Homeowners are frequently engaged in that old fight between timelessness and technology. One such example of this struggle is the choice between natural hardwood and engineered wood flooring. Each product has its pros and cons, and your choice should ultimately depend on the flooring’s intended use and surrounding environment. Read on to make an informed decision about natural wood versus engineered wood flooring.

What’s the difference?

Before you can make a choice between natural hardwood and engineered wood flooring, learn the basic differences between them. Solid hardwood flooring is exactly what it sounds like: planed and squared boards of natural hardwood. Natural wood flooring can be almost any species, but some popular choices are oak, maple and pine. Natural wood floor boards are generally thicker than engineered products.

Engineered wood flooring is comprised of plywood with finished wood veneer on top for beauty. Engineered wood flooring is differentiated from laminate flooring by core material. Both kinds of flooring have attractive wood veneers, but laminate flooring’s core material is typically resin and/or fiber board.

Traditional vs. Tech

The primary benefits of real hardwood flooring are durability and tradition. Natural wood floors can be stripped, sanded, finished, and polished many times before becoming thin enough to compromise their structural integrity. A well-maintained natural wood floor holds its value and gives the homeowner bragging rights. Natural wood floors require more upkeep, but in certain houses (such as historic homes), they are practically essential to the appearance and authenticity of the home. When properly maintained, they last generations.

Engineered wood floors have numerous modern benefits. They are considerably more resistant to humidity than natural wood floors. This makes engineered wood floors a good choice for kitchens, basements, and guest bathrooms or half-baths. They are also easier to install than traditional wood floors. Depending on the subfloor, engineered wood floors can be installed with adhesives or even simply snapped together using the tongue-and-groove system cut into them by the manufacturer. Natural hardwood floors usually must be installed the old-fashioned way with nails or staples. With engineered wood floors, homeowners must trade some durability for practicality. While engineered wood is quite durable, its laminated construction means it is more prone to chipping. Engineered wood floors cannot be sanded and refinished nearly as much as real hardwood because the thin veneer on top will eventually wear through and expose the plywood below.

At all costs

Many factors affect the cost of natural wood vs. engineered wood floors. Natural wood may range from inexpensive unfinished pine to pricey pre-finished exotics like black walnut. Engineered wood’s cost depends more on its construction. The thickness of the “wear layer” (top veneer) and the number of plies below make the price range of engineered wood flooring anywhere from $5-15/sq. foot. Cost plays an important role in determining which kind of flooring suits your project best, but both kinds of floors are comparable in price.

Sources: homerenovations.about.com; thisoldhouse.com  



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