Two people standing on hardwood flooring

Which Hardwoods Stand the Test of Time?

When it comes to hardwood flooring, there are two types you can choose from: solid hardwood and engineered hardwood flooring. It is important to learn about the differences and similarities between them and the areas they can be installed. You may find pictures online of hardwood flooring that you like. However, unless you know a little more about what you are looking at, you may be wasting your time. Just because a certain type of flooring looks good doesn’t mean it will work for your needs or budget. Lets discuss the details of both types of hardwood flooring, but first, let’s discuss solid hardwood flooring.

Solid Hardwood Flooring

From the first homes in early colonial America to the homes we build today, solid hardwood floors have stood the test of time as homeowner’s top choice in flooring. Solid hardwoods add significant value to your home, are easy to clean, and will withstand the ever changing trends that come and go. There’s a long list of choices for color, texture and durability. From Douglas fir, maple, pine, hickory and oak to exotic species such as teak or Brazilian Walnut; you are sure to find a species of hardwood that compliments your style and maintenance needs.

Solid hardwood floors are the most expensive of the hardwood floor options. This, however, makes it have the largest impact on your home’s resale value.

Even though they are more expensive, solid hardwood flooring can be sanded and refinished over and over; making it an investment that pays off for years to come.

Hardwood Drawbacks

Even if solid hardwood flooring works well for your budget, let’s talk about humidity. Solid wood planks naturally expand and contract with humidity. Wood will expand in the summer and contract in the winter. If wood planks are installed too closely together, then the flooring can buckle as they expand during humid months. Proper installation is key to allowing this natural process and keep a level floor.

Wood’s natural relationship with humidity also impacts the areas where it can be installed. It is not recommended to have solid wood flooring in areas where water can cause damage; such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or basements. The other areas of your home can have solid wood flooring installed; as long as there is sub-flooring underneath to attach to. Solid hardwood should not be installed as a floating floor; as it is more susceptible to movement due to its natural need to expand and contract with humidity.

Questions to Ask…

Ask yourself a few questions when considering the wear and tear that your flooring will need to endure over time:

  • Do you have areas of high traffic in your home or a large dog whose nails could scratch your flooring?
  • What texture and finish is best for your needs and home style? A smooth, polished hardwood flooring will show more dirt spots than a textured, matte finish flooring.
  • Color: Does the contrast of dark flooring appeal to you? If minimizing the appearance of dirt or pet hair is important, than consider a light colored flooring.
  • Beveled edge: A beveled edge will allow dirt a place to hide. Some people may not like this feature, others may see it as a benefit. When dirt has a place to go, the flooring looks cleaner, longer. This dirt gets removed when swept. If hardwood flooring has a square edge, the debris stays on the surface, making it necessary to clean more often.

A hardwood that is light in color, has texture within the grain, and a slight beveled edge; will hide dirt more than a dark, smooth, polished flooring.

Which Hardwood is Most Durable?

The type of hardwood flooring that you choose should be based on the wood’s durability. Every species of hardwood has a ranking on the Janka Harndess Scale. This scale measures the force required to embed a steel ball, .444in diameter, halfway into the wood. The higher the ranking, the harder the wood and more scratch and dent resistant.

The Janka Hardness Scale

One might think that the hardest wood would be best for preventing dents, right? Not necessarily. The harder the wood, the more labor intensive it is to install; which will put a huge dent in your wallet! (That was a hardwood flooring joke!) However, it is true that the harder the hardwood, the better it will resist daily wear or scratches.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood is made up of layers of plywood; bonded together in a crisscross pattern, with a top layer of solid wood. Adhesives bond the layers together through intense heat and pressure; allowing the engineered flooring to not be impacted by humidity as much as solid hardwood flooring.

There is a layer of solid hardwood on top of the bonded layers of plywood. Depending on the thickness of this top “wear” layer, some engineered hardwood flooring can be sanded. However, due to the thin layer of wood on top, it cannot be sanded as much as solid hardwood floors; and some are too thin to sand. When looking at engineered hardwood; its important to look at a side profile to see the thickness of the wear layer. It can range from paper thin to 6mm thick. The wear layer is just as susceptible to dents and scrapes as a solid plank of wood is. This is when it’s important to be familiar with Janka Hardness Scale. The harder the top wear layer, the more resistant it will be to dents and scratches.

Is Engineered Hardwood Flooring Less Expensive and More Durable?

The pricing of engineered hardwood is dependent on a few factors:

  • the thickness of the top wear layer
  • the type of wood species that you choose
  • the plank size
  • adhesive quality
  • installation costs

Depending on the thickness and type of hardwood on the top layer; the cost of engineered hardwood can actually be more expensive than solid hardwood flooring. If you choose an engineered product that has a very thin “wear” layer, it is more likely be less expensive. However, you would not be able to refinish it as often or even at all.

To sum this up, both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood flooring are wonderful flooring choices. Both will add a timeless warmth to your home that you will be able to enjoy for years to come. It’s important to talk to your local flooring installation experts. Discuss your specific installation needs, the costs involved and the best options for your home.

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