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  Engineered & Solid Wood Flooring




Engineered hard wood flooring is made up of a hardwood veneer surface or wear layer, and is glued to a plywood base. This plywood base is constructed of multiple layers of wood which can be of the same or different species, glued together in a cross-hatch configuration. This cross graining provides dimensional stability, minimizing the expansion and contraction that solid wood exhibits when exposed to varying moisture levels and temperatures. Because engineered flooring is a stable product, less labor and material is required to install it properly, thus lowering the cost of installation.


The quality of an engineered hardwood floor can be determined by looking at two major factors: the thickness of the wear layer and the construction of the substrate to which the wear layer is adhered.


The wear layer should be at least 3/16 of an inch thick to offer the same re-sanding possibilities as solid wood. To cut costs, many companies are manufacturing floors with a 1/16 of an inch wear layer, which is ok in a perfect world, but that isn't ours. At some time, it will probably need to be sanded and well, you can't, and you're stuck with the cost of replacing the floor.


There are two approaches in building a substrate for a wear layer and that is, the use of plywood or laminated backing which is called "Engineered flooring" and the other, which is similar, but different is "Solid core flooring".


Engineered wood floors can be produced with as few as 3 ply (layers) or as many as 9 ply (layers). For maximum stability with a 3/16 wear layer, there should be a minimum of 5 ply. Keep in mind, engineered flooring is only as good as the processes used to manufacture it. Producers of inexpensive flooring are notorious for passing substandard plywood boards with a veneer as authentic engineered hardwood floors. These cheap boards are made with poor quality glues and processes, resulting in a product that may start to unravel layer by layer after installation. I am repairing and removing these floors all too often, which is an unexpected expense and inconvenient to say the least.


Solid core flooring offers maximum stability, which is especially important for wider planks in climates that are dry or vary from dry to moist quickly. The solid core floor is constructed with three layers of wood. The top layer or wear layer is the same species and thickness as the bottom layer and in the center is the core, and that species of wood varies. The most important aspect to this construction is the dimensional stability that is achieved through having the same wood on top as is on bottom and a core barrier with a dissimilar and stable species.



Solid flooring

Both solid hard flooring and solid soft wood flooring, such as pine and fir, have been around since Adam, and there is no mystery about it, God made it and this is how it works. Unfortunately most companies are in such a hurry to make a buck that they rush the process or never took the time to learn how to work with real wood properly.


Solid flooring costs less than engineered flooring because the manufacturing of the board was in the hands of God, as the tree slowly grew to maturation, leaving only the harvesting, drying and milling for flooring to man. Doesn't seem too difficult, but it gets screwed up all the time, basically by rushing things, thus lessening woods' strength and stability. When it comes to milling, especially with wider boards, it becomes necessary to center cut which is an old European standard and few employ. My favorite mill and have worked with them for years, because they hold fast to high standards, is Carlisle flooring. I have installed many of their floors, and there wood has always met my expectations, it's just nice to work with quality material.


Solid flooring costs less than engineered flooring because the manufacturing of the board was in the hands of God, as the tree slowly grew to maturation, leaving only the harvesting, drying and milling for flooring to man. Doesn't seem too difficult, but it gets screwed up all the time, basically by rushing things, thus lessening woods' strength and stability. When it comes to milling, especially with wider boards, it becomes necessary to center cut which is an old European standard and few employ. My favorite mill and have worked with them for years, because they hold fast to high standards, is Carlisle flooring. I have installed many of their floors, and there wood has always met my expectations, it's just nice to work with quality material.


Many installers don't have the knowledge to glue down ¾ inch solid boards to concrete, and in installation manuals, it is advised against, but with newer technologies of epoxies and adhesives, I have had only success. It does take more work and the material used to install solid flooring does cost more but most importantly, solid flooring needs to be installed by a contractor who has experience with solid glue down installations.


So if the wood was harvested, dried, milled, acclimated and installed properly, you have a timeless beautiful floor that will last for generations to come.


There is more skill and time needed for the correct installation of solid flooring in comparison to engineered, but the cost differential is usually a wash, when you take into consideration the lower cost of solid flooring product and the lower cost for the installation of engineered hardwood flooring. Sometimes there is no choice when you fall in love with a species of wood and it's only available in solid, which is usually the case for exotics, reclaimed wood and softwoods. The other benefit of solid over engineered is when you opt. for rustic grade wood, veneers don't cut it, large knots don't do well and cracks have to be filled, which takes away from the natural look.