Species Grading

Darrell Black

Custom Wood Flooring, Inc.

Choosing a Species:

There are more than 22 domestic and imported wood species used to make wood flooring.  The most commonly used products in our area are:  White Oak, Red Oak, Pine, Hickory/Pecan, Mesquite, Walnut, and Teak.

Other beautiful flooring products are Ash, Beech, Birch, Black Cherry, and Douglas Fir.

The list of exotic woods that are imported include:  Brazilian Cherry, Australian Cypress, Jarrah, Mahogany, Merbau, Padauk, Purpleheart, Teak, and Wenge among other imported woods.

Red Oak - Select and Better                                                   White Oak - Select and Better

Definitions: Heartwood - Wood extending from small, soft core occurring near the center of a tree trunk out to  the sapwood, and the cells no longer participate in the life processes of the tree. Usually darker than sapwood.

Sapwood- The wood near the outside of the tree.  Usually lighter in color than hartwood.

Red Oak: Heartwood and sapwood are similar, with sapwood slightly lighter in color. Overall reddish in appearance, much more than most white oak.  Grain is open, slightly more porous than white oak.  Plain sawn boards have plumed/wavey or flared appearance; Rift sawn has a tighter grain pattern giving less flair appearance; Quarter sawn has a flake pattern crossing the grain. There are more than 200 subspecies in North America and there is great variation in color and grain. Species and growing seasons affect grain variation and color.  Example:  the cooler the weather, the slower the growth and the more uniform the grain pattern. The growth rings are closer together.  If you look at the two photos above you will notice the grain in the red oak is wider and flares more than the white oak.  Between this grain flare you will notice areas that look like there is no grain pattern while the white oak grain appears to be more radial or uniform. Dark colors will penetrate very dark in the flared grain and very light in the areas that do not appear to have grain.  If there is very much of this flaring in your floor, your floor will look very busy. When staining red oak dark, I have seen some areas of the floor take darker than others. We will spend extra time on the final sanding to keep this color variation from happening, but this is not always successful. The problem is a result of areas that are buffed smoother than other areas. During the final sanding stage you may think you have the perfect job, however perfection rarely happens. When working with sanded raw wood, it may look and feel perfect, until the dark penetrating sealer is applied.  This is when the uneven finish becomes apparent.  If you are using a surface finish(polyurethane) the wood grain can be raised before the finish is applied and this will help you with a more even finish. Sanding a wood floor is not like sanding furniture, the finer the grit used the more the wood grain is closed and the less penetration you will get with your sealer.   This will cause more color variation to be visible and the floor that is being walked on less durable.

White Oak: Heartwood is light brown, some boards may have a pinkish tint or slight grayish cast.  Sapwood is white to cream. Some boards will have part of the board with the white cream and grayish cast running the length of the board.  Usually the white cream color will extend into the board from 1/4 up to 1/2 the board width. The grain is open, with longer rays than red oak, with occasional crotches, swirls and burls. Plain sawn boards have the plumed/wavey or flared appearance, but not as prominent as red oak. Rift sawn has a tighter grain pattern with low figuring. Quater sawn has a flake and radial grain pattern.  White Oak variation of color and grain texture are not as pronounced as red oak.  White oak will give a more even overall appearance in a room than red oak when using dark colors.  Variation of color and grain texture are not as pronounced as Red Oak.

New Growth Long Leaf Pine                                                                        Pecan

Heart Pine/Long Leaf Pine: This product can be obtained three ways: 1. Recovered from structural timbers or sunken logs, 2. New growth from farms or trees that were cut with yellow pine, and 3. Trees that come from the Caribbean region. Heartwood is yellow after cutting and turns deep tan to warm reddish brown after aging,  due to the high resin content. The grain is dense with high figuring. Plain sawn is swirled and Rift sawn is primarily pinstriped. There is moderate color variation between boards and different shipments of materials.  This wood has soft areas, just like yellow pine, and finishes that have color in them will turn these areas darker than surrounding areas causing the floor to appear blotchy. If you are using a surface finish(polyurethane) the wood grain can be raised before the finish is applied and this will help you with a more even finish.

Pecan/Hickory: Pecan heartwood is reddish brown with dark brown streaks.  Sapwood is white or creamy white with pinkish tones. Hickory heartwood is tan or reddish, sapwood is white to cream, with brown lines.  Pecans grain is open, some pluming and flaring. Hickory grain is closed, with moderate definition and coarse in texture. The difference in hartwood and sapwood of both pecan and hickory gives a floor color variation between boards.  Dark colors will appear similar to pine when viewing overall floor. Because the wood is very hard and there are very light boards, sanding marks can be seen easier than on other floors.

Mesquite                                                                               Black Walnut

Mesquite: Mesquite is light brown to dark reddish brown with moderate color variations.  Mesquite has ingrown bark (yellow in character),  knots, cracks (sometimes cross grain), and mineral streaks.  Strip floor averages 24 overall length with lots of short boards.  Often laid as mesquite end grain blocks or mesquite rounds. The milling on these products vary greatly and the floor will require filler due to the cracks between boards. Dark colors do not penetrate well due to hardness of wood but may be used with some success

American Black Walnut: Heartwood ranges from a deep, rich dark brown to purplish black.  Sapwood is nearly white to tan. The difference between these two colors is drastic.  The grain is mostly straight and open, with some burled or curly grain. Pores in this wood are similar to hickory. The better the grade, the less color variation that will be seen between heartwood and sapwood. Due to the darkness of the wood, a natural color is preferred. 

This link Grading Rules will open a PDF file that will allow you to read the grading rules supplied by the NOFMA for oak, pecan, and engineered flooring. The NOFMA has allowed us to give a partial listing of the grading rules for your benefit.  For a complete reading of the grading rules please visit www.nofma.org

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