Hardwood Floors vs. Engineered Floors

We crawl and then walk on them, we flow from room to room on them, and we even dance over them at times. We’ve always used wood flooring to add warmth and charm to our houses, and we do today.

The oldest flooring was wood, mainly old-growth pine that was denser than today’s woods, thanks to the abundance of timber in the New World. These floors were usually left unfinished and swept clean, only to be burnished by foot traffic. Varnishes and rugs were only used in wealthy homes because they were too expensive for the common homeowner.

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, wood floors were only supporting acts for the real stars of the show: carpets which had become more accessible due to manufacturing advances, and linoleum, which was introduced in 1864.

However, in the late 1800s, wood floors became a focal element of the “hygienic” home because they were easy to clean. Wood became a popular flooring option, and parquet borders and medallions became popular in more affluent homes.

The widths and grades of wood flooring began to be regulated in the early 1900s, and oak, maple, fir, and yellow pine were the most popular choices for floors.

When plywood, synthetic fiber carpeting, and vinyl floors were introduced in 1949, wood flooring reached its pinnacle. In the 1960s, this and another newcomer, engineered flooring, dominated the market. Solid wood flooring was once again fashionable in the 1980s, and its popularity continues to grow. However, demand for its cousin, the engineered floor, has increased as well. So, how do these two flooring options stack up against each other?

Let’s take a look at what Toowoomba’s floor sanding professionals have to say.

Hardwood Flooring

Solid hardwood flooring is one solid piece of wood sawn from a log, as the name implies. The normal thickness is 34”, although 5/16′′ and 12” thick variants are also available. Older homes frequently feature even larger boards—floors as thick as 11/8′′ can be seen in homes built before 1850. Solid hardwood is available in three different cuts.

Plain-sawn has a flame pattern and is cut straight across the log with rings 30 degrees or less to the face of the board. It was extensively used in buildings built between the early and mid-twentieth centuries and was often made of 2′′ to 3′′ red oak. Quarter-sawn shows the growth rings of the wood at a 60- to a 90-degree angle, as well as some flecks, and is cut after the board is divided into fourths. Prior to the early 1900s, it was the most prevalent cut, with white oak, walnut, maple, and chestnut being popular. Growth rings are visible at a 45- (and up to 60-) degree angle on rift-sawn boards, which are cut perpendicular to the grain. Its straight grain is frequently mixed in with quarter-sawn boards, and it came in the same species as quarter-sawn boards. Rift-sawn and quarter-sawn boards are noted for their stability when coping with moisture-related swelling and shrinkage; plain-sawn boards have more mobility.

The boards can have a square edge, which makes a smooth surface with no gaps between boards, or a beveled edge, which creates a rustic aesthetic with a groove between boards. The groove on a microplaned beveled edge is even narrower, yet it hides uneven planks better.

Hardwood Flooring Appearances

The breadth of hardwood flooring varies. Wide-plank flooring is 8′′ to 12′′ wide and was popular in homes built before 1850. It provides rooms a more rustic, domestic appearance, which is appropriate for colonial homes. Plank flooring, which became popular after 1850, comes in sizes ranging from 3′′ to 8′′. Strip flooring is the tiniest option, with widths ranging from 112” to 3′′. This width gained popularity in the early twentieth century and has the ability to make a room appear larger.

Engineered Flooring

Engineered flooring is made up of layers of hardwood and plywood that are heated and pressed together to form a sandwich. The top layer, which you can see, is a hardwood veneer that is 1/16′′ to 1/8′′ thick. A plywood core lies beneath the veneer, with each ply sitting perpendicular to the other to offer the flooring strength and stability, as well as reduce the flooring’s susceptibility to expansion and contraction. Engineered flooring can contain as few as three plies or as many as 12 layers, with the more layers, the higher the floor’s quality. Most boards contain five layers on average.

Engineered Flooring Appearances

It’s tough to tell the difference between solid wood and an engineered floor once they’ve been installed because of the veneer. (Engineered and solid wood floors are interchangeable in the wood flooring market.) However, before engineered flooring is laid, the plies are visible from the side.


In the proper situation, an engineered floor may offer all of the benefits of solid wood flooring to a room in the house where you previously couldn’t use wood. Solid wood is the most robust, long-lasting, and historically appropriate alternative for any old-house space, even though engineered flooring is a suitable choice for basements or over concrete slabs.