Solid Vs. Engineered Hardwood Flooring: Costs – Pros & Cons

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solid vs enginered hardwood flooring

Adding a new floor can be an exciting time for you and your home.

It can also be frustrating and confusing.

One of the toughest decisions is choosing between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood.

Once installed it is difficult to tell the two apart.

However, there are enough differences to make the final purchase choice that much more difficult.

In this article we will compare the two flooring types, their pros, cons and of course, the differences. By the end, you should know which of the two options is right for you and how best to find the perfect brand.

Major Benefits of Hardwood Flooring in Your Home

Hardwood brings a lot of value to your home in a lot of ways. Here are the most beneficial aspects.

  • Can increase resale value. Solid hardwood is the only current flooring option that can raise the resale value of your home.
  • Adds warmth and depth. By installing hardwood the rooms become warmer, more inviting and block more noise than other hard flooring options.
  • DIY install. You can install engineered hardwood and some solid hardwood brands with relative ease.
  • Natural fade resistance. Hardwood has a natural fade resistance that helps sealants block UV damage.
  • Long lasting flooring. Hardwood is one of the most durable and long-lasting flooring options available.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Wood Floor

buyers guide choosing right wood floor

It can be hard to choose between solid and engineered hardwood. The following consideration factors will help you decide which is a better fit, and more importantly, why it is a better fit.

Project Size

The total project size is a measurement that needs to be established right from the start. Knowing the square footage of the area you intend to cover with your new flooring is critical for virtually every other factor listed below.

Once you have the square footage, you can plan your budget, find suitable materials and plan for all the additional materials or tools you may need.

Total Budget For the Project

When planning for a new floor you should always have a budget. Flooring can get expensive and depending on the size of the project can easily reach $10,000 or more. When you are gathering your information, needs and materials a budget will help you stay on track.

One of the most important aspects of flooring projects is sticking within your budget. Not only will you enjoy the finished project more, but you won’t overspend or go out of your comfort zone to get to the floor of your dreams.

Installation Method

Solid hardwood is best installed by professionals. It is and can be a DIY project but for warranty and finished project’s sake, professional install is highly recommended.

On the other hand, engineered hardwood is a simple DIY installation that requires less work and fewer materials than solid hardwood. 

Wood Species Type

Hardwood comes in a lot of species and options. Red and White Oak are some of the most common types because they are available and are more affordable. Mahogany, Cumaru and other more exotic species are more expensive, but also more durable.

Choosing the right species will help you decide on a color, style and finish. If you are looking for warm or cool tones to match your décor, the species of the wood will play the largest role in your final decision.

Additional Materials

Flooring purchases are a great deal more than just the planks or boards that you will end up walking on. Underlayment, moisture barriers, adhesives, and decorative materials are all a part of the finished project.

Each of these may be included in your flooring purchase. Underlayment materials, for example, are often included already attached to the flooring boards. However, not all brands or styles will have these options. You will need to know what is included and which extras you require while you are planning your budget.

Home Resale Options

If you are installing new floors to help sell your home, you can add value to the asking price by installing solid hardwood. Engineered hardwood won’t diminish the value, but won’t add value, either.

As of now, solid hardwood flooring is the only flooring that will increase the home’s resale value. However, if you plan to continue to live in the home, either option will serve you well with great wear and install warranties. We cover these in more detail in the review section below.

Cost & Warranty

Staying within your budget will depend mainly on the materials cost and installation fees. For professional installation, the costs can increase up to double. Of course, the cost of the flooring is worth it, but staying within the budget is difficult.

While looking at costs, fees and other factors, you also need to take a close look at the warranties that come with your purchase. Not only do you need to understand the coverage terms, duration and requirements, but also the claims process.

Many warranties require that you register the purchase in a certain time period, and you may need professional installation to activate the warranty. However, what you should pay most attention to is the claims process.

You should know what is required on your part to make a claim, in case you ever need to. The process is different for each brand so paying careful attention here is critical.

