Choices of Flooring

How to Identify Wood Flooring | 5 Types of Hardwood

by Roy Akirov
August, 2021

If you’ve just bought a new house and wondering “What kind of wood is my floor?” then you’re in the right place. Usually, it’s fairly simple to identify wood flooring. The different wooden flooring types are recognizable by their grain patterns. Nevertheless, there are many species of hardwood out there, so let us give you a hand.

Identify wood flooring by Looking at these 5 Aspects

Before we begin identifying wood flooring, let’s make it clear. Some man-made composites or plastic can imitate wood to some degree. They can be very convincing if you don’t know what you’re looking out for.

1. Wood Grains

So, look for the wood grains or growth rings. They should be large and quite scattered. If they are reoccurring, then you might have a composite floor featuring a wood-like veneer. This veneer is usually shaved from wood and glued to man-made material. It gives the impression of wood and could trick even the most eagled-eyed.

Nevertheless, common hardwoods have an open pore structure, so the grains are easily visible, and they look natural. Close curly grains are common in types of hardwood like maple. Birch usually features less pronounced grains and larger spacing between curls.

2. Scrape Some of the Finish Off

If you want to be really thorough in your examination, scrape some of that finish off. This will allow you to identify wood flooring more accurately.

So, push a fingernail into the finish a bit harder. If it’s a softwood, like pine, you will see a dent forming. Nevertheless, if it’s hardwood, the finish will remain unmarked.

Maple and birch look quite similar when finished with dark paint or stain. So, you need to strip that stain a bit and make the proper identification. Don’t worry; you can always re-stain it afterwards.

Wood Flooring Types

3. Use the Internet

Yeah, this sounds rather dumb as you’re already using the Internet to read this article. Nevertheless, let us explain ourselves a little better.

There are certain online databases where you will find all the known wood species and how to identify wood flooring. For example, The Wood Database is a useful resource for this purpose. There are comprehensive lists of woods categorized by grain direction, grain closeness, colour, hardness and other useful facts.

Scrape a little area of your wooden floor from underneath a cabinet or something, and then compare it with pictures from the Wood Database. That’s a thorough example of identifying wood flooring.

4. Identify Wood Flooring by Their Odor

Ok, this might be a little difficult, but it’s useful to point it out. So, new woods retain their natural odor. Some types of hardwoods even keep it for decades. So, in theory, if you’re struggling to identify wood flooring with your eyes, you could try it with your nose. That sounds funny, yes. You’ll need to have quite a good nose for that.

Moreover, you’ll only be able to catch a specific odor only if there’s no stain on the wood. And there is another problem. Wood scents are difficult to express in words. Yes, rosewood smell somewhat similar to roses. But how does oak smell like? Yeah, you need to have a nose for it, and this might be difficult, but it was worth mentioning.

5. “What Kind of Hardwood Floors Do I Have?”

Moving right along… let’s say you’ve already discovered that you’ve got a hardwood floor in your home. Now the question is – solid wood boards or engineered?

Identifying Hardwood Floors

You can sand a section of the floor with a palm sander. Remove the excess tile mastic and glue with sandpaper. Now, the sanded area will give you a more accurate representation of the wood. Clean all the glue away and compare it with images from the Wood Database.

The Most Popular Types of Hardwood Flooring

Now, let’s look at the most popular types of hardwood and how you can identify them. It’s fairly easy. What is more, these hardwoods are timeless and solid and some of the favorites for wood flooring.

1. Oak

Oak is probably the most common wood flooring solution in North America. It is either red or white, with a multitude of amber hues and specific grain patterns. White oak has 1,360 points on the Janka Hardness scale, while red oak is a bit less dense, with 1,290 points.

Oak is a very sturdy flooring option. It won’t expand or contract easily and it resists in humid environments. It is quite traditional but timeless. We don’t think it will ever go out of fashion.

2. Hard Maple

Maple usually has a varied and unusual collection of patterns. It is light cream in color, and if exposed to direct sunlight, it can turn reddish-brown.

Nevertheless, maple is very resistant to any sort of scratches or light dents. This is why, traditionally, it has even been used in sports halls and gyms. In the home, it is perfect for those hard-wearing medium-traffic areas like hallways or even in the kitchen.

There are several styles of maple, and they all look both classical and contemporary.

3. Walnut

You cannot mistake walnut with any other type of wood because it naturally boasts a rich, dark color. It ranges from deep chocolate brown to dark tan.

Walnut is a bit softer than oak, but it gives large spaces an even more imposing character. Historically, walnut has been used in big mansions and castles; it evokes a sense of class and luxury reminiscent of the old eras. Naturally, walnut flooring has its pros and cons.

4. Hickory

Hickory scores 1,820 on the Janka hardness scale. It is crazy dense, and its unique graining makes it stand out from the other types of hardwood.

It is light in tone and that means it could hide scratches very easily from the prying eyes of visitors.

5. Cherry

Cherry wood has a reddish-brown hue and straight grains. It is generally a hardwood that boasts fine grains, and it is mostly used for furniture rather than flooring.

Cherry is easy to shape and polish. You don’t need to stain it, as it keeps its rich and beautiful color.

The Bottom Line

So, the bottom line here is – you cannot really mistake a solid wood flooring for a composite one. If you keep an eye on the grains and patterns, you can tell which is wood and which is not.

Naturally, hardwoods are more durable, classy, and imposing. The timber has a high density that makes it more resistant to dents and scratches. In time, hardwood flooring will show its might. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t disregard all the other types of wood flooring.

Make the right decision based on your budget, design and preferences.

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