Choosing Floorboards – Engineered or Laminate? Softwood or Hardwood?

The topic of floorboards and the right type to use in your home, can at the best of times lead to confusion with the flood of products on the market. You will also find that everywhere you go; the suppliers and sales representatives will also provide you with contradicting data, which can unfortunately further add to the confusion! My recommendation is that you evaluate your lifestyle and select the flooring that will best suit your particular needs

Dark Hardwood Solid Timber Flooring

Living Room With Hardwood Solid Hardwood Flooring


Both types of flooring are actually made with real timber. Perhaps the most important difference their manufacturing process. As the name suggests, solid timber floorboards are manufactured from a solid piece of timber, so the board is timber the whole way through whereas, engineered board contains only one thin layer of real timber, which is the visible layer on the top of the floorboard. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of board.

Many argue that with engineered timber board, that the advantages are that is, can be inexpensive and easier and quicker to lay. It can also have insulation under the floorboards. Solid timber floorboards on the other hand has natural insulation and natural warmth.

It is also easy to lay over existing timber floor or a concrete slab and perhaps the greatest advantage its natural beauty. The flaws in each board actually create unique character and a point of difference, Using recycled solid timber floorboards, further add to the charm, and of course the benefits for the environment of recycling any material are huge !! Both engineered boards and solid timber boards come in a vast array of colours, species, and board widths.

Modern Engineered Flooring

Very Dark Timber Flooring photo by Stella Harasek

Living Room With Rustic Style Solid-Timber Floorboards


Bamboo flooring has long been touted as being more environmentally friendly than hardwood flooring. It boasts durability, and flexibility. Bamboo floors are made out of bamboo which has a lot of benefits as it is 50% more stable and harder than a lot of timbers. It is also faster growing and a sustainable resource as well as being less expensive that solid timber flooring.

It is less expensive than hardwood. Just like hardwood it is important to acclimatize your bamboo flooring before installation. Both types of flooring have similar damage resistance and maintenance. . Bamboo flooring is more stable than engineered hardwood flooring; however engineered floors are more moisture-resistant, making them an acceptable option for bathrooms and kitchens. Unfortunately in the cheapest of the bamboo flooring manufacturing, there can be (though not always) be the addition of formaldehyde and other chemicals to the glue that binds the bamboo together which makes it cheaper to make. Thin bamboo will not last as long as solid or engineered timber floorboards, which can last up to 100 years or beyond!

Bamboo floors can look almost identical to engineered hardwood floors, however solid and engineered boards are available in a huge range of colours, while bamboo floors typically take on light, pale blond look or even coppers.

Hand Carved Bamboo Floors

Bedroom with Hardwood Bamboo Flooring


Laminated floors are less expensive than hardwood and bamboo floorboards and are very easy to maintain, Laminated floorboards are also generally quite resistant to chipping, burns and scratches. Engineered flooring and laminate are attractive and inexpensive alternatives to most ( not all ) types of solid timber flooring.

While engineered board has 100% timber surface layer and a (generally) plywood substrate, laminate flooring has a printed image of a timber floor effect laminated to a backing board/substrate. This top layer is only several millimetres thick, This can be an advantage and a disadvantage. One advantage of laminate flooring is when printing, they can incorporate absolutely any, timber pattern and colour. Laminated flooring can however tend to look unsophisticated in their often fake appearance.

Laminated flooring is ideal for houses with kids and pets, the lamination can help serve as a protective layer for floor material and is also easy to clean and maintain.

Engineered floorboards, due to the fact it only has real timber on the surface is limited to producing only what is naturally occurring, engineered boards can also be very versatile as they are easy to maintain and can be sanded back many times over the lifespan of a home and still remain beautiful.

Timber Floors and Curtains in a Bathroom

Elegant Living Room With Feature Floorboards

Smoked & Limed American Oak timber floors by Royal Oak Floors


As the names would suggest, the main difference between these two types of flooring is the degree of hardness each timber possesses, generally hardwood timber flooring tends to be more hardwearing and longer lasting, which is perhaps why it is ordinarily more expensive.

Hardwoods are more durable because of their density, hard wood is more difficult to work with than other timbers so thus requires more time and labor to install.

Softwoods however soft, can be hardened with a polyurethane coating. Classic Pine floors that you see are a good example of a softwood timber floor. Softwood timber flooring meets seasonal and environmental changes better than hardwood timber flooring as it is less dense. For high traffic areas and homes with children and animals, you may want to consider a hardwood floor over softwood.

Grey Living Room with Softwood Floors

Royal Oak Floors

Beautiful Timber Flooring in Bathroom

At the end of the day, all timbers from laminated, to engineered to solid timber, all serve their purpose. Firstly weigh up the pros and cons unique to your situation and just remember that it is important to bear in mind that irrespective of using a solid timber board or otherwise, all timber floors will fade, darken or change tones slightly over time, mainly due to UV exposure. A foolproof way to minimize this, apart from ensuring blinds and curtains are kept closed, is to occasionally rotate rugs and furniture in your home.

Always ask the supplier for cleaning and maintenance instructions. Try not to clean a floor with common household detergents, polishes, wax and the like. These products can be too abrasive and scratch the surface, or may make a floor dangerously slippery. Speaking of slippery, if you, like me, enjoy wearing high heeled shoes, be extremely mindful that they can dent a majority of timber floorboards. So leave your heels at the door!

Highly Polished Timber Flooring