Domestic Hardwood Species
When it comes to durable, unfinished solid and engineered wood flooring, North America offers plenty of options, including:
- Red Oak
- White Oak
- American Walnut
- American Cherry
- New Heart Pine
- Southern Yellow Pine
- Antique Reclaimed Heart Pine
Of these species, Hickory has the highest rating on the Janka Hardness scale, with American Cherry being the softest.
In terms of popularity, Oak traditionally heads the field. No matter if you choose Red or White Oak flooring for your home, both are characterized by open grain with a moderately coarse texture and high shock and wear resistance. All unfinished Red or White Oak floors are graded on appearance under the following labels: Select & Better, #1 Common, Character, #2 Common, and #3 common; the higher the grade, the fewer character marks you will find.
While both Red & White Oak share similarities, there are some noticeable differences. Red Oak hardwood has a moderately uniform appearance, with heartwood and sapwood both colored a light red. Red Oak flooring is also resistant to splitting, has good holding ability, and sands well. For bleaching a floor, Red Oak is ideal. For a truly unique appearance, red oak solid flooring is also available in rift & quartered sawn options.
White Oak, on the other hand, has white, cream, or light brown heartwood and sapwood. The hardwood is characterized by longer rays when plainsawn, although other cuts have minimal variation. It is also slightly more dense and durable than Red Oak and proves to be better for machining. While bleaching the wood is not recommended, White Oak has a high concentration of tannins, which allow the hardwood to be resistant to fungi and insects. In addition to the increased stability of rift & quartered cuts, White Oak is also available in a live sawn option that affords increased hardness.
For a traditional look, unfinished oak flooring allows for more possibilities in a space. Both unfinished Red and White Oak floors stain well, and once installed, small portions of the floor can be tested with various finishes in order to find the right color. To install unfinished Oak flooring, however, the full area must be sterile and isolated. While installing, sanding, and finishing can take weeks, unfinished oak flooring, more so than prefinished planks, can blend in seamlessly with existing materials in your home.