Engineered Vs. Solid Hardwood Flooring Comparison

enginered vs solid hardwood flooring comparison

Once you have decided on hardwood flooring for your home, there is only one major decision left, engineered or solid? Let’s see if we can help with that final choice.

Engineered hardwood has a few distinct advantages over solid hardwood. It also has several disadvantages. Let’s compare and review both hardwood options side by side on these various strength and weakness categories to help you find the ideal choice for your new floor project.

Style and Color Options

Both options will give you plenty of style and color choices. With solid hardwood you can select the species of wood and then choose the natural tones that come from that species. If you want additional colors or grain patterns, some brands will tint, dye or even paint their boards to accommodate.

Likewise, with engineered hardwood, you can also select the species, wood grain and tone or color. The top layer of the plank is what you are selecting, though the core and base are also important. 

Installation Locations & Methods

Hardwood flooring should not be installed in wet areas of the home. This includes basements, bathrooms and even kitchens (if you are prone to making wet messes or mopping). Laundry areas and patios are also discouraged from having hardwood installed.

The primary reason is that wood and water do not mix. The wood, even when sealed, can absorb moisture and humidity. This, in turn, will cause the planks to swell, crack and expand resulting in expensive repair bills.

Any other room of the home, though, is suitable for hardwood install. You can use the click-lock style or installation with boards made to fit together in a floating floor fashion. If you want a more permanent solution, you can get glue-down or nail-down boards, too.

Engineered hardwood generally only comes in floating floor or glue-down options. It isn’t advised to use screws or nails unless you are dealing with solid hardwood planks.

Board or Plank Dimensions

One of the biggest notable differences is the availability of board sizes. Engineered hardwood planks are generally smaller, thinner and have a lower profile than solid hardwood.

One of the ways engineered hardwood planks save you money is by limiting the amount of actual solid hardwood. The topmost layer is a thin slice of actual hardwood laying on top of a composite core and (usually) plywood base.

Solid hardwood planks, as you can imagine, are solid pieces of wood. There isn’t a core or layers at all, though there may be an underlayment attached. This means the planks are thicker, stronger and have less give. It also makes them more expensive.

Price aside, if you are looking for smaller boards (or thicker) for a specific look or design, then that alone may sway your decision. Engineered hardwood is better for more intricate designs or patterns while solid hardwood is best for a natural, wood floor appearance.

Refinishing Opportunities

One of the biggest knocks against hardwood flooring is that it can be easily damaged. Scratches and light gouging are common on real wood floors. The good news is that hardwood can be sanded or refinished to remove or minimize scratches.

Solid hardwood can potentially be refinished several times. The thicker the boards the more times you can sand and refinish. However, engineered hardwood, if it is refinish capable, can only be touched up once or twice.

Cost of Materials

Materials cost is the largest concern with any flooring project. With hardwood flooring, the cost is higher than most other types including LVP, laminate or even bamboo. The additional cost, though, is put to good use.

Not only is hardwood flooring more expensive, it also is more durable, easier to care for and lasts longer than most other flooring options on the market. While care and maintenance will vary from brand to brand, in most cases a sweep and vacuum are all that is needed.

However, the true cost comes in labor for installation. If you go with a professional installation company you can add anywhere between $3 and $8 per square foot for solid hardwood. For engineered hardwood that cost generally averages between $2 and $7 per square foot.

You may also need to include costs for underlayment or moisture barriers, extrinsically if you are installing over concrete. Transitions, thresholds, and other decorative items will also add to the overall cost. 

Warranty

When buying hardwood flooring you need to pay close attention to the warranties. Most well-known and established brands won’t give you many problems. However, some will list to-good-to-be-true type warranties that you need to read thoroughly.

For example, a limited lifetime warranty sounds great, but it may only cover manufacturer defects. While this isn’t a bad thing, anything that occurs to the floor after installation is no longer considered a manufacturer’s defect. So that lifetime warranty is only valid until the flooring is installed.

For both engineered and solid hardwood, you should get a good warranty, including lifetime coverage. In most cases you can expect 30 to 50 years for engineered hardwood and 50+ years for solid planks.

