Engineered vs Solid Wood Flooring - Main Differences

February 24, 2014

In real hardwood there are two main subcategories of real hardwood. There is solid hardwood and there is an engineered hardwood. We are going to present some differences between them and some examples of both.

Visual differences.

Solid wood floor plank is one piece of hardwood from the top to the bottom regardless the species.


The only way of seeing the difference between the solid and engineered flooring is to look at the cross section. From the top, just looking at the surface you can’t tell the difference. Even if you will add laminate to that comparison it still might be difficult to spot the difference, especially at first sight. You will have to look at cross section and see how the product is actually constructed.

Engineered hardwood is made of layers of wood. Typically 4-6 layers but can be anywhere between 4 and up to 8-9 layers. The top layer (and very often bottom layer) is made of real oak, walnut, maple, whatever the product is that top layer sellers and manufacturers referring to. The top layer vary in thickness, it can have different finishes, different textures.

Installation differences.

Solid hardwood is typically not installed over concrete subfloors – it must be nailed (or stapled) down to the wood sub-floor. There are some new glues on the market which are designed to glue solid hardwood floor to the concrete slab but they are quite expensive, new to the market and we do not recommend them.

With the engineered floor you have option in terms of how to install it. It can go down on a wood subfloor or a concrete subfloor. On a concrete subfloor you can actually glue it down direct. 

The other way to install over the concrete subfloor would be to float. You would actually glue the tongs and grooves together. Put the thin layer of glue on the groove side and put groove and tong together and float it over the underlay.

Third way of installing engineered flooring if you are on a wood subfloor is to nail down just like with solid flooring.

Sanding and refinishing.

With solid hardwood if you get deep scratch or something damages its surface you have an option of sanding and refinishing it, typically multiply times. This is one of the great benefits of this type of hardwood flooring. But you have to remember that if your solid wood flooring has a handscraped finish by sanding this handscraped effect will be gone.

Some engineered hardwood can be also sanded and refinished. It depends on the thickness of the top layer. But in general sending and refinishing of engineered wood flooring is not recommended.


Solid flooring is typically most expensive flooring product on the market. People consider it best of the best and there is no doubt about it. But there are things you need to consider when you’re buying solid floor. Because of the nature of the installation, because of shooting the nails in to a wood subfloor you do have the opportunity of seeing what we call cupping over time. Because changes in humidity and temperature in your home and in the area where you live you will see individual planks expanding and contracting. When they contract you will see the boards tend to come apart little bit. You will be able to see the gaps in your floor, when before that bevel was tight.

With engineered hardwood because of its layered properties, because it is not one piece of wood from the top to the bottom it has greater stability against changes in humidity and temperature.

Especially when you float the product and glue tongs and grooves together the floor will move and you will not see cupping with this product. 

For advice about the best wood flooring for your home feel free to contact the ESB sales team. Contact us now to request your no hassle no obligation free samples or come down to our North London showroom for a closer look. 

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