Types of Wood Flooring: A Guide For Your Next DIY Project

September 2, 2017


We are all familiar with classic (and somewhat boring) strip oak flooring. Thankfully today there are so many attractive and exciting options available, the real question becomes: Where do I start? From hardwoods to softwoods and even reclaimed woods, there is a wood floor and a look for every wood floor design idea, style and space. 

Wood flooring has been around for centuries, and its popularity only continues to increase with time. And with this popularity comes new innovations in the way that floors are created and installed. Different wood species, engineered wood, solid wood, Janka scores, and finishes can all make the selection of a wood floor more confusing than what older floors involved. 

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All of these choices, however, mean that it’s now possible to find the perfect floor for every application. Whether you’re looking for a long-wearing floor for a commercial office or you want a more decorative floor for a residential living room, there are solid hardwood flooring options out there that can meet your exact needs.

This guide to types of wood flooring options will help you navigate the different terms, materials, uses, and wood flooring trends so you can find the perfect wood flooring for your next diy project. 

Rustic Wood Flooring

Rustic Reclaimed Wood Flooring Is Timeless Rustic Style

Types of Wood Floors

Wood flooring has a lot of different labels to it. Wood species are one consideration and the finish is another. But you also need to consider how the flooring is made. There are two basic types of wood floors available today – solid hardwood flooring and engineered wood flooring

Solid wood is exactly what it sounds like – each plank of wood is made of a solid piece. The top grain goes all the way down through the wood, so solid hardwood flooring can be sanded down and refinished countless times. Solid wood floors can last for hundreds of years and work well in a number of areas.

When choosing a solid wood floor, make sure that you install it at or above grade. Avoid high moisture areas or below grade (basement) installations, because the wood can swell with moisture, and over time may warp.

Engineered wood floors are also made of real wood, but instead of being made of single pieces, they’re made of multiple layers of wood (plywood) put together with a solid piece of wood on top. The different layers are each positioned going in a different direction. This makes the floor more stable when it comes in contact with moisture, so engineered wood flooring can be installed below grade. The surface of the floor is all that you see, and it can be refinished a few times, but it does have its limits, because eventually you could sand through it to the layer below, which is not meant for show. Treated correctly however, an engineered wood floor can last for decades and is considered a very durable choice, particularly for damp areas and commercial spaces. 

Another flooring option that isn’t real wood is laminate flooring. Unlike engineered wood flooring, laminate flooring is a synthetic material that copies the appearance of wood. Comparing real hardwood floors to laminate flooring, it usually doesn’t capture the natural look or feel of wood. Laminate flooring is more affordable than it’s real wood counterparts, however, real wood flooring will typically last longer and repairs more easily. 

Rustic Wood Flooring

The Rustic Floors Enhance This Traditional Kitchen

Types of Wood Species: Durability, Sources and Benefits

There are a range of things to consider when choosing a wood flooring material. Many factors go into play that you might not know about. The wood species of your flooring is the type of tree the wood comes from, while the source may indicate if it is newly sawn lumber, or reclaimed materials. There are benefits to every choice, and it’s important to know the background details before picking a type of wood product for your project. 

Rustic Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Rustic Reclaimed Wood Flooring

The Janka Scores and Durability

Wood floors are very durable and can last for decades when treated and maintained properly. Some woods are harder and more durable than others, which may make some woods a better choice for very high traffic areas or commercial spaces. 

Each wood is given a rating known as a Janka score, which refers to the hardness, and therefore durability of the floor. The higher the score, the harder the wood. For example, maple has a Janka rating of 1450, while hickory – the hardest domestic wood – has a score of 1820, and southern yellow pine – a softwood – has a score of 870. This means that of the three, southern yellow pine would be the easiest to dent or scratch, while hickory would be the hardest. 

Most hardwoods are suitable for floor use. However, if you need a floor that can hold up to higher levels of use or foot traffic, opting for a wood with a higher Janka score can give you better results. 

White Oak Reclaimed Flooring

White Oak Reclaimed Flooring With A Very Natural Finish

New Lumber vs. Reclaimed Wood

New Lumber Floors

Wood floors are often made of what’s known as new cut wood, or wood that’s been harvested directly from trees and put to use immediately as flooring. The wood may be old growth, or trees that have had years to mature or they may be newer growth, which may mean smaller planks.

Reclaimed Wood Floors

Wood floors may also be formed from reclaimed material or antique wood. Reclaimed wood has been collected from buildings more than 100 years old. The wood can be refinished to give it a new appearance or it may show marks and wear of its previous use such as nail holes, saw marks, and patina. In some cases, it may even be possible to find wood species no longer in use, such as elm. Reclaimed and antique wood floors still have many years of use left in them, and they bring added dimension and character to a room. 

