FLOORS 101: HARDWOOD DESIGN ELEMENTS

There are many things to consider when choosing the wood for your new fabulous floors, including its natural characteristics like color and grain pattern as well as practical things like overall durability and stability. Of course, you want your floor to compliment your décor and give the desired effect. The style of wood floor can bring unique detail to your rooms. Add different combinations of color, sheen, width, and texture and your will have endless flooring choices, allowing you to create your perfect design aesthetic.

NATURAL DESIGN ELEMENTS

Species


More than 30 domestic and imported wood species are commonly used for wood flooring. You can choose domestic hardwoods, grown in the USA and Canada, or exotic hardwoods, grown in places like Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, Australia (rest assured, our sources harvest this wood responsibly). With some exceptions, domestic wood species unless stained a particular color have a tendency to have lighter color tones. Exotic species tend to be harder and rank higher on the Janka scale. You can also choose Renewable or Environmentally Friendly sources like Bamboo or Cork. SPECIES COMMONLY USED FOR FLOORS ( listed by alpha: name; Janka Hardness rating )

DOMESTIC

American Black Walnut; 1010

Heartwood ranges from rich dark brown to black with an almost purple cast dramatically offset by white to light tan sapwood (NOTE: Flooring manufacturers often steam the wood to darken the sapwood, which bleeds the heartwood color into the lighter areas.) – color may darken over time. Open-grain with variations of light and dark; very fine and straight; can be patterned with curly or knots – overall a more rustic appearance, which makes it better suited to more traditional décor.

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Beech; 1300

Reddish brown heartwood with distinctive creamy white sapwood streaks and swirls throughout – tightly- grained; smooth, uniform texture. Has excellent shock resistance and does not dent or ding easily, making it a good choice for high-traffic, hard-wearing floors.

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FUN FACT: Beech floors are often used for basketball courts.

Birch; 1260

Light brown or reddish heartwood with a noticeable sapwood variation of cream or light brown sapwood - tightly grained; straight, curly, or wavy patterns. Has the look of maple, hardness to maple and oak a similar – with an entry level price point. Birch has similar, with light and dark color variations to provide visual interest. If you don’t like a lot of knots and visible grain in your flooring, birch could be a good option for you.

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Black Cherry; 950

Light to dark reddish–brown heartwood contrasting sharply with the light brown to light pinkish sapwood, which may be tone; significant color variations between boards is possible – extremely light-sensitive causing color change and darkening over short periods time when the wood is first exposed to light. Tight, often wavy grain with distinctive gum veins and pockets; satiny texture. Sure to age with grace and style, an elegant traditional flooring choice.

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Hard Maple (AKA: Sugar Maple); 1450

Ranges from creamy white to light reddish brown – densely-grained; occasional quilted, fiddleback, or bird’s-eye detailing. Perfect for contemporary, clean, and airy décor.

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FUN FACT: Hard Maple floors are often used in bowling alleys.

Heart Pine (Antique); 1225

Wood that has been reclaimed and recycled – upcycled – from old structures.

Warm reddish-brown heartwood with pale yellow sapwood and some black sap staining – closed-grain with swirl or pinstripe patterning, depending on saw method; dense with a high degree of figuring. The grain pattern is usually either swirled or straight lines close together like pinstripes depending on the method used to saw. Dimensional stability varies with age and prior usage of wood. This classic antique can add distinction and style to any space offering a rich color palette, and strong grain – a timeless tradition

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Hickory; 1820

Medium tan or light reddish brown with creamy sapwood streaks – closed grain; fine straight or wavy lines. Often considered interchangeable with pecan wood (a type of hickory) by the industry. Provides a good value for the money – can last a long time even in the high traffic area of a home with kids and pets.

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Mesquite; 2345

Ranges from light to dark reddish brown with ingrown mineral streaks – variations are tonally moderate, yet distinctive. Quite durable, with a rustic quality unlike any other species of wood.

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Northern Red Oak; 1290

Light in color and reddish in tone – open-grained; coarse with pattern (Note: Flake pattern, also known as butterflies or tiger rays, can appear on Quarter Sawn lumber).

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NOTE: 1290 = Flooring industry median Janka hardness rating

Pecan; 1820

Reddish brown with dark brown streaks accented by creamy pinkish white sapwood – open grain; straight, wavy or irregular lines. Often regarded as interchangeable with hickory by the industry. Offering quality, durability and affordability – will also add warmth and interest to your home.

