help me decide between solid/engineered hardwood floors

Megs0927May 11, 2011

This is my first post in gardenweb but I have been a lurker for quite awhile! We are building a new home and have about 1700 square feet of wood. I was totally set on solid hardwood until meeting with Prosource yesterday. They are the company that my builder uses for flooring. I couldn't believe how hard they were pushing the engineered flooring on us. We live in the midwest and have extreme changes in humidity. Part of me wonders if there is a larger profit margin with the engineered flooring.

We are debating between a hickory wire brushed engineered wood made by Shaw. Its thickness is 1/2' and the width is 4 1/2." Our other option is an Asian Walnut solid hardwood with a semi-gloss that is 3 5/8" wide made by Bella Cera. Both are around the same price per square foot.

The wood will also be installed in our kitchen. If they are both nailed down will they have the same "feel" underfoot? I like wood floors that have a little give and have character over time. Any advice would be very helpful as I am agonizing over making the right decision!

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I have solid wood in kitchen and engineered in den since it's an addition - concrete slab. I like both but my first choice would be solid, unless on concrete. You can refinish solid more than engineered if needed.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 5:30PM
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That was my thought also... It's a very open floor plan and there will be a lot of wood. I like the fact that the solid can be refinished more too.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 7:13PM
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Go with solid. You will never have to worry whether your floor can be sanded or not.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 8:56PM
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I assume since your looking at engineered factory finished? Factory finished floors normally have an aluminum oxide finish which is far more durable than a site finished floor. It can recoated easily without resanding. The only time you would resand is to change colors or get rid of severe gouges etc. Many engineered products have as much 'resandable' surface as a solid. Also engineered is lots more stable. Overall thickness is not really much of a factor.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 9:18PM
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Both of the floors are factory finished at have an aluminum oxide finish.

Can you feel the difference walking on them if they are both nailed down (vs. glued)?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 9:38PM
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I can't imagine any difference. Some people who have 'floating' floors hear a hollow sound. That would not be the case with a glue down. I think either will give you good results, its more a matter of subfloor, flooring height issues, transitions. Your flooring contractor can give you an idea of what they feel works best in your area so use them for info. Some species experience more expansion and contraction so that is why some people prefer the engineered.
Because of your high humidity extemes is perhaps why the engineered is suggested.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:33PM
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Personally, I would go solid, finished in place. I detest the visible edges. If you are going to have those as a feature anyway, the engineered probably has less problem with expansion/contraction.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 2:19PM
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Get solid. Boxers is wrong, there is no engineered floor with as much sandable material as 3/4 in. solid hardwood.

With engineered you cannot get a smooth finish due to the beveled edges of engineered material. If you want to sand and refinish, you will have to take down those beveled edges to get to a smooth finish and thereby remove a lot of material. You also get the joy of having hundreds of square feet of cevices in your floor to catch dirt, dust and crud.

Of course if you like trendy looks, factory scraped, aged, etc. You will want engineered.

As for finish, this is engineered floor manufacturers mumbo jumbo by suggesting somehow they are the only ones who can provide a durable finish. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS SALES TACTIC. There are commercial grade finishes available that are as durable as factory finishes. One example used by pro installers is Bona Traffic, a water based commercial grade finish.

If you want a smooth finish and more material for your money, get solid.

Also, don't let your builder tell you where to get your hardwood. Do your own research, buy direct from a mill. You will get a superior product. Builders use suppliers who will provide materials "on time," but not necessarily the one who delivers the best product. There main focus is to keep the job moving - fine for them, but they often suggest inferior materials or materials that are good enough (in their view).


    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:55AM
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We have engineered, no beveled edges, glued down install. It's made by Lauzon.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 1:33AM
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laurie - that's a very pretty floor - what kind of wood/finish is that? How long have you had it down? Seems you're happy with it....

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 1:20AM
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Thanks! The wood is Red Oak Natural, select & better, with a semi gloss finish (factory finish).

