Getting new cabinets or wood flooring for your home is a very exciting process because you’re incorporating a whole new surface to walk on or a way of aesthetic organization where you live. This process can be somewhat overwhelming, though, because how do you dream your new cabinets or floors look? What kind of style or look are you going for overall in the home? Of the many different door or plank styles to choose from, which one do you choose? Do you want an ornate and classic look, or for it to be simple and easy to clean? What color do you want the cabinets or floors? Light, medium, or dark stain? Do you want a neutral paint, bold color, or even an exotic wood veneer on your cabinets? So as you can tell, there are so many options to chose from thus far, but there is one crucial element that needs to be considered early on in the beginning stages…and that is, “Which wood species?” Wood species is absolutely crucial in choosing your cabinets or flooring, because we want to choose a species for you that will fit the look you desire, as well as your lifestyle. Continue reading to gain understanding on the different wood species, their characteristics, and which situations are best to use them in.

MAPLE

Hard Maple

Maple is a very hard wood with a smooth texture with a tight and uniform or typically straight grain. This wood species is has excellent strength propoerties with high resistance to wear and tear. Its color is generally a creamy white that varies slightly from bright white to a light pink or reddish brown. Maple occasionally contains small mineral streaks as a result of the tree absorbing minerals from the soil of which it grew in. Maple contains a natural resin that causes the wood to turn amber as it ages; this is accelerated through exposure to natural light and is most noticeable in lighter stains. Because maple has such a tight wood grain, it does not take dark stain easily as it is harder for the wood to absorb. However, the tight grain is an advantage for painted cabinets because the grain does not show through the paint. Climate is crucial for hard maple as it dries slowly and may shrink greatly, so if being use for flooring or inset cabinets, it’s important to consider the amount of humidity and how quickly the temperature changes.

ALDER

Alder

Alder is a rich wood that has a very consistent light brown color with a reddish tint. The texture is fairly uniform with a straight grain pattern, while knotty alder may contain pin knots, open and closed knots, checking, and mineral streaks, which are considered characteristics and not defects. Alder is a very soft wood ideal for staining, which helps it blend very well with cherry, mahogany, or species of walnut. Alder does darken and redden as it ages.

CHERRY

Cherry

Cherry has smooth and flowing grain patterns, with a rich color that varies from light pink to dark brown, which are most prominent with lighter stains. Cherry darkens or mellows with age, typically within the first six months or accelerated with exposure to sunlight, and is most noticeable with light stains. Common characteristics include mineral streaks, pitch pockets, pin knots, and sapwood. Cherry has a medium strength rating, putting it right in between delicate and durable. Cherry is a great wood for staining, producing rich tones and a very smooth finish.

HICKORY

Hickory

Hickory is a beautiful wood with dramatic changes in color within a single piece of wood. The grain patterns of hickory are bold and prominent, ranging from white to a deep brown within one piece of hickory, giving it more of a rustic appearance. Common characteristics of hickory include burls, pin knots, mineral streaks, and small sound knots. Hickory is a very hard wood and is considered to be the hardest and strongest wood in America; i is tough and resilient, and has a high resistance to wear and tear. Hickory is accepting of medium to dark stains, as well as some bleaching treatments, however hickory is difficult to dry and has high shrinkage.

OAK

Oak

Oak ranges in color from light tan and pink to medium dark red and brown, and is commonly characterized by combinations of open grain patterns that vary from close-knit and vertical to prominent and arched.  The texture is coarse and uneven with characteristics that include mineral streaks and pin knots. Quartersawn Oak shows a different type of grain pattern because the tree is quartered and then cut at a 90-degree angle, to the growth ring of the tree. The grain is called “flake” which is vertical and very close-knit, commonly found amongst Mission style furniture. Oak holds up great to wear and tear as it is hard and heavy with medium bending strength and stiffness, in addition to a high crushing strength. Oak can be stained to have a good finish, amongst a wide range of finish tones, however it does dry slowly.

The above woods are the most common types of species using for flooring, cabinetry, and furniture, however there are numerous types of species that can be used. If looking for a different type of wood, it is crucial that you research the wood to make sure it meets your standards and lifestyle. For example, if you have dogs or children and you’re looking to get alder for your floors or cabinets, you may want to consider something a bit stronger to withstand claws and toys. If you’re looking for a basic wood for dark staining, you might want to consider cherry. If you want a wood that looks rustic, you  may want to choose a hickory, or a wood species that is also offered in rustic, which enhances the knots and other characteristics. One more crucial thing to consider is the amount of natural light coming in to the space that your wood will reside; woods change color over time, whether they darken or the lighten, or whether it be over two years or 6 months. Any furniture or rugs placed on the rugs will prevent those areas from receiving the same amount of natural light so you may get tan lines in those areas.

All different wood species have their own unique beauty and characteristics, providing any space with warmth and character, so do your research and understand the different types of wood when getting new cabinets, flooring, or furniture, and you will be happy with your results!