It is very difficult to compare a solid wood floor to engineered wood floors, as there is a wide range of engineered wood floor qualities. There are several limitations on solid hardwood that give it a more limited scope of use: solid wood should not be installed directly over concrete, should not be installed below grade (basements) and it should not be used with radiant floor heating. Solid hardwood is also typically limited in plank width and is more prone to "gapping" (excessive space between planks) and "cupping" (a concave or "dished" appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the centre) with increased plank size. Solid wood products, on average, have a slightly thicker 'sandable area' (the wood that is above the tongue), and can be installed using nails. Lastly, solid wood tends to be less expensive than engineered wood, but this, as with the 'sandable area,' depends on the quality of the engineered wood (most inexpensive engineered wood products are 'veneer' wood floors, and not 'engineered'). In many installations, however, engineered flooring can only withstand a limited number of sandings, versus solid wood, which can be sanded many times.
The installation costs of engineered flooring are typically lower than solid flooring.
Engineered wood flooring has several benefits over solid wood, beyond dimensional stability and universal use. Patented installation systems (such as "unilin" or "fiboloc") allow for faster installation and easy replacement of boards. Engineered wood also allows a 'floating' installation (where the planks are not fastened to the floor below or to each other), further increasing ease of repair and reducing installation time.
In general engineered wood panels are longer and wider than solid planks.
The top surface of solid and engineered flooring have the same properties of hardness and durability.
The development of "structural" engineered flooring now means engineered floors (often with 1/4 inch lamellas and birch ply backing) can be nailed directly over joists without the need for plywood sub-flooring.