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Home > Ideas & Tips > Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide - Wood Species

Hardwood Flooring Buying Guide - Wood Species

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Wood Species

Different species of wood come in varying colours, textures, and degrees of hardness. Depending on the room where you'll be installing your flooring, a certain level of hardness may be more desirable. The relative hardness of a wood species is measured by the Janka Scale. The higher a wood species' Janka Scale rating, the harder the wood.

Janka Hardness Test


How many pounds per square inch (PSI) of force does it take to push this steel ball halfway into this piece of wood? The more force is required, the higher that wood species' rating will be on the Janka scale. Species range in ratings from the low 600s to the high 2000s. A mid-range wood hardness is around 1300 PSI.


At Lowe's, we carry everything from bamboo to oak to eucalyptus. But the three most popular and frequently used species are: birch, maple, and oak. These wood species are versatile, reliable, and most importantly, beautiful. Let's get to know them!


  • Has a Janka scale rating of approx. 1260 (medium hardness level).
  • Is a fine-grained wood that features subtle swirls and barely visible graining patterns.
  • Is more porous than other wood types, making staining more challenging (staining birch is best accomplished by using lighter-coloured dyes and a multi-step process involving sanding and spraying dye).
  • Yellow birch is made from the sapwood of the birch tree and comes in a light, creamy, toasted almond colouring.
  • Red birch is made from the heartwood stock of the birch tree, and usually comes in a golden brown colour with red undertones.


  • Has a Janka Scale rating of approx. 1450 (medium hardness level) in sugar or hard maple varieties. Soft maple wood is also available, but is less commonly used for flooring.
  • Varies in colour, from cream to yellow to light pink.
  • Is a dense, heavy, stiff, tight-grained hardwood that possesses a uniform texture and sands to a beautiful finish.
  • Filling pores is unnecessary when finishing this wood, due to its tight grain. However, maple does not accept stain as readily and uniformly as other woods do.
  • Extra care should be taken when sanding and finishing this wood, as marks are more visible due to maple's light colour and density.
  • High resistance to termites.
  • Is durable and readily available.


  • Has a Janka Scale rating of approx. 1360 in white oak and 1260 in red oak (both are medium hardness level).
  • Is the most popular, readily-available, mass-produced wood species. Because of these factors, it's also relatively affordable.
  • White oak usually comes in a light brown colour; some boards may have a pinkish tint or a slightly greyish cast.
  • Red oak has a slightly more amber hue than white oak.
  • Has an open wood grain, with red oak being slightly more porous and coarser than white oak.
  • Has above-average to excellent responsiveness to machining and sanding.
  • Stains well and demonstrates good stain contrast; however, white oak contains tannins which may react to some liquids and cause discolouration. This tends to happen with products that have a high water content, so keep this in mind when selecting finishes.
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