A Guide to Wood Species

A Guide to Wood Species

In the pictures below, the upper half shows
the wood finished with water-base urethane;
the bottom with oil-modified polyurethane.

 

CherryBlackAmerican Cherry (Black Cherry)
  • Native to eastern North America.
  • Heartwood is light to dark reddish brown, lustrous; sapwood is light brown to pale with a light pinkish tone. Some flooring manufacturers steam lumber to bleed the darker heartwood color into the sapwood, resulting in a more uniform color. Color darkens significantly with age.
  • Grain is fine, frequently wavy, with a uniform texture.
  • Dimensional Stability: Above average, 33% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (950 Janka): Below average, 26% softer than northern red oak.
  • Sometimes considered too soft for an entire floor, unless factory finished; often used for borders and accents.

 

Walnut-AmericanBlackAmerican Walnut (American Black, Eastern Black)
  • The American Walnut is native to eastern North America.
  • Heartwood ranges from a deep, rich dark brown to a purplish black. Sapwood is nearly white to tan.
  • The difference between heartwood and sapwood color is great, and can cause variation in color among boards.
  • Some flooring manufacturers steam the lumber to bleed the darker heartwood color into the sapwood, resulting in a more uniform color.
  • The grain is mostly straight and open.
  • Dimensional Stability: Excellent, 26% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1010 Janka): Below average, 22% softer than northern red oak.

 

BeechBeech (American Beech)
  • American beech is native to eastern North America, but of limited availability. It accounts for less than 1% of the lumber harvested in North America.
  • Heartwood is mostly reddish brown; sapwood is generally pale white.
  • Grain is mostly closed, straight, fine, with a uniform texture.
  • Moderate to high color variation between boards.
  • American beech is difficult to stain.
  • Dimensional Stability: Below average, 17% less stable than red oak).
  • Hardness (1300 Janka): Average, 1% harder than northern red oak.

 

BirchBirch (Yellow Birch)
  • Of the several species within the birch family, yellow birch is most commonly used for flooring in North America.
  • Yellow birch is native to North America.
  • The name “yellow birch” reflects the color of the tree’s bark.
  • ‘Red birch’ is actually just the heartwood of the yellow birch. A ‘red birch’ floor has a richer, more red-toned color because none of the lighter-colored sapwood is used.
  • Medium figuring, straight, closed grain, even texture. Occasional curly grain or wavy figure in some boards.
  • Dimensional Stability: Average, 8% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1260 Janka): Average, 2% softer than northern red oak.

 

Hickory-PecanHickory
  • Hickory is a family of trees (genus Carya) consisting of about 20 species. Pecan is a species of hickory.
  • Four species of hickory are known as ‘true hickories’; the true hickories and pecan are often mixed in flooring mills.
  • Known for a combination of strength, hardness, toughness and stiffness found in no other commercial wood; exceedingly high in shock resistance. Used for baseball bats.
  • Hickory heartwood is tan or reddish; sapwood is white to cream, with fine brown lines. The grain is closed, with moderate definition.
  • Dimensional Stability: Below average, 11% less stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1820 Janka): Above average, 41% harder than northern red oak.

 

MapleMaple (Sugar Maple, Hard Maple)
  • There are approximately 128 species of maple, but sugar maple (Acer saccharum), which is native to North America, is most often used for flooring.
  • Dense, strong, tough, stiff; excellent shock resistance – often used in bowling alleys and athletic facilities.
  • Closed, subdued grain, with medium figuring and uniform texture.
  • Heartwood is creamy white to light reddish brown; sapwood is pale to creamy white.
  • Maple’s light color lends itself to contemporary light floors. It takes neutral finish well, but does not stain uniformly.
  • Dimensional Stability: Average, 4% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1450 Janka): 12% harder than northern red oak.

 

OakRedRed Oak (Northern Red Oak)
  • Red oak is the most abundant hardwood in North America, and it is the most widely used species for hardwood flooring.
  • Heartwood and sapwood are similar, with sapwood lighter in color; most pieces have a reddish tone. Slightly redder than white oak.
  • Grain is open, slightly coarser (more porous) than white oak.
  • Red oak generally works better than white for bleached floors, because it is more porous and accepts bleach better, and because tannins in white oak can discolor the floor.
  • Because of its porous, open grain, red oak is seldom used where it will be exposed to moisture, such as in outdoor furniture.
  • Dimensional Stability: Average (benchmark)
  • Hardness (1290 Janka): Average (benchmark)

 

AshWhiteWhite Ash (American Ash)
  • White ash is native to eastern North America.
  • Heartwood is light tan to dark brown; sapwood is creamy white. Similar in appearance to white oak, but frequently more yellow.
  • Bold, straight, moderately open grain with occasional wavy figuring.
  • White ash is sometimes confused with hickory; the zone of large pores is more distinctive in ash, similar to that of red oak.
  • Dimensional Stability: Above average, 26% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1320 Janka): Average, 2% harder than northern red oak.

 

OakWhiteWhite Oak
  • The North American species of white oak (Quercus alba) is one of the pre-eminent hardwoods of eastern North America.
  • Moisture resistant, it is used for wine barrels and ship building (USS Constitution), in contrast to the more porous red oak.
  • Heartwood is light brown; sapwood is white to cream. The grain is similar to red oak, with more burls and swirls.
  • Tannic acid in the wood protects it from fungi and insects; during the finishing process it can react with some liquids to turn the wood green or brown.
  • Absorbs finishes more evenly than red oak, but does not bleach well.
  • Dimensional Stability: Average, 1% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (1360 Janka): Average, 5% harder than northern red oak.

 

HeartPine-AntiqueYellow Pine (Southern, Pinus Taeda, Loblolly Pine)
  • Yellow pine refers to a group of species native to the Southern United States. Species in this group include loblolly (Pinus taeda), longleaf, shortleaf, and slash pines; all have similar characteristics, and are sometimes mixed in lumber mills.
  • Loblolly pine is the second most common species of tree in the United States, after red maple.
  • Heartwood varies from light yellow/orange to reddish brown or yellowish brown; sapwood is light tan to yellowish white. Grain is closed, with high figuring.
  • Not as resistant to scuffs, dents and abrasions as the hardwoods. Often used for flooring, but may not be suitable for all applications due to its softness.
  • Dimensional Stability: Above average, 28% more stable than red oak.
  • Hardness (loblolly 690 Janka): Below average, 47% softer than northern red oak.