Antique White Oak Flooring

The Reclaimed Flooring Feels Like It Has Been There For Generations

Rustic Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Crafted using the original surface of reclaimed planks, rustic grades contain nail holes, cracks, knots and traces of the saw teeth that originally milled the boards. Dark colors and deep patina give thi,Used in spaces from classic rustic cabins to traditional and modern homes as well as many types of commercial spaces, rustic wood floors have a story to tell and history that will live on for years to come. Most people love material that has history, reclaimed rustic woods show that history and are great conversation starters.

Clean Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Not all reclaimed wood is rustic, in fact, some species and grades can be very clean and refined. With a more refined look, reclaimed wood floors that have a cleaner appearance are made using the inner cuts of wood and have more subtle character, including less nail holes(although some will be present), knots and natural checks. 

Traditional and modern spaces are perfect candidates for reclaimed wood flooring that is a little more refined and clean. With all of the environmental benefits of any reclaimed wooden floor, choosing a product that is more refined is really just a design choice, and it is important to remember that there will still be characteristics that can only be found in reclaimed woods.

Reclaimed Heart Pine flooring

Reclaimed Heart Pine Flooring

Walnut Wood Flooring

Walnut Floors Are Deep, Dark And Lovely

Popular Types of Wood Species for Wood Flooring 

One of the things that makes solid hardwood flooring unique is the many different types of wood species and sources the wood can come from. The two most commonly used wood floors in the U.S. are oak and maple, but these are far from the only types of wood that you can find. 

Other woods frequently used as types of hardwood flooring:

  • Hickory
  • Ash
  • Elm
  • Douglas fir
  • Walnut
  • Heart Pine
  • Barn Wood

There are also many exotic woods available as well, although they may be less common and have fewer options available. 

Ash Wood Flooring

Ash Flooring Is Light And Contemporary

American Hardwoods

Unfinished hardwood and prefinished hardwood floors are a standard in the flooring industry. A timeless material that has been used as flooring for centuries, and is not only beautiful, but durable and practical as well. With many different hardwood species and grades available, creating the perfect hardwood floor is more accessible than ever. In addition to species and grade, there are quite a few other options and customizations that can be made.

Texture can be added to create a surface that is either brushed to raise the grain or rustic to replicate reclaimed rustic planks. Stains and color treatments are a great way to enhance the look of the wood and get just the right tone. Mixed hardwood flooring can be utilized to give an even more interesting appearance to your interior. Solid hardwood floors are an extremely flexible material and work well with almost any design style, and when properly maintained will last for generations. 

Ash Flooring

Ash flooring can give homeowners the warmth and character you need to keep your contemporary style, and a light, clear color that can also complement a modern home. The grain pattern is similar to oak and this can often be mistaken for oak flooring. The overall color and tone of ash wood is fairly light, ranging from creamy white to light gray-brown color variations without the pink undertones of red oak. The light color of ash makes it perfect for light-filled rooms and open floor plans. 

Ash is a very hard wood with a score of 1320 on the Janka hardness scale. This makes it harder than oak, beech and heart pine. Ash wood flooring will stand up to moderate amounts of foot traffic without scratching or denting. 

Walnut Wood Flooring

Walnut Wood Flooring

Barn Wood Flooring

Barn wood flooring is a popular hardwood to an interior space for a variety of reasons. These planks can be reclaimed from old barns and buildings, and are a one-of-a-kind option to add to your interior. Nail marks, sawn markings and other natural weathering ensure each plank is unique. This wood has also already stood the test of time, and has the natural durability that comes with the aging process.  Barn wood is common today in many modern style farmhouses, and barn wood pallet projects are among the most popular diy wood crafting ideas. Reclaimed barn wood planks are also commonly used in the dirty top flooring trend and rustic wood flooring ideas.  

At Elmwood, we only use high quality barnwood planks, so you can feel confident in your investment. Kiln dried antique barn lumber also provides resistance to mold and insect damage, eliminating the stress of your hardwood floors being harmed.

Heart Pine Flooring

While heart pine flooring is a softer wood, it is one of the most beautiful types of hardwood flooring options. One of our most popular woods, the reclaimed heart pine flooring has a rich gold tone with a sapwood that is a creamier, tan color. This wood flooring also has tight grain patterns and growth rings. Heart pine flooring fits well with most interior designs, making it an ideal choice for homeowners. The reclaimed heart pine has the additional character of nail holes and saw marks that give this wood additional depth. 

