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Choosing a Hardwood Flooring Wood Species

By Jeff Hosking – Hosking Hardwood Flooring Inc.
© 2004-2012, Copyright protected. All Rights Reserved

Domestic Wood Species

Domestic Hardwood Flooring Wood Species like Red Oak, White Oak, Maple and more have always been used for Hardwood Flooring in homes across the United States. These domestic species are perfect for traditional settings or for complementing existing cabinets or furniture. Red Oak Natural is still one of the most sought after wood species. Because of this, the hardness of any wood species are usually compared to the Janka Hardness Rating of Red Oak (which is 1290). With some exceptions, domestic wood species unless stained a particular color have a tendency to have lighter color tones. On Hosking Hardwood Flooring, you can find any style of domestic wood species: solid, engineered, click-locking, handscraped, character grade, distressed, naturals and stained. U.S. companies generally use Select & Better or Selected grades for the majority of their collections, whereas Canadian Mills Vintage Hardwood Flooring, Lauzon, and Mont Royal have a tendency to offer a variety of grades of domestic wood species.

Remember: Even the best wood flooring will react to the presence of moisture. In the dry winter heating months, moisture leaves the wood causing the floor to contract, which can leave unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood will absorb excess moisture and expand and the gaps will disappear. If there is too much moisture it may cause the wood planks to cup, or buckle. This is why it is important when installing a wood floor to acclimate the wood to the home from 4 to 7 days or more prior to installation and to leave the proper expansion gap around the perimeter and at all fixed objects. It is also important to keep the home's relative humidity level at between 30 - 50% or what the manufacturer recommends. Doing this will help minimize any movement within the wood flooring later.


Review the descriptions below for more detailed information on specific domestic wood species.

red oak

Red Oak, Janka Hardness Rating 1290

The most popular domestic wood species for hardwood flooring, Red Oak is known for having moderate to heavy graining with moderate color variations. Coloring of Red Oak ranges from light creamy reddish pinks to shades of brown. Red Oak varies from White Oak due to the fact that it has pinkish undertones, whereas White Oak has golden/brownish gray undertones. Top solid Red Oak Natural options right now can be found by Mont Royal, Vintage Hardwood Flooring and Somerset in a variety of grades and widths. You can also browse our favorite Red Oak Collections here: Classic Red Oaks


white oak

White Oak, Janka Hardness Rating 1360

White Oak is a domestic wood species similar to Red Oak, but harder on the Janka Hardness Scale (Red Oak is 1290). Natural Coloring of White Oak ranges from golden/browns with gray undertones. Because of the harder grain White Oak flooring takes stain colors very evenly. White Oak hardwood flooring features generally moderate linear graining with moderate color variations and has exceptional stability. Because of the great durability and stability of White Oak it has been used for flooring and in boat building and wine barrels for centuries. White Oak is a fantastic way to add a touch of traditional atmosphere to your home without introducing the hints of red you would find in a Red Oak Natural. Take a look at our Vintage Hardwood Flooring, Fabrica Fine Wood Flooring and Somerset for great deals on White Oak hardwood flooring.



Maple, Janka Hardness Rating 1450

Found mostly growing in the northern regions of North America and Canada, Maple hardwood flooring is a very pale, creamy white color with slight shade differences from board to board. Depending on the grade chosen, Maple flooring can contain minimal to a lot of brownish/black mineral streaks, Clear grade maple has the least of this streaking. Maple graining is very light and fine and many times barely discernible. Grain will range from uniformly straight lines to curly patterns. Some cuts of Maple flooring will contain graining called "birdseye." Birdseye is a distinctive pattern of small marks that resemble tiny eyes. It does occur in a few other wood species, but is most common in Hard Maple. Maple hardwood flooring is renown for being a very hard wood species but because it contains hard and soft cell structures job site staining a darker color can come out blotchy if the wood is not conditioned first using a liquid wood conditioner. I would recommend purchasing a pre-stained pre-finished maple floor. Vintage Hardwood Flooring is the finest manufacturer of Maple hardwood flooring. You can also browse our favorite Maple Collections here: Classic Maples


