Floors Direct North – Education Centre

Which Wood Should I Choose?

According to Wikipedia, “The Janka hardness test (from the Austrian-born emigrant Gabriel Janka, 1864-1932) measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28 millimetres (0.444 in) diameter steel ball halfway into a sample of wood. This method leaves a hemispherical indentation with an area of 200 mm2. A common use of Janka hardness ratings is to determine whether a species is suitable for use as flooring.”

The five most popular woods for flooring are listed below in order of rating on the Janka scale, although these days though wood is not about its hardness rating, it is more about where you can hide! Most people generally want minimum upkeep, especially if they have kids or busy lifestyles.


Hickory is related to the pecan tree and whilst it isn’t quite as stable as some of the other woods, it is a third harder than oak coming in at 1820 on the Janka scale.  The grain of the hickory is closed and tighter together than oak or ash so if you like a wood that has grain but is not too grainy, then Hickory is a good choice for you.  It also comes in a wide variety of colours because the sapwood is a white, creamy colour, and can be easily stained. There is also a lot of Pecan available these days. 


Hard Maple is one of the most widely used woods in North America. Whilst it is grown in abundance, it is more expensive to get the pure white sap wood.  Maple flooring is usually a combination of heart and sap wood. The maple is cleaner looking with not much of a grain and on the selects and up there is very little colour variation which creates a more consistent look but it will have some mineral streaking. If you don’t like grain and prefer a smoother more even tone to your floor, then maple is the wood for you. 


White Ash is the most popular of the ash tree species.  The tree grows rapidly, adapts to almost any conditions and is low maintenance. It is also more stable than oak. Ash tends to wear well and bumps and bruises are less noticeable than in other species.  The grain in ash is much like the oak and very often people cannot tell the difference, but the ash hides natural imperfections well. 


Northern Red Oak is found in nearly every home in Canada be it on the stairs or the floor and has always been a popular choice. It has a natural colour variation and is quite grainy with more open grain patterns.  If you like your wood traditional, grainy and want lots of colour options – then oak is a great option.


Yellow Birch has a grain that is similar to maple’s and is highly sought after in furniture and flooring. It has a close straight grain and looks similar to maple. The boards can sometimes have a curly or wavy look. Birch is usually a cheaper option than maple and with the same hardness rating as oak it makes it great choice for those looking for a less grainy wood.


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