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Hardwood Flooring Species

Hardwood Flooring Species

Hardwood Flooring Species

Unless you have ever shopped for wood flooring, you may not have known that there are many different species that are used. While hardwood species (oak, maple, hickory, to name a few) are the norm these days, softwoods (like pine and fir) were used for flooring for many years. Softwoods are still used for some flooring projects these days, although they make up a much smaller percentage of the market than they used to.

Hardwoods and Softwoods…what’s the difference?

This question comes up a lot for those who are new to wood flooring. What is the difference between hardwoods and softwoods? While the botanical details are interesting to me and my horticulture science background, they may be boring to many of our customers. This site has a nice concise explanation of the difference between hardwood and softwood species: https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/genetic/question598.htm

Common Wood Species Used For Flooring

This is a brief list outlining some of the common wood species used in flooring installations. There are many other species that are used or have been used in the past, but these are what are typically being used in the marketplace today. While some customers are requesting softwood species like fir and pine, the majority of our customers are choosing hardwood species for their new floors. Sample images for each species are included, but each species can have many different colours depending on the stains that each manufacturer will use on their products.

White Oak

White oak is one of the most popular hardwood species for flooring today. It is native to eastern and central North America, as well as central and eastern Europe. It has a similar grain to red oak and has visible growth rings. White oak flooring colour ranges from pale cream beige to greyish brown.

Red Oak

Red oak has been a popular choice for hardwood flooring in North America for many years. Red oak has a distinctive textured grain with visible growth rings. Its colour ranges from a slightly pinkish beige to a reddish brown.


Maple is a hardwood that comes from forests in Canada and the northern United States. Maple is quite dense and hard. Maple flooring can often have more pronounced grain in the planks. Its colour varies from a light beige in the sapwood to rich brown in the heartwood. Maple tends to be the lightest in colour of the hardwood species.


Hickory is another hardwood that comes from forests mainly in the United States and southern Ontario in Canada. Hickory is a dense wood that can often have a lot of character in the planks. The grain is generally straight but can occasionally be wavy in nature. Its colour can vary widely in tone, from golden brown to rich brown.


Walnut is a hardwood species that is found mainly in the United States and has a moderate hardness. The colour difference between the sapwood and heartwood is quite pronounced. The result is rich and varied contrasting tones. Its colour ranges from a very light beige in the sapwood to light and chocolate brown in the heartwood.

White Ash

White ash is a hardwood species that is native to North Carolina and grows in several parts of the United States. The growth rings are visible, but less pronounced than in oak species. White ash ranges in colour from creamy white with golden undertones to dark brown.

Yellow Birch

Yellow birch is a hardwood that grows in North America, mainly in the eastern areas of Canada and the United States. It tends to have a straight grain with uniform texture. Its colour ranges from creamy beige to reddish brown.

Some Terminology Explained

Heartwood – The dense inner part of a tree truck, which yields the hardest timber. Fun fact: heartwood is technically dead. However, it will not decay as long as the outer layers of the tree truck are intact.

Sapwood – The softer outer layers of recently formed wood between the heartwood and the bark. The sapwood contains the functioning vascular tissue of the tree.

Grain – The longitudinal arrangement of wood fibers, or the resulting pattern that is formed by this arrangement.

Character – Typically refers to the size and quantity of knots and imperfections in the wood. Woods with high character will tend to have larger knots and in greater quantities than woods with low character.

Please contact us here at Burritt Bros if you have any hardwood flooring questions: info@burrittfloors.com

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