american cherry

American Cherry, Janka Hardness Rating 950

American Cherry Wood Flooring is a softer wood species than some of the others but you would find it hard to find another wood species that has such wonderful graceful graining and color. This wood species has a very distinctive charm and is popular because of its natural color variation from board to board and its warm natural color. Because of the unique graining and coloring of American Cherry flooring, many homeowners like to use it in wider planks. Planks 5" and wider will show the natural beauty of American Cherry, but won't look too busy, like it might in a 2-1/4" strip. American Cherry flooring will darken with age to a deep reddish brown color. Take a look at either Bruce wood flooring or Kahrs Click Lock Flooring for great American Cherry Natural possibilities. Homeowners who like American Cherry also have a tendency to look at Natural Hickory flooring because of similarly interesting grain patterns.





Birch, Janka Hardness Rating 1260

The species Birch can be broken down into two varieties of hardwood flooring: Yellow Birch and Red Birch flooring. Some manufacturers of hardwood flooring offer collection of both varieties, some only work with Yellow Birch. Red Birch refers to the heartwood stock of the Birch tree, which is generally a golden brown color with some red undertones. Yellow Birch refers to the sapwood of the Birch tree, which is a creamy white color with some yellow undertones. Both Red Birch and Yellow Birch have slight color variation from board to board. Graining of Birch is generally fine with uniform curls and some boards may appear to be almost clear with little to no graining at all. Popular hardwood flooring brands for Birch include  Lauzon Red Birch Natural Flooring, Lauzon Yellow Birch Solid Flooring and Bruce Turlington Birch.



Walnut, Janka Hardness Rating 1010

Also known as Black Walnut or American Walnut, this wood species usually has fine, straight graining and coloring is a rich, almost chocolate brown. Homeowners like the natural color of Walnut flooring and the warmth it automatically adds to a room. There is some color variation from board to board, as the sapwood can range from light tan to medium brown Walnut hardwood flooring can be a character grade showing knots and other grain variations. Walnut is a softer wood species on the Janka Hardness chart and sometimes homeowners opt for Brazilian Walnut flooring, with a hardness rating of 3680. This exotic variation of Walnut has similar coloring and is highly recommended in higher traffic areas. If you are looking for Black Walnut (American Walnut), take a look at some options available from Vintage Wood Flooring Black Walnut Sculpted, Wirebrushed or Smooth, or Kahrs Wood Flooring.



Hickory, Janka Hardness Rating 1820

Hickory is one of the hardest domestic wood species and is highly popular because of its natural color variation and unusual graining. Coloring for Hickory Hardwood flooring can range from creamy whites to medium browns (with even darker browns in some rustic grades). Hickory is most popular in wider planks (think 5" and wider) because more narrow strips of Hickory can start looking pretty busy with all the unique and interesting graining and variation within the boards. For a popular selection of Hickory Natural, take a look at Somerset Hardwood Flooring or Vintage Hardwood Flooring Hickory Smooth or Sculpted




yellow pine

Yellow Pine, Janka Hardness Rating 690-870

Pine is another very soft domestic wood species. It is known for small to medium to large knots and pitch spots. Pine flooring fits well in country settings and is often offered as a "reclaimed floor" and in wider than usual board sizes. Yellow Pine is somewhat an unstable wood species and it is common to see open gaps between boards during seasonal relative humidity changes which usually close again during the humid months. Often, many manufacturers will opt not to offer Pine flooring at all because it is very soft and there's not a huge demand for it in prefinished flooring.



Ash, Janka Hardness Rating 1320

Ash is known for color variation from pale white to light/medium brown. Graining is bold and can appear straight, curly or wavy. Ash flooring is very similar to White Oak, but adds a bit more excitement to a room with its more unique graining. A few popular Ash products include Kahrs Ash Kalmar, Kahrs Ash Vaila and Fabrica Fine Wood Flooring Baltic Ash.



