Flooring is the foundation of your home and so choosing hardwood that will perform is critical. It should be durable, resistant, and, of course, beautiful. There so many species to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

At Hearthwood, wood is our passion. We want to make it easier for you to build the home of your dreams. We’ve outlined the characteristics of the most common American hardwood floors so you pick the type that will work best in your application.

White Oak

White oak has a long-standing tradition in American history. The wood was used in the production of many ships throughout the 1700s, and instrumental in reconstructing the vessels moving to and from the “new world”. These all-American ships not only transported people but improved the exporting trade that was beginning to emerge. It was also used to make barrels for rum and molasses. Later it the 1800’s it started to work its way into American homes in the form of furniture and flooring. Now we see it being commonly used in the staves that make up red wine and whiskey barrels – something we know a thing or two about in Tennessee!

White Oak Identification The trees that are used to harvest white oak can reach an average height of 100 ft with a diameter of roughly 3-4 feet. These trees can be found in almost every part of the U.S., but we utilize northern oak trees which are harder and have a lighter color than southern white oaks. White oak is very popular due to it’s lighter natural coloring, which, not surprising, is less red than red oak. There is color variation across the veneer however, and some boards are more pink than others. When cut using a sliced or sawn technique, the appearance of the grain is very linear or “straight,” and when cut by a rotary peeling technique it can have more wide/flat grain, or what the industry calls “cathedrals.”

Using White Oak in Design White oak is on trend due to the variety of stain colors available, straight grain and contemporary appearance. It is harder than red oak for improved indentation resistance and also very versatile for staining and texturing. At hearthwood, we have more white oak offerings than any other specie. If you love the look of reclaimed wood, Dynamic Earth features dramatic color variation and hand crafted texturing for an authentic look. For more contemporary interiors, Au Naturelle and Controlled Chaos have a light texture and versatile stains for every design need.


In North America, there are roughly 16 species of hickory. Although, the lumber industry doesn’t take time to distinguish between them. Historically, hickory is well-known for its strength and has been used in the production of objects that relied on this durable characteristic like ladder rungs, wagon wheels, and handles for tools. You can also find this material used in sports accessories the composition making up skis, tennis rackets, hockey sticks and most notably the baseball bat.

Hickory Identification As previously mentioned, hickory is notoriously strong which also means its weighty. When dried it can count for around 50lbs per cubic foot. The grain is varied, featuring light clean boards as well as gorgeous rustic character boards with knots and mineral streaks. Hickory is primarily found in the Southern region, and they can grow around 120 feet in height.

Using Hickory in Design Hickory and maple are known for their exceptional strength and durability. Hickory leads the pack with a remarkable Janka hardness of 1820, making it the hardest among American tree species used in flooring. Maple follows closely at 1450. When it comes to high-traffic areas, both woods perform exceptionally well, resisting dents, dings, and scratches more effectively than other hardwoods.  In addition to its hardy characteristics, hickory is also gorgeous. Boards can be light and blond or can graded out for a lot of character in order to give a more rustic or natural appearance. It’s truly one of a kind. Pure Heart from Tall Timbers is hickory in its highest most authentic form. The collection is natural without a stain and graded for the most character. The result lends itself to a beautiful rustic finish that brings the best of the outdoors inside your home.


Maple has existed in North America for hundreds of years. For centuries maple has been harvested for its sweet syrup, but its inherent strength means it was also used inside the home to make desks, workbenches, and butcher blocks. Throughout history, it also had small roles in medicinal products like cough medicines and tonics. This dense wood was also harvested to make cabinets and flooring.

Maple Identification Maple has a light grain appearance that can vary from straight to curly pattern. The texture is fine and uniform. The sapwood is white and very clean in appearance. You’ll find that most maple is free from “defects”; like knots, though we like to include them into our products so you know it is the real deal and not a faux wood copy. Maple grows primarily in the northern part of the US and in Canada and trees grows to roughly 100 feet tall. At Hearthwood we work from only domestically sourced Maple that is selected for its beauty and durability.

Using Maple in Design Quite often the wood is used for fine furniture and cabinetry. The uniqueness of maple’s patterns provides an opportunity to enhance interior design using a neutral backdrop. As a flooring material, it’s one of the highest quality based on durability alone as it is also very indentation resistant. The grain pattern of maple is typically very quiet, offering a subtle and neutral visual and more contemporary looks. Lower glosses are now more commonly used on Maple, though high shine maple with no knots was a popular look for a long time.

Stones River from the Tennessee Trails collection blends the beauty and durability of maple into a smooth floor that compliments both traditional and modern designs while lessening the appearance of scratches and wear.

Don’t let shopping for new engineered hardwood flooring become a complicated process. You can order a free sample from Hearthwood today or submit your question directly to our experts at Hearthwoodfloors.com.

To learn more about the benefits of installing hardwood in your home, contact Hearthwood Flooring today by calling 888.415.9496.