Wood Floors: Selection Chart

(top) Parquet tile. Short lengths of wood define tour bonds in each tile, giving an overall linear effect. (middle) Parquet tile. A four-square pattern in each tile gives the finish floor a basket weave effect. (bottom) Tongue-and-groove strip flooring, finished in light tones, creates the classic look of wood floors.





Texture and Density







Red Oak

Tan to light pink.

Highly figured.

Medium density.

Most popular flooring wood, widely available, stains and finishes well.

White Oak

Light tan to yellow.

Straight to highly figured.

Medium density.

Similar to red oak in working and finishing characteristics.


Light to dark browns and reds.

Generally straight. and uniform; some species have wild grain.

Smooth texture, high density.

Contains natural moisture-resistant oils; oil-based finishes work best.


Reddish or chocolate brown to light tan.

Low to highly figured, burly.

Uniformly hard and dense.

Takes finish coats uniformly, makes attractive borders and accent strips.


Light honey to near white.

Fine and close.

Uniformly fine texture.

Extremely hard underfoot, durable, similar to beech.


Honey brown to light pink.

Character marked, open.

Uniformly hard and dense.

Hardest wood flooring; species are interchangeable.







White to golden.

Vertical or flat, open.

Soft to medium density; gains patina of dents,

Some pines are unacceptably soft for flooring applications.

Douglas Fir

Golden orange.

Flat grain wavy and open; vertical grain very straight.

Flat grain variable and uneven density; vertical grain smooth and even texture.

Flat grain takes stain unevenly; vertical grain stains uniformly.


Pink to rosy.

Flat grain open and wavy; vertical grain very uniform.

Soft to medium density; gains patina of dents.

Rich deep color when sealed, prone to splintering.

Although not all woods are specially milled for flooring purposes, many species of wood can be used for floors. This chart deals with those species commonly milled specifically for flooring. Your choice may depend on what is traditionally used in your part of the country—regionally produced species are usually more readily available, and are sometimes less expensive than species that have to be shipped long distances.

Various grading systems are used for different species. In general, the higher grades are considered to have the best quality in terms of strength, appearance, regularity, and so on. But you may prefer the knots, streaks, and spots of one of the lesser grades. Flooring is milled in several thick nesses, and comes in two forms: tongue-and-groove, (which gives a strong interlocking joint in which the nails are concealed), or square-edge (which must be nailed through the floor’s visible surface).

Some flooring materials can be purchased prefinished: the sealers and waxes are baked on at the mill. The range of species and stains sold is limited, however, and these materials are more expensive than most unfinished flooring. But you do save the time it takes to apply finishes.

Most people think of hardwood when they think of wood floors, al though some softwoods are similarly dense and durable. Hardwood and softwood are terms describing botanical characteristics of the wood rather than its texture or density. The softer woods tend to dent, but you may prize their patina—the look of age and use.

Each species has a specific color range, grain pattern, texture, and density—all these characteristics contribute to the look and feel of the finished floor. And, of course, some woods can be stained in a wide range of tones. The chart lists the characteristics of various wood species. Use it to compare and contrast the many different wood species, and to get an overview of some of your many options.

(top) Parquet tile. A four-square pattern set inside a perimeter band, gives the effect of a weave-within-a-grid. (middle) Parquet tile. A four-square pattern set inside a perimeter band, gives the effect of a weave-within-a-grid. (bottom) Tongue-and-groove random-width plank flooring, plugged with contrasting wood, gives a warm, traditional effect.

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Friday, 2010-11-26 13:46