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Home / Education / Buying Guide / Hardwood Species Explained

Hardwood Species Explained


Wood is a beautiful, natural product and most species are full of graining, color variations, knots, and other natural markings.  All of these characteristics not only affect the visual of a hardwood floor, but also its performance, regardless if the construction is engineered or solid wood. This is why it is important to understand the properties of different wood species as you make your hardwood flooring selection. 

The Nature of Hardwood

As a natural product, no two hardwood planks are the same, shown here in stunning Hearthwood Tall Timbers Pure Heart.  No manufacturer can control the unique features created by nature.  It is common to see grain and knot variation when your floors are installed.  An experienced installer will take care to make sure planks are randomly placed for a good visual result. If you would prefer a uniform, monotone look, consider the realistic wood designs available in vinyl planks and laminate collections.

Manufacturers use different terms to describe their products, which are really just labels to identify how much “character” or natural markings are in the lumber.  Clear, Prime, Number 1 Common, Number 2 Common, Tavern, and Cabin grades are all terms you might hear. 

Wood Species:  Density and Visuals

The hardness of a specie can vary greatly, depending on the climate in which it is grown.  Colder climates produce tighter growth rings, resulting in a dense, strong lumber. 

Photo Credit: iStock

Here is a list of the common species used in quality hardwood floors:

Hickory – Superior hardness and high level of character and color variation.  Stains capture the graining for a very different visual on each plank.

Maple – A good level of hardness for durability.  Fairly “clean” character with limited contrasting on each plank.  Naturally lighter color and graining.

Red Oak and White Oak – Most commonly used species for hardwood flooring; durable, highly sustainable, and economical. Fine, straight graining with light to medium creamy coloring.

Small and Mid-Leaf Acacia – Very dense and durable; variation of color and character. 

French Oak – Light, neutral with open graining.  Used in wine barrels, fuming, aging and stain color clarity easily achieved due to high tannin levels.

Birch – Light overall with darker markings and high color variance.  Cold weather Birch is durable and dense.

Twenty & Oak offers durable and beautiful hardwoods that are carefully crafted for stunning visual results and long-term value.  Visit a flooring showroom with a broad range of hardwood options and view the unique features in full sized sample panels to appreciate the diversity of nature's beauty.

Twenty & Oak Experts

Twenty & Oak Experts are a team of flooring professionals with over 150 years of combined experience in the industry. They have hands-on experience with all flooring types and bring inside industry know-how to homeowners in the Southeast.

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