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Engineered hardwood floor vs solid wood floor

In one sentence, engineered hardwood floor is a solid hardwood surface layer bonded to a multi layered backing, and solid wood floor is solid wood though and through. The real interesting question is how do they compare?

Solid wood floor is around for centuries, it’s durable beautiful and timeless, however that is not to say it does not have its weakness. One of the big drawback of wood, as natural material, is that it will shrink and expand (wood movement) depend on moisture change. A solid wood floor with span of just 2 feet will have 1/8 of movement over a year depending on where you live. Engineered hardwood floor however is much stable, thanks to its multi layer cross grain backing layer. With normal seasonal moisture swing, we can consider engineered hardwood floor as dimensionally stable, that is they do not expand or contract. This opens up a lot more possibilities:

  • Stable substrate enables a much wider plank. With modern style trending towards simple and clean, wide plank becomes the focus of recent popular floors. With solid wood floor, the wider you go, the easier it will cup up, so typically it is kept under 6 inches or so. But with engineered, you can go 7.5 or 9 without worry. We even have 12 or even wider boards for stair or to achieve that ultra clean look.

  • Remember that wood floor in your grandma’s house that shows gap in the winter and cups up in the summer? Well, it’s much much unlikely with engineered hardwood floor since they don’t move much.

  • Engineered wood floor can be used in a much wider application: in kitchen area, install in below grade, glue down installation to name a few. Because of this, may people now use them through out the house to achieve continuity especially with open concept homes.

  • Environmentally speaking, engineered hardwood floor has much higher yield than solid wood floor, that is, we can make more engineered hardwood floor from a tree than solid wood floor. The backing layer of engineered floor can be made from fast growing renewable forest farm.

  • And we can even tweak the character of the floor by matching different thickness backing with different thickness surface layer. For example, for in floor heating, because of the extreme heat condition, the floor needs to be extra stable, so we can use thin surface layer with high quality backing layer to meet the requirement for this special use case.

Engineered wood can be beautiful too. This is a bowl I made out of plywood, the same material used as the backing of the engineered hardwood floor

But they say solid wood floor can be refinished again and again

That is true, solid wood floor can be sanded down and refinished when the time comes. However there are catches:

  • With tone and groove construction, which is majority of today’s solid wood floor, you can only sand down to tone and groove line, that is about 6mm of surface. A decent quality engineered hardwood floor also have thick surface layer ranging from 3mm to 6mm, and can be refinished just as much as solid wood floor can. We offer 4mm and 6mm surface layer engineered hardwood floors.

  • Many modern floor get their character from the unique surface texture, like scraping or wire brushing, refinish will take all those away.

  • More and more floor are prefinished, that is they come with factory applied finish. These finish are much tougher and smoother, some even use UV cured finishes, they combined the benefit of low VOC and better uniformity which is impossible to achieve with onsite finish. With more and more advanced finishing, it’s less likely you will need refinish in the lifetime of the flooring. Our floor all come with 25 years finish warranty, so you can be rest assured they will stand up to the wear and tear.

  • Refinish is expensive, especially in the bay area, with labor cost skyrocketing, it makes less sense to refinish a wood floor.

How about indoor air quality? I’m worried about the glue used in engineered hardwood floor.

Engineered hardwood floor does use glue to bond the layers together. California has the most strict indoor air quality regulation in the nation. All products sold in the state needs to comply to CARB II standard, in the case of formaldehyde that is less than 0.05 ppm (parts per million). Our floor all use NAF(no-added formaldehyde) glue, such as Phenol–formaldehyde (PF) resin, which has a much lower emission than CARB II standard. One thing I want to point out is: formaldehyde is natural occurring in wood, Oak for example, has about 9 ppb (parts per billion) naturally occurring formaldehyde.

Can I feel or tell the difference between the two when installed?

It’s almost indistinguishable when installed, the thing will give it away is actually the benefit of engineered hardwood floor. For example if the the board is wider than 8 inches, it’s almost certainly an engineered hardwood floor. On some thin engineered solid wood floor, you may feel hollow when walk on them, but our 3/4 and 7/8 inch floor feels better than solid wood, since they lay flatter.

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