Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Let’s talk flooring. When it comes to installing hardwood flooring in your home, there are so many options, making a decision can often feel like an overwhelming task. While style, colour and wood type may seem like the ideal place to start, there’s one important question you should ask yourself before you start to consider the finer details: engineered or genuine solid wood?
The Difference Between Engineered and Genuine Solid Wood
If you’re just at the beginning of your hardwood flooring journey, you may not realise that not all floorboards are created equal. Many people assume that when they buy floorboards, they’re buying solid, genuine timber boards. And you’d be forgiven for thinking this; many companies position their boards as ‘solid’ which, while semantically true, doesn’t paint the full picture. After all, all boards are solid if they’re not hollow!
The main difference between engineered boards and genuine solid wood boards is that engineered boards usually have multiple layers whereas genuine boards are one layer of solid wood. Engineered boards often have a thin layer of genuine timber (whether that be oak, teak, walnut etc) on top of ply layers made up of different woods.
Both genuine solid flooring and engineered flooring have their pros and cons, and depending on your personal requirements, one may be preferable over the other.
One of the main advantages of genuine solid flooring over engineered flooring is that genuine solid floorboards can be sanded and finished multiple times over its lifetime. For example, if you have genuine French Oak flooring installed in your home, you can re-sand and refinish it if it appears worn after years of use or just when you decide to change up your interior style a little. If you had an engineered oak floor though, you would likely need to replace the floor rather than re-sand and refinish it.
In fact, genuine solid wood flooring is known to last around 100 years, whereas a high-quality engineered floor would last a maximum of 40 years if it has been well cared for.
Since engineered hardwood is a manufactured product, these boards can come in wider and longer sizes than genuine solid hardwood. That said, there are a select few solid hardwood flooring suppliers in Australia who can provide long, wide and thick genuine boards because they source wood, sustainably, from a single-origin and from ancient forests (that includes Cheneoak by the way!). That does bring up another point too: even when choosing solid flooring, it is important to understand where that wood has come from to ensure quality and consistency (but that’s a story for another day!).
Genuine Solid hardwood flooring is less uniform than engineered hardwood flooring because it is 100% natural. It does therefore, come with natural charm and character that you don’t get with the engineered alternative.
Both types of flooring can come in a variety of colours due to the numerous finishing options meaning that whatever furniture or décor you choose, you’ll be able to find a hardwood option to suit.
Engineered boards are almost always pre-finished whereas solid hardwood can be installed and then finished.
When it comes to maintenance, both types of flooring require the same care; neither particularly like moisture and should be swept regularly to keep clean. It is often stated that engineered hardwood deals better with humidity due to swelling and warping but many high-quality solid hardwood suppliers treat their wood to ensure it is capable of handling humid Australian conditions. French Oak from Sydney flooring company Chêneoak, for example, is air and kiln dried for 12 months to help it withstand Australian conditions.
For many people, as with most things, the option they select is down to price. While engineered wood can be significantly cheaper than genuine solid hardwood, with the additional lifespan and value it adds to a home, genuine solid hardwood could be a better investment.
So, which should you choose?
Well, it really depends on your personal preferences. Solid genuine oak is filled with character, will last longer, increases the cost of your home but it is more expensive. Engineered oak on the other hand provides a uniform, cookie-cutter look at a lower cost.