Hardwood floor is a popular home improvement that many people go for, since it not only brings the beauty of nature to your home, but increases the value of your property. So, you are probably wondering what type of wood is best for your property – soft wood like pine, hardwood such as a oak or something more exotic, say bamboo that, just for the record, is actually… grass?
As a matter of fact each type of wood comes with its own advantages, color, grain, dimensional stability etc. The answer to the question actually depends on your own preference, lifestyle requirements, home interior, budget, the region you live in etc. So, to help you decide, we will tell you about some of the options you have, including exotic types of wood. Speaking of which, from the mysterious African Afzelia to the strange, but gorgeous Central American Yemeri that even Wikipedia doesn’t know anything about, exotic wood bring incredible visual interest to your home and let you express yourself in a unique way.
No matter what you may have in mind, FlooringFirst offers a wide variety of wood to fit your taste and requirements. The first thing you might want to consider is the so-called dimensional stability, since accurate control over temperature and especially humidity is hard to achieve in real like. Please, take a look at the tables below, showing the most commonly purchased wood types and how they stack up in terms of temperature and humidity induced dimensional, i.e. expansion and contraction and mechanical, i.e. shock and physical impact resistance deformations.
Best to worst dimensional stability (effect of temperature/moisture, i.e. shrinking/swelling):
- Most stable - Mesquite, Australian Cypress
- Stable – Santos Mahagony, Purpleheart, Burmese Teak, Wenge, Padauk, Merbau
- Medium - Brazilian Walnut, Ipe, White Ash, American Walnut, Brazilian Teak, Cumaru, Southern Pine, Sapele, Fir, Black Cherry
- Unstable - Hickory, Pecan, Brazilian Maple, Red Oak, Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba, Bubinga
- Most unstable – Beech, Jarrah, White Oak, Hard Maple, Birch
Best to least mechanical stability value (hardiness, ability to withstand mechanical impacts and pressure, i.e. denting, wear and tear effects):
- Most stable – Brazilian Cherry, Mesquite, Santos Mahogony
- Stable – Merbau, Jarrah, Purpleheart, Hickory/Pecan, African Padauk, Wenge
- Medium stability – Hard Maple, Australian Cypress, White Oak, Ash, American Beech, Red Oak, Yellow Birch, Heart Pine
- Unstable – Black Walnut, Teak, Black Cherry, Yellow Pine
- Most unstable – Southern Pine, Douglas Fir
(Stability ratings taken from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and the Center for Wood Anatomy)
So, ultimately Pecan makes for an extremely bad choice of wooden floor for your seaside villa or room with under-floor heating. If in doubt, please, give us a ring and we will advise you on the best floor installation, restoration and maintenance options available, taking into consideration your requirements, lifestyle, home interior and budget.
Reclaimed wood has one major advantage over “new” wood – it is truly old and looks like it, while very often new wood gets distressed so as to appear aged and the difference is quite obvious. While most suppliers of reclaimed wood obtain the material from old buildings like barns and even things like aged wine casks, certain companies go as far as to maintain specialized salvage teams that dive in rivers and lakes to pull up old timber that was harvested centuries ago, but for some reason sank on its way to the lumber mills. The point is, regardless of the source, reclaimed wood looks gorgeous, because it hasn’t been artificially aged and on the other hand, you contribute to the preservation of the planet by saving trees that take decades to grow back (if ever re-seeded). Typically, reclaimed wood has deeper, more saturated colors and thicker grain structure due to the slow oxidation over decades and sometimes even centuries. Some say that antique wood has its own, unique character and this actually stands for two separate things at the same time – yes, all being equal, reclaimed wood does look better, but this also means it´s not perfect, because you will notice nail holes, stains, insect damage etc., although many claim this actually contributes to its beauty.
At Flooring Centre, we offer a wide variety of reclaimed wood, be it unfinished of prefinished that has been kiln-dried so as to dispose of living insects, minimize moisture content and expose hidden cracks in order to repair them.
So, the most commonly purchased types of wood across London are:
Ash, believe it or not, belongs to the olive family, along with olives and lilacs. It is interesting to know that its seeds, popularly known as “helicopter seeds”, are a type of fruit known as “samara”. The Ash tree family includes 60-70 species and their timber is strong and withstands impacts and even harder than oak and beech-tree, while its tranquil creamy color makes ranging from pale grey and light brown to light yellow with brown streaks is gorgeous. Exposed to air and sunlight, Ash timber ages relatively slowly with its lighter tone turning into mature, tanned color.
