Which is better: engineered or solid oak flooring?

Which is better: engineered or solid oak flooring?

If you’re looking for new oak flooring, there are two routes you can go down: solid or engineered. Which you opt for will depend on a range of factors.

There’s nothing like oak flooring to give a room character: that warm, natural appearance that even feels good under foot and exudes style. If you are thinking of installing new oak floors, there are two main options to consider: solid or engineered boards. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Solid oak flooring

Solid oak flooring is about as straightforward as flooring gets. It is simply made from planks of oak which have been cut – typically from a sustainable source – and sawn, before being both air and kiln dried. The result is highly attractive and long-lasting flooring that is comparatively cheap and environmentally friendly.

Engineered oak flooring

The engineered product typically uses around a quarter of the oak of solid flooring. Instead of a single plank, it is created by pressure-bonding a thin veneer of oak to a plywood base. This means that it looks exactly the same on the surface but has different physical properties. Broadly speaking, these boards are more stable than ones made from pure oak are.

Differences between solid and engineered oak flooring

  • Cost. Because of the extra steps and processes involved, engineered oak floors tend to be more expensive. However, the addition price can be worth it due to the advantages it brings.
  • Stability. As a natural material, oak is vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity. If there is a wide variation in these – perhaps in a damp room – the boards can shrink and expand. For this reason, solid oak flooring is not suitable in houses that have underfloor heating installed. Solid boards can ‘cup’ due to one side drying more than the other – you may have seen floors like this in an old house.
  • Ease of installation. Engineered boards can be made broader than solid ones due to this stability – cupping is not a problem. They are also easier to install, and can be fitted by somebody with reasonable DIY skills. Solid oak floors will generally require specialist installation.
  • Character. Although they look the same, there is no denying the fact that engineered boards don’t have the same appeal or character. Even the name ‘solid oak’ brings its own appeal. Because engineered flooring consists of a thin veneer of laminated oak, deep scratches can go down to the plywood layer.
  • Sustainability. Solid oak floors are a natural and organic option. The plywood layer of engineered floors adds another set of chemicals and processes.


The choice of whether to opt for engineered or solid oak flooring may be dictated for you, on grounds of cost, fitting requirements or stability. For example, if your home is subject to wide variations of temperature or a particular room is especially damp, them solid oak may not be suitable. Beyond this, however, even the advantages of engineered boards may not offset the intrinsic appeal of pure oak floorboards. They are such a simple and beautiful solution that there is no real substitute for them. It is this ‘X’ factor that may determine your choice, above any strictly pragmatic concerns.

This article was supplied by English and European oak flooring suppliers, Sutton Timber. Sutton Timber source hardwoods from privately owned woodlands and government forests across the UK and Europe.

1 Comment

  1. one
    Comment by liz@Dresses by Sherri Hill: Aug 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    I prefer solid Oak Flooring for my house. because they are cheaper, Eco friendly and long lasting.

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