Species and Types of Hardwood Flooring
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When choosing your next hardwood floor, you have a lot to consider. From construction type to installation type and all the materials used, there are many factors that’ll impact your decision.

Types of Hardwood Construction

Will you put your flooring in a high traffic area? Narrow your search by choosing the right type of construction based on your durability needs.


Solid hardwood floors are the most durable. They’re typically ¾” thick, which means they can be sanded and refinished multiple times to maintain their attractive look.

Although durable, it’s not recommended for installation over concrete or radiant heat. It’s also more expensive than engineered hardwood floors. Depending on the hardwood species, the hardness of the floor will vary. Look for the Janka rating to determine the hardness level.


Engineered is similar to laminate flooring in that a hardwood veneer (the attractive part) is glued on top of a core board. This makes the flooring more stable, without losing its real wood surface look.

The durability of engineered flooring is dependent on how many plies are used to create the plywood core board. However, the number of plies also impacts how expensive the flooring is.

The price is dependent on the veneer’s thickness. It ranges from 0.6 mm to 6 mm. The thicker, the more expensive. If you do not plan to refinish the flooring at any point, you don’t have to worry about the thickness of the veneer as much. However, if you do plan to refinish it, you must purchase an engineered flooring with at least 2 mm thickness.

One big perk of this type of hardwood is where it can be installed. Because of the materials used, engineered hardwood can be installed over concrete or radiant heat.

Acrylic Impregnated

This type of hardwood flooring is usually used in commercial settings. It can handle moisture well and it is more durable to heavy foot traffic.

Reclaimed and Recycled

Sometimes, hardwood flooring is made out of recycled materials. The process remains the same, but the materials differ.

Hardwood Floor Grades

Another factor to consider is the grade of your hardwood floors. The grade of your hardwood floor refers to the look, not the quality.

Believe it or not, there is no universal grading system. Still, there are common grading terms that will shed some light onto the type of floor you’re considering. For pre-finished hardwood, these grades include:

  • Clear Grade: Few variations in color, length, or pattern. It’s considered the best grade for hardwood floors.
  • Select and Better: Slightly more knots and patterns exposed, but still very uniform in color and length.
  • #1 Common: Slightly more color variation, shorter length, and more patterns.
  • #2 Common: Even more color variation, with visible knots and pinholes.
  • Cabin Grade: More rustic appeal with unfilled knots and pinholes.
  • Shorts: The most unique grade with no two planks looking the same.

If you’re purchasing an unfinished hardwood product, you’ll have to select from the following grades:

  • Clear Grade: Few variations in color or pattern.
  • Select and Better: Slightly more variation, but still quite uniform.
  • Country or Exclusive Grades: More variation in color and plank length. Also, an increase in pinholes and knots.
  • Traditional, Antique, or Character Grades: Natural coloring and patterns visible.
  • Tavern or Cabin Grade: Visible character and higher color variation.

Important Considerations for Your Hardwood Flooring

In addition to manufacturing process and style, you’ll have a few more considerations to make.

Texture Type

How textured do you want your hardwood flooring? Textures vary among the following:

  • Smooth: This is as smooth as a milled board.
  • Hand-Scraped: This is manually distressed.
  • Distressed: This is distressed by machine.
  • Antique: These boards have an aged appearance.
  • Wire Brushed: These are the most textured. Using a wire brush, the soft wood is removed making it more durable and easier to maintain.

Installation Type

If you plan to install the flooring yourself, this is an especially important consideration. Here are some of the most common types of installation for hardwood flooring:

  • Nail/Staple: This refers to nailing or stapling your floor to the subfloor. Stapling is usually easier than nailing. Both are difficult, especially for beginners.
  • Glue: You can glue engineered hardwood flooring, but this installation style is not recommended for solid hardwood floors.
  • Float: You can either click to lock your floors together, or glue the seams together while “floating” (or not nailing, gluing, or stapling) the floors over your subfloor. This is found in Engineered Hardwood. It is the easiest type of wood to use for people who want to DIY the installation.

Once you’ve decided on each of these factors, you’re ready to choose the best design to match the look and décor of your room.


Each species of tree has different characteristics, including the toughness of the wood, coloring and pattern.

Common domestic species include: White Ash, Beech, Birch, Black Cherry, Hickory-Pecan, Sugar Maple, Oak (White and Red), Pine, and Black Walnut. Exotic species include: Cork, Spotted Gum, Brazilian (Cherry, Teak, Maple, and Walnut), Bamboo, Tasmanian Oak, Purple heart, and more.

Hardwood flooring remains one of the most popular types of floors in households today. It’s timeless beauty, unique design, and flexible style is perfect for homes of all shapes and sizes.

To help you find the right flooring for you, here is a breakdown of the different species and types of hardwood floors:

Alder. Alder is one of the most eco-friendly floors because it grows so quickly. It only needs 10 to 15 years to reach maturity. This is one of the softest types of woods, with a 590 Janka rating. It’s commonly used in “shabby chic” décor because of its light color and fine grain texture.

