Hard Wood vs. Engineered Wood floor

Getting a new floor to replace a 3/4 inch hardwood floor. Contractor was very big on going with ‘engineered’ wood instead of hard wood.

Price range needs to be low, basically $5.04/unit (forgot if it is square feet or what, prob. square feet).

Pros and cons on the two types?

We have engineered wood in our kitchen dining/entry ways (high traffic). We also live in a very wet/snowy climate and have a gravel driveway. And have two big energetic dogs.

We got it 4 years ago, and the stuff seems pretty indestructible. We do NOT take care of it aside from a little vacuuming and wipe it up with warm water once a month or so. Wet snowy boots get tracked across it daily in winter, and I rarely bother to wipe up any water.

Make sure you know how think the “wear layer” is. This is the top layer that you need to sand to refinish. You want it to be as thick as possible so you can refinish it as needed later on. Engineered wood is best in areas where moisture is a problem, and a must if you have a slab floor. As far as looks go, you usually can’t tell the difference.

I was very close to getting an engineered floor for my renovated first floor, because of the price difference, but ended up going with 3/4" x 5" solid cumaru instead. The price was really good via BuildDirect, much better than even Lumber Liquidators. I was nervous about using an internet company on 1200 square feet of flooring, but I paid with a credit card that has great consumer protection built in, and threw caution to the wind. I was so glad I did. Cumaru has one of the hardest ratings for a hard wood, and it’s holding up extremely well with my dog.


Anyway, if you’re considering getting hand scraped wood (the wavy flooring that is so popular now), you might as well go with engineered because you can’t refinish it without losing that texture you paid dearly for. Otherwise, get the 3/4" solid wood only if you plan to be in the house long enough to refinish it.

Both have pluses and minuses. A 3/4 nail down is overall a superior product.

A good engineered wood can be refinished 3 times before you sand through the top layer. It will not take stain well however so you shouldn’t try to change the color when refinishing. Engineered wood stands up to moisture better, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune. Engineered tends to be louder in the room it’s in but quieter in rooms below.

I fixed up half the basement a few years ago. I wanted an “oak” floor. There were three options:

  1. Solid hardwood flooring (3/4").
  2. Engineered hardwood flooring.
  3. Vinyl plank flooring.

I didn’t choose #1 for two reasons: a) solid hardwood flooring is very expensive, b) basements tend to be damp, and solid hardwood flooring has a tendency to warp in a damp environment.

#3 would have been a good, practical choice. But I wanted “real” wood. So I went with #2. It turned out very nice. Each plank is 9/16" X 5" with a 4 mm wear layer.

Some advice if you go with engineered hardwood flooring:

  • Make sure the subfloor is in good shape.

  • When choosing the flooring material, look at the thickness of the wear layer. Most engineered hardwood floors have a 1 mm (or less) wear layer. I installed flooring that had a 4 mm wear layer. I found it on the Internet, and it was actually cheaper than flooring sold by Lowe’s w/ a 1 mm wear layer.

  • Use the correct staples and staple gun. Most pneumatic staple guns are too big for engineered hardwood floors, and they end up splitting the wood. I ended up buying a staple gun from the online flooring retailer from whom I purchased the engineered hardwood floor.

How would they do solid H/W in a basement? Is you basement not a slab?

Underlayment on top of joists. It can probably be done with just underlayment. But it’s a dumb idea for a basement, nature abhors a dry basement.

I have substantial DIY experience with both, as well as with the Pergo-style plastic flooring.

In general, I prefer the solid, 3/4 TiG flooring. I feel it looks better, has more solid feel, and seems like a lasts forever product (in that it can be refinished repeatedly). Personally, I like the finish-in-place for the best overall look, as the prefinished has beveled edges which accentuate the individual pieces. But I sometimes have put in the prefinished when I didn’t want to deal with the finishing process. I have always suspected (but do not know) that the prefinished surface is more durable.

That said, engineered is a cromulent product, just not my first choice.

Plastic floors (in my opinion) are only OK for installation on a slab, and without going to the great lengths described by TriPolar, is ideal for slab installation. I have done a number of Pergo installs on slabs and they have done very well. On one floor the moisture test came back very poor (no standing water, but a piece of cloth on the floor would become noticably damp). The homeowner friend wanted to do it anyway. We put down 6mil plastic then the floor, and it hasn’t been a problem probably 8 years on. I do shudder to think what sort of nastiness is between the plastic and the slab.