The differences between solid hardwood and engineered hardwood in terms of function and form are pronounced. They are both stellar options for creating a beautiful, long-lasting floor. However, one of the biggest differences is actually in installation. Solid hardwood is going to take much longer to install but will give you many more options now and in the future. Engineered hardwood is easier and faster to install but limits your options.
Before you can even install your hardwood floor, it must first be acclimated to your home. The humidity in your home is likely different than the humidity in the warehouse or the delivery truck. That means that the wood could warp if you install it before acclimating. So, the wood will need to sit in your house for about a week before it can be installed. That’s standard for solid hardwood. However, engineered hardwood isn’t quite so clear. That depends on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers recommend that you acclimate their engineered hardwood; others suggest that’s not necessary.
So, if you’re looking to get a floor installed the day it arrives, you’ll need an engineered hardwood that doesn’t need to be acclimated. Every solid hardwood floor needs to be acclimated.
Sanding and Staining
You can buy your solid hardwood prefinished or unfinished. Unfinished hardwood planks are sanded but they might need to be sanded again once they’re installed. They’ll also need to be stained and finished once they’re installed. Prefinished Hardwood is stained and sealed in the factory. So you won’t need to do anything other than install it. All engineered hardwood is prefinished.
Perhaps the biggest difference between engineered flooring and solid hardwood is the necessity of a subfloor. To install solid hardwood, you need a subfloor that is typically made from wood. Engineered hardwood can be installed just about anywhere. When it is not affixed to the subfloor with nails, as you might for a concrete garage, it is said to be “floating.” That gives you greater versatility in installing. If you’re trying to turn an attic or a basement into a livable space, you might choose a hardwood floor to warm up the space. If you don’t have a subfloor installed, you’ll need engineered hardwood.
Ultimately, engineered hardwood is much faster to install but you can typically only sand and refinish it once or twice. You’re also limited to the options that manufacturers offer. Solid hardwood has dozens of options but it takes much longer to install.