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Wood Species: What You Need to Know Before Choosing Flooring

by Jason Brubaker

When choosing flooring for your commercial project, you’ve probably considered wood for a beautiful, warm finish. However, when you choose wood flooring, there are many things to take into consideration, including the type of wood species and any treatments added to the species you pick.

First, you need to understand the different types of wood flooring, the types of species in each category, their dent resistance and durability, their design versatility, and the pros and cons of your final choices.

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What’s the Difference Between Hardwood and Softwood?

You might be thinking, “Hardwood is hard and softwood is soft; that’s easy!” And that’s partially true. And both hardwood and softwood can be used for everything in your project space, from structural to purely decorative. So what are the actual differences?

The main difference between hardwood vs. softwood is the type of tree species they come from. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees, i.e. trees that lose their leaves, that grow slower for a denser wood. Softwood comes from conifer, i.e. cone-bearing trees that remain evergreen, that grow fast for a less dense wood.

Hardwood is considered the ultimate versatile material spanning different applications. Because of their more complex and condensed structure, hardwoods often offer a more superior level of strength and durability.

Softwood is also known for its versatility and is more widely available and easily manipulated because it is not as dense. Because softwood develops at a quicker pace than hardwoods, it is more flexible, lighter in weight, lower in costs and less dense. The downside to this, of course, is that its durability is lower than hardwoods.

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Types of Species

Hardwood Species

The most common types of hardwood species that are used for flooring are:

  • Oak

  • Maple

  • Walnut

  • Cherry

  • Birch

  • Ash

  • Hickory

  • Chestnut

  • Elm

Softwood Species

The most common types of softwood species that are used for flooring are:

  • Redwood

  • Spruce

  • Cedar

  • Whitewood

  • Pine

  • Douglas Fir

Dent Resistance and Durability

The type of wood you use for your flooring is important because some softwoods can scuff or get damaged by dropped objects or high heels much more easily than hardwoods. And then there are engineered hardwoods, which takes the normal strength and durability of hardwood and elevates it to an even higher level.

Engineered hardwood from a reputable company, like Nydree, is made from a foundational layer of real hardwood. But the main difference when it comes to Nydree’s engineered hardwood is the acrylic infused wear layer. Nydree’s flooring is infused with acrylic, glued with marine grade adhesive and then finished with a ceramic oxide finish, ensuring a 300% increase in durability over other types of hardwood.

For years, Nydree flooring has used aRockwell Hardness Test (ASTM D-785)to compare the hardness of many different acrylic infused species to ensure top-notch durability and dent resistance in their products.

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Design Versatility

From whitewashes to deep red hues to coal colored wood flooring, the spectrum of color possibilities is all across the board. Softwoods generally offer lighter hues while hardwood offers lights to dark browns to reds.

There are some color constraints, though, depending on which species of wood you choose to go with. However, the great thing about hardwood flooring is that many wood species allow for color customization by adding stains to the finish.

Every strain of wood has its own staining and color absorbing properties. For example, a lighter softwood like Pine is going to soak up color a lot easier and more efficiently compared to a darker hardwood like Maple. Also, consider the starting hue of the wood. Some wood species are naturally darker or lighter than others. This will play in the tint of the color you select for wood flooring.

Because of the density, lightweight nature and flexibility of softwoods, they are best used for doors, fencing, roofing and inner walling. Hardwood on the other hand has the durability and toughness to succeed in floors (especially ones that have high foot traffic), decking, bridges, posts and beams.

And the durability and design versatility only increases when you use engineered hardwood.

Ease of Installation

When it comes to hardwood vs. softwood, softwood can be easier to install as it is easier to cut and nail down. But, your best bet for ease of installation is engineered hardwood. Why? Acclimation.

With regular hardwood and softwood, before the installation process, you must leave the wood in a stable, conditioned environment. This allows for the wood to acclimate properly so there won’t be any sudden humidity or temperature changes that can affect the condition of the wood flooring. This takes anywhere from three days to a full week.

With the acrylic infused into the engineered hardwood, Nydree flooring is much more stable when exposed to sudden temperature and humidity changes, resulting in less expansion and contraction with the wood planks.

And when Nydree flooring is shipped to the destination location, it arrives in a polyethylene bag that is shrink-wrapped. This delivery process ensures that the moisture content remains at the desirable level.

Contractors and flooring installers can place the floor planks down immediately on the day of installation without acclimating the wood to the indoor temperature of the room. They can quickly proceed with the construction and flooring project on schedule so they can meet the desired deadlines. The wood flooring will not experience excessive cupping, warping, buckling, cracking or splitting that can completely damage the product.

Maintenance Requirements

Often considered a long-term investment because of their longevity, hardwoods are usually longer-lasting with resistance to the elements and foot traffic and require less maintenance than cheaper softwood alternatives, especially when you choose an engineered hardwood with an acrylic infusion.

For acrylic-infused hardwood, maintenance is as small as daily sweeping or vacuuming and occasional cleaning with a hardwood-specific product. Periodically, usually on a monthly or yearly basis depending on traffic levels, you will need to do a deeper cleaning. (You can learn more about cleaning and caring for acrylic-infused hardwood here.)

With proper care and maintenance, acrylic-infused engineered hardwood floors can last over 100 years.

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Final Verdict

Both hardwood and softwood are fantastic options for new flooring on your next project. Softwood is cheaper and easier to attain due to a quicker growth cycle, full of gorgeous light hues. But, hardwood is a more durable and versatile option when it comes to your flooring needs.

Having one of the longest-estimated life spans, a relatively small energy footprint and high recycle potential, hardwood floors are a smart, sustainable choice.

If you go with an engineered hardwood infused with acrylic, you can gain peace of mind with its dent resistance, easy installation and easier maintenance.

Need help deciding which Nydree engineered hardwood product is the best solution for you?Click here to find out. Or you can click here to request a quote.

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Check out Nydree’s offer and find the perfect solution that will suit your needs the most and request a quote today.