When shopping for hardwood flooring there are many factors to consider. Clearly, the appearance is the main factor, but what about the species, the finish, or even the hardness of the wood. Does that stuff really matter? The answer is yes. The species, the finish, and the hardness are factors you need to take into consideration because they will help you determine what type of hardwood will be the best for your lifestyle.
Deciding on a hardwood species all depends on what you like and which will work best for you as well as your budget. A combination of qualities should be weighed upon when selecting a species for flooring 1.) appearance-related attributes such as texture, grain, and color; 2.) as well as mechanical properties such as dimensional stability, durability, and ease in finishing; and 3.) finally, availability and cost.
Many different elements, from the nature of the living tree to the way the lumber is sawed, affect the way the finished floor will look.
HEARTWOOD, SAPWOOD: Heartwood is the older, harder, central portion of a tree. Most of the time, it has various deposits of material that frequently give it a darker color than sapwood. It is denser, less permeable, and more durable than sapwood.
Sapwood is the young softwood in the outer portion of a tree that is between the layer below the bark and the heartwood. It is more permeable, less durable, and usually lighter in color than that of the heartwood.
The amount of each heartwood and sapwood that go into a flooring batch may affect the way it accepts stain and finish, and therefore, the finished appearance of the floor. Generally, quartersawn and riftsawn flooring will contain less sapwood than plainsawn flooring and will tend to have a straighter grain and more even look to it.
WOODGRAIN AND TEXTURE: Grain is often used in reference to annual growth rings, as in “fine” or “coarse” grain; it also is used to indicate the direction of fibers, as in straight, spiral, and curly grain. Annual rings are produced when the tree is grown in temperate climates, they show the difference in density and color between wood formed early and that formed late in the growing season. The inner part of the growth ring, formed first is called springwood; the outer part formed later in the season is called summerwood. The direction of the grain, as well as the amount of figuring in the wood, can affect the way it is anded and sawed. Grain can also be used as describing the size of the pores such as being “open” or “closed,” which affects the way it takes stain.
Texture mostly refers to the finer structure of the wood. Sometimes it is used to combine the concepts of density and degree of contrast between spring wood and summer wood in the annual growth rings.
TYPES OF SAW CUT: Lumber is either plainsawn, quartersawn, or riftsawn. Plainsawn is the most common and most wood flooring is cut this way.
Plainsawn is the most economical because it provides the widest boards and results in the least waste. Since most of the lumber produced by plain sawing is flat-grained, with some vertical grained wood included, plainsawn lumber will tend to contain more variation within and among boards than quartersawn lumber, in which nearly all of the wood is vertical grained. The physical difference to consider when choosing plainsawn lumber rather than quarter sawn is figure patterns resulting from the annual rings and some other types of figures are usually brought out more conspicuously by plain sawing.
In quarter sawing, lumber is produced by first quartering the log and then sawing perpendicular to the growth rings. It produces relatively narrow boards, nearly all vertical grained, and creates more waste making it more expensive than plainsawn. The physical factors to keep in mind when choosing quartersawn lumber over plainsawn is it twists and cups less, it splits less during seasoning and in use, annual growth rings do not appear as pronounced, it wears more evenly, the sapwood only appears at the edges, and it is limited to the width of the log’s sapwood.
Riftsawing is similar to quartersawing, with many of the same advantages and limitations. It creates more waste than quartersawing, making it more expensive.
MOISTURE CONTENT AND DIMENSIONAL STABILITY: Moisture plays a large part in how wood behaves, both during the machining process and after installation. Moisture content is defined as the weight of water in wood expressed as a percentage of the weight of oven-dry wood. In trees, the moisture content may be as much as 200% of the weight of the wood substance. After harvesting and milling, the wood will be dried to the proper moisture content for its end-use. Most solid wood flooring will contract during periods of low humidity, sometimes leaving noticeable cracks between boards. To minimize the effect, users should stabilize the environment of the building through temperature and humidity control.
HARDNESS AND DURABILITY: Probably the most important strength property for wood used in flooring applications is its side hardness, also known as Janka hardness. Common domestic species Janka rating is listed below.
INSTALLATION AND NAILING: When nailing some of the denser woods with hand or air nailer, installers may encounter splitting tongues, as well as failure to secure the fastener even after repeated attempts. This can sometimes be corrected by changing the angle of the nail’s point of entry or by blunting the ends of fasteners may also help.
SANDING: Some wood species are highly resinous and tend to clog sandpaper. When working with these species, it may be necessary to use a coarser grit of sandpaper than normal and change the sandpaper more often.
FINISHING: Some woods, especially imports, contain oils and chemical compounds that may adversely react with certain types of finishes to inhibit drying, dramatically change the color of the wood, or both. Some imported species may weep natural oils for an extended period of time, possibly causing finish problems at a later date.
Water-based urethanes tend to leave wood lighter in color. They also tend to adhere well to most woods, including exotics, whereas some solvent-based finishes have adhesion, drying, or color change problems.
Just as every individual wood species is dynamic and prone to change in response to its environment, so too is the market for all wood flooring species.
|EASILY AVAILABLE||READILY AVAILABLE||MODERATELY AVAILABLE||LIMITED AVAILABLE|
|Brazilian cherry (jatoba)||Australian cypress||Brazilian teak (cumaru)||Antique heart pine|
|Southern yellow pine||Black walnut||Spotted gum||Mesquite|
|White Oak||Hickory/pecan||Tasmanian oak||Purpleheart|
|Brazilian walnut (ipe)||Teak, Thai/Burmese||Wenge|
Our top 3 best-selling domestic hardwood species are:
Our top 3 best-selling exotic hardwood species are:
The finish will protect the floor beneath just as bark protects the wood in nature.
The hardness of your hardwood floor will determine how it holds up to dents, damage, and stains. It also affects the pricing. If you anticipate heavy activity on your hardwood floors and dents & damage are a problem for you the hardness of the species will be a major factor in your final decision.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW HOW WOOD HARDNESS IS MEASURED?
Wood hardness is measured using the Janka Hardness Test. (pronounced ‘yay-nka) It measures the force required to drive a steel ball into the wood until half of it is embedded into the wood. So, the higher the force, the higher the Janka rating and the more durable the wood. In the following chart, I have included a few different species and their Janka rating.
COMMON DOMESTIC SPECIES JANKA RATINGS
Good dent protection, excellent choice
Very Durable, Takes Stains Well
Very Durable, Takes Stains Well
Deep Color, Ideal for Rooms with warm tones
Like most flooring, what you need depends on your needs or better yet, your room’s needs.
The hardwood you put in the hallway might be different than your living room. And the wood in your living room might be different than your kitchen.
Without considering appearance and cost, I’d go with the hardest wood you can. You’re less likely to get frustrated, and it’s going to last longer. But there are many times when a softer Pine or Cherry wood looks awesome, and it saves you a bunch of money. In conclusion, when shopping for hardwood flooring go with something you love and that works for your lifestyle!