Hardwood Design Elements
Natural Characteristics


More than 30 domestic and imported wood species are commonly used for wood flooring. You can choose domestic hardwoods, grown in the USA and Canada, or exotic hardwoods, grown in places like Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, Australia (rest assured, our sources harvest this wood responsibly). With some exceptions, domestic wood species unless stained a particular color have a tendency to have lighter color tones. Exotic species tend to be harder and rank higher on the Janka scale. You can also choose Renewable or Environmentally Friendly sources like Bamboo or Cork.

To learn a little more about the
Janka Rating Scale
click below.


Every type of hardwood has a hardness or Janka rating.
  • Harder species are inherently more durable.
    • The harder the wood, the better it can withstand dents and dings.
    • Hickory, Oak and Maple are three of the hardest used for flooring in our market
    • Harder species are recommended for households with pets and kids
  • Softer species will tend to show scratches (perfect to achieve a distressed look)
    • Pine and Cherry are two of the softest commonly used for flooring in our market
    • Not recommended for high traffic areas

The Janka Hardness Scale determines the hardness of a particular type of wood over another. Generally speaking, the higher the number on the scale, the harder and more scratch resistant wood will be. By the same token, the harder a wood is, the more difficult it becomes to saw or run through a mill. (Note: Hardness, per se, does not impact pricing as hardwood prices are dictated by how readily available the species of wood is.) Northern Red Oak has a Janka rating 1290 and is considered the flooring industry median. In Houston, White Oak (1360 Janka) and standard Red Oak (1260 Janka) are the most popular jobsite finished solid hardwoods installed.


Depending on the room where the flooring will be installed, a certain hardness level may make it a more desirable choice. When choosing flooring for a home, having an idea of the Janka scale rating will provide buyers with an indication of how strong the floor is and how much wear and tear it will be able to handle over the years before it requires repair, refinishing, etc. Even still, a “good” Janka rating serves only as an indication, because it is not just the hardness that plays a role in the appearance and durability of a floor over time. It is also the traffic and especially the maintenance and prevention the floor gets that dictates how it will look years after it is installed. If it isn’t taken care of, it doesn’t matter how hard or soft it is. The bottom line is that no matter what, wood will need to be taken care of correctly to withstand the wear of time.
The Janka rating can be used gauge the hardness of the wood, solely as an indicator of how well the wood will be able to stand up to furniture, pets, children, and everyday life. Floors Etc. does not recommend making your decision based on this scale – we suggest going with look and your budget, instead.
If you are wondering where Engineered Hardwoods stand on the Janka Hardness scale – they really don’t. Since these hardwoods are made with a layer of softer wood beneath them, their hardness cannot be gauged accurately with the scale. Little information is available on how these engineered woods would fit into the scale because of the variances in materials used to build the layers of flooring from brand to brand. To make things simple, do not focus on the Janka Hardness Scale when purchasing an Engineered Hardwood floor.

Want to learn even more? Just give us a call - consider us your neighborhood hardwood flooring experts!


  • Dense, round spots at branch or twig base. In hardwood flooring, only “Sound” knots are allowed, (grain is interrupted by knot, board remains smooth; no wood is missing).
Worm Holes
  • Small imperfections in the face of a board caused by worms making their way through the tree while it was alive.
  • No more than ¼" wide
  • Mineral deposits within tree’s rings
  • Cherrywood sometimes displays gum streaks (area of wood darkened by tree’s sap)
Natural Color Variations.
  • Plank to plank and within same plank (Select Grade is most uniform.)


Grading is simply the appearance of the boards themselves.
One grade is not better than the other, but just a matter of preference
in terms of the appearance of the wood.

The hardwood grading scale is a measure of what is known as “Character” markings or natural characteristics, e.g., variation in color from board to board, mineral streaks, presence of knots or worm holes; but they also reference average board length, milling imperfections, and other irregularities. It’s all a matter of personal taste – and with flooring, a higher grade is not necessarily better. Less character markings do costs more, because there will be less of a tree that is usable. U.S. companies typically use Select & Better or Selected grades for their collections.

Floors Etc. has simplified the NWFA Approved Grading scale into an easy chart.
You can access here:

NWFA Approved Grading scale

Board (plank) width plays an important role in helping you achieve your design vision.

Plank Flooring
  • Solid: 3” to 9” wide
  • Engineered: 3” to 9”+ wide
  • 5”+ is considered wide-width
  • creates sophistication and feeling of openness
  • TREND: Using mixed-width boards – alternating between 3 board sizes
Strip Flooring
  • Traditional styling
  • Up to 3” wide.
  • Creates the illusion of a larger space.
Parquet Flooring
                    • Geometric pattern
                    • Generally made of individual slats or fingers making up one tile
                    • Suits more formal spaces
                    • NEW ON THE SCENE: Squares and Rectangles

widths up to 9″; usually 3/4” to 5/8” thick

Quarter Sawn
  • Grain runs at right angles, across the thickness of the boards.
  • Provides dimensional stability – naturally resists cupping.
  • More expensive than Plain Sawn (higher manufacturing costs and production losses).
Rift and Quartered
  • Provides straight-lined grain throughout.
  • More dimensionally stable than Quarter Sawn.
  • Most expensive of the cuts (highest in manufacturing costs and production losses)
Live Sawn; AKA: European Center Cut Flooring
  • Durable wide-plank choice.
  • Band saw cuts leaves more variated wood pattern.
  • A single plank includes each cut style: Plain; Rift and Quarter.
  • More affordable than its close counterpart Rift and Quarter Sawn, (minimal production waste).
Skip Sawn; AKA: Skip Face Flooring
  • Board is cut with a circular blade leaving a circular impression, so it truly looks as though it just came from the mill.
    • Hardwood floor planks are given a distressed texture using a sawmill
    • Once accidental, today these marks are intentionally made to create a bold, rustic, vintage look.
    • 2 treatment options:
      • Circular Sawn (more rustic)
      • Band Sawn; AKA: Parallel Sawn
Plain Sawn
  • Grain cut across the width of the board.
  • Tends to cup or buckle when exposed to moisture.
  • Most affordable method, with least amount of labor and waste.
  • Used for sub-floors / screeds.