Solid Wood vs. Engineered Wood Floors.
01
Apr

Solid Hardwood Vs. Engineered Hardwood Floors: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to interior design, we laser focus on colors, furniture, and flow but can’t overlook the importance of a good, well-designed, high-quality floor.

Of course, a hardwood floor is one of the most beautiful and luxurious options available, providing a gorgeous and natural look. But, which one is right for your home or lifestyle? What is the difference between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood floors?

As an interior designer, I’m always asked this question, so let’s break it down and help you make the perfect decision. We’ll explore the key differences of solid hardwood vs. engineered hardwood, from durability and cost to installation methods. 

By the end of this guide, you’ll be a hardwood flooring pro, ready to choose the option that works best for you and your home.

Solid Hardwood Vs. Engineered Hardwood Floors

Solid vs. Engineered Wood Floors.

Let’s start with the basics, defining what the actual differences between solid and engineered hardwood, although I’m sure you can guess from the names. They’re not trying to make it a mystery.

Let’s break it down.

  • Solid Hardwood: Imagine a thick plank cut straight from a tree – that’s solid hardwood. It’s pure wood, top-to-bottom, offering that timeless, natural look and feel.
  • Engineered Hardwood: Engineered hardwood is like a clever layered cake. It has a thin but real wood top, with a core made from multiple layers of plywood bonded under high pressure.

    Why does this matter?

    Because understanding these construction differences is like unlocking the key to making your flooring dreams a reality. 

    Do you want that classic solid wood feel everywhere, or do you need something extra adaptable for a basement or kitchen? What sort of budget are you working to? Do you strive for absolute authenticity, or do you need a more diverse solution?

    As with all things design and construction, it all boils down to having the right tool for the job when creating the home design that works for you.

    Now, let’s take a look at these differences in a bit more detail, highlighting the pros and cons of each floor and helping you define which is best for your next design project.

    Construction / Materials

    Think of your floor like you would a piece of furniture. 

    What’s it made of, and how is it put together? That’ll determine everything, from how it feels to how it will hold up in your family’s life.

    • Engineered Hardwood: Built for Modern Life – Picture those layers of plywood in the core. Each one has its wood grain running in a different direction, and are fused together by high pressure. That makes it more resistant to warping when temperatures or humidity change. Think kitchens, basements, or homes with big, sunny windows!
    • Solid Hardwood: Tradition Through and Through – This is the one to imagine as a solid log sawn into planks. That pure wood construction means it can be sanded and refinished many times over the years. It’s a true investment piece and gives that timeless warmth, but since it is real wood, that means it is more susceptible to warping in high temperatures or humidity.
    • Feeling underfoot: Solid hardwood can feel slightly denser, while engineered may have a tiny bit of “give” if your subfloor isn’t perfectly level.
    • Long-Term Love: Want a floor that’ll be there for decades? Solid hardwood floors allow for more refinishing, while engineered shines in tricky environments.
    • Location matters: Do you live in areas with high temperatures or humidity? If so, solid hardwood probably isn’t the best choice, whereas engineered hardwood would excel. Here in Phoenix we use engineered hardwood exactly for these reasons.
    Kara's Tip: Always look at the thickness of the real wood top layer on engineered hardwood. Each flooring vendor's will be different. A thicker layer means more refinishes down the line!

    Installation

    Solid Wood Vs. Engineered Wood Floors.

    Okay, imagine your gorgeous new floor is picked out and it’s ready to go. The next step is installation, and this is a little more complicated than just placing down and fixing some boards to the ground.

    The actual method and process very much depend on whether you choose solid or engineered hardwood.

    Solid hardwood requires a bit of an acclimatization period, meaning it becomes accustomed to the climate of your home. This is because natural wood absorbs moisture and reacts to different pressures, and if you allow the wood to settle, you’ll be dealing with problems like warping.