Just ensure you know what is required on your end for the warranty to take effect. This can be anything from professional installation, to annual inspections. Keeping your warranty intact and active is your responsibility.

At A Glance

How does engineered and solid hardwood compare? We take a quick-look at both options on several factors in the chart below.

Note that the warranty and costs listed are national averages across all brands. Your specific costs and warranty coverage may vary greatly from what is listed here, based on local and personal factors.
TypeBoard SizesInstallation MethodsWarrantyCost
Solid Hardwood12 to 84 inchesFloating, glue-down50 years to lifetime$8 – $15 per sq. ft.
Engineered Hardwood12 to 60 inchesNail, glue down, floating20 to 40 years$3 – $12 per sq. ft.

Where to Buy Hardwood Flooring

where to buy hardwood flooring

Once you have made a final decision between solid and engineered hardwood, you need to find where to go to make your flooring purchase. This will vary by brand and type, of course. But, it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Both solid and engineered hardwood options can be found in any local flooring dealership. Which brands and which styles will vary by dealer though. However, for most high-end brands you will find their products only in local dealerships.

For mid-range and lower-end products, you can shop in home improvement stores like Home Depot, or Lowe’s. Online shopping at sites like Amazon or even brand websites are also possible. If you find you are having trouble finding a particular brand or style you have a couple of options.

Your first option is to go to the brand’s website. Most sites will have a dealer locator page where you can enter your city or zip code to find local retailers that carry their products. If this isn’t sufficient, you can always contact the brand’s customer service to get personal assistance with a buying location.

Professional Installation

If you don’t have the time, desire, or tools to perform the installation yourself, you don’t have to. Professional installation is available for any flooring type. With hardwood, it is almost expected (and in some cases required).

The hard part will be locating a reliable and local dealership to perform the installation. Not only do you need to get at least three estimates but you need to ensure the contractor is licensed, bonded and has a reputable background.

You can do this all on your own, of course, or you can allow us to help. We have partnered with Networx, a company with 20 years working with contractors and building a database just for you.

By using our free finder tool, you can get results of local, licensed and background checked professionals. The results will give you amazing contractors that you can contact directly to get your estimates and quotes on your schedule. 

Frequently Asked Questions

faq solid vs enginered hardwood flooring

In this section we will cover the most commonly asked questions about engineered and solid hardwood flooring. As always, if you have questions of your own that aren’t listed here, please use the comment section below.

Q. How long do engineered hardwood and solid hardwood floors last?

  1. The average longevity of hardwood will depend a lot on the initial quality, care and maintenance regimen and other local conditions. However, on average, engineered hardwood should easily last 20 to 30 years and solid hardwood can last well over 50 years.

Q. Can you tell if the flooring is solid or engineered hardwood?

  1. If you move into a new home that already has hardwood flooring, you can’t always easily tell if it is solid or engineered. However if you can get access to the edges of the planks, either by finding a transition or pulling a plank up, you can tell by examining the side of the plank. Engineered hardwood has multiple layers, usually four, where solid hardwood will not have any layers (except for the underlayment).

Q. What color hardwood floor is best for resale value?

  1. Darker colors are generally regarded as having a higher resale value in home’s across the country. Darker hues and tints on sealants and boards allow for more color combinations and décor options than the lighter tones and yellow tinted solutions provide.

Q. Do engineered hardwood floors scratch easily?

  1. All hardwood, solid or engineered, is susceptible to scratching. However, hardwoods aren’t as likely to show scratches or damage for a long time. When the creatures or damage are more noticeable, you can resurface both options at least one time. 

Conclusion

Choosing between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood can be a difficult choice. However, it may not be as bad as you think.

For example, if you have a smaller or tighter budget, engineered hardwood is a better choice. It offers the same benefits as solid hardwood in most situations and is less expensive. It does have some drawbacks but the cost savings and ease of installation are a huge consideration factor.

On the other hand, solid hardwood has a high resale value, adds value to your home, and looks great in almost any room of the home. It does cost more, but it will last longer, and can be resurfaced more often. In the end, the choice is yours, and either one will serve you well.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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