What is the Best Wood Flooring Species?

Customers in our showroom often ask, “What is the best wood flooring species for my home?” The species is the type of tree the wood flooring is made from. Each species has unique characteristics that create its own natural beauty and style.

The three most popular species of wood flooring are oak, maple, and hickory. These species of trees are grown domestically in North America, so they are generally the best price and most available.

This week, we’ll discuss the differences between the different species and how to select the best style for your home.

Oak Wood Flooring Species

Oak is the most popular choice for wood flooring, and for good reason. It is grown plentifully in North America, so it is a great option on a budget. Additional materials needed for your project, like transitions, stair treads, and moldings, will be readily available and at a lower price as well.

There are two kinds of domestic oak: red oak and white oak. Red oak has warm, pink, undertones while white oak has cool, green undertones. Red oak is more common, but white oak has gained in popularity as cool colors became a design trend. Flooring products may not specify red vs. white oak once the flooring is stained, since the stain covers the natural undertones.

The most popular stain colors for oak are butterscotch or gunstock. The appearance of these colors will very between manufacturers, but most will have some version of gunstock.

Oak is a popular choice for busy homes and high traffic rooms like your kitchen or living room. Oak has a Janka score–the measure of how hard a wood is–of 1290-1360. Some think that a harder wood will be more durable, but oak is a classic for a reason. The grainy lines create beautiful designs and helps disguise any scratches on the finish.

Oak is the classic choice, which is why you’ll sit it in many older homes and historically preserved buildings. That’s because oak is built to last! Oak floors in many historical buildings have lasted for centuries. The Old Barracks museum in Trenton asked us to install oak gunstock flooring when they were doing renovations.

Maple Wood Flooring Species

Maple is more uniform in appearance than oak or hickory, with minimal color variation and grain lines. Depending on the grade, it may have lots of black mineral streaks, or it may be a clean grade with almost no black at all. Cleaner grades are popular in formal rooms, like dining rooms.

You’ve probably seen maple at your local basketball court or gym floor. Maple is a popular choice for sport floors because of its density that bounces balls well, and its uniform appearance, which makes it easy to paint logos and isn’t distracting to audiences. We installed maple flooring at the Pemberton Borough gym.

Hard maple is the type of maple used for flooring, as other types of maples are too soft. Maple is slightly harder than oak, with a Janka score of 1450. However, because it lacks the grains and color variation of oak, wear and tear can be more noticeable. Dark stained maple is especially prone to showing scratches.

For maple floors, you’re usually better off with prefinished flooring instead of site-finished flooring. Because of its density, maple doesn’t absorb stain very well and the uniform appearance can show sanding and finish lines more. Factory finished maple floors can achieve beautiful, consistent stain colors, so you’ll find many good prefinished options.

Hickory Wood Flooring Species

Hickory is a wood with tons of character. The beauty of hickory is the contrast of the light wood with the black mineral streaks. Hickory is a statement piece in your home design, since the high character floor will catch the eye.

Hickory has a Janka score of 1820, so it’s the hardest of the popular domestic options. But more importantly, the high character and contrast hides wear and tear well.

The black mineral streaks give hickory a rustic look, so it’s popular in rustic designed homes, like log cabins. It is often paired with a handscraped finish for even more character. A stain color gives a more subtle beauty, with the stain reducing the contrast between board colors.

Visit our showroom to see oak, maple, hickory, and more species of wood floors!

