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Solid or Engineered Wooden Flooring

Would you even notice the difference between solid and engineered wood flooring. I doubt it. If its big wide planks you're looking for, then I would keep off solid wood flooring. Its just less hassle.

On top of all the other considerations when buying a wooden floor, i.e. what colour, what finish, which species etc etc, you are about to drive yourself truly mad with this final choice. Do I choose solid or engineered flooring ? First of all from an aesthetic point of view there will be absolutely no difference whatsoever. But from a technical point of view there is a huge difference, so let’s look at the main issues.

Most people think that if they are buying solid wood flooring, then they are getting better value for money because they’re getting more wood on the bone. Not so. The average solid wood floor is approx 20mm thick, but the amount of actual usable wood is only 6mm. That’s because you can only sand as far as the tongue. A 21mm Multi-floor has 15mm of plywood and also has 6mm of usable wood and, an engineered floor will have approx 4mm of usable wood. All more or less the same. So, what’s the main difference. Well, its all down to stability and whether you want to save the planet or not.

Without getting too technical, an engineered or multi floor is far less susceptible to seasonal changes than a solid floor and, is therefore much more stable and less likely to move, twist, bow or cup. Solid wood likes a very stable environment and quite frankly, that’s not likely to happen in England. But there’s another little known fact that could cause you a major headache, especially if you’re an installer. If your customer has requested solid wood flooring and its over 130mm wide, did you know that according to British Standards it should be ‘face nailed’ This means driving nails or screws through the top of the wood, as opposed to secret nailing through the tongue. Quite frankly I think that’s a stupid rule, because if a piece of oak wants to move, it has enough power in it to remove an entire wall, so a little screw isn’t going to stop it. I’ve heard that if you drill a hole in a rock, and put a piece of wet oak inside, it will expand enough to crack the rock open. Having seen oak floors expand, I can tell you it’s possible. We all know what damage the roots of a tree can do to a house. I know because my next door neighbours insurance company will sue me if I dont chop the two lovely sycamore tress in my garden down by the end of this month. Apparently they are the cause of subsidence at number 22. And to add insult to injury, I have to pay for it !

But we’re not finished yet with this engineered/multilayered versus solid rule, because wood is always going to move, and if somebody tells you that their floor wont move, then fine. Just get it in writing So, if you’re a private contractor fitting a solid wood flooring over 130mm wide and it goes wrong (which it probably will) you could easily have your carcass and good name dragged through the courts. And you will probably lose.

There is also the question of where the wood is going, and on to what type of sub-floor. If you have a concrete sub floor or if its going in a basement, then I would forget solid wood. In fact in the USA its actually illegal to fit a solid wood floor ‘below grade’. They can shoot you for such a crime. OK, it might not be illegal but its not recommended. You will almost certainly be fitting a floor in the presence of moisture, and it just wont be worth the headache in the long term. Likewise with under-floor heating. There are companies that profess to be able to install over UFH successfully, but the reality is very much different. Yes yes yes, there are always exceptions, but they are just that. Exceptions. However if its just a solid pattern floor that’s made up of small pieces in solid wood, then you should be OK.

There is perhaps one application where a solid wood floor might work perfectly. If you are looking for an antique or reclaimed floor, then you may want to use solid wood. An old reclaimed floor, or timber, will probably have a very low moisture content and therefore be reasonably stable. Other than that, I would keep off solid.