Hardwood Flooring Species

Hardwood Flooring Species

Our products change month to month, but we’ll briefly go over some of the species we often carry. We’ll sort them from softest to hardest, since that’s such a determining factor, but we will also exemplify some of other qualities you might want to consider.

Softer options:

Pine Janka rating: 650 (can also range from 690 – 870, depending on the specific species of pine)
This is one of the most common sources of hardwood in North America. Pine is characterized by an uneven texture, with closed grain, and prominent, distinctive, frequently changing patterns, making the plank looks vary widely from each other.

The differentiation between “open” and “closed” grain has primarily to do with human eyesight. If the pores in the wood are able to be easily seen, the grain structure is called “open grain.” These woods appear to be pretty coarse. Pores too small to see with the naked eye deem a wood to have “closed grain,” and tend to render a surface smooth.

True Teak or Burmese Teak Janka Hardness: 1000 – 1155
Teak originated from Indonesia in southern Asia. The grain can be wavy or straight, and the texture of the wood can be fairly coarse with a dull luster. It can also be oily, and may, for that reason, be known for its resistance to water. The tone of the wood ranges from white to pale yellow, to a medium golden brown with streaks of darker brown, to dark golden-brown with even darker streaks. Even at the 1155 level, these woods would still be considered softer than average.

In the middle, hardness wise:

While domestically, oak is one of the hardest sources of hardwood available, the two most popular types being Red and White Oak, Red Oak is considered to be the benchmark for “average” hardness in a hardwood floor. Both of these have been used in flooring for centuries.

Red Oak Janka rating: 1290
This wood is light in color and reddish in tone. Its grain is usually described as coarse and open. It is more porous than white oak, so it can be more subject to moisture issues, and it must be seasoned properly to deal with shrinkage. On the other hand, it will take any staining quite well, the stain penetrating consistently from board to board, and is known for its workability and its durability.

White Oak Janka rating: 1360
Where red oak tends toward pink tones, un finished white oak can have a greenish tint. The grain is open, but it has a closed cellular structure, so it can be much more water resistant than its red counterpart. In fact, since it so resists leaking, it is often used to make wine barrels. Like the Red oak, it can be subject to shrinking, but it also takes stain well. Below you’ll see pictures of red and white oak mixed.

Ash Janka rating: 1320
Another North American species, the penguin of the olive family (it produces no olives), White Ash ranges from creamy white to dark brown in color, with a dominant grain pattern, open and straight with an occasional “burl”. Ash can withstand traffic, and tends to be one of the longer lasting floors. It is a tough, strong wood.
Maple Janka rating: 1450
Another domestic wood, Maple ranges from almost-white to light and rich reddish-browns. Different parts of the maple tree can have widely different colors. It has a subdued, closed, uniform grain with rare occurrences of what is called medium “figuring”. That’s when the grain forms a recognizable pattern. In Maple, the figuring is described as “bird’s-eye,” curly, “fiddleback” and quilted. Boards with these features are often pulled out of the lot and sold at a premium. The additional hardness gives maple flooring extra difficulty in staining over oaks, but it can sustain a very high gloss finish.

Now we find the harder woods:

…starting with the hardest species grown in North America.

Hickory Janka rating: 1820
Hickory grows richly in the Southern United States. It’s colors range from creamy white to medium tan to light reddish brown. It has a fine, closed grain structure, with occasional straight or slightly wavy lines. Unfinished hickory is rough to the touch. For active families looking for durability, this is one of the best options because it is so shock resistant, stiff, tough and hard.

Jatoba Janka rating: 2350 – 2820
Jatoba is an exotic hardwood from South America, sometimes Jatoba is called “Brazilian Cherry,” but it is not actually a cherry species, and grows in many places other than Brazil. Still, a nice name for a rich, warm wood. It starts in a tan or salmon color with black accent stripes, but Jatoba is very light sensitive, so as it is exposed there is quite a color change, with the wood darkening to a deep, rich, red color. This settles about 90 days after installation. Additionally, different parts of the tree have a stronger than usual difference in colors, which is generally considered to be a positive thing. Jatoba has a course, overlapping, or interlocking, grain structure leading to its being around 80% harder than our standard above, the Red Oak. This hardness makes it one of the most durable enough to potentially last for generations.

Cumaru, or “Brazilian Teak” Janka rating: 3540
This is one of the hardest species of wood in the entire world. It comes from South America, and runs light to medium brown, sometimes with a bit of yellow. Cumaru is said to feel oily on the surface. Its grain it interlocked, but fine, unlike the coarse grain of Jatoba. It is very stable and obviously extremely durable.


Ipe, or “Brazillian Walnut” Janka rating: 3680
Home of the strong, South America is the region where we find Ipe. Its color [Variations over Time] is stable, not much variation in a plank, with the color ranging from medium to dark brownish black. It is oily, like Cumaru, with a medium grain, fine to medium. Ipe is heavy and dense, very stable, and one of the hardest woods currently known to be available on planet Earth, bar certain petrified offerings which are too difficult to mill, much less nail to a subfloor.




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David has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with  W. David Lichty


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