A Comprehensive Comparison of Engineered Wood vs. Real (Solid) Wood

When it comes to deciding between engineered wood and real, solid wood for your home, a few details can make all the difference. What’s more important to you – initial cost or long-term savings? How wide do you want your planks to be? How much time do you plan on putting into regular maintenance?

We’ll answer each of those questions. You’ll learn the definitions of engineered wood compared to real wood, along with the types and advantages of each. We’ll also look into the longevity, robustness, cost-effectiveness, aesthetics, ecological footprint and upkeep needs of both. Last but not least, we’ll provide you with some tips on deciding between these two materials for your living space.

The Basics of Engineered Wood and Solid Hardwood Planks 

Engineered wood and solid hardwood planks offer beautiful solutions that bring life to any room. Comprehending the distinctions between the two materials is imperative when selecting planks for your floors, walls, and ceilings. 

Where engineered wood consists of multiple layers bonded together under high pressure, solid wood is just as it sounds – solid, natural wood. 

Both woods come with a wealth of varieties when you want to upgrade your home or office, and understanding what makes them different can make or break a project. Having examined the basic difference between engineered wood and solid hardwood, let’s dive deeper into their construction, materials used, and overall appearance.

Construction of Engineered Wood vs. Solid Hardwood

As described above, engineered wood planks are built from multiple layers bonded together under high pressure. The top layer is a thin veneer made from real hardwood that gives it a similar look to solid, real wood. Underneath this veneer are several layers of plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF) which provide stability and durability.

In contrast, solid hardwood flooring and wall planks are made from single pieces of lumber cut to size. Real, solid wood offers unmatched natural beauty but may be more susceptible to warping – particularly when changes in humidity levels occur.

Materials Used in Both Types of Plank

Engineered wood:
Consists primarily of plywood or HDF layers topped with a thin veneer made from real hardwood species like oak, maple, or hickory. Provides extra stability and durability.

Solid hardwood:
Crafted entirely from one type of lumber like Red Oak, Ash, Maple, or Cherry without adding any synthetic materials during production.

While both engineered wood and solid hardwood planks offer the beauty of real wood, engineered options provide additional stability due to their multi-layered construction. The selection between these two types of material comes down to individual preferences, financial considerations, and the particular requirements of your home.

Speaking of financial considerations, the cost of engineered wood vs. real wood can vary greatly, and is especially important for those with a more limited budget. Let’s contrast them in the following section.

Comparing Costs and Lifespan

When it comes to choosing the right flooring, ceiling, or wall planks for your home, understanding the differences in cost and lifespan of engineered hardwood vs. solid hardwood is crucial. To make an informed decision – that suits both your budget and long-term needs – let’s dive further into it.

Initial Cost Comparison

Engineered wood planks typically have a lower initial cost when compared to solid hardwood. This is primarily due to their construction, which uses less expensive materials like plywood or fiberboard, topped with a thin veneer of real wood. The cost of engineered wood varies depending on location and availability, but homeowners have often spent anywhere in the $3-$10 per square foot range. Solid wood planks often cost somewhere in the $5-$15 range depending on the species.

Long-Term Investment Considerations

When it comes to long-term investment, solid hardwood may prove more cost-effective despite its higher initial price tag. The reason behind this lies in its respective lifespan – solid hardwood floors, walls, and ceilings can last up to 100 years if properly maintained, whereas you can count on engineered options lasting 20-30 years before needing replacement. 

Taking into account the longevity and potential for refinishing, solid hardwood may offer better value over time. Still, other considerations – like setup fees, upkeep needs, and environmental effects – should be taken into account when making your choice. 

Comparing the costs and lifespan of engineered wood vs real wood can help you decide which type is going to be best for your project. But which one is easier to install? Are both good choices for DIYers looking to upgrade their homes themselves?

Aesthetic Appeal - Design Possibilities of Solid Hardwood vs. Engineered Wood Planks

When it comes to designing your dream home, the aesthetic appeal of your walls and ceilings play a significant role in creating the desired ambiance. Both engineered wood and solid hardwood planks offer an array of design possibilities that cater to different styles and preferences. In this section, we’ll explore popular species of wood and variations in plank width for both types of materials.

Species Selection

Engineered wood and solid hardwood planks can be created from a variety of species, and which one is right for your home depends on a few factors. 

Red Oak:
A popular choice among homeowners due its durability and warm tones ranging from light brown hues with pinkish undertones.

