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Solid wood vs Engineered wood: Choose the right one for your home décor

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Wood is a popular choice of material in interior design, and for a good reason- its versatility. You can virtually use it for any aspect of home décorfurniture, flooring, wall treatment, accessories, etc. It can easily be adapted in different design styles and palettes. The diversity in types of woods means you get a massive selection of finishes for walls, flooring and furniture design for the home. You may treat wood to achieve a variety of finishes.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of wood to choose from: solid wood and engineered wood. In this guide, we have broken down various aspects of both solid wood and engineered wood. It will help you make an informed decision while selecting the material for the interior design of your home.

What is solid wood?

Solid wood used in construction, furniture making, etc., is made from wood slabs sourced from wood obtained by logging fully grown trees. Natural wood is, roughly speaking, of two types- hardwood and softwood. This distinction is generally, but not always, based on the density of the wood.

Hardwood:

Some trees take longer to mature, resulting in a more complex and densely structured timber. Its famed strength, durability, grain and fire resistance is the consequence of this dense internal structure. Some well-known types are oak, walnut, teak, rosewood, etc. Generally, hardwoods are darker-hued, less malleable and sometimes scratch resistant. Most heirloom solid wood furniture is made of hardwood. As the name suggests, a hard wooden floor is made of solid wood planks or solid wood boards.
 

Softwood:

Some hardwoods may take a century or more to be considered fully grown. On the other hand, softwoods may be ready to harvest within the span of a few decades. Softwoods have a relatively less dense internal structure since they grow relatively quickly. Some known examples are rubber, fir, some types of cedar, pine, etc.

Often, softwood is treated to increase its durability and strength. The grain of softwoods isn’t pronounced, and the colour leans towards lighter tones. Due to its higher malleability, it is a good choice for carving, firewood, doors, props and trusses in construction, picture frames, etc.

Softwood flooring in the living room design - Beautiful Homes

Engineered wood flooring with plywood cabinet in the living room - Beautiful Homes

What is engineered wood?

As the use of solid wood became unsustainable, engineered wood was the cost-effective alternative. It is an admixture of many wood byproducts, such as binding strands, fibres, particles, veneers, or thin wood boards bound together. Popular engineered wood products include MDF, engineered plywood and particleboard. Coating it with veneers or decorative laminates renders the same look as solid wood.

Engineered wood is a solid wood substitute for furniture, wardrobes, modular kitchen units, flooring, etc. The selling points are that it is moisture-resistant and budget-friendly. Therefore, it is a preferred option for areas with high moisture content, such as the kitchen or the bathrooms.

Difference between engineered wood and solid wood: An overview

Here is a brief comparison between solid wood and engineered wood across various criteria:

CRITERIA

SOLID WOOD

ENGINEERED WOOD

Hardness

Ranges from soft to hard based on the type and species of the source tree.

It also offers a range from hard to soft, HDF being the hardest and particleboard the softest.

Strength

Hardwood is known for its strength. Any solid wood is generally superior to engineered wood in this regard.

Often it is not as strong as the solid wood variety. But some premium options of, say ply or HDF can prove to be stronger than a low-grade solid wood.

Durability

Highly durable. It can be sanded and refinished multiple times during its lifetime. Thus, when maintained properly,  it can last for as long as 100 years. An excellent example is the heirloom furniture or accessories we see in our homes.

Generally, if it is well maintained, it can easily last up to 20 to 30 years. This is so because it can be sanded down and refinished only once, and a maximum of twice if it is a good quality hardwood.

Resistance to heat and water

The drawback of solid wood is that it is not resistant to moisture and temperature. It loses its dimensions due to warping and/or frequent expansion and contraction. While some types may fare better than others across each condition, it still performs poorly in this regard.

Most engineered wood performs better than solid wood against humidity, moisture and extreme temperature. It is not easy to warp or change dimensions, ensuring structural integrity.

