There’s more to wood flooring than pine and oak. Today’s homeowners have more than 50 varieties of domestic and imported species of wood flooring available for both indoor and outdoor use. Each type of wood is rated for hardness and durability so it’s important to pick the right wood for your specific needs. For example, if you have a lot of kids and pets, you want tougher type of wood. If you want an elegant look for a seldom used formal dining, you can pick from more ornamental and less durable stock.
The hardness rating uses a measurement called the Janka scale, developed in the early twentieth century by Austrian wood researcher Gabriel Janka. The scale determines how likely a particular wood is to dent or show other wear. The lower the score, the less durable the wood. US black cherry, for example, is ranked at 950 on the Janka scale, meaning it is a more fragile wood when compared to Brazilian cherry, which has a rating of 2,820.
While higher end woods have become more popular in recent years, they can also come with a big price tag so homeowners have to balance need with affordability. Here are some of the more popular woods being used for flooring today.
One of the most prized woods is teak. It is also one of the most expensive. In addition to its natural beauty and durability, teak wood has unique properties that sets it apart from most other wood. Native to Southeast Asian nations like Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, and Malaysia, teak is rich in natural oils that are locked into the wood’s tight grain. All woods contain oils that protect the tree. What makes teak unique is that its wood retains the oils even after processing. That characteristic is what gives teak its superior weather-resistant properties. Those same oils also protect the wood from rot. Even more important when used outdoors is that the oils also protect the wood from fungi, parasites, and other infestations that other woods are vulnerable to. Despite being costly, teak is still highly sought after, which has caused shortages that in turn has driven its price up even more.
Jatoba wood is a frequently used exotic wood that has been called the poor man’s teak wood. Marketed as Brazilian cherry—even though it is not an actual cherry tree—it is a very hard wood variety resistant to dents so it is great for indoor use. However, it can be susceptible to rot if exposed to moisture so it is not a good choice for any outdoor uses. As is true with all wood high on the Janka scale, the hardness that makes it so durable also makes it difficult to work with. For example, nail holes usually need to be predrilled and special saw blades used.
Cyprus is more common in southern states that in northern climes. Considered very durable, the heartwood ranges from a honey gold to a reddish color, with darkish knots. Reasonably priced and readily available.
Peltogyne, better known as purpleheart or amaranth, is valued the world over for the striking color of its heartwood. Native to Central and South America, this exotic wood is a vibrant purple when freshly cut, darkening into a deeper purple as the wood ages. Purpleheart is rated as being very durable, is resistant to rot, and generally invulnerable to insect damage. Not surprisingly, its high demand and relative rarity makes it a more expensive exotic wood.
Tigerwood is known for its dramatic reddish grain with darker striping. While aesthetically not for everyone, it is a durable, reasonably-priced wood that is popular as decking.