There are a lot of decisions to be made when selecting hardwood for your floor. Do you want a natural finish or a stain? What about solid or engineered construction? Are you going to purchase pre-finished floor boards or have your installer finish them after installation? Included in all of these choices and decisions is whether to use a domestic hardwood, or an exotic one. While the name “exotic” implies something very different, unusual, or foreign, in this case it merely refers to any hardwood not harvested in the US. You have a lot of different wood species to choose from regardless of which category you pick, but having some information about the two basic groupings can help you make your decision.
You’re probably the most familiar with domestic hardwoods. Red and white oak, maple, hickory, birch, beech, elm, pine, and cherry are all domestic hardwoods. They vary tremendously in color, grain pattern, and in hardness, but because they have been in use in the US for so many years, they often give an appearance of tradition to a home. For example, wide pine planks are often used in farmhouses, while maple is most often seen on basketball courts and dance studios.
Far and away the most popular domestic hardwood is red oak. It has a warm, creamy tone that ranges from pink to red with lots of gold mixed in. The grain is even and consistent, like most domestic hardwoods, excepting hickory, and it’s a fairly hard and durable wood.
Hickory is the hardest and most dramatic domestic wood, but even this is still fairly consistent in grain and color – in other words, you know what to expect from lot to lot.
Exotic hardwoods are often much harder and more durable than domestic. Brazilian cherry, for example, is much harder and richer in color than American cherry. Brazilian walnut is also much harder than American walnut.
Exotic hardwoods are also often very dramatic in their coloring and grain pattern. These hardwoods are meant to be noticed. They are often more costly than domestic woods, because of the cost of shipping, but this cost is often offset by the dramatic color and rich veining they posses.
If you want a traditional looking wood floor that will be the backdrop to the rest of your décor – opt for domestic. For those that want the floor to become the centerpiece of the room – exotic may be the way to go.