Beech is a genus of a dozen species native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America. Timber is easy to process and sand and dedicated heat treatment alters its color to a uniform, brown-pink, also known as “smoked beech”. Beech is very light-colored, hard, but easy to work with and comes with a fine straight-grained texture. The color itself varies from light cream to medium brown and has unique pink to orange tinge. Over time, oxidation causes the color to partly lose the orange overtone and the wood ambers with age, which makes your room look spacious and airy.
Birch is a hardwood type with excellent shock resistance that is usually straight-grained, with a fine structure that sometimes gets a bit wavy. Birch makes your room airy and gives it an elegant look that helps emphasize the rest of the decor. Coming in a tranquil, cream color, birch changes to saturated yellow with reddish overtones over time. Finally, its timber is strong and 20-30% harder than oak.
Bamboo is an evergreen plant that is, actually, the largest member of the grass family and the fastest growing wood species on Earth (up to 48 inches per day) that, among the other things, flowers once per 60 -120 years. Its timber has light, creamy yellow color and boasts exceptional hardness and wear resistance. Its proper sanding requires almost virtuoso skills, but eventually, you will be rewarded by having an astonishingly beautiful floor that will last. Bamboo is getting increasingly popular among environmentally conscious people, because its stunningly fast growth rate makes it pretty much easily renewable resource. With its striped grain, bamboo looks exotic and unlike wood. Timber has great moisture-resistant qualities, which makes it preferred in humid areas.
Chestnut is the common name for about a dozen species native to the temperate northern hemisphere that belong to the same family as oak and beech and has a yellow to pale brown color that is often referred to as “scrumptious”. Chestnut is one of the timber types that require increased humidity to “breathe” properly. Its wood contains many tannins, which renders it really durable and gives chestnut floor great outdoor resistace.
Cherry is a beautiful and versatile species that produces timber with warm and charming individuality. The heartwood varies from deep red to reddish brown that comes in fine figured, straight grains. Cherry changes its color severely while aging, with oxidation and sunlight turning it to a dark reddish eye-feast over time.
Maple is not uncommon in Europe and North America, although it´s considered native to Asia and there are about 125 species known to man. Typically, teak timber comes in great variety of colors, from pale white with a yellowish tinge to reddish brown. Maple is a popular choice for people, who need something lighter than oak. Maple is widely used for kitchen worktops and chopping boards. It usually has fine figuring with straight, but sometimes slightly wavy, grain and is harder than Oak. Its timber undergoes a medium degree of color change to golden as it ages.
Mahogany has a generally straight grain, free of voids and pockets and comes in a lovely reddish-brown color, which darkens over time. Displaying a beautiful reddish sheen when polished, this is a popular choice for expensive furniture, shop fittings, bars and variety of veneers. Mahogany is internationally protected, endangered species which makes it extremely expensive.
Oak is native to the northern hemisphere and includes more than 400 species. It is a light colored timber, although there are exotic types of oak, some of them as stunningly different as vivid red. Oak is highly valued for its “mild breathing pattern”, meaning the average rate of dimensional expansion and contraction as humidity and temperature change is moderate, similarly to teak and the more expensive Merbau, both among the most mechanically stable hardwood materials. Oak has always been popular, because it durable, heavy hardwood that can resist wear and tear and comes in a large variety of light colors. White Oak is the most popular timber for floors and furniture in Europe due to its gorgeous appearance. An Oak tree can live for up centuries in favorable conditions and possesses a straight long graining with a silvery texture that can be easily processed to give numerous color tones that undergoes slight ambering over time.
Olive is a short, evergreen tree, native to the eastern Mediterranean with a beautiful creamy-amber timber, very often with tinges of red that is thick, yet easy to sand and produces a lovely, uniform surface.
Pine is resistant to mechanical deformations after being properly dried, which makes pine flooring dimensionally stable to rapid changes in humidity, although timber is actually considered softwood, meaning it is susceptible to scratches, dents and damage from insects and fungi. The longest living organism in the world, there are Bristlecone Pine trees that are 5,000 years old. It is enjoyed by people, who prefer the character of a worn floor. Since it was used widely in the 18th and 19th centuries, the wide knotty planks are popular in historic houses and log homes because they create an authentic rustic feel. Pine is also less expensive than oak or maple.
Merbau is wood that is typically used for not only floors, but cabinets, joinery, musical instruments and its color varies from yellow to orange-brown and darkens to reddish brown with age. It has straight to wavy grains that sometimes even interlock. What is unique about Merbau is the yellow flecking in the wood’s pores that change its look when sanded, making the smooth surface look as if speckled with gold dust. Finally, Merbau is one of the hardest timber types known to men.
Walnut is a dark exclusive wood with timber that usually comes in a light brown to dark chocolate brown color that sometimes has a specific purple tinge and gains a distinctive luster with age. Its grains are typically straight to slightly wavy and walnut undergoes a medium to high degree of color change of the years with its dark brown actually getting lighter to a uniform, golden brown.
