Determining the best wood species for your floors can be a daunting task. Why do certain colors, grains, and densities cost more than others? And, which of these combinations are best for my home and family? The wood species that you decide to use for you home renovation will depend upon a variety of factors. Choose a local NWFA Certified Flooring Professional and they will be able to guide you through the process and help you select the wood species that fits your unique tastes and environment. Here’s an introduction to the process and some factors to get your thought process rolling:
Look, Color, Grain
What kind of wood a homeowner chooses for their floor depends on several things. One, of course, is the look of the floor. Some woods have a beautiful grain that can be wavy, curly, spiral or interlocked. Others are known for embellishments such as burrs or curls. Woods such as yew and amboyna burr are prized for these figures. There is a vast array of domestic and exotic wood species that will need to be review to find that right look to suit your home.
The homeowner also chooses the wood according to how much traffic it will get. Wood that is going to be installed in an entry hall or mudroom should be more durable than woods that are installed in a room that is not as heavily trafficked. Teak is a notoriously tough wood and is even used for patios and ship’s decking. Cypress is also a very durable wood.
How much water a type of wood absorbs is a consideration, especially if the floor is in a place with high humidity such as the bathroom. This is also related to what’s called the wood’s movement in service. This determines how much the wood shrinks, expands or warps according to the climate. Wood that is good for flooring does not move much in service. This includes domestic woods such as American pitch pine and red maple and exotic woods such as teak and izombe.
Whether a wood is easy or hard to work is also a consideration when it comes to cost. By the way, the terms hardwood and softwood can be misleading. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees such as maple or oak, while softwoods come from conifers such as cedar and pine. Elm, a hardwood, is one of the softer woods, and is even softer than some pines. Elm is only about 850 on the Janka hardness scale.
Also, more and more homeowners want their floors to be sustainable. Fortunately, both foreign and domestic foresters are aware of this and make sure they plant more trees than are harvested. Homeowners should check with their lumber retailer to make sure that the type of wood they want is grown and harvested in an environmentally friendly way.
Wood flooring can also be engineered or solid. Solid wood flooring comes in planks made of one wood, while engineered floors have a surface of high quality wood laid over layers of inferior wood or plywood.