solid wood the risk of resulting damage is minimal. When solid wood is exposed to significant environmental changes it expands and contracts with a more noticeable movement, which, over a long period can cause damage to your floor. This won’t happen with a good quality, well-fitted engineered wood floor. It is also worth noting the potential for wear of wooden floors especially when they are fitted in a kitchen because if the maintenance is not kept on top of the floors can become shabby looking this is due to water from washing up, drips from dishwashers and fat splatters from ovens and hobs
Heavy footfall or high traffic areas
Heavy or high footfall refers to environments where there is likely to be a higher impact on the floor thanks to the people crossing it. This would apply more to places such as schools, pubs, restaurants, village halls, gymnasiums etc. Wherever there is high or heavy footfall, it’s comforting to be able to re-sand and re-finish your floor relatively frequently. Although an engineered wood floor with a relatively thick solid wood top layer can be sanded comfortably three times during its lifetime, a solid wood floor will take up to five or six sanding’s before risking significant damage. (This would be a non-tongue and grooved floor as T&G floors can only be sanded to the tongue at maximum) So, if you are flooring a room where there is likely to be high or heavy footfall, your sub floor is nice and dry and there are no significant temperature or moisture fluctuations as well as no under floor heating, then solid wood flooring is probably a more practical solution.
Wood flooring is a great solution, no matter what your budget. With little difference between solid and engineered wood flooring prices, your budget shouldn’t be a huge driving factor in your decision-making process because irrespective of the amount you have to spend, you should be able to find a solution that ticks all your boxes in either category. In recent years the price of solid oak floors has generally come down depending on what is chosen. In effect an engineered board will cost at least as much as a solid if not more.
Solid or engineered wood flooring at a glance:
Sub floor moisture level is borderline
Solid wood — Not recommended
Engineered wood- OK with suitable membrane or underlay
Bathrooms and Kitchens
Solid wood -Bathrooms and kitchens – Not recommended
Engineered wood – Highly suitable
High or heavy footfall
Finally, if I was looking for a new floor, personally I would go for an engineered floor nine times out of ten.