4 Myths About Waterproof Flooring, Busted

“Waterproof” is the latest buzz word in flooring. Most products that are advertised as waterproof are luxury vinyl planks or tiles. Since we’ve been in business for more than 30 years, we’ve seen many flooring trends come and go. When a new product is marketed as the latest and greatest solution to all flooring problems, we know to be skeptical. All kinds of floor coverings have their pros and cons for different applications, and waterproof flooring is no exception. Here are 4 common myths about waterproof flooring and the facts:

Myth: If my floor is waterproof, I won’t have any problems with leaks or floods.
Fact: The material itself is waterproof, but that only means that the flooring itself won’t get water damage. That doesn’t mean you won’t have any other water damage that involves repairing or replacing your flooring. In the case of a flood, water will go under the product at the perimeter and can cause rot and/or mold to the subfloor. You will still have to rip out the flooring to allow the subfloor to dry. The locking mechanisms on the flooring usually breaks when you rip up the flooring and can’t be reinstalled. Slow leaks can actually cause more damage with a waterproof floor compared to wood. If the leak goes under the flooring, you can’t tell from above that there is water damage happening underneath, so the leak may go on longer and cause more damage.

Armstrong 3/4″ x 5″ Prime Harvest Oak “Natural” we installed in a kitchen.

Myth: I need a waterproof floor in the kitchen for spills.
Fact: Kitchens will, of course, experience the occasional spill. Routine spills that are cleaned up promptly will not damage your hardwood floors. Limited water damage to hardwood flooring can usually be solved by replacing affected boards. There is no need to have waterproof flooring for normal wear and tear in a kitchen.

Myth: Waterproof floors are cheaper than wood.
Fact: Recent tariffs on China have increased the prices of flooring products made in China, and luxury vinyl and laminates products have been the hardest hit by price increases. Many wood products are less than many luxury vinyl products; prices very by manufacturer and style. Even if the material itself costs less than a wood product, other aspects of the installation affects the overall price of luxury vinyl installation. Since waterproof flooring is floated over the subfloor, the subfloor needs to be almost perfectly level to install the flooring. Otherwise, the locking mechanism will break from the movement. That means many floating floor installations involved additional leveling costs. Floating floors also require a transition piece between each room to hold the flooring into place, rather than just moving seamlessly from room to room with wood. Transition pieces can be $50 to more than $100 each, so each additional piece required affects the cost of the project.

Luxury vinyl and laminate flooring require transition pieces between each room to hold the flooring in place.

Myth: Waterproof floors are also scratch-proof and will last longer than wood.
Fact: Though they are durable, vinyl plank floors do scratch and the scratches can only be remedied by replacing planks. Scratches can’t be touched up and the flooring can’t be refinished. Repairs on vinyl plank floors can be very difficult and costly. Wood floors can be recoated or even completely refinished to last a lifetime, and replacing damaged boards is a relatively simple repair. Luxury vinyl planks and other wood-look products can only be thrown away and replaced. Once they’re done, they’re done, much like laminates of past and sheet vinyl before it. Eventually you’ll be paying for a new floor. 

You may also enjoy:
5 Kitchen Wood Flooring Myths, Busted
FAQs: Laminate & Luxury Vinyl

Before & After: Custom Parquet

This customer came to us with a custom request for parquet oak flooring. Our job supervisor Anthony and his crew installed custom made red oak 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ select and better parquet with side bevels unfinished.

Then, our refinishing crew stained and finished the flooring.

Need help with your custom wood flooring project? Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

Home Design Inspiration: Natural Border

Last month in Marlton, our job supervisor Anthony and his crew installed this Bruce Dundee 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ Dundee Oak Strip “Cherry” CB218 with a custom Bruce Dundee 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ Dundee Oak Strip “Natural” CB210 border.

They also installed Bruce 3/4″ x 2 1/4″ Dundee Oak Strip “Butterscotch” CB216 in the upper hall with complementary custom stair treads.

Contact Dan Higgins Wood Flooring for your custom flooring installations.

Home Design Inspiration: 19th Century Farmhouse

A customer in Vincentown, NJ, contacted us when she purchased a 19th century farmhouse. She wanted to have hardwood flooring installed in her living room that would complement the original flooring in her historic home. We installed this custom multi-width southern yellow pine flooring, which we then stained and finished along with the existing oak and pine flooring.

Face-nailed flooring is particularly difficult to finish, since each nail needs to be individually plugged.  That’s why we use only high-skilled installers and refinishers to complete our customers’ projects.

