From Forest to Floor: A Guide to Common Types of Wood Used in Households

By HomeAdvisor

Updated June 11, 2019

house with wood flooringAs a building material, wood has been a common choice for thousands of years. Wood is versatile, strong and beautiful, making it an ideal material for both building construction and interior carpentry projects such as installing wood flooring.

Types of Wood

Wood is classified as either a hardwood or a softwood depending on its density. Wood is also graded according to the number of defects found in a board.

With a wide array of hardwoods available for both home construction and interior carpentry projects, you have many choices that can help you complete a woodworking project. Find a local hardwood floor installer to help your home reach the next level.

Common Types of Hardwood

  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Ash
  • Maple
  • Poplar
  • Birch

Oak lumber is available in both red and white colors. Red oak grows faster than white oak, making it the more affordable option of the two.

Since it is cheaper, red oak is typically used for flooring, cabinets and furniture. White oak is also used for furniture as well as for trims and moldings.

Birch is another hardwood used for interior carpentry, such as high-end furniture, cabinets, and flooring.

Common Tropical Hardwoods:

  • Teak
  • Mahogany
  • Rosewood

These hardwoods are not native to North America, so they must be imported.

Common Softwoods:

  • Redwood
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Fir

These woods are usually used for structural lumber as well as for some decorative carpentry.

Exotic Hardwoods

  • Acacia is a dense hardwood that is ideal for flooring and furniture. Acacia grows in naturalized forests in Europe.
  • Movingui is a hardwood that grows in western Africa. Exceptionally dense but still easy to work with – movingui is ideal for cabinets, flooring and furniture.
  • Olive groves are in plentiful supply in central Europe, and this exotic lumber is suitable for high-end furniture and cabinetry.
  • Pink ivory, found in southern Africa, is one of the rarest woods in the world. This dense wood comes in small boards, and the heart wood has a stunning pinkish-red color.

How to Determine Wood Hardness:

The Janka scale is the industry standard for determining the relative hardness of both domestic and exotic woods.

This hardness scale measures the amount of force needed to embed a 0.444-inch steel ball into a piece of wood to the point that is half the diameter of the steel ball.

The higher the rating, the harder the wood – meaning the more expensive.

Common Wood Ratings

  • Red oak measures 1,220
  • Birch measures 1,260
  • White oak measures 1,335
  • Olive wood measures 2,690
  • Pink ivory measures 3,230

If you want to renovate your home or contract out to have wood cabinets or furniture built, hire a local carpenter.

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