    Therefore, once purchased and delivered, you need to send those beautiful planks off to their new room for a few days so the wood adjusts. Bear this in mind when you’re working on a project and planning, because the last thing you want is for your electrician to start work when you have tons of wood hanging out in the hallway!

    Once accustomed, you need to think about securing the boards to the floor. You have two main options;

    Nailing directly through the wood secures it to your subfloor – strong but tricky for beginners. Gluing is also an option for a super-smooth feel underfoot. 

    Both methods have pros and cons, so research carefully or ask a pro’s opinion. It depends on your lifestyle and the final result you’re aiming for.

    Engineered hardwood’s biggest installation perk is variety. Because it’s so stable, you have options:

    • Tongue & Groove: These planks click together nicely, making it a manageable DIY project if you’re handy.
    • Floating Floor: Certain engineered floors snap together without glue or nails. Great for covering imperfections in an existing floor!
    Kara's Insight: No matter how you install, proper subfloor prep is KEY. A level, clean surface makes your new floor look amazing and last for years.

    With all this in mind, this is a great time to ask yourself: “DIY or hire a pro?”

    That depends on your experience and comfort level. 

    But here’s a tip: Even if you go the pro route, understanding the process helps you ask the right questions and make sure things are done correctly.

    Durability And Longevity

    Engineered Wood Vs. Solid Hardwood Floors.

    Let’s be honest, hardwood flooring is an investment. So, how do you know whether those gorgeous planks will still be underfoot years from now? Here’s the lowdown:

    • Solid Hardwood: The Refinishing Advantage – Think of solid hardwood like a superhero with extra lives. When it gets dinged up, you can sand and refinish it several times over its lifespan. Well-maintained solid hardwood can easily last 30-100 years, maybe longer! This is why it’s so popular in older homes.
    • Engineered Hardwood: Built to Resist – Don’t underestimate that plywood core! Engineered is designed to handle temperature and humidity shifts better than solid, making it a fantastic option throughout the home or rooms with lots of sunlight. While you can’t refinish it as often, a quality engineered floor can still last 20-30 years with good care and the proper finish on top.
    • Got kids or pets (or both!)? While both types can handle some degree of wear and tear, solid is easier to make like-new after significant scratches since it can be refinished more. Likewise, some engineered wood comes treated with a finish that makes it more scratch resistant- something to always ask beforehand!

      Wood floors, regardless of solid hardwood vs. engineered wood, will show wear and tear eventually. You have to be okay with that ‘lived in’ look!
    • Love the idea of a forever floor? Solid hardwood might make more sense if you plan to be in your home for decades to come. If you don’t plan on being in your home for more than 10 years, engineered hardwood is a great option.
    • Hate maintenance? Both solid wood and engineered wood floors require care and maintenance. If you aren’t willing to wipe up spills immediately, use the proper brushes, and soaps, then maybe consider another type of flooring.

    Even with a shorter lifespan, engineered hardwood can be a brilliant strategic choice. Basements, kitchens… those tough-use spaces? Engineered shines there. But for your “main” living areas, solid wood can offer that timeless feel.

    All that said, the bottom line is that regardless of the type you choose, proper care is essential! Regular cleaning, avoiding water damage caused by spills, using furniture pads, and avoiding harsh cleaners will protect your investment.

    Look And Feel

    It goes without saying that both solid and engineered hardwood are beautiful, but they each offer a slightly different experience. Let’s break it down so you can find the fit that’s just…yours.

    • The Natural Canvas: Unfinished wood means you can stain or finish it to create any look imaginable. Love that ultra-modern gray wash? Or a warm, honey-toned classic? You have complete control.
    • Character Up Close: Solid hardwood often comes with gorgeous variations in grain and knots that only nature can create. Each plank is a little unique.
    • Instant Gratification: Pre-finished boards mean the moment they’re installed, your room is transformed! No staining or waiting for coats to dry.
    • Wide and Wonderful: Because of that stable core, engineered hardwood can often come in wider planks than solid. This makes rooms feel even more spacious.

