Guide to hardwood floors Part II

So, you’ve finally made a move on your dream of getting a hardwood floor installed in your house. This is the second of a two-part post. In the first installment we talked you through the process of identifying your subfloor, choosing good and suitable hardwood planks and last of all, choosing an installation technique that is right for you. We’ve covered a lot of ground, but we’re only half-way there, so keep your seat-belts on. You may read about the first part here: Guide to hardwood floors Part1

In this post you can find some valuable advice on the overall style of your flooring, helping you choose between the various colors, grains and textures. We also explain the Janka hardness rating that you might have heard mentioned a few times, what the defect rate is about and finally, the different grades of hardwood. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.


The various Hardwood species used in flooring are categorized into 2 distinct subcategories,

  1. Domestic hardwood wood i.e. wood species that are native to North America
  2. Exotic hardwood wood that is not native to North America

Each of the wood species, whether domestic or exotic, are characterized with their own definite set of colors and properties such as knots, grain structure, mineral streaks etc.

Domestic Hardwood species have been traditionally used in most of the homes in United States as hardwood flooring. Due to the cold climate in which they grow, the color of the Domestic Hardwood species falls on the lighter side ranging from beautiful creamy whites to light yellow, gray, light browns and pinkish reds. Unlike the Exotic hardwood species, the domestic does not turn color much with age and is found in the creamy colored ranges unless stained otherwise.

Here are some of our favorite Domestic Hardwood Species,

  1. Red Oak – Red Oak is one of the most popular species of domestic hardwood due to its beautiful warm reddish pink and light golden tone. It is known to have moderate to slightly heavy graining.
  1. White Oak – Harder than the Red Oak species, its natural color falls in the light golden brown to grey range and has light to moderate graining. The White Oak is also exceptionally stable and durable and has hence been used for decades to make wine barrels and boat floorings.
  1. Maple- Maple is found extensively in the northern parts of America and Canada and has a natural pale creamy white color. Maple is the clearest of domestic wood with few to no graining that mostly runs straight or slightly curly. It is known to posses the rare ‘bird-eye’ grain pattern that strike one as tiny eyes. This wood variety is also known to be extremely hard but unlike the White Oak, can be very messy to stain due to the presence of both hard and soft cell structures.

Hardwood such as Brazilian Cherry, Rosewood, Walnut etc are some of the more popular exotic hardwood species due to their rich, intense hue and dramatic grain textures. They are also valued for their remarkable hardness. A detailed study of the Exotic floors which also lists some of our favorite species can be found in the article Wood species to create contemporary flooring style for your home.

Janka Hardness rating

This is a method used to determine a wood species’s resistance to indentation and the relative hardness between wood species. Some person (probably in a lab coat) pushed a steel ball 0.444 inches in diameter, halfway through a block of wood and measured the force it took to do it. This force gives us the Janka rating of the block of wood. If a hardwood has a low Janka rating, expect it to be indented rather easily. If you expect your floor to take a punishment day-to-day, go for a higher Janka rating. Wood, being a natural product, is never completely resistant to indentation but a higher Janka rating certainly helps.

Defect rate

Depending on where the wood is sourced from, the defect rates can vary wildly. Wood with a very low defect rate is more expensive than wood with a higher defect rate. But if the defect rate is higher than 50% you might need to purchase more than double of what you intend to use and in the end, the math adds up. A high defect rate could also signal problems that might arise during installation, so the more you know, the better.

Hardwood grades

While all wood grades can be equally defect-free each of them can be strikingly different. The higher grades called the Clear and Select grades have relatively clean looks and keep knots, streaks, swirls and other feature variation to a minimum. These high grade boards may be used in fine furniture and cabinetry found in expensive households. On the other end of the spectrum are the lower grade boards which cost a lot less and are far more ubiquitous. They may be used in constructing crates, fences, scaffolding and other heavy duty applications. The Millwood and Cabin grades allow all of the features of the wood species such as knots or streaks and colour variations to show. They are often used in paneling and as a flooring option.

With this we hope all of your questions, or at least most of them, regarding hardwood flooring have been answered. For professional guidance and assistance call us today on (888)869-0663 or visit

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