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Common Wood Species Used For Flooring

Wood species used for flooring
Wood has always been a popular flooring choice. Each tree is unique and has different characteristics. Finding a floor for our home is a big decision and naturally, we want to make the right choice. We have to take into consideration looks, colouration, durability, unique properties and of course - price. It can be really overwhelming because there are so many options, so many decisions to make. In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the most popular types of timber used in the flooring industry and see what they can offer.

Janka hardness test scheme

Janka Hardness Test

Obviously, not all wood is alike. When you invest in a wooden floor, there is one main thing to look for - durability. You’ve invested a certain amount of money and it only makes sense to expect that the product will last for a long time. The stronger the wood is, the longer it will last. So how to determine the wood’s overall resilience?

The Janka test measures the hardness and density of wood species by embedding a steel ball into them. The force needed to perform this action is calculated in lbf (pounds of force) and used as an indicator of toughness. Each wood specimen below has a rating according to the system.

Staining and Colouration

Staining is about more than simply changing the appearance of your wooden floor. It is also about style, trends and good taste. Even if you don’t consider staining your floor upon purchase, you never know when you may need it. Do you own a pet with the habit of occasionally having an “accident” or two? Those accidents can create black spots which sometimes cannot be removed even with floor sanding. At this point, transforming the surface with the help of a dark stain will hide the damage without a need to replace the damaged parts.

In addition, some trees like birch and maple simply do not absorb the stains well and likely require professional help to get it right. Other species have a tint which often alters the one achieved with the stain. Staining a Red Oak grey will, of course, make the stain appear pinkish instead of pure grey. It is always good to have those small details in mind. Prevents both costly mistakes and loss of time.

The Types of Wood

Oak (1360 lbf)

Oak pine and ash wood samples

You can never go wrong with oak in your home. It is quite cost-effective because it offers both excellent hardness and affordable prices for the quality provided. There are two popular choices right now – White Oak with a Janka Hardness Rating of 1360 and Red Oak with a rating of 1290. Obviously, they are pretty close in terms of strength but a Red Oak has more of a reddish tint while White Oak is on the grey, golden and brown side. This makes White Oak a much better choice for staining because the colour of the stain will not change, it will stay consistent without alterations.

Maple (1450 lbf)

Maple has a very pale colour and incredible hardness. The grain is fine, light and straight. Maple is tougher and more expensive than oak but can be difficult to stain because of its close-pored cell structure. Staining with darker colours can instead give you a grey colour unless the wood has been prepared first with a special liquid conditioner. Might be best to simply get pre-stained and pre-finished maple if you really want darker shades.

Ash (1320 lbf)

Do you know what is the difference between sapwood and heartwood? Sapwood is the outer, living side of the tree while the heartwood is the inner, dead part of it. In most cases, the heartwood is darker and the sapwood lighter in colour. This, however, can vary greatly between species. In the case of ash, there are over 60 different types spread across Europe alone and this offers a great variety when it comes to grain and colour. Ash can be pale, brown or somewhere in between, with straight or curly grain and this makes it an interesting flooring choice if not from purely aesthetical, then from a design standpoint. 

Beech (1300 lbf)

Also known as American Beach, this type of wood is hard to scratch or dent and is comparable to oak in terms of strength. With its light natural colour and straight grain, beech is considered an attractive flooring option capable of making a room appear more spacious.

Birch (910 lbf)

Has several subspecies – Sweet Birch (1,470 lbf) and Yellow Birch (1,260lbf), also known as Iroko. We are talking about the Paper Birch which is softer than most of the other popular types of wood flooring but is valued for its pale colour and straight grain. However, as time passes, it will start to turn more yellow/reddish and stains turn out blotchy. Birch is easily available and inexpensive flooring option.

Bamboo (1,380 lbf)

The Janka ratings of bamboo differ greatly because there are several manufacturing methods with quite a difference in hardness. The most durable option – a Strand Woven Bamboo, has a rating of 3000 lbf which is a very impressive number. The prices also vary greatly because there aren’t any real standards to measure the quality of the product in grades as you can for hardwood. Fine bamboo flooring from a trusted manufacturer, however, is certainly very tough and resistant to moisture and insects. A perfectly viable alternative to hardwood flooring.

Walnut (1010 lbf)

Do not confuse it with the other, considerably stronger and a more expensive tree called Brazilian Walnut (3,684 lbf). Black Walnut flooring is known for its durability, density and unique dark colouration. The tree slightly lightens with age which only adds to its character. Besides looks, the main advantages of walnut are its resistance to water damage, mould and insects. It is relatively expensive but easy to work with.

Cherry (995 lbf)

As obvious as it may sound, do not confuse it with Bolivian Cherry (3,650 lbf) or Brazillian Cherry/Jatoba (2,350 lbf). Because of its relative “softness”, Cherry is usually used in light traffic areas. When exposed to direct sunlight it darkens rather quickly while bringing a sense of warmth in the room. It is not toughness but attractive appearance which made Cherry such a desirable flooring material and this popularity are reflected in the price.

Rosewood (1,780 lbf)

Beautiful, dark and exotic, Rosewood is very resilient and comes in a wide variety of colours. As the wood ages, the exposure to sunlight eventually grants it a golden brown shade. With its straight grain and rich colours, Rosewood creates a cosy, inviting atmosphere and is often used for decoration.

Merbau (1,925 lbf)

Thanks to its extreme toughness, this exotic material find use in more than just flooring and furniture. In addition to this, the wood is stable and highly resistant to moisture and humidity. This makes it usable even in areas where a wooden floor is not recommended like a bathroom or a kitchen. In terms of appearance, the colours vary between lighter, orange and darker, reddish-brown.  The wood often contains beautiful mineral threads between its grain but they slowly fade with age. 

Jatoba (3680 lbf)

The richly coloured wood is known as Brazilian Cherry or Jatoba, although it is not technically a Cherry. Jatoba is photosensitive and will darken over time. The wood is extremely dense and hard which makes it a very reliable choice for hardwood flooring. It's distinctive colouring, characterised by a lustrous range of deep reds, burgundies, and darker reddish browns make it a very attractive option for decorations.

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