Solid wood flooring is made of one piece of wood from top to bottom and can be used in any room that is on or above ground. One of the many benefits of solid wood flooring is it can be sanded and refinished many times.
Engineered wood floors are also made of real wood, but include multiple layers, with the top layer made of high-quality wood. Because engineered wood floors expand and contract less than solid wood flooring, they are ideal for basement installations. While this type of flooring can be sanded and refinished, it cannot be done as many times as solid wood flooring.
Engineered wood is a layered product made of an actual but thin slice of hardwood on top of a base of high-quality plywood.
Thickness can range from 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch. Standard widths are 3 1/4-inch, with plank sizes starting at 5 inches wide.
Most engineered wood floors are pre-finished, though some companies do make site-finished engineered wood flooring.
Sanding is one of the greatest differences between engineered and solid wood flooring. Engineered wood can be sanded but only once or twice lightly, before the thin upper layer wears away.
Engineered wood is easier than solid hardwood as you have a greater range of installation methods, including stapling or nailing, fold-and-lock, or glue.
Engineered wood is better than solid hardwood at dealing with moisture. Its plywood base is dimensionally stable, meaning that it warps and flexes less easily upon contact with moisture than solid wood. Fibers in plywood run in cross-wise layers, a far more stable structure than solid wood's parallel fibers.
While it is best to avoid any kind of organic material in kitchens, engineered wood can can be made to work with proper precautions. Powder rooms are fine. Engineered wood can be installed below-grade with a proper subfloor and as long as the basement has absolutely no moisture problems.
Solid hardwood and nothing but hardwood, a homogeneous product from top to bottom and side to side.
Thickness typically is 3/4-inch. The standard width begins at 2 1/4 inches wide. Plank width begins at 5 inches and can go up to 11 inches wide.
Pre-finished is increasingly the finish of choice for solid wood floors. Site-finished (also called unfinished) accounts for about 25-percent of solid hardwoods today.
Solid wood can be sanded numerous times. Eventually, solid hardwood will become too thin after years of sanding, compromising its structural integrity.
Solid wood flooring is nailed or stapled down. It is never installed on a floating basis.
Solid hardwood is never recommended for bathrooms, basements, or other areas where moisture is prevalent or even expected. Still, solid hardwood can resist some moisture. Site-finished wood flooring (as opposed to pre-finished), though, does have a sealed top layer that can shed some moisture.
Solid hardwood encompasses a greater range of wood hardness than engineered wood. Hardness ranges from extremely soft and appropriate only for utility areas (such as Douglas Fir for workshops) to extremely tough hardwoods (for example, Brazilian Walnut).
Solid wood works best in living areas, bedrooms, hallways, dining rooms. While it's wise to avoid solid wood in kitchens, installation can be acceptable if waterproof mats are placed near sink and dishwasher. You should avoid installing solid wood flooring in bathrooms, though would be fine in a powder room. Never install solid wood floor below grade, in basements.