Why Use Hardwoods?
Click on the link for some very convincing reasons why.
 
Floorcare & Maintenance
Keep your hardwood floors in top condition with these tips.
 
What To Expect
What to expect before, during & after your hardwood installation.
 
Important Considerations
Steps to take in preparing for your hardwood refinishing.
 
How Hard is Hardwood?
See how your hardwood choice measures up on the Janka scale.
 
Just The Facts
Helpful tips and facts to educate you about hardwood flooring.
 
Hardwood Species
Images of popular hardwood floor species.
 
The History of Hardwoods
An explanation of hardwood use throughout history.
 
Grades of Hardwood
A different grade for any floor application: home or business.
 
Making The Decision
Key factors to account for in your decision to have a wood floor.
 
Conservation Information
Information on preserving our hardwoods for the future.
 
 
Wood is a dynamic medium. Like all organic materials, it has character and changes over time. Because of its 'personality', wood should be treated with understanding and a certain amount of care. For wood flooring professionals, knowing about the properties of wood in general, as well as those of individual wood species, is critical to proper installation. For consumers, it's important to have realistic expectations about how wood will perform. Most wood used for flooring is essentially a byproduct of more expensive wood-consuming industries (furniture manufacture, for example), so it is usually not the highest grade of lumber. However, it is quite economical in comparison.
As a flooring material, wood is superior to vinyl or carpet, both practically and aesthetically. A solid wood floor is more than a covering; it adds strength and stability to the floor system. A one-inch thickness of wood has the same insulating value as 15 inches of concrete. Wood is durable and long-lasting, occasional sanding and refinishing essentially results in a brand-new floor. Wood floors don't retain mildew or absorb dust, simplifying cleaning.
 
Perhaps the most appealing characteristics of wood flooring, are its attractive appearance and natural warmth. A beautiful wood floor can enliven a drab room, enhance any architectural style, complement furniture and design schemes, and add value to any home or building.
 
A combination of qualities should be considered when selecting a species for flooring: appearance related attributes such as texture, grain, and color as well as mechanical properties like dimensional stability, durability, machinabilty, and ease in finishing; and finally, availability and cost.
 
Properties affecting appearance: Many different factors, from the nature of the living tree to the way the lumber is sawed, affect the way the finished floor will look.
 
Heartwood

Heartwood is the older, harder central portion of a tree. It usually contains deposits of various materials that frequently give it a darker color than sapwood. It is denser, less permeable and more durable than the surrounding sapwood.

 
Sapwood
Sapwood is the softer, younger outer portion of a tree that lies between the cambium (formative layer just under the bark) and the heartwood. It is more permeable, less durable and usually lighter in color than the heartwood.
 

The relative amounts of heartwood and sapwood in a flooring batch may affect the way it accepts stain and finish and, therefore, the finished appearance of the floor. In general, quartersawn and riftsawn flooring which contain less sapwood than plainsawn flooring (types of saw cut), and will tend to have a straighter grain and more uniform appearance. Heartwood is also more dimensionally stable than sapwood, so flooring with a high percentage of heartwood will shrink and swell less than flooring that is mostly sapwood.

 
Wood Grain and Texture
"Grain" and "texture" are loosely used to describe similar properties of wood. Grain is often used in reference to annual growth rings, as in "fine" or "coarse" grain. It is also used to indicate the direction of fibers, as in straight, spiral, and curly grain. The direction of the grain, as well as the amount of figuring in the wood, can affect the way it is sanded and sawed. Grain is also described as being either "open" or "closed", referring to the relative size of the pores, which affects the way a wood accepts stain and finishes.
 
Texture usually refers to the finer structure of the wood, rather than to the annual rings. It is sometimes used to combine the concepts of density and degree of contrast between spring wood and summer wood in the annual growth rings.
 
Wood Grain Terminology
 
Annual rings: Most species grown in temperate climates produce visible annual growth rings that show the difference in density and color between wood formed early and that formed late in the growing season. The inner part of the growth rings, formed first, is called spring wood, the outer part, formed later in the season, is called summer wood.
 
Spring wood is characterized by cells having relatively large cavities and thin walls. Summer wood cells have smaller cavities and thicker walls, and consequently are more dense than those in spring wood. The growth rings, when exposed by conventional sawing methods, provide the grain or characteristic pattern of the wood. The distinguishing features among the various species result in part then, from differences in growth-ring formation. And within species, natural variations in growth ensure the unique character and beauty of each piece of wood.
 
Figure: The pattern produced in a wood surface by annual growth rings, rays, knots, and deviations from regular grain.
 
Medullary Rays: Medullary rays extend radically from the core of the tree toward the bark. They vary in height from a few cells in some species, to four or more inches in the oaks; they're responsible for the flake effect in quartersawn lumber seen in certain species.
 
Tangential Grain: Usually called flat grain; easily recognized by its parabolic (arched) effect. Lumber is considered flat-grained when the annual growth rings make an angle of less than 45 degrees with the wide surface of the board.
 
Radial Grain: Known as vertical or edge grain; generally more dimensionally stable than flat grain - that is, vertical-grain boards are less likely to expand or contract in width with changes in moisture. Lumber is considered vertical-grained when the annual growth rings make an angle of 45 to 90 degrees with the wide surface of the board.
 
(Note: In hardwoods, plainsawn lumber generally contains mostly flat-grained wood, while quartersawn lumber is nearly all vertical-grained. In softwood lumber the terms flat-grained and vertical-grained are used instead of the terms plainsawn and quartersawn, respectively. (See Types of Saw Cut, next page)
 
Interlocked Grain: Grain in which the fibers may slope in a right-handed direction several years, then in a left-handed direction for several years, back to right-handed, and so on. A high degree of interlocked grain may make a wood difficult to machine.