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  • Writer's pictureZack Jurkowski

Engineered Hardwood vs. Traditional Hardwood: Which Is Best for You?

Hardwood floors in a Montreal renovation

When it comes to choosing flooring for your home, hardwood is often the top choice for its timeless beauty and durability. However, within the hardwood category, there are two main types to consider: engineered hardwood and traditional (solid) hardwood. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for you will depend on various factors including your lifestyle, budget, and the specific needs of your space. Let’s dive into a detailed comparison to help you make an informed decision.

Understanding Engineered Hardwood and Traditional Hardwood

Traditional Hardwood

Traditional hardwood, also known as solid hardwood, is made from a single piece of wood. Each plank is typically ¾ inch thick and can be sanded and refinished multiple times. This type of flooring is known for its longevity and the ability to restore its surface to a new-like condition over time.

Engineered Hardwood

Engineered hardwood consists of a top layer of real hardwood veneer adhered to multiple layers of plywood or high-density fiberboard. This construction makes engineered hardwood more stable and less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity compared to solid hardwood.

Advantages of Traditional Hardwood

  1. Longevity and Durability: Solid hardwood can last for decades, even centuries, if properly maintained. The ability to sand and refinish it multiple times means you can restore its appearance if it becomes scratched or worn.

  2. Authenticity and Aesthetic Appeal: Many homeowners appreciate the natural beauty and authenticity of solid hardwood. Each plank has its own unique grain and character, adding warmth and elegance to any room.

  3. Increased Home Value: Solid hardwood is often seen as a premium flooring option and can significantly increase the resale value of your home. Potential buyers recognize the quality and longevity associated with this material.

  4. Versatility: Solid hardwood comes in a wide range of wood species, stains, and finishes, allowing for customization to match any decor style.

Disadvantages of Traditional Hardwood

  1. Cost: Solid hardwood is generally more expensive than engineered hardwood, both in terms of materials and installation.

  2. Susceptibility to Moisture and Temperature Changes: Solid hardwood can expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature, which can lead to issues like warping or cupping. This makes it less ideal for areas with high moisture levels, such as basements or bathrooms.

  3. Installation Challenges: Installing solid hardwood typically requires professional installation due to the need for nailing or stapling the planks to a subfloor. This can add to the overall cost and time required for installation.

Advantages of Engineered Hardwood

  1. Stability and Versatility: Engineered hardwood is more stable than solid hardwood, making it less prone to warping or cupping. Its construction makes it suitable for a variety of environments, including areas with higher humidity like basements and bathrooms.

  2. Ease of Installation: Engineered hardwood often features a click-lock installation system, which allows for floating floor installations. This makes it a popular choice for DIY projects and can reduce installation costs.

  3. Cost-Effectiveness: Engineered hardwood is typically less expensive than solid hardwood. Its multi-layer construction uses less of the actual hardwood, making it a more cost-effective option without sacrificing the look of real wood.

  4. Eco-Friendly Options: Some engineered hardwood products are made using sustainable practices and materials. The plywood base uses less hardwood, which can make it a more environmentally friendly choice.

Disadvantages of Engineered Hardwood

  1. Limited Refinishing: While some engineered hardwood can be sanded and refinished, it depends on the thickness of the top veneer layer. Thinner veneers may only allow for one or two refinishes, whereas solid hardwood can be refinished multiple times.

  2. Potential for Quality Variations: The quality of engineered hardwood can vary significantly between manufacturers. Lower-quality products may not last as long or perform as well as higher-end options, making it important to do your research and choose a reputable brand.

  3. Perception of Value: Some buyers may perceive engineered hardwood as being of lower quality compared to solid hardwood. While this perception is changing as more people recognize the benefits of engineered options, it’s something to consider if you plan to sell your home in the near future.

Key Considerations When Choosing Your Flooring

  1. Location and Environment: Consider where the flooring will be installed. For areas with high moisture levels, such as basements, bathrooms, or kitchens, engineered hardwood is usually the better choice due to its resistance to humidity and temperature fluctuations. Solid hardwood is best suited for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms where these conditions are more stable.

  2. Budget: Your budget will play a significant role in your decision. While solid hardwood may have a higher upfront cost, its longevity and potential for refinishing can make it a worthwhile investment. Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, offers a more affordable initial cost and ease of installation, making it a practical option for those on a tighter budget.

  3. Lifestyle: Consider your lifestyle and the level of wear and tear your floors will endure. Families with children or pets may benefit from the durability and easy maintenance of engineered hardwood. If you prefer a classic look and the ability to refinish your floors multiple times, solid hardwood might be the better option.

  4. Aesthetic Preferences: Both engineered and traditional hardwood come in a variety of wood species, finishes, and styles. Whether you prefer the unique grains of solid hardwood or the wide plank designs available in engineered options, there is something to match every aesthetic preference.

  5. Maintenance: Both types of hardwood require regular maintenance, such as sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth. However, the ability to refinish solid hardwood gives it a slight edge in long-term maintenance, allowing you to keep it looking new for many years.

Conclusion: Making Your Choice

Ultimately, the choice between engineered hardwood and traditional hardwood comes down to your specific needs, preferences, and circumstances. Here’s a quick recap to help you decide:

Choose Traditional Hardwood if:

  • You value the authenticity and unique character of solid wood.

  • You plan to stay in your home long-term and want flooring that can be refinished multiple times.

  • You have a higher budget for both materials and professional installation.

  • The flooring will be installed in a stable environment with low humidity.

Choose Engineered Hardwood if:

  • You need a more budget-friendly option without compromising on the look of real wood.

  • You want flooring that can handle moisture and temperature changes, suitable for basements or bathrooms.

  • You prefer the ease of installation and potential for DIY projects.

  • You’re looking for eco-friendly options and materials.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that enhances the beauty and functionality of your home for years to come. And remember, whether you choose engineered or traditional hardwood, investing in high-quality flooring is always a smart move that adds value and appeal to your living space.

If you’re still unsure or need professional advice, don’t hesitate to contact a flooring expert who can guide you through the selection process and ensure you choose the best option for your home. Happy flooring!


Montreal Contractors is a qualified company, holding an active bonded license as a General Contractor and Specialized Contractor with the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec (RBQ License: 5767-5480-01), ASP Health & Safety Certification and a $2M liability policy. Our employees have all passed background checks, are registered with CNESST and have their ASP Health and Safety certification.

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