Flooring 101: A Guide to 7 Different Wood Species

by Kelsey Flores
?Trying to find a hardwood that?s right for your space but aren?t sure which direction or type of wood to choose? It?s understandable, as there are numerous wood species on the market, including (but not limited to) oak, walnut, cherry, pine, maple, cedar, and hickory. There are many questions to consider when trying to select the best wood for your home, such as look, durability, cost, and maintenance, to name a few. Below is a brief look at several species to give you some insight on the key differences between each type of wood.
Red Oak vs. White Oak
Red oak (left) and white oak (right). Photo courtesy of Armstrong Floors.
According to Real Simple, oak has a very distinctive look, as it tends to be a grainy hardwood. There are two varieties of oak: red and white. Red oak can range in color, from a light brown to a pink or red with a swirling pattern, while white oak has a tiger-stripe grain with hints of yellow. A clear finish applied to the wood can highlight the grains that give the wood a distinctive look quite nicely.
Oak is also a very durable wood and is often resistant to warping. It?s important to be aware of the fact that staining the wood can, in some cases, overly darken the grain and in turn make it look tow-toned. When it comes to cost, oak is generally less expensive than its counterparts, especially when compared to a species like cherry.
Walnut hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
Walnut is a rather straight grained hardwood that can range in color depending on which part of the tree it comes from. If it?s located at the center of the tree, the color of the wood tends to be chocolate brown, but when it comes from the outer portion of the tree, it has more of a yellow hue.
To bring out the color of the wood, walnut is typically clear coated or oiled. Walnut is a very strong and stable wood that can handle intricate carving. Looking at price, walnut is one of the more costly woods on the market.
Cherry hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
?Cherry is a fine, straight grain wood that has a beautiful reddish brown color. A benefit to this wood is that it?s easy to shape and it polishes well, which means that unstained cherry wood has a rich and stunning color. Cherry is a moderately heavy and strong wood. In terms of cost, it often lands on the expensive side.?
Pine hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
?Pine is a lightweight wood that can have a yellow or white hue with brown knots. Pine is one wood that takes paint well and resists shrinking and swelling. In terms of durability, pine is a softwood, which means that it?s prone to scratches and dents. However, it usually costs less than species like walnut and cherry.? ?
Maple hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Armstrong Floors.
?Maple is a creamy white hardwood that sometimes has a reddish tinge. It?s one of the hardest and most durable wood species on the market. It has few grains and knots, offering a much cleaner aesthetic than oak or hickory. Because maple is an affordable wood that takes dark stains well, it?s not uncommon to stain maple to mimic a darker, pricier wood like cherry.?? ?
Cedar hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
?According to Hoove Designs, cedar is a knotty, light, and brittle softwood with a red-brown color and light streaks. It may be a popular look right now, but it?s more prone to scratches and dents. On the plus side, cedar is a moderately priced wood.?
Hickory hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
?According to Osborne Wood Products, Inc., hickory is the best commercially available wood in North America. It has a range of color variations, from reddish brown to lighter brown to white. The grain of the wood is usually straight, but it can be irregular at times. Hickory is one of the heaviest and hardest woods available, and it?s a low to moderately priced wood. ??
You may not think so, but when it comes to cleaning wood floors, it?s actually fairly easy. According to the National Wood Flooring Association, here?s the best maintenance schedule to follow if you want to keep your wood looking good for generations to come: ?
?Daily: Sweep or dust mop your wood floor
Weekly: Using bare floor setting vacuum the floor
Monthly: Clean with a professional wood cleaning product
Every 3 to 5 Years: Give your floor a maintenance coat
Every Few Decades: Sand and refinish*
?*It is important to note that sanding and refinishing your wood is less necessary now with engineered hardwood floors due to its multi-plie construction, stronger wear layers, and longer warranties.??
What's popular now
?According to Floor Trends, longer, wider planks and random widths are what?s popular right now. Wide-width planks create a sense of openness and space, which leads to a sophisticated style that elevates just about any room. Highlighting the natural characteristics of the wood is also very in right now, as it satisfies the consumer?s desire to get the genuine rustic look that hardwood flooring can provide.?
Popular hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
Gray remains a favorite at the moment, however, natural tones are continuing to grow in popularity. More recently, consumers have sought recommendations on how to mix and match colors to create a patchwork look, and manufacturers are responding by creating hardwood planks with variation built in to the design.
There are some trends that can be seen throughout all markets, but they ultimately vary based on region. For instance, coastal regions tend to prefer bleached, pale, and washed-out floors while major cities seek trendier colors and patterns, such as herringbone patterns and mixed and matched colored hardwood planks. ???
The right floor for your style of home
Modern hardwood floors
Photo courtesy of Houzz.com.
There are several factors you should consider when searching for a hardwood that complements your home?s style. According to Houzz, your living habits, such as how much wear and tear your floors will face, are a big factor in choosing the right wood. Some questions to consider: Do you have pets? Do you have large parties often? Do you travel a lot? The point of these questions is to determine the level of traffic for your house. For a high traffic house you might want a harder wood such as oak.

Pay attention to your existing cabinets, trim work, and door casings to make sure the wood you buy won?t clash these design elements. You also want to coordinate the color of your walls with the amount of natural light the room gets, as this will affect color choice. For example, if you have a lot of windows or skylights, you have enough light to balance out really dark floors but if you have a dark house, choosing a lighter floor will help brighten things up. ??????

Just like there are different species of wood, there are also various types of home styles, from modern or contemporary to traditional or farmhouse. It?s important to keep these general guidelines in mind because some woods lend themselves better to certain styles.
For those who have a modern style home natural maple works well as it has a clean look with not a lot of variation. Gray stained oak creates a clean aesthetic look that also works with modern styles. When it comes to a more traditional style, hickory is a good choice as it mixes lighter and darker pieces to create a traditional cabin feel. Also boards with knots and wider planks fit well with a traditional style.?

All of this being said, everyone has different preferences, and not everyone is attracted to the same types of wood. Don?t discount a wood just because it?s considered more or less appropriate for a certain home style.?
??Needless to say, we covered a lot of information here. But when it comes to making a decision about what type of hardwood to choose for your home, the more information, the better. There are countless species available on the market, so you?re not short on options. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment or tweet us at @tukasacreations.

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