Hickory Flooring: Considerations and Design Ideas for a Durable Hardwood Material

October 10, 2019

Hardwood floors are one of the most popular materials for use in the home. They’ve been around for centuries and are known for being incredibly long lasting and durable as well as beautiful. 

There are many different species of hardwood to consider for flooring. Each has its own coloration, grain pattern, hardness factor, and character to consider, which may make one a better fit for your home than another. When you’re looking for a floor that’s highly durable and that has a lot of movement, color, and dramatic grain, consider hickory as your flooring of choice. 

All hardwood floors have some degree of variation. The sapwood may be a different color or hue than the heartwood, and the grain of the wood may vary as well. Hickory is no different in this regard; the sapwood is very light and pale colored while the heartwood is a very dark, reddish brown. 

The grain can range from straight to wavy, and many hickory floors unless being made of primarily sapwood, tend to have a lot of character and color variation, moving dramatically from one color to the next, sometimes in one plank. 

Hickory can be found in many different plank sizes, as well as in some more consistent tones, such as flooring made mostly from sapwood. It can be given a high polish or it can have a rustic appearance. Reclaimed hickory wood flooring is also available, which shows some of the original saw marks and nail holes from the wood’s first use. 

The Durability of Hickory

All hardwoods are ranked according to their hardness factor on something called the Janka scale. This is a measurement of durability taken when a steel ball is dropped onto the wood. The distance is measured for how far the ball must travel in order to embed itself midway through the wood. The higher a wood’s Janka score, the harder and more durable the wood. 

Hickory scores higher than any other domestic hardwood with a Janka score of 1820 – that’s higher than oak, maple, pine, or other wood species found in the United States and used for flooring. To get a higher Janka score for your wood floor, you would have to choose an exotic hardwood.

Durability does impact a few things about a floor. Hickory is less likely to dent or scratch if something is dropped on it. It will be less likely to be affected by things like high heeled shoes or a dog’s claws, regardless of what kind of style or finish the wood has been given. This makes hickory a very long-wearing wood that is excellent for floors in high traffic areas. 

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the higher the Janka score, the harder the wood becomes to cut and work with. Woods that are a little lower, like maple, are more easy to cut and install. On the other hand, more exotic hardwoods such as golden teak are much more difficult to cut and work with than hickory. 

It’s important to keep this in mind when choosing your floor, as you want something that will be long lasting, but that won’t be difficult to install. Hickory is one of the longest wearing domestic hardwoods, but not quite as hard to install as some of the more long- wearing exotic woods. 

Design Considerations

Rustic Hickory

Rustic Hickory

Rustic hickory has an incredible amount of character. Reclaimed hickory often has the original saw marks and nail holes still showing. It also has a great deal of variation, including knot holes and some patina from where the wood has aged. With hickory’s long-wearing capabilities, a reclaimed wood floor can still last you another hundred years. This type of flooring would make an excellent statement in a cottage or rustic style home.

Traditional Hickory

Traditional Hickory

Traditional hickory is new cut and comes in a range of plank widths. The color still varies a lot and the grain and knot holes are still visible, but the overall floor has a smoother finish and appearance to it. Hickory makes a better choice for modern homes, industrial spaces, and transitional homes that want some character in the flooring.



With the sometimes extreme variation in color within hickory, you’ll want to ensure that it’s one of the most dramatic or busy designs in the room. Choose one of the wood tones within the floor to pick up with furniture or cabinetry; this will help unify the room and keep the hickory from overwhelming the space. Because hickory contains both warm and cool tones, you’ll have no shortage of colors that you can easily use in the room.

Best in Entryways and Living Rooms

Hickory is so durable and long-wearing, as well as so eye catching that it tends to work best in foyers, entryways, and living rooms. These high traffic areas don’t phase this durable hardwood, and the more open spaces and areas give the wood a chance to shine and become the focal point of the whole design. 

Consider Hickory for Your Home

Hickory is a beautiful, long-lasting wood with a lot of character and personality. If you’re looking for a domestic hardwood floor that will become the focus of any room, consider hickory for your home. For more inspiration and design ideas, contact an expert at Elmwood Reclaimed Timber.

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