A Guide to Hardwood Floor Species

Regardless of which hardwood species you choose, wood floors are considered the gold standard of flooring surfaces and add value to your home. Wood floors are said to last a lifetime (with proper maintenance) and gain more character with age. So, it’s no wonder this flooring option is so popular! When deciding to go with hardwood there are construction considerations on your selection (Solid or Engineered) but there is also a decision for you to make between a Traditional or Exotic Hardwood Species. Let us break down the most common hardwood floor species today and hopefully make that decision just a little easier!

Traditional Hardwood Floor Species


The most popular species for hardwood flooring features two distinct types:

1.) Red Oak

red oak hardwood species
Red oak is the most common wood flooring option today. Its warm tones range in color from creamy pink and golden red to rusty brown. It also is known for having visible graining and color variations from plank to plank.

2.) White Oak

white oak hardwood species

White oak is said to be a “harder” wood product, which makes it a good choice for high traffic areas. It has grain patterns throughout and has a tendency to vary slightly in color and grain pattern from one board to the next.

Both oaks complement diverse décor styles, including classic, rustic, and contemporary.


hickory hardwood species

If you’re keen to choose a homegrown hardwood floor species but are looking for something with a distinct character, then hickory flooring might be the best option for you. It’s known for its strong shock resistance and density, which makes it an ideal hardwood to choose. Untreated hickory has quite a strong color contrast, going from a gorgeous deep brown to a creamy white shade. Apart from its fine looks, one of hickory’s other top qualities is that it’s the hardest domestic wood species on the market. Hickory is also good at retaining stain, which means there are many color options that will fit your home decor style.


ash hardwood species

Ash is known for its color variation of pale white to medium brown. Its graining is bold and can appear either straight, wavy or curly. It’s also very similar to white oak but adds a bit more excitement to a space thanks to that nice bold graining.

American Cherry

The American Cherry is a common tree grown in and harvested in North America. It is known to be a softer hardwood species than some of the others but has a distinctive appearance with its natural graining and color tones that vary from board to board.


maple h hardwood species

Maple hardwood flooring is a beautiful addition to any room. It’s one of the hardest of all domestic hardwood species, making it perfect for even the highest traffic spaces—like bowling alleys! Maple’s color has a warm hue and is typically a very pale, creamy white color with light shade difference between boards. The graining is also very light and sometimes not even noticeable.


walnuts hardwood species

Sometimes referred to as Black Walnut or American Walnut, this hardwood species is known for its rich brown color and fine graining. Due to its rich brown color, walnut instantly adds warmth to a space. There is some color variation from plank to plank and walnut is often described as having character because it shows knots and other grain variations. It is important to note that this is a “softer” species of wood and would not be recommended for high traffic areas due to the possibility of denting over time.

Exotic Hardwood Floor Species

Brazillian Cherry

Brazilian cherry hardwood species

Sometimes referred to as Jatoba, Brazilian Cherry is known for its extreme color variation and is one of the most popular exotic species for hardwood flooring. The coloring tends to include reddish and brown tones with some highlights of a lighter or “blonde” color throughout.

Santos Mahogany

Santos Mahogany hardwood species


Santos Mahogany is similar to Brazilian Cherry in that there is a distinct color variation amongst boards but it is a little more toned down than the cherry. Color variations in this exotic hardwood species tend to be more medium brown and orange to a darker brown color.


hardwood flooring species

The graining of this wood species is what makes it so unique. Tigerwood is known to be pale gold in color, with some boards shifting to a medium brown, but it always features a dark, thick striping. We tend to see this exotic hardwood species in wider plank offerings to help eliminate the “busy” appearance that could appear with smaller blanks and dark highlights/striping. This is another species that is prone to change over time with exposure to light.

Brazilian Teak

Brazilian teak hardwood species

Brazilian teak is one of the hardest exotic species available for hardwood flooring and its color ranges include tan, medium brown, and some red highlights. Over time, with exposure to light, the range of colors will even out and make a more uniform appearance in color to a more medium brown color. Brazilian teak  is also known for minimal graining.

Brazilian Walnut*

Brazilian walnut hardwood species

Commonly referred to as Ipe, Brazilian Walnut is a very hard wood species and works well in high-traffic areas. Known for a medium brown and chocolate brown color, this rich flooring makes any space look warm and elegant with ease. Its natural graining includes straight and irregular patterns, creating a one of a kind visual for your space.

*When it comes to color, both American and Brazilian are similar in that they both have reddish hues, though they can be stained in a variety of colors. One disadvantage to keep in mind is that cherry hardwood, in general, is a photosensitive hardwood, meaning it’s known to change color when exposed to direct sunlight . To learn more about hardwood photosensitivity, check out our other helpful blog here.

As you can clearly see, there’s no shortage of choices when it comes to hardwood flooring species. And we hope this broken-down information can now help you start the fun process of choosing the right one for your home.

At Avalon Flooring, we want to make sure you’re happy from your first step in our showroom to your first step on your new flooring—and as your partner in home design, we’ll be there every step along the way. Consider us your “One-Stop Shopping” destination for all things flooring…(and window treatments)!

Our design consultants are equipped with the knowledge to guide you through the wide selection of products we offer, and our expert installation team is professionally trained to make sure everything gets installed the way you envision. We know your home is an expression of your sense of style, and we’re here to make sure you’ll be proud of it for years to come.

If you have any questions, please email us.