Know Your Wood: An Intro to Choosing Hardwood Flooring



Hardwood floors are beautiful and unique, often the envy of many homeowners.  You know you want hardwood floors in your home, but you aren’t sure where to start or which route to go. As custom home builders in Oklahoma City, we’ve worked with a large variety of hardwood floors, from the most traditional to the most exotic, and we are happy to help you make your flooring decisions! Here we have outlined some hardwood flooring basics to get your started on your journey.

Solid Wood

Solid hardwood flooring is made of solid planks of hardwood that can range in thickness but most common is ¾” thick. Installation of solid hardwood flooring can only be done in moisture controlled areas of your home or else buckling and warping may occur. With solid hardwood you can expect to see changes with the seasons. The wood may contract during the winter and leave cracks and extra space, whereas in the summer it will expand. Solid hardwood floors are either nailed or stapled down to a plywood/subfloor surface.

You can order your wood planks factory-finished or unfinished. If you choose factory-finished installation time will be shorter and you can walk on the flooring immediately after. Unfinished planks will require finishing after installation, but allows for more customization with your choice of finish and possibly color matching with different surfaces in the home.


Engineered hardwood planks have grown in popularity because of their durability and resistance to moisture. They can be installed in areas that you would never be able to install solid hardwood such as bathrooms, basements, and over concrete flooring. Engineered planks have a solid wood veneer top layer (depending on its thickness and quality you may be able to refinish the floor a few times throughout its lifetime). The lower layers are plywood cross construction, which is what makes it so durable and controls the expansion and contraction with changes in moisture levels.

Typically engineered planks are less expensive than solid wood planks, and they are considered more environmentally friendly because they use only a thin veneer of precious hardwood instead of a full plank. Best of all, no one will be able to tell if your hardwood flooring is solid or engineered.

Wood Species

Choosing the type of hardwood for your home may be a tough decision with all the different varieties and information out there. You may choose to go with a traditional domestic wood, a luxury exotic wood, or environmentally sustainable wood like bamboo.

 A good place to start your research is with the Janka Hardness scale. It is the most common way of measuring the hardness of a wood. The number listed refers to the pounds of force it would take to push a .444” steel ball halfway into the woods surface. Oak is known as the benchmark of hardness for home flooring. You may choose something much harder or softer, but remember that Oak at 1290 is the benchmark to which all other wood species are measured. It is considered the “sweet spot” between too soft and too hard.

Here are a few popular traditional and exotic hardwood species (there are many variations of each of these species that may be higher or lower on the Janka scale, use this as a basic overview):



A beautiful choice, very smooth and can be stained in a large range of colors. It should be used with caution in areas used by pets and children as it is a 950 on the Janka Hardness scale.


Known for is dark coloration, a gorgeous choice but still softer than Oak at 1010 on the Janka scale.


Red Oak is the standard in hardwood flooring, known for being the perfect place between hard and soft on the Janka scale at 1290. It is warm and rich with unique grain patterns.


Smooth with a less detailed grain pattern and lighter coloring than Oak. It is strong and durable at 1450 on the Janka Hardness scale.


Has a lot of variation in its pattern, known for its rustic style. Hickory is a strong wood, great for families and pets at 1820 on the Janka scale.




Known for its distinctive stripes and exotic look, a 1850 on Janka Hardness scale. Make sure you are buying FSC- or SFI- certified South American grown Tigerwood as it has been overharvested in the wild.


Has a distinctive grain pattern, and named for its strong, sweet smell that should last for years in your home, is a 1780 on the Janka scale.


Known for its water and insect resistance, Teak is frequently used in boatbuilding, 1000 on Janka scale.

Natural Bamboo

Highly renewable resource making it environmentally friendly, but because it is actually a grass, there is some question on the chemical adhesive used to glue the pieces together to make solid and engineered wood planks, a 1380 on the Janka scale.

Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba)

Known for its hardness, resilience, and rich color, Jatoba is a 2350 on Janka scale.


Another important point to remember is that the wood planks will be “graded”. You can select higher quality grades for fewer to no imperfections, for a higher price of course.  For more information on hardwood flooring or for information about working with our home builders in Oklahoma City visit our blog or contact us today!


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