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Not all trees make good hardwood flooring. Likewise, not all hardwood flooring is ideal for all conditions – some are harder than others, they all react to temperature and moisture differently, and they all have a distinctive look. Here’s a little bit about all the wood species you’ll come across on our site.
Northern Red Oak
Natural red oak is showcased in our Pennsylvania Ave. floor
When it comes to hardwood flooring, red oak is the American Standard. It’s a durable, reliable, readily found species in North America. It’s also a relatively fast growing tree and in the right conditions can be very large and live a long time.
There are two different types of red oak commonly used for flooring: southern red oak and northern red oak. Southern red oak is grown in a warmer climate so it tends to grow faster, but it is not quite as hard and will have more color variation and mineral streaks. Northern red oak has a very clean look with fairly consistent color variation.
The grain on red oak is very prominent, with dark “cathedrals” which are the growth rings of the tree. The wood has a very slight red hue to it in its natural state. Red oak is also fairly resistant to moisture and temperature fluctuations
Wood Nerd Fact: The red oak is the state tree of New Jersey and the provincial tree of Prince Edward Island, making it likely the only thing those two places have in common.
Our Park Place floor is a great example of natural ash
White ash has a lot in common with red oak, like its grain structure, hardness, and resistance to moisture. Its color is much lighter than red oak, almost resembling hickory in its natural state, but when stained a darker color it is almost indistinguishable from red oak.
Today, many ash species are threatened by an invasive insect from China called the emerald ash borer, which has made ash difficult to obtain in many parts of the world. Fortunately, our supplier has access to untouched white ash trees in eastern Canada.
Wood Nerd Fact: Tool handles and solid-bodied electric guitars are commonly made from ash, making it essential for the things your dad does on the weekends.
Our Victoria floor is natural Hard Maple
When people refer to maple they are usually referring to hard maple. Hard maple trees are found mostly in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. It is the state tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and is important enough to Canada that the country put the leaf on its flag. Hard maple has a very tight grain pattern with patches of color scattered throughout, and is noticeably harder than red oak but is not as hard as hickory.
In its natural state, the sapwood of hard maple is a very light almost white color while the heartwood is a medium brown color.
Wood Nerd Fact: Hard maples are the source of maple syrup, and the wood is also used for sports applications like basketball courts and bowling alleys. It also makes a really great set of drums. We are told it makes a nice violin too, but as of this writing nobody in our office plays the violin so we’ll have to take that one on faith.
Our Mountain Valley – Applegate is Canadian Silver Maple
Silver maple is similar in appearance to its cousin the hard maple, but it grows considerably faster. The wood is softer than hard maple, which makes it easier to work with. Its softness makes it a craftsmen’s favorite but means it’s less commonly used as flooring – unless that floor is going to be hand sculpted. All of Revel Woods silver maple offerings are highly sculpted.
Wood Nerd Fact: Some Native American tribes used the sap of silver maples to make medicine. It also replaced the elm as the urban tree of choice after World War II. I’m not really sure why.
Our Borealis floor is a great example of birch
Yellow birch is found mostly in the southeastern part of Canada and the northeastern United States.
Yellow birch has a similar hardness to oak and has a reaction to moisture fluctuations similar to hard and silver maple. In its natural state, it has a color that is slightly golden with brownish red streaks. Its grain pattern is like that of maple and, when stained a dark color, the two are very hard to distinguish.
Wood Nerd Fact: Yellow Birch is the provincial tree of Quebec where it is called merisier. Beyond that we don’t really know what else people do with it. It makes a nice looking floor though!
Our Farmers Market – Union Square showcases the unique look of hickory.
Hickory is popular for a number of reasons. First, it is one of the hardest wood flooring materials found in North America. It also is really tough, meaning that unlike some other harder species, it bends, but doesn’t break.
Hickory also has a high amount of color variation, ranging from creamy whites to medium browns in its natural state, giving the floor a striking visual pattern that lends to the versatility of any space.
Hickory is also known for its sensitivity to moisture fluctuations. Solid hickory can move more dramatically than other species when the temperature and humidity changes in a space.
Wood Nerd Fact: Due to its combination of strength, toughness, hardness, and stiffness (all different traits, trust us), hickory is the preferred wood not only for random things like wheel spokes, but also awesome things like drumsticks.
Our Braddock from the Atheneum Collection demonstrates there is nothing that looks like walnut.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, walnut is in a class of its own. It has a relatively straight grain with a rich, dark colored heartwood. It is one of the more stable woods used for flooring and resists temperature and humidity fluctuations, but it is quite a bit softer than red oak. Its look and workability make it a preferred species among craftsmen.
Wood Nerd Fact: Walnut is both soft and expensive compared to other domestic hardwood species. It’s like that vintage sports car your uncle bought after his kids moved out and only drives twice a year.
Shown here is fresh cherry in our Morgan floor. The color will darken as it matures over time.
Cherry is the legendary tree that demonstrated George Washington’s honesty as a boy. While the story that features it most likely isn’t true, the wood from this tree is still worthy of legend.
The wood has a natural red hue that will react to light and darken over time. It is softer than red oak, but has an excellent resistance to moisture and temperature fluctuations.
Wood Nerd Fact: American cherry is quite a bit softer than Brazilian cherry. The name Brazilian cherry is a bit of a misnomer because there is no such fruit as a Brazilian cherry. In fact, the fruit on the Brazilian cherry tree is called “stinktoe” after how it smells. Obviously that name wasn’t going to fly with interior designers.
The Colonial from our American Tavern Collection is white oak.
While white oak is very similar to its red cousin in a lot of ways, but it has some distinct characteristics.
Visually, the color in its natural state is very light with almost a hint of gray and does not have the slight reddish hue that red oak does.
Wood Nerd Fact: Structurally, white oak has a more closed cellular structure, which makes it more water and breakage resistant. This fact doesn’t affect flooring applications, but does make it ideal for essential things we can’t live without like wine barrels, and Japanese martial arts weapons.
There you have it, be sure to bookmark this handy guide and reference it next time you find yourself in an intense discussion about woodwork. You’re welcome!