Solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished again and again over several generations of use. Scratches, dents, stains or wear can be removed in this fashion, and the floor can restored to its original condition. Because solid wood flooring absorbs moisture, it naturally expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity. Installers allow for this by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall, and conceal the gap by adding base molding or quarter round where the floor meets the wall.
Because engineered wood flooring is produced by stacking several layers of hardwood in a cross-grain configuration and bonding them together under heat and pressure, it is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home. The cross-grain approach resists warping. Sanding of engineered wood floors is not recommended, as the top layer may only be 1/8th to 1/16th of an inch thick
Location, Location, Location
The location of your hardwood flooring basically falls into three categories:
- On Grade – at ground level
- Above Grade – any second level or higher
- Below Grade – any floor below ground level, including basements or sunken living rooms.
Traditional solid hardwood flooring is not recommended for below-grade installations, because of the increased likelihood of moisture.
The construction of an engineered hardwood gives it enhanced structural stability that allows it to be installed at any grade level.
Related to location, the nature of the subfloor can also influence your choice. If you are installing over concrete, engineered wood is the better choice. If the subfloor is plywood, wood, or OSB / smartply (Oriented strand board), then either solid or engineered wood can be installed.
Neither solid nor engineered wood are appropriate for areas where there is likely to be continuous moisture, like bathrooms.