Beech, Janka Hardness Rating 1300

This domestic wood species features closed, tight and straight grain for the most part with moderate color variation from board to board. Beech heartwood is a warm brown color with red undertones, while the sapwood is mostly pale tans. Take a look at some Beech options from Kahrs Wood Flooring.

Exotic Wood Species

Exotic Wood Species have a tendency of more color variation from board to board and more unusual grain patterns. We are seeing a growing trend with homeowners opting for these exotic species because they provide a natural warmth and offer more of a one-of-a-kind appearance than a traditional oak floor. Typically, exotic wood species score higher on the Janka Hardness Scale than standard domestic wood species do. Exotic wood species look beautiful in any setting—casual, elegant, modern, etc. and we have every construction and style available here at Hosking Hardwood Flooring: solid exotics, engineered exotics, handscraped exotics, click-locking exotics, laminate exotic styles and vinyl exotic styles.

Review the description below for more detailed information on specific exotic wood species.


Amendoim, Janka Hardness Rating 1912

Also known as Brazilian Oak, Amendoim is a favorite among the exotic wood species found in hardwood flooring. With a beautiful golden/reddish brown tone ranging from light to medium in color, Amendoim is distinctive because of its almost holographic appearance. Generally grain patterns for Amendoim appear very light and blend into the wood's warm back drop. The color of Amendoim will become richer and darken with exposure to light with stabilization at approximately 3 months. For beautiful Amendoim flooring options, take a look at Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring.


brazilian cherry

Brazilian Cherry, Janka Hardness Rating 2820

Brazilian Cherry is also known as Jatoba. This exotic wood species is known for its extreme color variation and high Janka Hardness rating. It is easily the most popular exotic wood species choice for hardwood flooring. Color patterns include reddish/brown tones, reddish/blonde highlights and occasionally deep red selections. Homeowners love the unique mosaics created by Brazilian Cherry flooring. The coloring of Brazilian Cherry also gets richer and darkens with exposure to light to create a beautiful work of art in your home. Unique graining of Brazilian Cherry also helps create a more interesting room. A tip for installing Brazilian Cherry: Continuously have 4 to 5 cartons open during installation and try to plan out rooms before securing flooring to ensure a balanced room. Since Brazilian Cherry is hugely popular right now, every manufacturer has a variation of it. We recommend beginning your search with one of the exotic wood flooring brands: IndusParquet Exotic Wood Flooring.


santos mahogany

Santos Mahogany, Janka Hardness Rating 2200

Also known as Cabrueva, Santos Mahogany is the 2nd most popular choice of exotic hardwood flooring (after Brazilian Cherry). Like Brazilian Cherry, there is quite a bit of color variation showing in the Santos Mahogany, but it's a bit more toned down. Color variation ranges from medium brownish/orange to dark brown. Graining is wavy and incorporates an open pattern. Color will become richer over time with exposure to light, with total stabilization at approximately 3 months. Selections of Santos Mahogany can be found in the major exotic flooring brands: Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring.



Tigerwood, Janka Hardness Rating 2160

The exotic wood species Tigerwood is also known as Bolivian Koa. Graining of Tigerwood includes dark, thick striping on a backdrop of pale gold and medium brown. Tigerwood typically looks best on wider planks (think 5" and wider) because of the intense graining. Tigerwood on more narrow boards tends to create a busy appearance and may become distracting in your room. Color does get richer with exposure to light, stabilizing after about 3 months and making darker graining a bit more subtle. Major exotic brands offering Tigerwood include Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring.



Kempas, Janka Hardness Rating 1710

This highly durable exotic wood species is typically full of red tones with very light graining. Before it is exposed to light, Kempas does have somewhat reddish orange tones, which will deepen to the reds after about 3 months of exposure to light. There is generally slight color variation from board to board.