Resistance to termites

Certain tree species such as cedars, black walnut, sal wood, etc., are known to have some natural resistance to termites. But all solid wood needs to be treated chemically to ensure complete termite resistance.

Engineered wood too is not resistant to termite and must be treated chemically to ensure longevity.

Ease of work

Solid hardwood’s dense structure and weight make it challenging to work with, install and move.

Engineered wood is much lighter than any solid wood. It is easier to drill, cut, install, and move about.

Care and cleaning

Sweeping/ dusting, vacuuming and damp mopping are enough.

These kinds of wood have to be cared for the same way as solid wood.

Cost

Generally quite expensive since timber can be harvested once the trees are fully grown. This can take decades and sometimes even more. Its weight makes it difficult to transport it. Since the ease of work is relatively low, it requires special equipment and skills to deal with it. All of this combined makes solid wood prices high.

Engineered wood can be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of solid wood. It can be transported easily due to its lightweight and is relatively easy to work with. This makes engineered wood prices low. Thus, it is a significantly cheaper option, especially when making or building something new.

Sustainability

Solid wood is a non-renewable source and therefore not eco-friendly, particularly when building or making new things.

Restoring and reusing existing solid wood products is a more sustainable practice.

Engineered wood is not made of fresh timber but the scraps and derivatives of wood products. This makes it more sustainable. But the manufacturing process involves the use of high amounts of energy and some toxic chemicals, which can be causes for concern.

Difference between engineered wood and solid wood: Flooring

Solid wood flooring is usually made of timber from hardwood species. It makes use of solid wood planks or solid wood boards. These are interlocked using the tongue and groove mechanism and then nailed down to the subflooring. It is advisable not to install it over concrete or other material that can absorb and pass on moisture to avoid warping and further damage to the hard wooden floor. It is desirable for high traffic areas, owing to its strength and longevity.

While in appearance, engineered wood flooring isn’t all that different, the installation method is. A thin layer of hardwood is 

Hardwood flooring & wooden furniture in the living room - Beautiful Homes

bonded atop a high grade engineered plywood layer. This is a pocket-friendly alternative. They make for good DIY projects as they generally employ click lock mechanisms or can also be glued down to a concrete subfloor. In terms of water and heat resistance, this is a better option.

Solid wood planks vs engineered wood planks for flooring - Beautiful Homes

Difference between engineered wood and solid wood: Furniture design for home

Solid wood furniture has a distinct aesthetic appeal due to its distinctive colour, grain and variegation. Its strength and durability make it a preferred furniture option for furniture designs for home by many people. A more sustainable and eco-friendly practice would be to refurbish or recycle second-hand solid wood furniture.

While engineered wood is largely resistant to humidity and temperature, it does not hold up against sunlight exposure. Once damaged, it cannot be easily repaired and must be replaced. It is well suited for constructing wardrobes, shelves, cabinets and such.

Difference between engineered wood and solid wood: Pricing

As we have seen, the solid wood price is significantly higher than engineered wood price. Solid wood is priced between ₹650 to ₹5000 per square foot. Engineered wood, on the other hand, can cost from around ₹150 to ₹1500. These are average ranges, and price may differ based on quality, specific material, manufacturer and retailers.

Beautiful Homes offers a wide range of products and services to help you create personalised interior designs for your home. With our Interior Design Services and Wood Solutions services, our experts will help you design your home based on your taste, needs and lifestyle.
 

Kitchen design with plywood cabinets & hardwood flooring - Beautiful Homes

You can visit our website to check various options offered and projects executed by us so far. You may book your 3D consultation call to understand the project’s process, design, and execution or walk into any of our home décor stores across India. Our current stores are spread across Amritsar, Tumakuru, Raipur, Jaipur, New Delhi, Kochi, Karur, Coimbatore, Bengaluru and Nashik. In addition, we are in the process of opening up state-of-the-art stores across several cities.

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