So, you have decided that you would like to install brand new hardwood floors on the main level of your house. Now you are faced with the task of choosing one product, out of the dozens of different hardwood species available for your new floors. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we can provide milled flooring or hardwood lumber in just about any domestic or exotic species, but here is an outline of our most popularly requested flooring products and their characteristics.
While American Cherry is a softer wood species than the majority of other hardwoods used for flooring, it is valued for its beautiful grain and color. Homeowners love the charm of Cherry floors, as the color and graining will vary slightly from board to board. This distinctive graining can appear to be “busy” when installed in standard 2-1/4” strips. For this reason, many people choose to use Cherry in wider planks of 5”, because then the graining takes on a more subtle look. When freshly milled, Cherry lumber has a medium, reddish brown tone, which will deepen over time. The relative softness of Cherry can be overcome by different finishing and installation methods.
American Walnut is valued for its rich, chocolate brown coloring. The graining of this wood is generally very straight and clear with a moderate amount of variation from board to board. As with most flooring options, there are several different grades of Walnut, one of which being a “character grade” meaning it includes imperfections such as knots which are a great choice for a more rustic look.
American Walnut is a slightly softer wood than other hardwoods, but it stands up well to medium traffic. For high traffic areas, we suggest using Brazilian Walnut (also known as Ipe). Brazilian Walnut has similar coloring to its North American cousin, but has about twice the hardness.
Red Oak is probably the most popular domestic hardwood species used for flooring. Homeowners admire its beautiful grain patterns, which can vary from moderate straight to dramatic cathedraling, depending on which part of the tree it is sawn from. The coloring of this species can range from a light, creamy pink to reds to shades of brown. Using Red Oak in standard 2-1/4” strips will give your home a very traditional appearance.
White Oak differs from Red Oak in that its undertones are gold, brown and grey rather than red and pink. White Oak is actually harder than Red Oak and, therefore, takes stain exceptionally well. The grain of White Oak is generally straighter and more linear than that of Red Oak as well. White Oak has been a traditional choice for flooring, boat building and for making wine barrels for centuries, and is a great choice if you like the look of Oak, but want to stay away from red undertones.
One of the hardest woods in the world, Teak has long been used for flooring in exterior applications such as in boat building and wood decking projects. Teak is an excellent choice for high traffic areas or could be used to achieve an indoor/outdoor effect by installing teak in a living room that opens out onto a teak deck. Aside from its excellent durability and physical qualities, homeowners love Teak because of its gorgeous color, which ranges from mellow golds to deep reddish browns. The grain of teak is also very tight and straight, which aids in its stability. Teak may be one of the more expensive species of wood, but it is worth the price due to its 85 + year lifespan.
There are many different types of Mahogany used for hardwood flooring which range in color from yellows, to pinks, to reds, to browns, but all types of Mahogany are valued for several common reasons. The grain of Mahogany interlocks, which means that the graining can either be straight or wavy. Mahogany is also a very hard species, so it accepts stain well and can be polished to a high shine. This species also has great workability, which has made it a favorite for woodworkers and furniture makers for centuries.
Maple is primarily grown in the northern United States and in Canada. Maple is known for its distinct, creamy white color and its very light, fine grain pattern. Because the grain is so subtle (in some boards, it is almost indiscernible), maple flooring is a favorite for homeowners looking for a more modern or contemporary look. However, if you choose Maple, you must know that the cellular structure of the wood makes it very hard to stain and, without using wood conditioner, the outcome can be uneven and blotchy. For most people, this is not a problem though, as the natural color of Maple is quite beautiful in its own right.
Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry)
Brazilian Cherry is probably the most popular exotic species for hardwood flooring. It is noted for both its hardness and it’s extreme color variation, with hues ranging from reddish brown, reddish blonde to deep red. A Brazilian Cherry floor will have the look of a wooden mosaic, which is very appealing to many homeowners. Like American Cherry, the color of Brazilian Cherry also deepens over time and with exposure to sunlight which helps to unify all of the color variations.
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