Timborana, Janka Hardness Rating 1570

Timborana is a rich colored exotic wood, starting out as golden brown with red highlights. With exposure to like, reddish tones will deepen, accentuating the fine graining of natural Timborana.


Brazilian Teak

Brazilian Teak, Janka Hardness Rating 3540

Cumaru is another common name for Brazilian Teak. This is one of the hardest wood species available for hardwood flooring. Initial color range includes tan to medium brown tones with limited reddish highlights. Over time, with exposure to light, this color variation with Brazilian Teak evens out a bit and the floor will become more uniform in color (to basically a medium brown color). Brazilian Teak has minimal graining, but sometimes a limited amount of darker graining. Find Brazilian Teak selections from Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring


Tiete Chestnut

Tiete Chestnut, Janka Hardness Rating 3540

Also known as Sucupira, Tiete Chestnut offers colors ranging from tan to dark reddish brown. This exotic wood species creates a unique appearance with its course graining and limited black striping. Start your search for Tiete Chestnut at Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring


Brazilian Walnut

Brazilian Walnut, Janka Hardness Rating 3680

Brazilian Walnut is also commonly referred to as Ipe. Another very hard wood species, Brazilian Walnut works well in high traffic areas (a reason many homeowners will opt for this exotic variety of walnut rather than the domestic American Walnut). There is moderate color variation as the heartwood of this species is medium brown to deep chocolate brown and the sapwood is medium tan in color. Straight grains mixed with irregular patterns create an interesting visual, perfect for warm and elegant rooms. For Brazilian Walnut options, take a look at Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring 


Tiete Rosewood

Tiete Rosewood, Janka Hardness Rating 3280

This exotic wood species is known for its pinkish rose color with fine, linear graining. Tiete Rosewood will darken over time, the color becoming a richer red (stabilizing at approximately 3 months). You can find Tiete Rosewood selections from Indusparquet Exotic Wood Flooring



Merbau, Janka Hardness Rating 1925

Merbau creates a dark mosaic, with colors ranging from yellow/brown to orange/brown. With exposure to light, Merbau will darken and red/gold highlights will appear over the chocolate brown backdrop. Graining for Merbau is typically interlocking patterns of both wavy and linear lines.



Bamboo, Janka Hardness Rating varies

Janka Hardness Ratings for Bamboo products vary greatly. Basically, hardness of Bamboo is determined by the harvesting time of the grass. Cheaper brands, generally Chinese brands, are looking for fast milling periods and hardness of the product will decrease. Our favorite brand for Bamboo flooring is Teragren Bamboo Flooring or Hawa Bamboo Flooring. For more information on Bamboo Flooring options, see our Bamboo guide

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Overall Rating: 4.6 stars - 63 reviews

Date: June 29, 2024
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
very god overall details on so many varities of flooring. It really helped me narrow down which type to purchase.
Date: July 12, 2020
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
This was a very helpful article for seeing what the different wood options look like. Pictures with the hardness rating and a bit of info - no article I found came even close. Thank you!
Date: March 23, 2020
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very good information. The hardness ratings were exactly what I was looking for.
Date: September 28, 2019
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Very informative! Excellent descriptions plus hardness ratings and applications. Thank you
Date: September 26, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Interesting to learn the difference between American and Brazilian Walnut.
Date: September 6, 2018
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Thanks for the information! If you are looking for proficient teamwork that provides you complete roof doing in single service, then you must seek BAS Hardwood floor guys service.
Date: July 5, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Do you know the hardness for Hawaiian Koa?
Date: June 10, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
Would like to know what the Janka Hardness Scale is for Acacia wood.
Reply by HoskingHardwood : Acacia can be anywhere from about 1700 -2200 rating depending on where it was grown. Acacia is not listed here but here are some other wood species 
Date: May 23, 2018
Page Rating: (4.5/5)
Very informative. Thank you.
Date: May 9, 2018
Page Rating: (5.0/5)
very informative, thank you

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