American Black Walnut. This type of flooring is commonly found in North America. The dark brown color and rich accents give it a dramatic appeal. The curls in the grain are distinct. With a Janka rating of 1010, it’s one of the softer woods.

American Cherry. This is sometimes known as “fruitwood” because it has a light reddish brown tint. The tight, wavy grains give it a distinct appeal. It is one of the softer hardwood floors with a 950 Janka rating. Still, that doesn’t take away from its durability. It ranks at 7.1 on the stability index, which is higher than average.

Asian Mahogany. This floor is also known as Keruing, which means it has many different species. The coloration varies from pink to dark brown. The grains are shallow but the texture is coarse. It ranks at 1270 at the Janka scale.

Australian Cypress. This honey colored wood features dark streaks and distinct grains. It is filled with beautiful knots and patterns, making it perfect for rustic décor. The wood is very durable with a Janka rating of 1375.

Beech. Beech wood is distinct in character with a streaky grain texture. The color varies from a creamy white to a light reddish brown. This smooth wood is highly durable with a 1300 rating on the Janka scale.

Birch. Birch wood varies greatly. The most common style for flooring is Yellow Birch. It can also be stained with a darker mahogany or walnut finish. There is a tight grain with curves and curls. It’s a durable wood with a 1260 Janka rating.

Brazilian Cherry. This type of Cherry wood is a little darker than the American version. It has a deeper color with the same streaky grain texture. It is rated at 2820 on the Janka scale, making it hard and durable.

Brazilian Teak. This is one of the hardest woods in the world. The texture is relatively uniform with medium and light brown streaks. It feels oily and waxy, making it ultra unique. With a 3540 Janka rating and an above average stability ranking, this is one of the most durable floors available.

Brazilian Walnut. This is another dark flooring with a deep brownish tint and dramatic gold hues. The wood is heavy and oily with one of the highest Janka ratings among all hardwood. This wood comes in at 3680 on the Janka scale.

Bubinga. This African grown wood is dark with a reddish tint. It is ideal for rustic décor because of its uniquely fine grain texture. This is one of the hardest woods with a 2690 Janka rating.

Hard Maple. This is a common type of wood used for flooring. It is also known as “sugar maple” because of it’s light coloring. The medium grain can sometimes have beautiful quilted like patterns. When it does, it’s sold at a premium. It rates at 1450 on the Janka scale.

Hickory. This creamy, light wood ranges in color from tan to reddish brown. The grain is spotted with knots, which gives it a unique decorative appeal. Suppliers often use pecan wood, which is a type of hickory. It is highly durable with an 1820 Janka rating.

Kempas. This type of wood has an orange/red hue with minimal patterns or grain streaks. Still, the texture is coarse, making it less stable than many other types of hardwood. The Janka rating is 1710.

Merbau. This wood is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. The rich, dark brown coloration makes it difficult to see the dark grain texture. However, when the speckles of gold shine through, the floor has an almost regal look to it. With a 1925 Janka rating, it’s hard and durable.

Mesquite. This is a popular type of wood in the Southwestern part of the United States and in Mexico. The light brown and reddish coloring pairs with a distinct pattern. It is durable, coming in at 2345 on the Janka scale.

Padauk. This is a dark, almost purplish type wood. It is found in Central and West Africa. With a 1725 rating on the Janka scale, it is one of the strongest and most stable types of wood.

Pine. This wood is a yellowish brown color, which can sometimes give it a light orange tint. The closed grain and streaky pattern filled with the occasional knot make it distinct. It’s a soft wood with a Janka rating of 690 to 870.

Red Oak. Red oak is one of the most popular types of floors. It is light in color with a reddish hue to it. The tight grain pattern is distinct with knots and wavy texture. It ranges on the Janka scale from 1060 to 1290.

Santos Mahogany. This rich, reddish brown flooring has a fine texture to it. The various grain patterns are not overpowering because of the low variation in coloring. It is highly durable with a Janka rating of 2200.

Sapele. This exotic hardwood is found in Africa. It is dark with a reddish tint to it and fine grain texture. This is similar to a mahogany wood, but it is far more durable with a 1500 Jankta rating.

Tigerwood. As the name suggests, this wood has the similar striping and coloration of a tiger. It’s found in South America and is considered one of the most stable types of flooring. It has an 1850 Janka rating.

True Teak. Unlike Brazilian Teak, this flooring is softer with a more pronounced texture. Measuring in at 1000 to 1155 on the Janka scale, it’s actually one of the softest types of hardwood floors available. The color is a yellowish brown with dark brown accents.

Wenge. This flooring is found in Africa. It is dark brown with thick, dark striping. The straight grains and oily texture make it highly stable and strong. It has a 1630 Janka rating.

White Ash. White ash is a hard floor with a 1320 Janka rating, making it a popular choice among homeowners. It’s light in color, ranging from a cream color to a pale tan. The pattern is similar to oak with a unique grain. It’s shock resistant and durable enough to last the test of time, even in high traffic areas.

White Oak. White oak has a pale brown color that can sometimes look greyish. The open grains and long rays of patterns pair nicely with the occasional knots or swirls. It is a softer wood with a 1210 Janka rating.

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