fbpx bloglovinBloglovin iconCombined ShapeCreated with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. rssRSS iconsoundcloudSoundCloud iconFill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. SearchCreated with Lunacy Search iconCreated with Sketch.

Identifying Different Types of Wood Flooring

types of wood flooring

Wood flooring has been an integral part of American homes for centuries, adding warmth, character, and a touch of timeless elegance to living spaces. And the different types of wood flooring used in homes can change significantly from region to region as well as in different decades as styles have shifted over the years.

In this post, I’ll dive into the time period from 1800 to 1950, to show you the most common types of wood flooring, their characteristics, and teach you how to identify which species of flooring is in your old house.

Pine: The Pioneer’s Choice (1800-1920)

In the early 19th century, as settlers expanded westward, pine quickly became the king of the types of wood flooring due to its abundance and affordability. Characterized by its warm red and yellow colors and soft grain, pine flooring provided a rustic charm to homes during this era. Its widespread availability and durability made it a practical choice for pioneering families.

heart pine flooring
Heart pine flooring

Region & Usage: Pine was prevalent throughout the eastern part of the United States, especially in the Northeast with the vast forests of Eastern White Pine and the Southeast where Long-leaf Pine reigned supreme. Pine was commonly used in both urban and rural settings. Its affordability and ease of access made it a practical choice for flooring in homes built during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Color: Depending on the age and cut of the wood, pine’s color can range from a deep red color in the heartwood to a pale yellow in the sapwood. Many homes with pine flooring have a mixture of both heart and sapwood, but as the years progressed it became increasingly difficult to come by the heartwood variety as the old-growth trees became fewer and fewer. Pine also can darken over time due to exposure to light and air.

Grain: Pine has a straight, even grain with a uniform texture. Knots are common in lower grades and can add to its rustic charm. Like any wood pine was often cut into vertical grain flooring which will show tight parallel grain lines or flat grain which has an almost cathedral grain pattern. The vertical grain is more stable and a higher grade than the flatsawn varieties.

Softness: Pine is a softwood, and as such, it’s more prone to dents and scratches compared to hardwoods like oak or hickory. That being said, old-growth heart pine flooring is much harder and more in line with the hardness rating of oak floors.

Aroma: Freshly cut pine has a distinct, resinous aroma that can be a helpful identifier. Especially the old-growth pine.

Oak: The Victorian Splendor (1850-1930)

During the Victorian era, oak emerged as the premier wood species for flooring, symbolizing opulence and sophistication. Quarter-sawn oak, with its distinctive ray flecks, became a hallmark of Victorian and American Craftsman homes, imparting a sense of grandeur to the spaces. This era witnessed intricate parquet patterns and herringbone designs, showcasing the versatility of oak.

Oak continued its popularity as a flooring choice into the Arts & Crafts era of the 1910-1930 with furniture makers like Gustav Stickley using white oak abundantly in his designs.

red oak flooring
Red oak herringbone flooring

Region & Usage: Oak was widely distributed across the eastern and central parts of the United States. Red oak and white oak, the two primary species used for flooring, were abundant in states like Missouri, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania. Its popularity extended to both urban and suburban areas, though with the advance of the railroads it was not uncommon to find oak flooring all through the country as the manufacturers were excellent at distribution to areas of new construction.

Color: Oak comes in two primary varieties—red oak and white oak. Red oak has a warm, reddish-brown color, while white oak is lighter, ranging from light brown to almost white and without any red tones.

Grain: Oak is an open-grained wood and features a prominent and distinctive grain pattern. Red oak has a more open and pronounced grain, while white oak has a tighter, smoother grain. Oak flooring typically was installed in a mix of flatsawn and quartersawn boards just like pine flooring. In the quartersawn versions oak displays an incredibly unique and desirable effect showing flecks or rays of reflective portions of the grain that make it incredibly distinct.

Hardness: Oak is a hardwood, making it more resistant to dents and wear compared to softwoods. For this reason it became extremely popular in areas where there wasn’t access to other hardwood options or where the heart pine options had been exhausted.

Maple: The Roaring Twenties (1920-1930)

With the advent of the Art Deco and sanitary craze of the 1920’s people were drawn to maple for its light color and durability. The clean, sleek appearance of maple flooring reflected the modern aesthetic of the 1920s. Often used in conjunction with Art Deco and Moderne interiors, maple brought a sense of simplicity and elegance to homes during this period.

maple flooring
Maple flooring

Region: Hard maple, the species commonly used for flooring, is found in the northeastern United States, Canada, and parts of the Midwest. Sugar maple, another type of hard maple, is abundant in regions like New England and the Great Lakes area.

Color: Maple has a light, pale color, ranging from a creamy white to very light golden brown. It tends to have a uniform appearance and color throughout.

Grain: Maple has a fine, even grain that may appear subdued compared to the bold grain of oak. It can sometimes display curly or quilted patterns, but more often than not the grain pattern is almost unnoticeable in maple.

Hardness: Maple is a hardwood with a high Janka hardness rating of 1450, making it durable and resistant to wear similar to oak.

Hickory: The Post-Depression Era (1930-1950)

As the nation recovered from the Great Depression, hickory flooring gained traction for its strength and resistance to wear. Hickory’s distinct grain patterns and natural variations added a touch of rustic charm to homes, making it a popular choice for both urban and rural settings. Its durability made it particularly suitable for high-traffic areas.

hickory flooring
Hickory flooring

Region & Usage: Hickory is native to the eastern and central parts of the United States. It thrives in states like Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana and was common locally during this time period.

Color: Hickory has a wide range of color variations, from light tan to medium brown. It often features strong color contrasts between light and dark areas.

Grain: Hickory has a bold and pronounced grain pattern with distinctive streaks and color variations. It can have a rustic appearance. Looking for the characteristic contrasting color streaks is a dead giveaway that you’ve got hickory flooring

Hardness: Hickory is one of the hardest domestic hardwoods with a Janka rating of 1820 compared to white oak at 1360, making it exceptionally durable and resistant to wear.

The evolution of wood flooring in America reflects the changing architectural tastes as well as the regional availability of certain wood species. Whether it’s the practicality of pine, the opulence of oak, the modernity of maple, or the durability of hickory, the types of wood flooring species used tells a unique story of the progress and tastes of American architecture.

Subscribe Now For Your FREE eBook!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.