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The pros, cons, and major differences between the two.

You’ve decided upon wood flooring for your new renovation. However, you’re struggling with choosing between traditional site-finished hardwood flooring and the newer engineered wood alternative. Is one better than the other? Why would I choose the more expensive option? In this article we’ll discuss the key differences and hopefully help you choose the best flooring for your home.

What Is Site-Finished Hardwood Flooring?

Site-finished hardwood flooring is what you’re most accustomed to experiencing. It’s a traditional floor that people have been using for centuries, which is why it’s not uncommon to find original hardwood floors still being used in Colonial and Victorian homes. Hardwood floors are made out of, you guessed it – a variety of hardwood species. Most common species are maple, walnut, oak, and cherry. Solid pieces of wood are milled down into 4” to 12” planks and then nailed to the subfloor, sanded, stained to your liking, and then sealed.

Site-finished hardwood floors are extremely customizable offering a nearly endless color selection through stains and finishes, offer the ability of artistic inlays, are very durable and can last for centuries with proper maintenance, and have the ability to be sanded and refinished over and over again.

What Is Engineered Wood Flooring?

Engineered wood is plywood or OSB (wood particles glued together) at its core, with a very thin layer of hardwood glued to the top. On the surface, engineered wood can appear virtually identical to site-finished hardwood. Engineered wood is easy to install, and a project that many weekend warriors will attempt themselves. Planks are either glued together or interlock like Legos.

Engineered wood is usually highly durable and more resistant to moisture than traditional hardwood. Many manufactures claim the lifespan to be around 30 years with proper maintenance. However, if a plank is to become damaged, it’s almost impossible to repair or replace. The thin vainer of hardwood on top of the plywood cannot be sanded and refinished. Replacing a single plank may require disassembling an entire room with interlocking models, and matching dye lots from different manufacturing periods is non-existent.


Both site-finished and engineered hardwood is easy to care for. Sweeping, vacuuming, and occasional mopping (don’t over-wet either floor) is all that is required. The planks of site-finished hardwood are typically installed tightly together to create a smooth, seamless surface. Engineered wood typically has small grooves between planks. This can be a little more uncomfortable with bare feet, and tends to collect more dust and debris.

Again, site-finished hardwood can be sanded and refinished many times over during its lifespan, giving the floor brand new appearance each time. Engineered wood cannot.


The cost of each type of flooring has become difficult to estimate in this current moment in time. Traditionally, engineered flooring was about half the cost of site-finished hardwood. However, due to manufacturing and supply chain issues, the gap between the two products isn’t as great as it was. The cost of labor to install both materials is now almost about the same, though site-finished hardwood does take longer as it requires more steps.

Engineered hardwood is usually less expensive, but it would be wise to price both products before just assuming that engineered is the most cost-effective route. When it comes to resale value, homes with traditional hardwood floors tend to sell for 2.5% more than homes with engineered wood floors. This is due to the market still valuing site-finished hardwood floors as a premium feature.


To us, this decision is all about fulfilling needs. If we were remodeling our forever home with a long-term future in mind, we would absolutely choose site-finished hardwood floors. In our opinion it is a superior product, it’s an infinitely much more customizable product, and it just has the essence of a warm, traditional home.

Likewise, if we were doing a few small DIY projects ourselves to spruce up the appearance of old / gross carpet before putting our house on the market – we’d choose engineered wood. To be completely fair, engineered wood has made tremendous leaps and bounds in its appearance and quality over the last decade. It’s not a poor choice, but to us, nothing beats traditional site-finished hardwood in custom Colorado homes.

To begin flooring selections and installing new hardwood in your home, give one of our Project Managers a call.

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