Choosing the Right Wood Species For My Hardwood Floor

Posted by Aaron Schaalma

hardwood floor wood species

Choosing a new hardwood floor is extremely exciting.  It’s a chance breathe new life into your home.  But when you begin to do your research, it becomes blatantly clear that the possibilities for hardwood flooring go far beyond one or two options.

Knowing the different wood species is extremely useful in determining which hardwood flooring is perfect for your home.  Each species of hardwood flooring is as unique as the trees they come from.  From durability to color and grain patterns, It is extremely important to understand physical properties of your floor before it is put inside your home.

Domestic v. Exotic Wood Species

Wood species split into 2 categories: Domestic and Exotic.

Domestic Wood Species are originally from the United States and include Hardwoods (deciduous trees, including oak and maple) as well as Softwood (conifer trees, including pine and redwood).  Typically, domestic species of hardwood flooring are naturally light in color.

Exotic Wood Species are created from tropical trees, such as mahogany and rosewood.  Unlike domestic hardwood flooring, exotic species tend to have greater variation in color and grain patterns.  Exotic wood species also tend to rank higher on the Janka Rating System.  The Janka Rating System is used to measure the hardness of wood.  Each hardwood species is evaluated and given its own number.  It’s very simple: the higher the number, the harder the wood species.

We have compiled a list of 5 popular species of wood for both domestic and exotic species to help you determine what is the best hardwood for your home.

Domestic Wood Species

Red Oak

Janka Rating: 1290

Color: Moderate Color Variations – pink undertones

Graining: Moderate to Heavy Linear Graining

Red Oak is the most popular hardwood flooring out of the domestic wood species.

White Oak

Janka Rating: 1360

Color: Moderate Color Variations – golden brown with gray undertones

Graining: Moderate to Heavy Linear Graining

White Oak is harder than Red Oak, meaning that it takes stain more evenly


Janka Rating: 1450

Color: Pale/Creamy Color

Graining: Light graining with linear to swirled patterns and possible “birdseye” graining

“Birdseye” graining is most common in maple.  Birdseye graining is the collection of small marks in the wood grain that resemble eyes.


Janka Rating: 1820

Color: Wide color range from light to medium browns

Graining: Bold grain patterns in flowing patterns

One of the hardest domestic woods, Hickory is known for its natural and unusual color variations and grain patterns

American Cherry

Janka Rating: 950

Color: Moderate Color Variations – warm red-brown color

Graining: Straight Graining with some distinctive markings

American Cherry is very distinctive from other hardwood species.  Known for the warm coloring and unique graining patterns.

Exotic Wood Species

Brazilian Cherry

Janka Rating: 2820

Color: Heavy Color Variations

Graining: Moderate to Heavy Graining

Brazilian Cherry is the most popular exotic wood species, not only because it’s such a durable wood, but also because of the unique color variations which range anywhere from red-brown to red-blonde to deep red.

Brazilian Oak

Janka Rating: 1912

Color: Light to Medium coloring – golden-red undertones

Graining: Light graining

Brazilian oak is one of the most popular exotic wood species for hardwood flooring.


Janka Rating: 2160

Color: Moderate Color Variations – gold to medium brown

Graining: Extremely dark, thick graining creates the appearance of “stripes”

Known for its tiger-like stripes, Tigerwood is very unique.  Tigerwood looks best with wide planks

Santos Mahogany

Janka Rating: 2200

Color: Wide color variations – medium to dark brown, orange undertones

Graining: Wavy Graining

The second most popular wood species.  It is known for its color variations and durability.

Brazilian Teak

Janka Rating: 3540

Color: Moderate Color Variation – reddish highlights

Graining: Light Graining

Brazilian Teak is one of the hardest species of hardwood flooring available.

These are only a few of the wood species available for hardwood flooring.  When it comes to finding the perfect flooring for your home, make sure you do your homework.  For more tips picking a hardwood floor for your home, check out our article How to Choose the Right Wood for My New Hardwood Floor.