Even though hardwood is one of the most attractive and most popular types of flooring, most people don’t know what they ought to be looking for in hardwood floors, or what makes one species different, better, or more sought-after than the other. Here’s a detailed look at the top five residential hardwood flooring options.
Same as its feline counterpart, Brazilian Tigerwood not only lives up to its name but is also one of the finest hardwoods available. Its unique light golden-brown to reddish-brown color combined with the exotic black and brown streaks featured give this wood a striking and impressive appearance.
• Tigerwood is remarkably resilient and less susceptible to the scratches and nicks that affect other types of lumber.
• It is extremely durable and can withstand the rigors of everyday life for more than 30 years, even without preservatives.
• This exotic hardwood is naturally resistant to decay and insect infestation
• With its bold grain pattern, vibrant coloring, and stripes that mirror the tiger’s, this wood’s dynamic look commands attention. Thanks to its breathtaking visual appeal, Tigerwood floors often steal the show.
• Thanks to its resilience, Tigerwood requires minimal maintenance.
• Loss of natural color over time
Also known as Kwila, Merbau has interlocked or wavy grains that contribute to its appealing looks, especially when combined with the yellow or gold flecks often featured. Freshly cut Merbau heartwood is orange-brown in color, but the color reddens with age. In terms of appearance, Merbau is probably the most attractive hardwood flooring option.
• Exceptionally beautiful
• Resistant to rot, insect infestation, and extreme weather
• Unusually strong and dense with minimal shrinkage, making it ideal for outdoor installation.
• Durable, lasting for at least 25 years
• Extremely versatile, easy to work with using standard tools, and machines very well
• Finishes well with polish, stain, and paint
• Requires minimal maintenance
• Has a tendency towards tannin bleed
Although it’s a Class-3 timber for ground level use, Jarrah is a Class-1 wood for above ground applications. Due to its attractively patterned grains, moderately coarse texture, and beautiful range of colors, from light brown to dark red, Jarrah has a rather striking appearance. Although there are products that can restore Jarrah’s natural colors, it will turn a soft grey if left to weather.
• Little tannin leach
• Soft enough to manipulate using sharp tools
• Not as oily as other hardwoods, therefore easy to sand smooth
• Naturally fire-resistant
• Less susceptible to termite infestation and decay
• Highly durable and dense
• Retains natural color for long
• Limited availability due to a slow growth rate
• Requires more care than other hardwood species and specially formulated oils
• Relatively expensive
• Lyctid borer susceptible
• Sourced from old growth forests
The name “Blackbutt” comes from the typical appearance of a blackened tree trunk base, often caused by fire. Compared to other hardwood species, Blackbutt is easily regenerated and has a faster growth rate. Aside from having a fairly consistent texture and straight grains, its heartwood ranges from light brown to blonde in color. However, gum veins and interlocking grains are sometimes present. Due to its excellent fire rating, Blackbutt is one of the most suitable flooring options for bushfire prone areas.
• Highly fire resistant
• Ideal for use in bushfire prone areas
• Hard, strong and durable
• Has little movement and machines well
• Takes polish and stain exceptionally well, meaning you can change the color
• Readily available
• Might leech when wet because of the high tannin content
• Prone to surface check and splitting, especially if left unsealed
• Requires immediate sealing
• Requires continual and frequent oiling or staining, hence high maintenance
Previously classified as a eucalypt, this tree sheds in small patches, hence the spotted appearance. In addition to its pale brown to dark reddish-brown heartwood, the Spotted Gum usually comes with a wavy grain and a coarse, uneven texture, all of which combine to give an attractive look. Spotted Gum machined products are noted as having a greasy feel.
• Highly durable, dense, and hard
• It has an excellent level of natural oils and very few imperfections, making it great to work with
• It’s an excellent flooring choice for bushfire prone areas
• Widely and readily available
• Sustainably sourced
• Little tannin leach
• Hard-wearing and has minimal shrinkage
• The sapwood is susceptible to Lyctid borer infestation, hence the need for treatment
• Requires pre-drilling
• Mostly supplied in random lengths
• Relatively expensive
As evidenced by the different pros and cons listed above, the right hardwood flooring option for your home will depend on a number of factors. Apart from your budget, needs, and preferences, you should also consider your local weather, the environmental impact, odds of a bushfire, and acceptable level of maintenance.
Jessica Kane is a writer for GoHardwood, a leading retailer of discount hardwood flooring, carpet tile, and more.