How to Choose Between Solid & Engineered Oak Flooring

The increasing popularity of real oak flooring comes as no surprise.

Homeowners are realising that the cheap laminate flooring solution they thought would bring cleanliness and beauty to their homes was exactly that – cheap!

There is simply no comparison in both look and feel between a real oak floor and a laminate copy.

However, there is now a choice to be made between solid oak flooring and engineered oak flooring and this article looks to provide the pros and cons for each.

Solid Oak Flooring

Solid oak flooring boards are cut and machined in one piece from an oak trunk or butt.

Depending on where they are sourced, the boards may be machined to produce a tongue and groove to aid fitting, may be grain end matched and may have stress grooves cut into the underside to limit warping.

Solid oak flooring is usually supplied unfinished so that the homeowner can apply any stains or dyes before sealing, however, some commercial brands stain and pre-seal their oak using polyurethane and then sell these boards as part of a colour range.

Pros

– When you are trying to match existing oak boards in a period property, there is no substitute for an unfinished solid oak board – you can age the board, colour match it and machine it to exact specifications.

– Solid oak boards do not contain any glues and are 100% natural

– Solid oak flooring will shrink and warp over the decades and become more mellow in colour with age – a true legacy for the future

– Solid oak flooring can be sanded as many times as necessary to refresh the surface

Cons

– Solid oak flooring is susceptible to changes in atmospheric moisture and humidity – it will shrink when dry and swell when wet.

– Only narrower solid oak boards, up to ~120mm wide, can be securely glued to concrete sub-floors – wider boards have a tendency to bow and lift away from the sub-floor.

– Very wide boards over 200mm should be screwed and plugged as well as secret nailed through the tongues.

Engineered Oak Flooring

Engineered oak flooring is a composite comprising boards with real oak veneer, bonded to a ply backing board – the oak veneer is usually a minimum of 6mm thick, allowing the floor to be sanded a number of times to refresh the surface.

Engineered floor boards are supplied in various forms with the more expensive boards made up of a single plank veneer and cheaper versions made up of oak strips.

Machined to produce either tongue and groove or click together boards, once laid, engineered oak flooring is virtually indistinguishable from solid oak.

Pros

– Engineered oak boards are very stable and can be laid over underfloor heating or in spaces where moisture levels vary, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

– Looks identical to solid oak flooring when laid

– Can be glued in any width

Cons

– Less environmentally friendly as boards are manufactured using glues

– Less authentic – sometimes it’s good to know that you are replacing like with like

You Decide

In summary, the key decision when choosing between engineered and solid oak flooring is where the floor will be fitted and more specifically, what the humidity levels of the room will be.

If there is any chance that the floor will be subjected either to water splash or excessive drying as with underfloor heating, then engineered oak flooring is the best solution.