Solid or engineered floorboards… which should I choose?

Solid or Engineered? We get asked this question numerous times every day and there is no simple answer. The budget often drives the decision, but the look, speed and stability can also be factors to consider.

At Mint, we recently had to deal with this age-old question in the case of a duplex project, with one side choosing a solid floor and the other opting for engineered.

The layouts of each home are a mirror-image, and the end results are fascinating to say the least, and a great tool for comparison.

Comparisons

In terms of the basic specification for each side:

Solid

  • NSW Spotted Gum 130x19mm Select Grade
  • Installed over 19mm Plywood (over concrete and 200um Moisture Barrier)
  • Installed using secret nails, top nails and adhesive
  • Solid 285x32mm Treads and 190x19mm Risers for Stairs
  • All finished in Bona Traffic Finish

Engineered

  • 220x2200x15/4mm Mint Engineered Oak – Smoked and Limed
  • Installed over 19mm Plywood (over concrete and 200um Moisture Barrier)
  • Installed using secret nails and adhesive
  • Custom nosings used on stairs with flooring for treads and risers

As you can see, the install method was actually very similar on both sides. In terms of timing, the engineered was a slightly quicker install – no top-nailing required, and the boards are wider. However, the extra care required not to mark or damage the engineered boards makes the overall install time on each system quite similar.

Stairways

One area that differed was the stairs. Using solid treads and risers with the Spotted Gum allows for the end grain of the timber to be shown. Demonstrated below, this allows for the timber stairs to be a design feature of the stairway [image below]. By contrast,the engineered stair has a full stringer in place in order to hide the end grain of the engineered floor (stringer shown in second image, white stringer running along the edge of stairs). While both look great, this minor detail does take a little bit of forward thinking and planning with your builder or stair contractor.

Performance over time?

If we get the crystal ball out and try to gauge how each floor will perform, the similarities are again striking. As both floors are glued and nailed down, re-sanding shouldn’t be a huge issue for either.

While the engineered oak has a bevel to sand down and the overall thickness of the oak is slightly thinner, it would be expected that the oak would be more stable in terms of board shape over time. Suggesting that 2 or 3 sands out of a glue fixed engineered floor like this seems reasonable, putting it a sand or two behind the solid option, which may live through 4 or 5 sands in a lifetime.

The Spotted Gum is a denser timber, so we would also expect the damage to the solid timber to be less. However, while the applied Bona Traffic Finish is a top shelf product, it’s very hard to compete with multi-layer UV Lacquer finishes applied in a factory. So, I would put the solid ahead for dents and the engineered ahead for scratches when both are new. Of course, once the engineered board is re-sanded, its scratch resistance will be similar to that of the solid option.

So which one will it be?

As we can see, there are pros and cons to both floors – even without going into the 20% price increase when moving from Engineered to Solid. The important thing to note though is that the similarities in look and performance are contributed in a large part to the selected installation system of the engineered board. The use of secret nail and adhesive installations on T&G Engineered Boards is growing in popularity in Australia for good reason. The install time is quite fast, board flexing and bowing is easier to deal with, and certainty of re-sanding options are big pluses when deciding if this is the right product for you. Be sure to check with your flooring manufacturer before trying out any new installation system however, as each product can have slightly different install guidelines to follow.

So, in the end which do you prefer? For me it’s hard to go past the look of the Spotted Gum but I would certainly be more than happy to have either in my home. Especially if I had confidence in the longevity and quality of the products I had purchased.

To view the solid and engineered floorboard ranges and colour selections visit our showrooms or trade centre located in Caringbah and Surry Hills. You can also check out the Solid and Engineered range on the Mint Floors + Shutters website.

For more of your flooring questions answered visit the Mint Floors + Shutters blog, alternatively contact the Mint Floors + Shutters team.