Hardwood Flooring Many Types
Hardwood flooring is becoming more popular in the Albuquerque, Rio Rancho NM areas. If you are considering installing hardwood flooring please read the great information provided by flooring expert Debbie Gartner.
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There are many species of hardwood flooring, and I thought it would be helpful to visualize and explain the different types. I'm going to focus on the 6 most popular species - oak, maple, hickory, bamboo, brazilian cherry and brazilian walnut.
Oak hardwood flooring - Oak is the most common type of hardwood in the US. It's generally less expensive (since it is the most common) and it's usually the type of hardwood that you find in most homes...so if you are looking to match what you already have, chances are, it is oak. There are actually two species of oak: red oak white oak. You can read more about red oak vs. white oak it in this post.
Oak flooring is very practical for several reasons. First, it is economical. Second, due to the strong graining of oak, it helps hide the scratches and dents better than most other hardwoods. Third, oak absorbs stain very well, so it is easy to change the color when you are refinishing the floors.
Below are some examples of oak hardwood with different color stains. You can go from very light all the way to ebony (not shown). When you sand and refinish the floors, it's easy to go from light to dark, or vice versa or anywhere in between.
Maple hardwood - Maple is slightly harder than oak (1450 on Janka hardness scale vs. Red Oak at 1290), and it is light in color than oak. Maple hardwood generally comes from Canada and the northern US. Maple has light graining for a smoother and sleeker look. It's more modern and contemporary while oak is more classic and traditional. Some customers prefer this light color and smoother look, while others feel it has less character. Maple is more expensive than oak and the difference varies pending on which grade of maple it is.
Maple tends to yellow a bit more over time, especially in rooms that have a lot of light. Maple does not absorb the stain as well as oak does. Because of this, maples with stains tend to have a bit of 'blotchiness" in them...some people prefer this look; others think it looks fake. Maple just absorbs stains differently...and with some of the darker stains, they turn gray...which is a very stylized look. If you are looking for that hip gray look, maple is your best bet (it just doesn't look the same on oak...the gray on oak looks tired and worn but on maple it looks sleek and hip).
With maple flooring, there is a wide variance on the grades of hardwood. Clear grade looks very clear and uniform, and if you are going for the modern look, definitely go for a clear grade (and beware...some samples are misleading). Clear grade costs a lot more...so if you are seeing major differences in prices across brands or companies, this is probably the reason why. Lower grades have a lot of color variation, darker boards and impecfections...which is great if you are going for more character, but won't work if you want modern/contemporary. See the picture to the right as an example.
Hickory - Hickory hardwood is also native to the US and looks fairly similar to oak in its color and graining, but it is significantly harder than oak (hickory is 1800 on the janka scale vs. red oak is 1290). Many hickories have a lot of color variation and some have knotting and differences in color even within a board. Because of hickory's hardness and it's ability to hide scratches and dents, it's often a great choice for busy households and households with pets. Hickory is more expensive than oak.
Bamboo flooring - Technically bamboo is a grass, but it can often have the hardness of a hardwood and has really risen in popularity the last few years given its exotic look, lower prices and it's eco-friendly story.
Bamboo is often a bit less expensive than oak, but prices can vary based on the type of bamboo and quality. Bamboo, more than any other species (because it's imported from China), tends to have the greatest variation on quality and if you are considering bamboo, I suggest you do your homework. If you are looking at a very low priced bamboo, chances are it is low quality and will dent very easily. so tread with caution here. You can read more about bamboo here - Is bamboo flooring hard or soft?.
Strand woven bamboo is very strong and durable (and it's significantly harder than oak). It also costs more and looks different than the bamboo you may be accustomed to but, if you are looking for a more durable bamboo, this is the way to go.
One of the nice benefits of bamboo flooring is that the solid version can actually be glued to concrete floors, so if you live in a condo or co-op with concrete floors, this may be a cost effective option for you.
While some bamboos are technically harder than oak, many on the market place (especially the carmelized/darker ones) are not. Carmelized bamboo get it's color by heating and in the process, it weakens the structure. Bamboo tends to show dents and scratches much more than oak, and it tends to be even more sensitive to water from minor leaks or pet stains. Oak is very easy to sand and refinish, while bamboo isn't. Further, bamboo does not tend to absorb the stains nor the polyurethane very well, so you are much better off getting prefinished bamboo (vs. for other hardwoods, both prefinished and unfinished hardwood will work).
Brazilian Cherry - As the name implies, Brazilian Cherry comes from Brazil and most fall in love with this beauty due to it deep red color (and it tends to darken and deepen with age) and it's smooth graining which gives it a very rich look. Brazilian cherry is very hard (2350 on the janka hardness scale). Brazilian cherry tends to have a lot of color variation across the planks which some customers love and others dislike (and the samples are often misleading).
Brazilian Cherry is often called Jatoba (the spanish name).
Brazilian cherry hardwood darkens with age (actually almost all hardwoods darken with age, but the exotic/South American species darken the most). Be careful if you have area rugs...if you lift them up, you will see the wood underneath is lighter than the other areas. But, don't worry, over time (usually around 6 months), it will catch up. Also, because Brazilian cherry darkens over time, some customers get confused and concerned when they see the hardwood when it's initially installed as it is often lighter than they imagined/remembered, but it will darken and deepen over time so not to worry.
Brazilian Walnut - Brazilian Walnut is also very rich looking and has similar smooth graining to Brazilian Cherry, but it is brown in tones. Brazilian Walnut is often called Ipee or Lapacho (spanish) and it is extremely hard...one of the hardest hardwoods ~3,600 on the janka scale (almost 3 times as hard as red oak). Brazilian Walnut also has large color variation and like Brazilian Cherry, it darkens significantly over time. Brazilian Walnut is generally more expensive than Brazilian Cherry and both are significantly more expensive than oak.
There are many other species of hardwood flooring, but these are the most popular hardwoods in Westchester County. I will do a follow up blog to show some of the other hardwood species including:
- Brazilian Teak
- Caribbean Walnut
- Brazilian Oak/Amendoim
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What species of hardwood flooring are there?
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"The Flooring Girl"
Debbie Gartner, "The Flooring Girl" and owner of Floor Coverings International Westchester NY
You can download our free flooring guide. Or, visit our flooring selector - 2,000 options. We install hardwood flooring, carpet and runners, tile floors and backsplashes. We also refinish hardwood floors.
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