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Red Oak; 1260

Light in color and reddish in tone – open-grained; coarse with pattern (Note: Flake pattern, also known as butterflies or tiger rays, can appear on Quarter Sawn lumber). The 2nd most commonly installed jobsite finished Solid Hardwood Flooring in this region. *Priced according to plank size, grade (Select & Better, #1 Common, #2 Rustic Grade, Character Grade, etc.) and milling techniques (Plain Sawn, Quarter Sawn, Rift Sawn, etc.) – most commonly used by Floors Etc. is 2 ¼” X ¾” Select and Better, Quarter Sawn.

*$$$

Southern Yellow Pine; 870 to 690

Light yellow to yellowish brown, sometimes with an orange cast, accented by its yellowish white to pale tan sapwood – closed-grain; most often prominently and distinctively patterned and knotted. Hardy, dense, and full of character – rustic elegance defined

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White Ash; 1320

Ranging from deep white to rich cream to very pale tan – distinct grain patterned with twisted, interwoven knots. With excellent shock resistance and good tensile strength, can withstand a long lifetime of lot of heavy traffic.

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White Oak; 1360

Pale brown heartwood, some with a pinkish or slightly silver/gray cast, offset subtle sapwood variations in light cream to white – open-grain with sporadic swirls, burls and tight knots. The most commonly installed jobsite finished Solid Hardwood Flooring in this region. *Priced according to plank size, grade (Select & Better, #1 Common, #2 Rustic Grade, Character Grade, etc.) and milling techniques (Plain Sawn, Quarter Sawn, Rift Sawn, etc.) – most commonly used by Floors Etc. is 2 ¼” X ¾” Select and Better, Quarter Sawn.

*$$$

EXOTIC

Brazilian Cherry (AKA: Jatoba); 2820

Medium hued reddish wood with darker streaks and course grain texture. Exceptionally hard and durable flooring material – will last for generations and stand up to heavy traffic.

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Brazilian Maple (AKA: Patagonian); 1500

Beige and blonde with yellow tones – straight-grained; dense; finely textured with distinctive and varied curl markings. Attractive, durable, and affordable.

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Brazilian Teak (AKA: Cumaru); 3540

Ranges from a dark, honey brown to a light golden yellow – over time, if exposed to sunlight, tends to become more uniform in color. Extreme hardness and density – a great choice for any active household or high traffic area.

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Brazilian Walnut (AKA: Ipe); 3680

Medium to very dark brownish black with little variation. Grain is fine to medium, straight, wavy or irregular. Wood is heavy, solid and oily. Has above average stability – one of the hardest and most durable wood available.

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Santos Mahogany; 2200

Dark brown with lustrous red undertones and streaked grain. Dense, open-grained wood with an inherent, traditional warmth – will add sophisticated elegance to any décor.

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Wenge; 1630

Rich dark brown with thick, almost black, striping with contrasting pale beige sapwood – straight-grained; course; oily texture. From the African Millettia Laurentii tree. Beautiful and durable – an excellent choice for high traffic areas.

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Character


  • Knots
    • Dense, round spots at base of a branch or twig. In hardwood flooring, only “Sound” knots are permitted, (while the grain is interrupted by the knot, the board remains smooth and no wood is missing from the area).
  • Splits
  • Worm Holes
    • Small imperfections in the face of a board caused by worms making their way through the tree while it was alive.
    • No more than ¼ inch wide
  • Streaks
    • Mineral deposits within a tree’s rings
    • Cherrywood sometimes displays gum streaks (area of wood darkened by the tree’s own sap)
  • Natural Color Variations.
    • Plank to plank and within the same plank (more uniform in Select Grade and more varied down the scale)




Hardness - Janka Rating Scale


Every type of hardwood has a hardwood hardness or Janka rating.

