Solid Versus Engineered and Wear Layers
You’ve got the species and color picked out, so what’s the difference between solid and engineered flooring? Some people say they want “real wood” flooring, but the fact is both are “real wood”.
With solid, the only real wood you can use is above the nail head that secures the wood flooring to the sub-floor. This is typically 6 MM or 7 MM.
Many engineered floors have thicker wear layers (3 MM or 4 MM) and you can sand and finish them just the same as solid. A good rule of thumb is that you will take off about 1 MM when you sand and finish.
Granted, the solid can be sanded more, but how often do you really need to sand and finish? With the current technology, the factory finish is far superior (7 to 9 coats of aluminum oxide UV Urethane) and much more wear resistant than a “job-site” finish (typically 2 to 3 coats) Further, if you begin to get wear on the urethane, it may only necessitate “recoating” the finish. Sand and finish would only be necessary if you want to change the color or for severe wear and damage.
Interestingly, the engineered wood is more dimensionally stable that solid. All wood will expand or contract when its moisture content changes from moisture in the subfloor or with the relative humidity in your home. Wood will expand or contract much more in the width than the length. With the cross-grain construction of the engineered products, that tends to hold the same dimension and makes it far less likely to change dimension or cup with seasonal changes.
So, does the engineered wood flooring look like plywood? Used to be the case when we used the same process to make the veneer (Rotary Peeled). Now, most engineered hardwood flooring is produced using a sliced or dry sawn cut veneer which looks exactly like solid.
It’s really your decision. Some will still prefer the solid and many will elect to use engineered.