©2018 by A French Address.

Hardwood vs Engineered Wood

June 5, 2015


When it came to the choice of flooring throughout the apartment it was an easy decision. It was always going to be hardwood floors. By investing in the property and trying to bring back its authentic charm, wood seemed the right choice since it was the original flooring installed at the time of construction. It was in the apartments DNA! With the exposed beams, the stones and the wooden window frames, a hardwood floor was also the obvious choice to keep in with the rustic, warm vibe we were after.


After deciding upon wood, we thought that was the *not so* hard decision made. But it turns out there is a vast array of choice when it comes to picking the right type of wooden floor for your property. 


The main choice we found ourselves making was between engineered wooden boards or solid wooden boards, and this was a decision we could have mulled over for a long time. Unlike solid boards, which (as you can guess) are made up of a single piece of wood, engineered boards are made up of several layers. The visible top layer is the ‘real’ wood, whereas underneath lies layer upon layer of plywood. As wood is a living material, it is normal for it to expand and contract due to changes in humidity and temperature. Engineered wood is therefore designed to avoid this with the plywood layers sandwiched together, thereby reinforcing the strength of the board. For this reason, engineered wood is especially recommended for humid areas or for underfloor heating systems. What’s more, it known for its simple installation method, with its tongue and groove systems that simply lock together (which whenever I describe I can’t help but imagine a big easy jigsaw puzzle). This is called a ‘floating’ system which is definitely simple enough to do without the help of a professional.


Solid hardwood floors however are solid planks of wood, which many believe have a rustic authenticity even the best engineered boards have trouble matching. Typically three quarters of an inch, the advantage of the solid board is its thickness, enabling the wood to be sanded and refinished many times throughout its life and yours. The two typical methods of installation are either nailing or gluing the boards down with a tongue and groove fixture, which is ideally done by a professional, or (like in our case) hardcore DIYers!


After some initial research, and depending on the type of wood and style you’re going for, we didn’t see too drastic a difference in terms of pricing, though from what we could see it did look like the engineered wood was the slightly cheaper option.


In the end we opted for the solid boards rather than the engineered boards for a number of reasons:


1. Just like the window frames, the boards had a ‘feeling’ to them which was more than just visual appeal. Perhaps as the solid boards are the ‘original’ hardwood floors, there was more of an emotional attachment to them;


2. As they were to be placed in the bedroom, living room and now the kitchen (the choice for which is outlined here), none of these areas are particularly humid or have drastic changes in temperature. So as long as we left a gap between the floor and the wall during installation to compensate for any boards contracting, we shouldn’t have too much of a problem;


3. We liked the idea that  we could sand the floor down numerous times depending on stains, chips, wears and tears, or even just for a change of colour or style. After all, we were looking at this entire renovation as a long term investment, rather than just a quick fixer upper;


4. The final reason which tipped us into team ‘solid’ was that, even after levelling, our floor was not 100% flat. We were worried that by using the engineered wood and its floating system, we could end up with a squeaky or hollow patch which would drive us crazy. By opting for hardwood and a gluing installation, we should be able to avoid this.


To be honest, in the end I think either would have been a good option for us. But in terms of the type of wood and the differing styles and length on offer, we preferred the visual impact of the solid planks. In addition, we were able to buy them in an untreated state, so once installed it would be up to us to sand them down and treat them with our choice of varnish. While naturally this meant  extra work, it also meant the price was noticeably cheaper than the finished, ready to install engineered options.


While I am certain there are fantastic engineered options out there, and even a trained eye couldn’t tell the difference, there was something about the solid planks that just oozed character and authenticity. Like the widows it seemed the natural choice for our space.


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