Known for its light color palette featuring shades like pale yellow or creamy white, Ash is perfect if you're aiming for a bright and airy atmosphere.

With subtle grain patterns combined with colors varying from creamy white to reddish-brown tones, Maple offers versatility suitable for modern or traditional interiors alike.

An ideal option if you’re going for striking contrasts within your space, Hickory showcases a mix of light and dark shades with prominent grain patterns.

Boasting fine grains and an even texture, Birch is available in colors ranging from pale yellow to reddish-brown hues making it suitable for various design preferences.

With its rich red tones that deepen over time, Cherry adds warmth and elegance to any room setting while being highly durable as well.

In addition to these popular types of wood, both engineered wood and solid hardwood planks come in numerous other varieties. This wide selection ensures you’ll find the perfect match for your home’s interior design theme while enjoying the benefits each material has to offer.

Variations in Plank Width

Engineered wood planks offer a range of widths, enabling you to customize the look of your space according to preference. They can be up to seven inches wide, which can make a big difference aesthetically speaking, when compared to solid hardwood’s six-inch limit. Wider planks can create an illusion of a more expansive space, while narrower ones add depth and character depending on their arrangement. This difference provides homeowners with greater flexibility when selecting their preferred style.

Engineered wood and real wood planks offer a variety of design possibilities that can help to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your floors, walls, or ceilings. But aesthetic appeal doesn’t mean anything if your planks crack or lose stability. It’s important to consider these factors when choosing between engineered or real wood planks for your project.

Key Takeaway: Engineered wood and solid hardwood planks offer various design possibilities for homeowners. Engineered wood comes in an extensive range of widths, while solid hardwood options are up to six inches wide. Both types of materials have come in popular species options like Red Oak, Ash, Maple, Hickory, Birch and Cherry that cater to different styles and preferences.

Stability Factors - How They Differ Between Engineered Wood & Real Wood Planks

When it comes to stability, engineered wood and real wood planks have some significant differences. These distinctions are mainly due to their unique construction methods, which ultimately impact how they perform under various conditions. In this section, we’ll help you come to an informed decision by analyzing the stability factors of both types of materials.

Multi-layered Construction

Engineered wood planks are composed of multiple layers that contribute to their overall stability. The top layer consists of a thin veneer made from hardwood species like red oak or maple, while the core and base layers are typically constructed using high-quality plywood or fiberboard. This multi-layered structure provides additional strength and resistance against warping compared to solid hardwood planks.

Solid hardwood wall and ceiling planks come from a single piece of timber that has been cut to size for home installation. While this type of construction offers undeniable beauty and authenticity, it can be more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity levels. This can cause damage to solid hardwood over time.

Warping Resistance

The ability to resist warping is an essential factor when considering any type of wood material for your home. Due to the multi-layered composition mentioned above, engineered wood has better dimensional stability than its solid hardwood counterpart – particularly when moisture levels and temperatures fluctuate. 

Engineered hardwood:
Thanks to its cross-grain arrangement within each layer beneath the surface veneer, engineered wood is less likely to expand or contract in response to changes in temperature and humidity. This characteristic makes it an excellent choice for installation over radiant heating systems, which can cause solid hardwood planks to warp.

Solid hardwood:
While solid hardwood brings a timeless appeal and can provide a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, its single-piece construction does make it more susceptible to warping under certain conditions. This is especially true when exposed to high levels of moisture or direct heat sources like sunlight. 

Pro-tip: New walls or ceilings are exciting, but be patient! Solid hardwood planks may cup or bow over time if not properly acclimated before installation.

Both engineered wood and real wood planks have stability factors that homeowners should consider when deciding which is best for their home. Engineered wood’s multi-layered construction provides better resistance against warping and has an appearance similar to genuine timber planks. That being said, though, there’s nothing quite like solid hardwood for your floors, walls, and ceilings. Just make sure you choose the right material for your situation!

Key Takeaway: Engineered wood and real wood planks have major differences when it comes to stability, due to their unique construction methods. Engineered wood flooring provides additional strength and resistance against warping, since solid hardwood’s single-piece construction makes it more susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature.

Environmental Impact and Indoor Air Quality Considerations

When choosing wood planks for your home’s walls, floors, and ceilings, it’s essential to consider the material’s environmental impact and how it will affect indoor air quality. Engineered wood and solid hardwood have factors that contribute to their eco-friendliness, as well as the overall health of your environment. 