We installed this in August 2009 and are extremely happy with it : )

We plan to install it in the living room, as well. At the bottom of the picture, you can see where the living room carpet meets up with the entryway step down.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 9:50PM
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I agree with most of the posts especially since its a brand new house. That makes it much more easier to install,sand and then stain and the life cycle is much longer. I have both in separate residences but in the engineered one I was replacing a floor and installing a hardwood would have been much more difficult and also that residence is not used full time.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 5:17AM
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You can get an engineered floor that is as good if not better than a solid product. We produce solid unfinished flooring but we also produce unfinished engineered flooring as well. Solid flooring typically has a 1/4" (6mm) of "sandable" or "usable" surface. Basically after you get 1/4" deep you'll hit the nail heads and so you can't sand below that point. Our engineered unfinished product has a 5mm wear layer. However, the engineered product is already pre-sanded to 80g which means once installed the amount of sanding that takes place is minimal. On a solid floor, most contractors will need to do a rough sanding to get the floor even, then one or two more cuts to get it smooth. Even if you have a very talented sander he is going to take 1/32 off in his sanding on the solid floor. That equates to roughly 3/100 which is nearly the difference between the 6mm and 5mm usable surfaces we began with. So in essence, you are getting very close to the same "usable" surface. Not to mention the engineered is more stable, will keep you from having to install a subfloor as it can be glued directly to concrete, eliminates transition issues between hardwood and tile or carpet AND should take less time to install. My two cents. Sam @ Real Wood Floors

2 Likes    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 3:36PM
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My experience with engineered floors:

I forget the manufacturer name. Part of our house is on slab so we had to get engineered floor for that area (unless we added subfloor). So 1/2" engineered floor was glued on. No beveled edges. It was factory finished. In many places, during winter, large gaps would appear even though it was edge glued as well.
First, little bit of water leaked into the room - didn't think much of it but few weeks later, wood turned black in places and buckled up. The whole room floor had to be replaced (used tiles this time).

Few months later, in the foyer, about a glass of water flowed out from the powder room. Few weeks later, floor turned black and buckled up. Reps from the company came (at installer's request) and they chose to do nothing - pay nothing. Luckily, insurance company came through both times. We still have the same floor remaining in one room but it sounds like floating floor in some parts.
So, engineered floor - never again for me...


    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 4:15PM
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Sam's product is a sawn or sliced veneer which is very superior to a rotary cut veneer in look and long term satisfaction.
As a life long (35) year wood flooring specialist my 1st choice for any wood floor here in the Midwest would be a sawn engineered floor. They will last as long (generations) as a solid and have far fewer movement issues. Downside? They cost a little more.

aj33, without having seen your floor and going by what you have written I suspect you have some structural issues which need to be addressed. I don't see how the flooring could be the cause of your troubles.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 9:54AM
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Woodfloorpro, I was interested in your post. I live in Chicago and am renovating an apartment which I am in a floor quandry. I thought I wanted strand bamboo trying to be green but concerned about denting and after reading in other forums, not sure I still want it. The entire apt will be wood flooring including the kitchen which I wasn't so sure about but will be better for the flow, and I see others are satisfied with it in the kitchen. Is the humidity the only reason you thing engineered is better? It seems that is readily controllable with a/c and using a humidifier in the winter. Are they only glued down or also available in click type panels?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 1:15AM
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I live on the beach in northern California. It's been suggested that I use engineered wood flooring due to the humidity here...apparently real wood expands and contracts in this weather?

A friend recently had to have all her engineered wood taken out and replaced due to defects so not all brands are the same.

My main problem is sand being tracked in. Will that ruin any wood floor? I've tried every kind of exterior mat in existence but still get sand in on tennis shoes and other. Heck, I get sand in my bedsheets! Does anyone know how to prevent this and if engineered wood is the best choice for the coast?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 6:39PM
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To the OP...what floor did you choose? Have photos?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 3:16PM
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Some great advice from a pro I've been following. I have solid wood floors and love them - but have heard great things about engineered as well. I think that it really depends

Here is a link that might be useful: When to use engineered floors

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 4:06PM
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