By Natalie Weinstein, Allied ASID
I’m ripping up my carpet and putting down a wood floor. I don’t know whether to use real wood or engineered. Is one better than the other? - Susan
Real wood or solid wood is 100% wood from lumber. Because it is solid hardwood and milled, it can shrink or expand with temperature changes or moisture. It is very durable, can be sanded and refurnished for great longevity, but can’t be used in basements or anywhere there is water, like bathrooms.
Engineered wood flooring is made up of layers of wood that are fused together. It’s very stable so it won’t shrink like solid wood and can be installed below ground level so it can be used in basements, ½ baths and baths where solid hardwood can’t. The top layer can be maple, oak, cherry, hickory, birch, etc. and the layers underneath are usually ply wood.
There are different wood species, but there are also exotic woods from which to choose, like Brazilian Cherry, mahogany, tiger wood, sapele, etc. which give a less uniform look to the floor. There are also different plank sizes from narrow (3” or less) to wide planks (5” and more). This also makes a difference in the look. Narrow planks generally are seen in more traditional rooms, whereas wider planks look best in more rustic or contemporary settings.
Engineered wood floors can either be nailed or glued down just like hardwood floors, but it can also be installed as a “floating” floor where the boards are attached to each other and not the existing floor.
Solid hardwood floors can be stained and refinished many times over the course of many years, whereas engineered floors can only be refinished once or twice. The cost may be more, but not always. The conditions of your existing floor may affect the cost as well. If you are planning to install the floor yourself, engineered wood floors are more user friendly, but I would advise that you get a flooring expert to give you an estimate, as well.
There are also laminate floors which mimic the look of real wood (ceramic, or stone, etc.). They are less costly and have a top layer that protects the floor, a layer that is a photograph of wood, stone, etc., an inner core and a backing. It is durable, but obviously cannot be refinished like a real wood floor.
Remember, your flooring decision will be one that will last you as long as you live in your home, so while budget will certainly be a factor, choose wisely for the long haul and for your particular design style and location in your home.