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Hardwood Flooring Solid vs Engineered


Hardwood Flooring

Home | Cuts | Solid vs. Engineered | Installation Methods | Glossary

Solid vs. Engineered

There are two types of hardwood flooring. Solid and Engineered. Both are comprised of 100 % real wood. Both are offered with factory finish or can be finished on the job site. And both can be refinished and that is where the similarity stops.

Solid wood: When manufacturer talks about a solid floor, they are referring to a � inch thick piece of solid wood. Although solid floors are available with a factory finish, they can also be finished on the job site. They can be installed on or above grade and not on a slab. The wood is generally nailed to a plywood subfloor.

One thing to keep in mind is that solid floors may not perform well in area of high humidity or areas with large temperature changes. Because solid flooring is a � inch thick section of a tree, it responds to water and moisture like a tree. If the air is hot and humid, the floor will soak up moisture causing it to swell. When the air dries out, the floor will shrink, leaving gaps in between the boards. The wider the boards the bigger the gaps and more likely it will “cup”. So most solid wood floors are either 2 � inches wide or 3� inches wide. For this reason, solid wood flooring is most common in areas with low humidity such as the North East and Midwest. One of the reasons why people generally like solid hard wood floors is because they are traditional and can be sanded many times. If they are finished on the job site, they are relatively easy to sand and refinish. Also it is possible to achieve a true square edge profile with sand and finish floor versus prefinished ones. On the downside, is a solid wood floor is finished on job site; it can be difficult to imagine a true color until the job is done. In addition, installation can take a longer time as each layer of finish must dry before the next coat is applied.

Engineered wood: The PT boats that were used in World War II were actually constructed out of several layers of wood, with each graining facing in the opposite direction of the layer above or below it. It was this concept that gave birth to engineered wood flooring. To better understand this concept of cross-piled wood, let’s look at the basics. A tree uses its roots to take water from the ground and delivers it to the leaves using straw-like cells to move the water up to the trunk. These cells get plumper when they are full of water and shrink when they are dry. Just as these cells change with moisture in a tree, they will also change with moisture within a floor. By stacking veneers with these cells facing in opposing directions, no one layer can grow or shrink too much in any direction. Because engineered floors can handle a certain amount of moisture from the sub-floor, they can be installed anywhere in the house; on, above, or below grade, one concrete or plywood subfloors with glue, nail or even by floating.

Most engineered floors are finished at the factory, so they generally have aluminum oxide in the finish. Aluminum oxide is the hardest manmade crystal in the world and therefore adds years to the finish warranty. As for sanding and refinishing, an engineered floor can be sanded about twice depending on the thickness of the wearlayer. The aluminum oxide, however, makes it very difficult to actually sand the finish off.

The finishing touch: Lasting beauty requires minimal care with today's wood floor finishes. The most popular finishes today are surface-finishes because they are durable, water-resistant and require minimal maintenance. They most often are referred as polyurethanes and remain on the surface of the wood to form a protective coating. There are several types of surface finishes:

Oil-Modified finishes are easy to apply. It is solvent-base polyurethane that dries in about eight hours. This type of finish ambers slightly over time and is also very durable.

Moisture-Cured finishes are solvent based and more durable and more moisture resistant than other surface finishes. Moisture-Cured finishes are generally available in stain or gloss. These finishes are extremely difficult to apply, have a strong odor and are best left to the professionals.

Conversion varnishes have an extremely strong odor and should be applied by the highly skilled flooring professionals.

Water-based finishes are clear, non-yellowing and very durable. They have a milder odor and dry in about two to three hours.

Penetrating stain and wax soaks into the pores of the wood and hardens to form a protective penetrating seal. The wax gives a low-gloss satin sheen. They are durable but will show spots from water and other contaminates. They are generally maintained with solvent based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids (specially made for wax-finished wood floors).

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. These finishes rarely are used in residential applications. They most often are used in very high traffic areas in commercial settings such as malls and restaurants.

Modified On 9/8/2014 11:00:00 PM
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