Need help with your custom project? Contact Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

3 Myths about “Green” Wood Flooring, Busted

Now that the weather is finally starting to feel like spring, we can start going outside and enjoying the outdoors. It reminds us of the importance of protecting nature. Many of our customers have questions about how their flooring affects the environment. Here are three common misconceptions we hear about how wood flooring affects the environment:

1. Hardwood flooring is bad for trees.

Photo of oak tree by Leif Knutsen via Wikimedia Commons

Humans have certainly had a negative impact on forests over time. But in recent history, we’ve been doing a much better job at taking care of trees. In the 19th century, many North American forests were heavily depleted, partly by irresponsible logging. At the start of the 20th century, forest conservation policies came to the forefront. US forestland stopped decreasing in 1920 after two centuries of decline. Since the 1940s, forest growth has been exceeding harvest, so we’re actually growing more trees than we are cutting down. Most lumber comes from US and Canadian forests, and both countries comprehensive forestry management policies. Much of the production has switched from harvesting public lands to privately owned and managed forests. These companies have an interest in growing at least as many trees as they cut–it’s how they can continue their business. US forests have more trees now than they’ve had in 100 years, and responsible forestry will help continue that trend.

2. Floors must be certified to be environmentally friendly.

Several different organizations certify flooring on the environmental impact of flooring production or how the flooring effects indoor air quality.

FloorScore and GREENGUARD are independent organizations that certify products by measures the emission level of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The most common certification to measure VOCs is the California Air Resources Board (CARB) certification. CARB-compliant materials meet tight limites for formaldehyde emissions. Flooring must meet the CARB requirements to be sold in California, so most flooring sold in the US meets these requirements. FloorScore, GREENGUARD, and CARB certificiations do not measure the environmental impact of flooring production.

The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that sets criteria for environmental, economic, and social standards. They accredit other groups as certification bodies. There are many different kinds of certification for different parts of production and distribution of products. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, uses a combination of criteria for both environmentally responsible production and air quality control. Many levels of LEED certification are available.

There is no one certification that tells you everything you need to know about a manufacturer’s environmental practices. When purchasing flooring, research the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability and how they implement that in their production process.

3. Bamboo flooring is more environmentally friendly than other wood floors.

Bamboo forest. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons

Bamboo is advertised as a “green” floor because bamboo plants grows very quickly, while traditional wood flooring species like oak take longer to mature. However, tree growth is just one step of the process. Bamboo is more like a grass than a tree, so it can’t be made into flooring like a traditional hardwood. It is cut into strips and glued together with formaldehyde-based glue, or made into a pulpy mixture with the glue and formed into planks. This also makes bamboo flooring impossible to sand and refinish, so once the finish wears, the grass-and-glue mixture will end up in a landfill. Traditional hardwood floors can be refinished to last for centuries.


Have more questions? Contact Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

Home Design Inspiration: Custom Parquet with Border

Our job supervisor Anthony and his crew installed this custom parquet style flooring using 3/4″ x 4″ rift sawn white oak with an American walnut border. This customer has a three story foyer, so this custom flooring created a dramatic entrance to their center hall colonial-style home.

The flooring was installed unfinished and site-finished by our refinishing crew.

Check out this slideshow to the progress of the installation and finishing.

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Need help with your custom wood flooring project? Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

Before & After: Insert with Border

Last week, our job supervisor Anthony and his crew replaced this carpet insert with Bruce Dundee 3 1/4″ solid oak “gunstock” flooring installed diagonally with a dark Bruce Dundee 3 1/4″ solid oak “mocha” border.



Thank you to our customer, Cindy Perr, for these great photos “Before and After” photos. Here are some more photos of the finished product.



Contact Dan Higgins Wood Flooring for a free estimate.

Do’s and Don’ts of Wood Floor Maintenance

Nobody likes cleaning. So it’s no wonder that 58% of consumers consider ease of cleaning as one of the top factors for choosing their flooring, according to a survey by the National Wood Flooring Association. That’s why wood flooring continues to be the favorite flooring among homeowners. With just a few common sense tips, your hardwood flooring will last a lifetime.

