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Hardwood Wood Species, Color, Size and Gloss Level

Wood Species

Hardwood floors today are made from a wide variety of both exotic and domestic species of wood. Dozens upon dozens of different wood species are used for hardwood flooring. These include species that are domestically grown as well as more exotic species that are imported from countries around the world. In the domestic category, five of the most common species of wood people choose for residential hardwood flooring are maple, cherry, (white) oak, hickory and walnut, and each has its own properties. Maple, cherry and white oak have less color variations and prominent grains. Red oak and hickory hardwood flooring offer a little more interest with board-to-board color variations and prominent graining. Hickory is also one of the strongest, hardest domestic species of hardwoods. Unique dark Walnut wood flooring is one of the most sustainable and is highly prized for its dark lustrous tones (from a rich dark brown to more of a chocolate hue) and striking grain patterns. Rich colors, unique grains and high hardness ratings are offered by such exotic hardwoods as Santos Mahogany, Tigerwood and Brazilian Cherry.

Plank Size

Based on the width of the plank, hardwood is available in three basic categories. Hardwood floors that are 3” wide or narrower are called strips, those that fall between 3” and 5” are called plank floors, and those that are 5” or wider are called wide plank floors. The look of a room can easily be changed by the widths of the boards. Wide planks convey a more relaxed, casual atmosphere, while narrow planks are typically used for a room with a more traditional, formal style.


Color is a crucial design element even in flooring. Lighter colors make a room appear bigger and more casual. Darker stains make a large space feel cozier and usually a bit more traditional as well. The color of natural wood can be changed using stains while allowing the characteristics of the natural wood color to show through.

Gloss Level

Another important attribute to consider is the gloss level or luster of your floor. A high gloss is available on some floors. In formal or modern spaces is where this much shine works well. High luster floors are more likely to show scuffs, scratches, and footprints, so they’re not advisable for areas with a lot of traffic. In more casual spaces, low gloss or low luster floors work well and are a popular choice. Scratches and marks are much less noticeable on these floors. You may want to consider lower gloss finishes for your hardwood floors if you’ve got pets, kids, or lots of traffic on your floors.

You must take the necessary time to compare different hardwood floor types if you wish to ensure you select the best hardwood flooring that matches your budget, lifestyle and home design. Talk with one of our hardwood flooring experts at Olympia Floors to learn more about which type of hardwood flooring would best work in your particular space.

Remember that you have the option to choose between engineered hardwood and solid hardwood flooring when you’re choosing the best hardwood flooring for your room. Solid or traditional hardwood flooring consists of single strips of wood. Solid hardwood can so easily be sanded, customized, and re-stained to change finishes as your styles change; that has to be its biggest benefit.

Just like solid wood, engineered hardwood planks come in many wood and colors types. Engineered hardwood, however, is made by laminating 3-5 strips together, with grains running at different angles. Since engineered hardwood is more structurally sound, it can be installed in areas such as moist basements where solid wood flooring cannot be an option. When compared to traditional solid wood floors, engineered hardwood also is typically more water-resistant and less expensive.

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