  • The harder the wood, the better it can withstand dents and dings.
    • Hickory, Oak and Maple are three of the hardest used for flooring in our market
    • Harder species are recommended for households with pets and kids
  • Softer species will tend to show scratches (perfect to achieve a distressed look)
    • Pine and Cherry are two of the softest commonly used for flooring in our market
    • Not recommended for high traffic areas

The Janka Hardness Scale determines the hardness of a particular type of wood over another. Generally speaking, the higher the number on the scale, the harder and more scratch resistant wood will be. By the same token, the harder a wood is, the more difficult it becomes to saw or run through a mill. (Note: Hardness, per se, does not impact pricing as hardwood prices are dictated by how readily available the species of wood is.) Northern Red Oak has a Janka rating 1290 and is considered the flooring industry median. In Houston, White Oak (1360 Janka) and standard Red Oak (1260 Janka) are the most popular jobsite finished solid hardwoods installed.

https://floorsetc.fyi/JankaHardnessScale

Depending on the room where the flooring will be installed, a certain hardness level may make it a more desirable choice. When choosing flooring for a home, having an idea of the Janka scale rating will provide buyers with an indication of how strong the floor is and how much wear and tear it will be able to handle over the years before it requires repair, refinishing, etc. Even still, a “good” Janka rating serves only as an indication, because it is not just the hardness that plays a role in the appearance and durability of a floor over time. It is also the traffic and especially the maintenance and prevention the floor gets that dictates how it will look years after it is installed. If it isn’t taken care of, it doesn’t matter how hard or soft it is. The bottom line is that no matter what, wood will need to be taken care of correctly to withstand the wear of time.

The Janka rating can be used gauge the hardness of the wood, solely as an indicator of how well the wood will be able to stand up to furniture, pets, children, and everyday life. Floors Etc. does not recommend making your decision based on this scale – we suggest going with look and your budget, instead.

If you are wondering where Engineered Hardwoods stand on the Janka Hardness scale – they really don’t. Since these hardwoods are made with a layer of softer wood beneath them, their hardness cannot be gauged accurately with the scale. Little information is available on how these engineered woods would fit into the scale because of the variances in materials used to build the layers of flooring from brand to brand. To make things simple, do not focus on the Janka Hardness Scale when purchasing an engineered wood floor.





SURFACE TREATMENTS AND TEXTURES

Handscraping


Gives a unique hand-crafted appearance.

  • Prefinished. These floors resemble the reclaimed floors of old with lots of character markings, but with today's superior finishes for ease of cleaning and durability. Many manufacturers offer distressed and hand-scraped hardwoods that will disguise heavy use over the years and give the floor an appealing timeworn appearance from the moment it's installed.
  • Jobsite Finished. Floors Etc. can create the fashionable hand-scraped or distressed look—our craftsman will hand- or wire-scrape each plank to your exact specifications.




Finishes


Every hardwood flooring product must have protective finish, which will customize your floor’s: color, sheen level, texture, and surface durability.

  • Prefinished. Most Engineered Hardwood Flooring and some Solid Hardwood Flooring comes factory-sanded and -stained, followed by factory application of multiple coats of urethane, UV cured, aluminum oxide finishes
    • Benefits.
      • Installation. Options available for both slab and sub-floor and by any installation method (nailed, glued, stapled, floating, etc.).
      • Variety. Available in a multitude of species, styles and colors with something for any decor.
      • 10-, 15-, 20- and 25-Year Manufacturer Warranties
        • Longer lasting and more durable than site-applied finishes
      • No dust or chemical fumes
      • Simplified, faster and quieter installation
    • Drawbacks:
      • Fewer style options than jobsite finished.
      • Most come with MicroBevel (hyperlink within page) edge – some do not consider this a drawback, others do
  • Jobsite Finished. Some homeowners prefer classic jobsite finished floors due to the wider selection of stain colors and the opportunity to hone the surface and even out imperfections after the boards are in place. Boards are also easier to repair if damaged. All Solid Hardwood Flooring and a few select options of Engineered Hardwood Flooring are available for jobsite finish. Floors Etc. is proud to use DuraSeal® and Bona® products after we sand your floors.
  • Stains
https://floorsetc.info/DuraSealStainGallery
  • Protective finishes. When making this decision, several things should be considered: method desired, color desired, the type of floor, and amount of traffic in the area.
    • Polyurethane. A kind of varnish that can be oil- or water-based. Both types are like a coat of armor for the hardwood floor below, protecting the wood from damage. Floors Etc. applies 2 coats as standard practice with each new installation or sand and refinish job.
      • Oil-based
      • Water-based
    • Wax. Applied over a stain and hardens on the wood to form a penetrating protective seal.
    • Tung Oil. Penetrating finish that soaks into the wood, sealing the pores against soiling.
www.floorsetc.info/WoodFloorFinishes





WIDTHS | CUTS | PATTERNS, etc

Board Widths


Board or plank width plays an important role in helping you achieve your design vision.