DO sweep or vacuum regularly.

By getting rid of debris, you help protect your floor’s finish from wear-and-tear.

DON’T wet mop or steam clean.

Wood is a natural product that reacts to humidity. Water and steam can damage the flooring.

DO use recommended wood flooring cleaner spray.

The only cleaning product you need in cleaner spray designed for wood flooring. We recommend Bona or Squeaky brands, which are available in our showrooms in spray bottles and concentrated refills.

DON’T use “refreshers” products.

While these “refresher” products are sold to consumers, only a wood flooring professional should be applying any finishes to your flooring. Misuse of “refresher” products is our number one customer maintenance issue.

DO use felt protectors on furniture legs.

Felt protector pads on the furniture legs protects your flooring from scratches. We recommend EZ Glide surface protectors.

DON’T slide your furniture.

Even with felt protectors, dragging heavy furniture can scratch the finish or even damage the wood itself. Lift or use a moving blanket.

DON’T walk in cleats or damaged high heels.

Metal cleats and exposed heel nails can scratch or even dent wood flooring. A 125-pound person walking in high heels exerts up to 8,000 pounds per square inch of pressure on the heel.

DO control the temperature and humidity.

Solid wood flooring is a natural product that expands and contracts based on the moisture in the air. If the humidity is too low, the flooring can gap and expose the tongues of the boards. If the humidity is too high, the flooring can expand and cup.

DO read the manufacturer guides.

Most flooring manufacturers have information posted on their website about how to maintain your flooring and keep it covered under their warranty.

DON’T be afraid to ask questions.

If you have questions about maintaining your hardwood flooring, contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.



FAQs about Stairs and Wood Flooring

Updating your staircase can be a finishing touch to your flooring project. But sometimes, what seems like a cherry on top on your project can be the most confusing. Here are some questions we’re often asked about stairs and wood flooring:

What kind of staircase do I have?

Staircases are categorized as either “closed” or “open”. A closed stairs, or boxed stair case, has either a wall or stringer on each side of the stair treads. Stairs can also be open on one or both sides, where there is no wall or stringer on the side and the stair ends at the tread.

How do spindles affect my stair project?

If the stair spindles are installed directly into the stair tread instead of a stringer, any changes to the stairs become much trickier. They often need to be removed before any work is done on the stairs, or worked around very carefully.

Can I install flooring on my stairs?

Some installer will install pieces of flooring on the stairs, finished with a stair nosing. Over time, the strain put on the nosing will cause it to break off. Instead, we install a solid wood tread on the steps; we want your installation to last.

Can’t I just get one of those kits from a hardware store?

You can, but the do-it-yourself kits are often made with lower quality, flimsy materials that bend, cup, or split. High quality, solid treads can be installed properly and will last much longer.

What happens if one of my steps is a different shape than the other steps?

In our shop, we custom cut the treads to the shape required. Many of the tread kits sold in stores don’t accommodate rounded treads, only rectangular.

Should I get white or stained risers?

It’s all a matter of taste. Some people like the more uniform look of stained risers so that everything matches. Other people prefer the clean, finished look of white risers. Both options look great.

Does my staircase have to match my flooring?

The most popular look is to have the stair treads complement the flooring on the first floor. However, some people prefer to have the stairs complement the upper floor, and others prefer to have the stairs contrast both. When deciding on color, it’s important to keep in mind that treads that are custom-stained to complement the flooring still won’t match exactly. Wood for flooring and treads are cut differently, and factory-applied stains and finishes are impossible to replicate by hand.

Can I get my stairs refinished?

Solid stair treads can be sanded, stained, and refinished along with the flooring.

What if I have more questions about my stairs as part of my wood flooring project?

Contact the experts at Dan Higgins Wood Flooring.

Inspiration Photos

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