Heart Pine Flooring
Reclaimed heart pine flooring

Hickory Flooring

Hickory is one of the most popular hardwoods for flooring options due to it’s stunning grain patterns, versatility and being rated as the hardest domestic wood on the Janka scale. It’s also one of the more water-resistant wood flooring types and is relatively low maintenance. 

This wood species has a vibrant auburn or reddish shading, making it an ideal choice for cabin wood flooring to achieve a rustic look. There are also some tones that are more copper or cinnamon, which would work for many interior applications. Often, the decision to use hickory really comes down to the appearance of the wood and whether it fits with the homeowner’s aesthetic. Many people might consider hickory flooring to be one of the “busier” grain patterns, and every piece is likely to be completely unique from the next. 

Oak Flooring

Floors crafted from European white oak are just different from their American counterparts. The grain pattern is more varied and contains all of the characteristics of the whole tree. Wide widths and long lengths are a hallmark of floors from Europe due to the way the logs are cut and dried, making for some very attractive flooring. 

With a wide variety of colors and tonal variations available, as well as the wood’s ability to be brushed and look great, European white oak flooring is a very versatile wood that lends itself to working extremely well in many different design styles. Light wood flooring ideas are great for opening up a space and really showcase a room that has good natural lighting. From authentic antique, alpine, traditional and elegant looks to clean and modern Scandinavian style the possibilities are wide open.

Wide Plank European White Oak

Wide Plank European White Oak

Tobacco Wood Flooring

A very unique reclaimed wood type, tobacco wood flooring is refurbished wood that is reclaimed from old structures that have been used to dry and cure tobacco. Reclaimed wood flooring is already a unique talking point for any interior, and these wood floors have an even more interesting origin. Most of the original structures were built with the most quality material around, creating a solid and beautiful material to be repurposed for new floors. 

Walnut Flooring

Walnut is one of the strongest woods on the Janka scale, but that’s not all walnut wood has to offer as a wood flooring choice. It’s also resistant to decay, has good shock resistance and doesn’t usually warp due to temperature changes. This makes it a great, long-term choice in high traffic areas for homeowners and business owners alike. 

Walnut wood flooring is also sought after for it’s rich, luxurious looks, and while it’s best known for it’s deep hues, has a variety of colors and tones to choose from. Walnut wood typically features straight grain patterns, but can sometimes have waves or curls which enhances the character of the wood flooring. Dark wide plank flooring has a distinctive look and feel that adds a dramatic element to both residential or commercial spaces. Whether you choose to enrich your space with dark walnut flooring, or choose a lighter variation, walnut is a durable wood choice that’s beauty will withstand the test of time. 

Wood Finishes and Stains

Wood flooring is certainly a classic surface, and with many choices it can be a little overwhelming understanding all the various options involved. Considering the overall look and feel of the space and using the floor as a base for the design can be a great place to start. It is important to remember that wood floors are an investment, and will outlast most of the other design elements that get incorporated into the initial design, so keep it clean, simple and timeless.

After considering the wood type, you will want to consider stains and the overall color tone of the floor. Traditional stains come in a wide variety of wood flooring color options and will make a floor more consistent in color tone. In the last 10 years reactive stains have hit the market and have become more popular, they work with the natural properties of the wood and produce a natural variation in color tone. Reactive stains create fun looks and are a fresh way to personalize wood flooring. White wash flooring is another attractive wood flooring trend that has been gaining popularity recently. Whitewashing wood flooring adds a clean soft look that has a modern appearance and fits in many design styles. Similar to white wash flooring, is the option to choose a grey wood flooring stain. These floors can be very light or have a darker, more rustic appearance like old barn wood. On the darker end of the spectrum are rich, dark chocolate wood floors, which are ideal for creating a formal or luxurious feel to any room.  

Wood flooring finish comes in a wide variety of types and sheen levels. Not only that, but you also have the option to choose between prefinished or site finished wood flooring. In the not too distant past, high gloss finishes were the norm, today most people are looking for a more matte and natural look. Natural oils have been used for centuries and penetrate the wood, creating a very flat and natural feel. Hard wax oil finishes became popular in Europe, and add a topcoat of wax for more protection, and require slightly less maintenance than an all oil finish. Urethane finishes have been popular in the United States for a long time, but that is changing. In the last 10 to 20 years oil and hard wax oil finishes have become an increasingly popular choice in the U.S. due to their great looks, as well as the option for easy refinishing without sanding.

Find the Right Wood Flooring for Your Project

There are so many options when it comes to choosing the right wood flooring for your next project. We know it can be overwhelming to try to make a decision. At Elmwood, we’re happy to help provide guidance on what flooring to choose for your home home improvement or commercial space. Contact us today to start planning!

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