    When it comes to checking out which flooring you like the look and feel of, don’t just look at pictures – get samples. I can’t stress this enough. Seeing how the wood interacts with your actual lighting makes a huge difference.

    When checking over these samples, ask yourself;

    • Do you crave that classic, timeworn feel? Solid wood may be more likely to deliver it.
    • Want to install and enjoy immediately? Engineered makes that easy.
    • Dream of a super-specific look? Solid’s unfinished approach gives you more freedom

    Solid Hardwood Vs. Engineered Wood Flooring Cost

    We all know the moment of truth: what are these gorgeous floors actually going to cost? The good news is that both solid and engineered offer options to fit different budgets. Here’s the lowdown:

    • Solid Hardwood: An Upfront Investment – Think of it like buying a high-quality piece of furniture. Solid usually cost more per square foot initially. However, that ability to refinish it multiple times increases its value over the years.
    • Engineered Hardwood: Smart Savings Potential – Often less expensive at the start, engineered hardwood can be a brilliant way to get that wood look on a tighter budget. Consider it the savvy choice, especially for spaces you might want to change up more frequently in the future.

    That said, the cost isn’t everything.

    Here are a few things that affect that final price tag:

    • Wood Species: Exotic woods = have a higher price tag, regardless of the type.
    • Plank Size: Those extra-wide planks look amazing but cost more.
    • Finish: Pre-finished boards save you labor costs later on.
    Kara's Insight: Don't just compare square footage prices! Ask for a complete estimate, including installation, prep work, and any moldings or transitions you need.

    As with everything in the design world, you need to make sure you have a budget in mind before you fall in love with a specific product. This helps you stay focused and ensures there are no unhappy surprises down the road.

    When to Use Solid Hardwood vs Engineered Hardwood Floors

    Okay, now this is where it gets personal – let’s figure out which type is right for each room so your floors not only look amazing but work with how you live.

    • Do’s: Living rooms, hallways, dining rooms, and bedrooms are spaces where solid wood’s warmth and timeless character are hard to beat. If you love the idea of a floor that ages gracefully with you, solid is the way to go. Yes, kids, pets, parties…solid can handle it with the proper care! Especially if you plan to be in your home long-term and want the option to refinish later.
    • Don’ts: Bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are three rooms you should stray away from when installing solid hardwood floors. Any rooms in the home that have to do with moisture should be off-limits, as well as hot climate areas like Florida, Texas, and Arizona.
    • Do’s: Entry ways, living rooms, hallways, dining rooms, bedrooms, basements, and bonus rooms are all great spaces to use engineered hardwood flooring. Hot climates like Florida, Texas, and Arizona do well with engineered hardwood and it is very common to find it installed in these spaces.

      What about kitchens? While a lot of people enjoy the consistent flow from the kitchen into dining and living, engineered hardwood isn’t the best flooring option to put in the kitchen since it isn’t completely waterproof. It does, however, perform better than solid hardwood, and people do still choose to install it. Just be sure you’re up for the maintenance and keep the spills to a minimum!
    • Don’ts: Bathrooms! Wood floors just don’t belong in bathrooms due to the amount of water and moisture in the area. Instead, use a fun tile!

      Don’t stress about “right or wrong”! Think about your priorities for each space – beauty, longevity, easy care – and go from there.

      Conclusion

      You’re right – choosing the right hardwood floor is about more than just looks. It’s about matching the perfect material to your lifestyle and making your home feel amazing every single day. Hopefully, this guide has empowered you to consider all the factors that matter:

      • Durability: How long do you want your floors to last?
      • Cost: What fits your budget today and in the long run?
      • Your Home’s Needs: Which rooms need extra adaptability?

      If you’re still unsure about the best choice or simply want to explore gorgeous options designed specifically for your space, that’s where I come in!

      At Haus Grimes Interior Design Studio, my passion is helping you create a home that reflects your unique style and makes life easier.

      Get in contact with me today and see what I can do to help you create a space that’s truly and utterly yours.