Hardwood Floor Woods

Hardwood floor woods are the botanical group of trees that have broad leaves, produce a fruit or nut, and generally go dormant in the winter.

America’s temperate climates produce forests with hundreds of hardwood species — trees that share certain biological characteristics. Although oak, maple and cherry are all types of hardwood trees, for example, they are different species. Together, all the hardwood species represent 40 percent of the trees in the United States.

On the other hand, softwoods, or conifers, from the Latin word meaning “cone-bearing,” have needles. Widely available US softwoods include cedar, fir, hemlock, pine, redwood, spruce and cypress. In a home, the softwoods are used primarily as structural lumber such as 2x4s and 2x6s, with some limited decorative applications.

Ash – Hardwood Floor Wood

Ash

General Description

The sapwood is light-colored to nearly white and the heartwood varies from greyish or light brown, to pale yellow streaked with brown. The wood is generally straight-grained with a coarse uniform texture. The degree and availability of light-colored sapwood, and other properties, will vary according to the growing regions.

Working Properties

Ash machines well, is good in nailing, screwing and gluing, and can be stained to a very good finish. It dries fairly easily with minimal degrade, and there is little movement in performance.

Physical Properties

Ash has very good overall strength properties relative to its weight. It has excellent shock resistance and is good for steam bending.

Birch – Hardwood Floor Wood

Birch

General Description

Yellow birch has a white sapwood and light reddish brown heartwood. The wood is generally straight-grained with a fine uniform texture. Generally characterized by a plain and often curly or wavy pattern.

Working Properties

The wood works fairly easily, glues well with care, takes stain extremely well, and nails and screws satisfactorily where pre-boring is advised. It dries rather slowly with little degrade, but it has moderately high shrinkage, so is susceptible to movement in performance.

Physical Properties

The wood of yellow birch is heavy, hard and strong. It has very good bending properties, with good crushing strength and shock resistance.

Maple – Hardwood Floor Wood

Maple

General Description

The sapwood is creamy white with a slight reddish brown tinge and the heartwood varies from light to dark reddish brown. The amount of darker brown heartwood can vary significantly according to growing region. Both sapwood and heartwood can contain pith fleck. The wood has a close fine, uniform texture and is generally straight-grained, but it can also occur as “curly,” “fiddleback,” and “birds-eye” figure.

Working Properties

Hard maple dries slowly with high shrinkage, so it can be susceptible to movement in performance. Pre-boring is recommended when nailing and screwing. With care it machines well, turns well, glues satisfactorily, and can be stained to an outstanding finish. Polishes well and is suitable for enamel finishes and brown tones.

Physical Properties

The wood is hard and heavy with good strength properties, in particular its high resistance to abrasion and wear. It also has good steam-bending properties.

Hickory – Hardwood Floor Wood

Hickory

General Description

The hickories are an important group within the Eastern hardwood forests. Botanically they are split into two groups; the true hickories, and the pecan hickories (fruit bearing). The wood is virtually the same for both and is usually sold together. Hickory is the hardest, heaviest and strongest American wood. The sapwood of hickory is white, tinged with inconspicuous fine brown lines while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown. Both are coarse-textured and the grain is fine, usually straight but can be wavy or irregular.

Working Properties

The heaviest of American hardwoods, the hickories can be difficult to machine and glue, and are very hard to work with hand tools, so care is needed. They hold nails and screws well, but there is a tendency to split so pre-boring is advised. The wood can be sanded to a good finish. The grain pattern welcomes a full range of medium-to-dark finishes and bleaching treatments. It can be difficult to dry and has high shrinkage.

Physical Properties

The density and strength of the hickories will vary according to the rate of growth, with the true hickories generally showing higher values than the pecan hickories. The wood is well-known for its very good strength and shock resistance and it also has excellent steam-bending properties. Extremely tough and resilient, even texture, quite hard and only moderately heavy.

Red Oak – Hardwood Floor Wood

Red Oak

General Description

The sapwood of red oak is white to light brown and the heartwood is a pinkish reddish brown. The wood is similar in general appearance to white oak, but with a slightly less pronounced figure due to the smaller rays. The wood is mostly straight-grained, with a coarse texture.

Working Properties

Red oak machines well, nailing and screwing are good although pre-boring is recommended, and it can be stained to a good finish. It can be stained with a wide range of finish tones. It dries slowly.

Physical Properties

The wood is hard and heavy, with medium bending strength and stiffness and high crushing strength. It is very good for steam bending. Great wear-resistance.

Walnut – Hardwood Floor Wood

Walnut

General Description

The sapwood of walnut is creamy white, while the heartwood is light brown to dark chocolate brown, occasionally with a purplish cast and darker streaks. The wood develops a rich patina that grows more lustrous with age. Walnut is usually supplied steamed, to darken sapwood. The wood is generally straight-grained, but sometimes with wavy or curly grain that produces an attractive and decorative figure. This species produces a greater variety of figure types than any other.

Working Properties

Walnut works easily with hand and machine tools, and nails, screws and glues well. It holds paint and stain very well for an exceptional finish and is readily polished. It dries slowly, and care is needed to avoid kiln degrade. Walnut has good dimensional stability.

Physical Properties

Walnut is a tough hardwood of medium density, with moderate bending and crushing strengths and low stiffness. It has a good steam-bending classification.

White Oak – Hardwood Floor Wood

White Oak

General Description

The sapwood is light-colored and the heartwood is light to dark brown. White oak is mostly straight-grained with a medium to coarse texture, with longer rays than red oak. White oak therefore has more figure.

Working Properties

White oak machines well, nails and screws well although pre-boring is advised. Since it reacts with iron, galvanized nails are recommended. Its adhesive properties are variable, but it stains to a good finish. Can be stained with a wide range of finish tones. The wood dries slowly.

Physical Properties

A hard and heavy wood with medium bending and crushing strength, low in stiffness, but very good in steam bending. Great wear-resistance.

Cherry – Hardwood Floor Wood

Cherry

General Description

The heartwood of cherry varies from rich red to reddish brown and will darken with age and on exposure to light. In contrast, the sapwood is creamy white. The wood has a fine uniform, straight grain, satiny, smooth texture, and may naturally contain brown pith flecks and small gum pockets.

Working Properties

Cherry is easy to machine, nails and glues well and when sanded and stained, it produces an excellent smooth finish. It dries fairly quickly with moderately high shrinkage, but is dimensionally stable after kiln-drying.

Physical Properties

The wood is of medium density with good bending properties, it has low stiffness and medium strength and shock resistance.