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Hardwood floors didn't get their name because the floor is hard! They got their name because the type of wood used in many wood flooring applications is actually a type of wood called hardwood. Hardwoods are often used for furniture making and smaller wood projects while softwoodis used for larger home construction and building projects. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees which simply means trees that shed their leaves annually. Some commonly used types of hardwood include: mahogany, cherry, maple and oak. Hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods for two reasons. First, hardwood takes longer to grow and therefore is more expensive to produce. Second, hardwood is more useful than softwood so the demand is greater. Read below for full descriptions on these wood types.
Hardwoods are sold by the board foot, which is defined as a square foot of rough lumber that is 1 in. thick. Hardwoods are not used for general construction, nor for larger projects such as decks and new home construction. Hardwoods are used more often for furniture, and floors and there are many more types of hardwoods than softwoods. Hardwood products can last a lifetime with proper care and maintenance. With the variety of colors, textures and grain patterns, the choices are really endless.
Some hardwoods are in danger. Some exotic hardwoods are close to becoming extinct, such as Brazilian rosewood. This fact has made prices for some hardwoods soar and has caused environmentalists to become very concerned and active in the preservation efforts of manyhardwoods. For more information, visit the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Types of Hardwoods:
Ash - Ash is a light brown, straight grain hardwood. It is sometimes substituted for white oak and grows throughout the Eastern U.S. Ash is used for furniture, flooring, doors,baseball bats, hockey sticks and and moldings.
Birch - One of less expensive hardwood options, birch is not recommended for staining. It is available in yellow or white and is good for small woodworking projects.
Cherry - Cherry is great because it resists warping and shrinking. Cherry is used in cabinet making, boat trim, novelties, solid furniture handles and turned projects.Cherry is easy to work with, stains and finishes well with just oil, and ages beautifully. Because of its demand it tends to be more expensive than other hardwood floor types. Cherry trees grow throughout the Midwest. The main areas in the U.S are in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York.
Mahogany - This reddish brown wood is fine grained and reddish brown in color. Very durable and resists swelling shrinking, and warping. Mahogany is used for quality furnituresuch as cabinets, boat construction, wood facings and veneers.
Maple - Available in soft and hard varieties, maple is often used for fine quality furniture. The hard maple is the state tree of Wisconsin, Vermont, New York, and West Virginia.
Oak - Oak is one of the most commonly used hard wood types for furniture. Oak is a sign of quality in furniture and available in red and white. Red oak is the most abundant species growing in Eastern hardwood forests. Oak is used for furniture, flooring, molding, etc.
Poplar - Poplar is one of the less expensive hardwoods and is a softer wood which makes it easy to work with. Poplar is used for cabinets and other light construction.
Rosewood - Rosewood has a dark brown- reddish color and is used for furniture and musical instruments.
Teak - Teak is a great wood choice because is hard and durable. Teak is also resistant to moisture and rot, which has made it a popular choice for outdoor furniture. Teak is more expensive than other hardwoods.
Walnut - Easy to work with, resists shrinkage and warping and finishes well. It is also on the higher price end.
AmericanHardwood Information Center
NationalHardwood Lumber Association