End-of-life disposal concerns

Engineered wood planks, while more affordable than solid hardwood, contain synthetic materials along with natural ones. This can make end-of-life disposal a bit more complicated compared to solid hardwood. Solid hardwood planks, on the other hand, are simpler to recycle or re-utilize once their lifespan is up. This may or may not make a difference when choosing the material for your project, but is something to consider.

Low VOC emissions and indoor air quality

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in various building materials that can negatively impact indoor air quality. When considering engineered wood vs. real wood for your home, you’ll want to choose a product with low VOC emissions. Fortunately, both types of wood provide low-VOC options.

Solid hardwood:
Naturally low in VOC emissions when properly maintained. This helps maintain a healthy indoor environment for the life of your wood planks.

Engineered wood:
Low-VOC options are usually available. Just make sure to always check the manufacturer’s specifications for purchasing. Some manufacturers prioritize eco-friendly practices such as using sustainably sourced woods or those certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council.

Considering sustainability, air quality and longevity when selecting materials for your floors, walls and ceilings ensures you’ll make the best choice for your family and the environment. By selecting eco-friendly options with low VOC emissions, you’ll create a healthier living space for yourself, and make a positive impact on the planet’s well-being.

The maintenance requirements between engineered wood and solid wood can be slightly different, and can be a major selling point for either type. Let’s see what’s involved with cleaning, sanding, and refinishing your hardwood planks.

Key Takeaway: When deciding between engineered wood and solid hardwood planks, it’s important to consider the environmental impact and air quality of both. Solid wood is easier to recycle at the end of its life, since engineered floors contain synthetic materials that make disposal more complicated. Ultimately, choosing low-VOC products for both options will contribute to the health of you, your family, and the planet.

Maintenance Requirements – Cleaning & Refinishing Differences

Understanding the maintenance requirements for both engineered wood and solid hardwood planks is essential to keep your floors and walls looking beautiful and preventing damage. Cleaning and refinishing practices may also differ between materials depending on the species and quality of wood.

Regular Cleaning Practices

To maintain the appearance of both engineered wood and solid hardwood planks, a regular routine of cleaning is crucial. For floors this includes sweeping or vacuuming daily to remove dirt, dust, and debris that can cause scratches on the surface. Dusting and wiping walls is also essential. For deeper cleaning (or when spills occur), use a damp mop or soft towel with a gentle cleaner designed for wood planks. Avoid using harsh chemicals or leaving excessive water for extended periods of time, as they could damage the finish.

Sanding & Refinishing Frequency

The ability to sand and refinish your wood planks plays an important role in their longevity. Solid hardwood has the advantage here, since it can be sanded down multiple times throughout its lifespan. This is thanks to its thicker construction when compared to engineered options – which have only a thin veneer layer on top of their base layers. As such, solid hardwood can last decades longer if properly maintained.

Frequently Asked Questions Engineered Wood vs. Real Wood

What is the main difference between wood and engineered wood?

The primary difference lies in their construction. Solid hardwood planks are made from a single piece of wood, while engineered wood consists of multiple layers – a top layer of hardwood veneer on top of several layers of high-quality plywood or fiberboard. This multi-layered structure provides greater stability and resistance to moisture when compared to solid wood.

What are the negatives of engineered wood?

Engineered wood has some drawbacks, including being less durable over time due to its thinner wear layer. It falls short in the sanding and refinishing departments too, showing signs of aging much quicker when compared to solid hardwood. Lower-quality engineered woods can also have a negative impact on the environment and general air-quality due to higher VOC emissions.

When is engineered hardwood better?

Engineered hardwood offers advantages such as increased stability and resistance to moisture, making it suitable for areas with varying levels of humidity or radiant heat systems. Its layered construction also reduces the risk of your flooring and walls warping, which allows wider plank widths without compromising structural integrity.

Why is solid wood more expensive than engineered wood?

While prices will vary greatly depending on the species, location, availability, and quality of your wood, solid hardwood is generally more expensive. This is due in large part to it being built from one piece of timber, rather than a thin layer on top of other materials like engineered wood. 


Engineered wood and real, solid hardwood are both great options for home improvement projects. When choosing the right material to use for your living space or office, have in mind the upkeep requirements, initial vs. long-term cost, and best uses to make a wise choice. Ultimately though, choosing between engineered or real woods depends on your individual needs and preferences. 

If you want the benefits of real, solid wood without the hassle, Stickwood’s peel-and-stick planks meet that need – without sacrificing quality or longevity. They’re lighter weight, create less mess, and are a great choice for both contractors and DIYers looking to enhance a living space.