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Hardwoods: Engineered vs. Solid

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So what’s really the difference between engineered and solid wood? Here a few key points to keep in mind next time you shop.


  • Engineered is more structurally sound
  • Better for areas of the country with higher moisture content
  • Good for installing over concrete substrate
  • Made up of layers
  • More sustainable option

Taking a deeper dive into engineered hardwood, there are three ways to achieve the veneer on an engineered product:

  1. Rotary peel – this is the most cost effective option because the wear layer is so thin it can’t be refinished. South Cypress does not offer any rotary peel engineered options.
  2. Sliced face – which is a step up from rotary peel, and you can get up to a 3mm wear layer with this option.
  3. Sawn face – these options come as thick as you’d like (up to 6 mm), making it the most comparable option to a solid hardwood from a refinishing standpoint.

Engineered products may be a much more sustainable option, especially when you are looking for a more exotic wood finish since the veneer requires less material.

You may be curious about why engineered products have such varying price points. Two things drive the price of engineered: 1. Wear layer thickness and 2. Length of boards. Everything we sell under the South Cypress brand has a solid wear layer and a board length of 6ft. or longer. So, consider more than just the price when looking at engineered hardwoods – a 4ft. board length can look very choppy when put into a large space.

Take a look at some of our beautiful and high-quality engineered hardwood HERE.

Solid Wood:

  • Single piece of wood (no layers)
  • Flexibility for future refinishing – can be refinished an average of four times

Solid hardwoods can either be:

  • Rift & quartered (or quarter sawn) – a more expensive hardwood option, quarter sawn lumber is made when logs cut into four quarters lengthwise then radially sawn. Quarter sawn hardwood yields boards with straight grain lines and also has greater stability in form and size.
  • Plain sawn – the most common type of solid hardwood flooring, and the most inexpensive to manufacture. Plain sawn lumber is cut parallel through logs so that the rings in the timber are less than 45˚ with the faces if the boards produced.

Solid hardwoods are rated as select, number one, number two, and character or cabin-grade based on the knots, exposed graining and imperfections – with select having the smoothest, most “perfect” appearance.

Check out our great selection of solid hardwood.

For more information on hardwood, read this blog post about the basics you need to know before making a purchase decision, check out Hardwoods 101: The Basics You Need to Know.

Which one is right?

When determining which is the right option for your project, first consider the environment. If the space in which you’re installing has high moisture content or concrete subfloors, engineered hardwoods are a great choice. These floors are made up of layers which greatly improve the dimensional stability making them both a more structurally sound and sustainable option. Also with engineered hardwoods, you can have a wider plank since the layers are able to breathe and moisture can be controlled.

Always consider refinishing when you look at engineered hardwood flooring. The critical element here is the thickness of the wear layer which will be specified on all engineered products. The refinishing process will typically remove between 0.75mm to 1mm of surface material. Therefore, engineered products with a wear layer of 1.5mm can be refinished once, whereas a product with a 6mm wear layer can be refinished up to 4 times. In comparison, ¾” solid hardwood products typically have a 6mm wear layer (i.e. the material above the tongue or groove) so an engineered product with the same wear layer can be refinished as many times as a comparable solid product. Your engineered hardwood flooring can certainly outlast your lifetime, and accommodate changing styles along the way.

Solid wood works well over plywood and may offer flexibility for future refinishing, especially over an engineered alternative with a thin wear layer. The best application for hardwood floors is over a basement rather than a crawl space since you have a controlled climate below the flooring. It’s best to install a dehumidifier if you’re installing hardwoods over a crawl space.



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