There's no denying it, hardwood flooring has an obvious beauty that is visible at a quick glance but when you really take a good look at it, do you realize the history that's embedded into the grain of each plank of your hardwood floors? All trees undergo an incredible journey in the 50 years of growth that are needed to produce planks for hardwood floors: they withstand extreme weather conditions, storms, drought, injury, excess watering, trimming, etc. So you see, each tree has its own history, personality and character.
Character is what gives hardwood floors their innate beauty and value. A planks character is found in its veining, knots, worm holes, striations and streaks once it's been milled. Each trees plank will tell a different story of that trees experiences and history. There are thousands of variations and levels of expression that create the character of the wood. It's your job to determine the look that you want in your home. Hardwoods that have lots of character will typically have lots of knots, color variations, streaking and veins. Some boards may even appear to have an almost 3-D look. Woods that form this type of appearance, or character, is called "heartwood" because they come from the core or center of a tree. Heartwood is most commonly selected for more rustic designs, such as cabins, cottages or homes that are trying to achieve a quaint, cozy feel. One thing to keep in mind when looking for flooring with lots of character is that some of the imperfections can actually weaken the board and make it more susceptible to breakage, moisture penetration or dirt accumulation so it is important to apply a finish that is appropriate to protect these hardwood floors.
The opposite of heartwood, with lots of character, is called "clear wood" or "sapwood" and this comes from farther out from the core of a tree, closer to the bark level. It is clearer and has a smoother texture and minimal knots, streaks or other demarcations. When we refer to a wood floor's texture, we're usually referring to the amount of visible grain. Some wood floors such as oak or pine have lots of grain and therefore, have a rougher feel or texture then woods like ipe, maple or cherry which tend to have less grain and are smoother to the touch. Clear wood is a look that is usually associated with more contemporary designs and call for a more even, uniform, sleek appearance that won't distract the eye from the rest of the homes decor. The smoother texture will give your home a more formal look. The type of hardwood floor you choose generally determines the desired look that you're trying to achieve so keep this information in mind when looking at different options.
When deciding on a hardwood for your floors, take a little time to read the story that a tree is telling. This story will be what makes a beautiful floor that will be admired and appreciated for years to come.
Character and Non-Character Hardwoods