We often have customers come in with a request to see our real wood floors. Many flooring options today emulate the look of wood flooring, causing confusion on what product is being purchased. As the authority for the wood flooring industry, the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) felt it was necessary to establish a clear definition of what comprises a true hardwood floor. Their official release was: "Any flooring product that contains real wood as the top-most, wearable surface of the floor."
So when customers come to see the real hardwood we explain the definitions of Solid and Engineered below.
Hardwood planks classified as “engineered” feature multiple layers (typically three to five) bonded together under extreme heat and pressure. You're still getting real hardwood floors; they're just made differently.
The layers typically include a top veneer of hardwood backed by less expensive layers of plywood—although some manufacturers use substrates made from recycled wood fibers mixed for improved durability and stability.
Because of the way engineered hardwood is processed, it is not as affected by humidity as solid wood planks are. Therefore, the product is often the preferred choice for kitchens and bathrooms or in areas where the humidity level can vary—like in a basement or a part of the house below grade, as long as a moisture barrier is placed between the subfloor and the hardwood planks.
They are also better suited for installing over in-floor heating systems.
Engineered hardwood floors are suitable for installation on all levels of the home and over plywood, wood, OSB and concrete subfloors.
Solid Hardwood flooring
As the name implies, it is solid wood from top to bottom. Each board of solid hardwood flooring is made from a single piece of hardwood that is about 3/4" thick. The thickness allows it to be sanded and refinished many times throughout the life of the floor.
Because the plank is a solid piece of wood, it will expand and contract in accordance with the home’s relative humidity. To prevent warping, the home’s interior relative humidity needs to remain between 35% and 50% all year round.
Solid hardwood flooring is available in a wide array of wood species—including oak, maple, and black walnut as well as regional-specific choices like pecan, mesquite and others. The market also sometimes offers exotic species of hardwood from Brazil, Africa and elsewhere.
A solid hardwood floor is permanently nailed to the subfloor. Because of the expansion and contraction issues, installers will normally leave a gap between the wall and the floor to accommodate swelling. This type of hardwood flooring should only be installed in parts of the home above grade and only over plywood, wood or oriented strand board (OSB) subfloors.
Real hardwood flooring, both solid and engineered, is a superior product that can withstand a busy family's lifestyles and provide great long-term value.