Wood flooring has been a valuable and popular choice for homeowners across locations, designs, and even time. It’s always a nice surprise to tour a home or look beneath the surface of your own flooring and find the gorgeous gleam of solid or engineered hardwood. However, the exact value of your floor depends on the type of wood it consists of. Furthermore, you need to know what kind of wood species is in your home so that you can make the best decisions in regard to cleaning, refinishing, and staining your floors.
In some cases, you can identify the species of your wood floors simply by looking at them—if you know what to look for, that is. That said, stains, finishes, and other factors can trick the eye and make it difficult to accurately identify your wood. That’s when the proper tools and these tips for how to identify your hardwood floor come in handy. Check out this guide to identifying and making the most of your wood flooring.
Characteristics To Look For
The first step to identifying your wood floor species is to know what sort of characteristics and traits you’re looking for. The major indicators of hardwood species include natural color variations, grain types, and the hardness of the wood. Keep in mind that stains and finishes can mess with the wood’s natural appearance and make it harder to accurately identify the species. When you try to identify a stained wood floor, find an inconspicuous area where you can scrape off a small portion of the finish. This will reveal the wood’s natural color and patterns, making it easier to get an accurate read on the species.
Remember that you’re not alone in identifying your wood. In fact, one of the most important tips for how to identify your hardwood floor is to refer to the professionals when you need to. You can always turn to the building’s contractor or other experts to help you figure out what wood species you’re working with. Resource books or digital tools such as the Wood Database will also help you compare photos to your house’s wood flooring and determine which species it is.
Identifying Oak Floors
Oak is a remarkably popular option for wood floors due to its abundance, affordability, and stability. Technically speaking, there are two oak species you might find in your home: red oak and white oak. Red oak is a softer wood that boasts warm tones that range from pink to red to rich shades of brown. This warm color makes red oak a versatile option that can fit nearly any home design. Red oak also has a rough and open grain texture, making it particularly appealing for rustic homes. Its heavy grain pattern also helps obscure dents and other imperfections, meaning your red oak floors will continue to look new for years to come. However, this open grain means that red oak is more susceptible to shrinking or warping due to water problems. On the other hand, the porous texture of red oak makes it easy to stain.
White oak carries cooler tones of gray or light brown. It has a fine grain pattern to match, creating smooth, crisp lines that work well for classy and elegant home designs. White oak also takes stains and finishes well due to its light color. That makes it a versatile flooring option for any home. Additionally, its non-porous nature and closed grain make it more water-resistant than red oak.
Identifying Maple Floors
Like white oak, solid maple and maple engineered flooring have a lighter natural color with a fine, subtle grain. However, maple grain patterns also contain unique dark streaks that make them easier to identify visually. Overall, maple’s light and sleek appearance makes it appealing for anyone who enjoys contemporary homes and styles. This makes it easy to differentiate from white oak’s more classic and traditional appearance. On the flipside, however, maple with a darker stain can look incredibly similar to naturally darker woods such as walnut. However, it’s important to note that maple doesn’t take stain as well as other species of wood. If you’re not careful, the result can look blotchy and uneven. Maple is among the hardest wood flooring species, making it incredibly durable. This means it’s a great choice for homeowners with pets, young children, or any other kind of high activity in their daily lives.
Identifying Walnut Floors
Many homeowners and contractors value black walnut for its rich, luxurious color. From dark tans to deep browns—and even some unique purple hues thrown in the mix—black walnut brings a warm yet unmistakably dignified presence to any room. American black walnut contains an even, swirling grain pattern. While walnut is one of the softer hardwoods, this species holds up well against rot and other factors that wear down a floor over time. Walnut also resists fading from sunlight better than many other dark woods. This makes it ideal for rooms that see a lot of natural light during the day. Plus, the closed grain of this wood species is great for staining. However, the natural dark color makes darker stains ideal for this type of wood.
Identifying Hickory Floors
Hickory is an excellent option for rooms and homes that see a lot of traffic or activity. This wood species is incredibly hard, making it a sturdy and durable option for such homes. It’s far less prone to dents, scratches, and other damage that comes with pets, children, and the exciting bustle of everyday life. Hickory’s natural color can range from a reddish brown to a creamy white. This latter option makes it easy to confuse with white oak, but its extreme hardness helps differentiate the two. Additionally, hickory often has a lot of color variation within its planks. When you combine this with the wood’s typical character marks—such as large knots or the occasional bold grain pattern—hickory becomes a standout species that’s relatively easy to identify. In addition to creating a unique appearance for your room, these character marks also help disguise dents and other imperfections that occur over time. All in all, hickory is a bold flooring option that continues to work wonders for a room years after installation.
The ability to identify your wood flooring species helps you determine what to do next in a room. Will you keep the floor? What kind of finish or stain does it need? How much lasting value will this wood offer your home? These and other pertinent questions are much easier to answer when you know exactly what you’re working with. Once you’ve successfully identified your wood floors, you can get to work refinishing and maintaining them so that their beauty and value will serve your home for years to come.