Jarrah has a smooth surface and straight graining, which has also made it sought after for the manufacture of furniture, doors and floors that has been used traditionally for boat building, railway sleepers and telegraph poles because of its durability and hardness. Its color varies from pink to deep red and finished floors often have a very specific, dark brown to reddish purple overtone that gets more pronounced as the floor ages.
Pear and sour cherry trees belong to the group of pink timber types, along with alder and beech trees. Pear is a member of the same family as apple and is native to the mildly temperate areas of the Old World, although amazingly, there are evergreen pear species that originate in present day Western China.
Sour cherry is a close relative to plum, sweet cherry, peach, apricot and almond trees that due to its lovely, pearly-pink color is one of the timber materials that internal designers simply love.
Rosewood is a stunningly beautiful species, which is often used for decorative veneers, cabinet making, instruments, furniture and floors. Its color varies from dark brown to deep purple with black streaks and over time, the dark brown tones change to a more golden brown shade, making your floor look quite unique – deep purple with black streaks and golden overtone. Finally, Rosewood has hard and durable timber that is shock resistant and not easily dented.
Jatoba is often used for hardwearing products such as handrails, sports equipment and floor because of its hardness. The timber is pink to reddish brown with grayish to dark streaks. Its inherent beauty, rich colors and incredible hardness make Jatoba one of the most popular exotic woods that ages gracefully with color getting a richer, vibrant red overtone.
Teak is a tropical, hardwood tree of the mint family, native to Southeast Asia that is primarily used for boat decks or articles where weather resistance is vital. The high content on natural oils in its grains makes it exceptionally suitable for use in exposed locations, where pest-proof qualities are desirable and teak is virtually “immune” to decay. Its mild yellow-brown color makes it a great choice virtually anywhere. Once used outdoors only, due to its exceptional resistance to insects, fungi, rot, and temperature shifts, its handsome color ranging from yellowish brown to a dark golden brown, has made it popular for indoor use as well. Its natural resistance to dampness makes it a good choice for rooms, where water leaks and spillage are not unlikely like kitchens and even bathrooms.
As you can see, it is hard to go wrong with hardwood flooring and ultimately, it comes down to choosing wood that has physical properties to best suit your needs and a color and grain that you’re your home interior and lifestyle. Give us a ring and let´s talk about your floor, we offer an exceptional array of flooring options and all our quotations and viewings come free of charge, so why hesitate?
- Budget – how much are you willing to spend? Go window shopping and consider the price tags of the different options. Visit local stores, get samples and consider wood colors, shades, thickness etc. If you cannot afford installing a thousand square feet of mahogany, find local contractors and ask them what type of wood would mimic it most closely. There is a huge variety of wood types on the market, so limiting your choices when shopping is always a good idea, plus almost any expensive wood type has a decent, more affordable alternative.
- Function – you should pick flooring depending on the purpose of the room. For an instance, foyers are more formal, while living rooms tend to have more foot traffic, so that´s where you would need a wood type that is more wear resistant and easily cleanable.
- Foyers – tend to have more formal look to them, since this is the first thing visitors notice and making a fashion statement in your foyer is becoming a popular trend
Family rooms and kitchens – dark and bleached hardwood floors do not fare well in these areas due to the increased foot traffic and frequent spillage of liquids. Moreover, regular cleaning and maintenance using proper materials is of utmost importance.
Living and dining rooms – more often than not, they require formal setting, meaning darker colors with corner accents. Design considerations are compatible with the existing furniture, especially in terms of color to harmoniously complement the room décor. Remember, the darker the floor, the less spacious and airy a room feels.
Bathrooms – they don’t typically fare well with wood floors due to the constant higher moisture content. On the other hand, solid wood might prove to be a neat idea about guest bathrooms that are not used on a daily basis.
Bedrooms – solid wood is perfect for bedrooms with the color depending on your preference.
- Home interior – the floor should match and complement the room decor. OF course, this is highly subjective, since people have varying taste and some are more prone to fashion statements than other. For an instance, a room with dark oak furniture would probably conflict with light ash-tree or maple floor. It´s good to know that the lighter the floor, the more spacious the room looks and vice versa, so light flooring may be a good choice of wood to give an open, airy feel to a room. Hardwood comes in a great variety of colors and shades, so it´s really all about your own preference. You might want to lighten up your home if it´s dark or you´d rather have the vintage look that wood types with darker hue create.
- Floor contractor – a professional, local contractor can advise you on different types and flooring. They will tell you what you need to know about the physical parameters of solid wood and important factors you might need to consider. For an instance, if you have a household of three boys, who just love playing ball indoors, you better opt for wood with improved hardness.