The Different Wood Species

Hardwood flooring can be made from a wide variety of different tree species including White Oak, Red Oak, Maple, Birch, Walnut, Hickory, Teak, Cherry and many others . Today, these trees are grown in sustainable forests throughout the United States and Canada, as well as around the world.

Every species has its own personality in terms of grain design, hardness level, ease of availability and cost level . More common woods, like White Oak and Red Oak grown in North and Central America, are relatively inexpensive and widely available for rapid delivery and installation . Other, more exotic woods like Brazilian Cherry and Teak, are much more expensive and take a lot longer to receive due to special ordering considerations.

Each species can have a significantly different appearance due to their grain and coloring   –   and their level of hardness . About ten years ago, Brazilian Cherry and other exotic woods were very popular, but today, due to their escalating costs, many people are looking at domestically-grown and manufactured hardwood floor material . Hickory is a domestic wood that is a very popular choice for hardwood flooring today .  It is one of the hardest domestic wood species and is highly popular because of its natural color variation and unusual graining.

The Janka Hardness Test

A very important aspect of wood species selection is hardness, and a very precise test, called the Janka Hardness Test, was developed in the early 20th Century to measure the hardness of a given wood species and compare it to others . The softest woods used for flooring are Pine and Birch, then Red Oak, White Oak, and Hickory . The very softest wood is Balsa (not suitable for flooring), and the hardest wood on the scale is Australian Buloke, which is almost three times harder than hickory .

Oak: Red vs. White

If we were to get into all of the different features of every species of wood available, this book would be 500 pages long! With that in mind, let me compare and contrast two very similar species, Red Oak and White Oak, and let you know that if you have any further questions about different tree species – or anything else about your beautiful new floor – all you have to do is pick up the phone and call us at 703-490-4700.

Red Oak is softer than White Oak and is the less expensive of the two . Red Oak comes in Common #1, Common #2 and Common #3 grades . These  are sometimes called “Character Grade” Oaks, which refers to the amount of character on the surface . Lots of knots mean lots of character . You also will see some variance in the darkness of the wood . Red Oak will come in plank widths of 2 .25”, 3 .25”, 4” and 5”.

White Oak is more expensive than Red Oak because it is a much cleaner board with less “character .”  White Oak is also much harder than its Red cousin . Consistent coloring and smooth grains are the hallmarks of a White Oak floor .

If you don’t see a lot of character in the grain of a wood floor, you are probably looking at a Select Grade White Oak .