  • Strip Flooring

    • Traditional styling
    • Up to 3” wide.
    • Creates the illusion of a larger space.
  • Plank Flooring
    • Solid: 3” to 9” wide
    • Engineered: 3” to 9”+ wide
    • 5”+ is considered wide-width
      • create sophistication and feeling of openness
    • TREND: Using mixed-width boards – alternating between 3 board sizes
  • Parquet Flooring
    • Geometric pattern
      • Generally made of individual slats or fingers making up one tile
    • Suits more formal spacesSquares
    • NEW ON THE SCENE: Squares and Rectangles




Custom Designs and Patterns


For a unique appearance, Floors Etc., Inc. will customize your wood floor with pieces arranged in a special design or stained a contrasting color to reflect a special theme or design.

  • Patterns. You choose direction or pattern of your installation.
  • Borders. Custom borders can be used as an accent, giving a plain hardwood floor definition and distinction. Floors Etc. will create your of one-of-a-kind look, using different wood species, colors and/or width
  • Inlays. Add stone, metal or patterned inlays – our only limit is yours.




Edge Style


  • Square Edge
    • Perfectly square edge giving the floor a flush uniform appearance for a sleek and seamless transition between planks. Standard on most unfinished floors and some prefinished.
  • MicroBevel
    • A very small 45 degree cut down on the sides of the floorboards – when 2 microbevel boards meet, they create a “V”, purposed to hide any slight height differences in manufacturing. Most common type of edge for Prefinished Floors. Depending on the floor it can range from about a 1/32” to 1/16”.
  • Eased Edge
    • This is much like the microbevel, only with a less prominent taper as it is more rounded.
  • Beveled Edge
    • Larger, more pronounced edge detail, with the individual flooring panels clearly delineated – is often combined with a sculpted or hand scraped effect. This bevel is about an 1/8” or less.




Cuts


Widths up to 9"; usually 3/4” to 5/8” thick

  • Quarter Sawn
    • Grain runs at right angles, across the thickness of the boards.
    • Provides dimensional stability – naturally resists cupping.
    • More expensive than Plain Sawn (higher manufacturing costs and production losses).
  • Rift and Quartered
    • Provides straight-lined grain throughout.
    • More dimensionally stable than Quarter Sawn.
    • Most expensive of the cuts (highest in manufacturing costs and production losses)
  • Live Sawn; AKA : European Center Cut Flooring
    • Durable wide-plank choice.
    • Band saw cuts leaves more variated pattern in the wood.
    • A single plank includes each cut style: Plain; Quarter and Rift.
    • More affordable than its close counterpart Rift and Quarter Sawn because it produces very little waste in production.
  • Skip Sawn; AKA: Skip Face Flooring
    • Board is cut with a circular blade leaving a circular impression, so it truly looks as though it just came from the mill.
      • Hardwood floor planks are given a distressed texture using a sawmill
      • Once accidental, today these marks are intentionally imposed to create a bold, rustic, vintage look.
    • 2 treatment options:
      • Circular Sawn (more rustic)
      • Band Sawn – AKA: Parallel Sawn.
  • Plain Sawn
    • Grain cut across the width of the board.
    • Has tendency to cup or buckle when exposed to moisture.
    • Most affordable method, with least amount of labor and waste.
    • Used for sub-floors / screeds.




Grades


Grading is simply the appearance of the boards themselves. One grade is not better than the other, but just a matter of preference in terms of the appearance of the wood. The grading scale is a measure of what is known as “Character” markings or natural characteristics, e.g., variation in color from board to board, mineral streaks, presence of knots or worm holes; but they also reference average board length, milling imperfections, and other irregularities. It’s all a matter of personal taste – and with flooring, a higher grade is not necessarily better. Less character markings do costs more, because there will be less of a tree that is usable. U.S. companies typically use Select & Better or Selected grades for their collections. NWFA Approved Grading Scale www.floorsetc.info/GradesHardwood





Reviews...

Very Professional and always willing to go the extra mile to help out a client. I have used them twice. Once to install new carpet and this past July to refinish some hardwood stairs. They are considerate of your time, their product is top quality and their price is fair. I will use them again when needed.

Very Professional

I had a great experience with Floors Etcetera. They refinished my floors, and they did an excellent job—double excellent. I'd recommend them to anybody. It was A-quality work.

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Floors Etcetera, Inc. | DBA: Floors Etc. | 713-880-8888 | MyFloors@floorsEtc.com