Solid hardwood and engineered hardwood are the two basic types of hardwood flooring.
Unlike solid hardwood that is made from a woodcut that has been milled into planks, usually three-quarters of an inch thick which gives you plenty of material to sand and refinish, engineered hardwood is made from multiple layers of wood bonded together under extreme heat.
The best way on how to tell if floors are engineered hardwood is by looking at the sides, using a mirror or using your finger tip. Other ways to tell includes its cost, durability and its moisture resistance.
There isn’t much of a striking difference between these two different types of wood, so here’s a full guide on how to tell if floors are engineered hardwood.
Read: Can engineered wood floor be refinished?
How to Tell if Floors are Engineered Hardwood
Table of Contents
Look at the Sides
A simple way to tell engineered wood apart from solid hardwood is to look at the sides of a loose plank. You can tell if it is engineered hardwood if there are layers of wood sandwiched together.
If it is one solid piece of wood with a continuous grain, then it is solid hardwood. This method is only applicable if you can pick up a loose plank; if the floor is already installed, you’ll need another method to tell the difference.
Using A Mirror
Look for lax spaces in the construction areas around cabinets, baseboards, and closets. These areas usually have cut boards fitted into tight spaces, which causes a small space to be left between the wall and the floor. With a mirror, you can get a closer look between the floor and the wall.
Use Your Fingertip
Engineered hardwood is usually finished with a baked-on aluminum solution that is baked on and unlike solid hardwood finished with polyurethane that can be dented with a fingernail, baked aluminum oxide typically cannot. So, press your thumbnail into an inconspicuous spot to tell if you have an engineered floor. This, however, isn’t a guaranteed test.
Read: How to fix engineered wood floor popping noise
Other Differences Between Hardwood And Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood is generally less expensive than solid hardwood, but this is usually dependent on the quality and species of wood you opt for. There is no definitive cost for any hardwood type; the price range varies greatly.
It costs anywhere between $3 to $14 to install engineered hardwood per square foot, but this price depends on the thickness of the plank thickness, hardness, and durability of the wood; solid hardwood floors, on the other hand, can cost between $8 and $15 to install per square foot.
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There are a variety of installation options available for engineered hardwood as they are less likely to buckle or react to heat. This means they can be installed above or below ground level. Solid hardwood, however, expands and contract over time, making them suitable only for above-ground-level installation.
There are a variety of ways to install engineered hardwood, and they can be installed in different spaces. This is the best option if you intend to install the floors yourself.
Most styles of engineered wood can be either glued or nailed down. You can also opt for a style where the planks are locked together without fasteners.
Solid hardwoods, however, require a longer installation process and are attached with a specific flooring nailer before sanded and finished. Sanding solid hardwood isn’t the easiest of jobs and is best left for a professional if you want a quicker and neater job.
Read: pros and cons of plywood flooring
Stability & Durability
Both types of hardwood offer similar durability and toughness, but solid woods still tops the list as they are inherently sturdier and are permanently nailed or glued to your subfloor.
However, when it comes to withstanding extreme temperatures, engineered woods have better structural stability, and the chances of the planks buckling are low.
This might be a benefit, but the durability of engineered wood isn’t comparable to that of solid woods; this is because the surfaces on these engineered types are quite thin, making them prone to chips over time.
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Engineered wooden have a higher stand when it comes to withstanding moisture. Engineered wood is made from a plywood base, making them less prone to moisture which causes the board less to flex or warp. Plywood consists of fibers that run in cross-wise layers, building their resistance to moisture.
Solid hardwood floors are not suitable for moisture-prone areas, which means they cannot be installed in areas like the bathroom or any areas that require regular mopping.
This doesn’t mean solid hardwood is completely helpless against moisture, it can withstand moisture, but this depends on whether the wood is pre-finished or site-finished. Site-finished wood is topped with a sealant that helps to absorb some moisture.
Read: Acacia wood flooring (what you need to know)
If you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint and sustain a positive environmental approach with products you consume then, engineered hardwood floors are more eco-friendly than solid wood.
Engineered hardwood is manufactured using a less wasteful process that requires less energy than most other flooring types.
This doesn’t mean that solid hardwood isn’t a sustainable option; you can simply opt for environmentally friendly solid wood, as long as it is purchased from a responsible supplier certified by the FSC (forest stewardship council).
Read: Pros and Cons of cork flooring
By now, you should know how to tell if floors are engineered hardwood as well as how to tell the difference between hardwood and engineered hardwood! Hopefully, these differences will make the selection of the right type of hardwood flooring a bit easier.