Hardwood Flooring: Species, Finishes, and Patterns to Know

Hardwood flooring

Solid vs. engineered, unfinished vs. finished, classic vs. exotic – the hardwood flooring options seem to be almost endless. So how can you make sure you choose the best floors for your home and look beyond the style? 

Today, we’re breaking down everything to know when it comes to options, durability, material, installation, and more. Keep reading to learn more!

Hardwood Flooring: Species, Finishes, and Patterns

Durable, timeless, elegant, sustainable – there’s almost nothing hardwood floors can’t be or do. When you shop for hardwood flooring in Canada, you’ll be met with countless options and have to make just as many decisions to land on something you like. Luckily, we can help you narrow it down.

Solid Hardwood Flooring vs. Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Solid wood flooring is made from a single piece of wood throughout, and it typically comes in ¾ inch-thick strips. One of the biggest benefits is that it can be refinished time and again and that there are tons of customization options. When picking solid wood, you can choose the species, cut pattern, colour, and even finish.

On the other hand, we have engineered hardwood flooring, which is composed of a thin strip of solid wood that is glued over a rigid plywood or high-density fiberboard (HDF) core. This type of wood is less sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, which means it’s more versatile. Also, it can help cut costs down, especially if you’re looking into exotic wood floors.

Wood Species

Wood species refers to the type of tree the floors come from and it’s what will determine its look, feel, and hardness. To measure the hardness of different types of wood flooring, experts use the Janka hardness scale. It’s the universal guide to a floor’s resistance to denting, wear, and tear.

For reference, the hardest type of hardwood floor is Australian Buloke with a rating of 5,060 lbf, while the lowest rating goes to Balsa with 70 lbf. Lbf is the measure of hardness and strength in pounds-force. A species of wood considered suitable for hardwood floors typically has a rating of above 1,000 lbf.


As one of the most popular types of hardwood flooring, most domestic oak floors come in two types: red and white. Red oak is the warmer of the two, and has great variation and character, while white oak typically has cooler undertones and a smoother grain appearance. They both score around 1,360 lbf on the scale.


Ash has a rating of 1,320 lbf and features a light grain that works well in modern design. It stains well, which means you can customize it to your liking.


Walnut is popular due to its rich, chocolate brown colour and detailed graining while holding a relatively low 1,010 lbf rating. 


In terms of popularity, maple immediately follows oak and it ranges from pale, creamy white to light, and reddish brown, with a subdued grain. Keep in mind that it can be difficult to stain, but has a Janka rating of 1,450 lbf.


Hickory has lots of character, with a complex and varied grain, it scores 1,820 on the scale.


Mahogany is a fan favourite thanks to its warmth and richness, with a beautiful wavy grain.


Teak is an exotic wood, full of natural oils and has a great shine. Keep in mind that it can be somewhat expensive, but it compensates with a great 2,330 lbf rating.


Technically considered to be softwood, not hardwood, pine is still one of the most popular types of flooring thanks to its knotty grain and rustic vibes.


Cultivated from tree bark and not wood, cork flooring has become one of the most sustainable flooring options. It’s soft and comfortable underfoot while giving off great insulation and acoustic.


Another eco-friendly flooring, bamboo can be as hard and as durable as oak and you can even refinish it.


Birch is pale and almost shimmering in colour, but it turns darker and warmer over time. Given its softness, it’s not suitable for high-traffic areas.

Cut Patterns

A cut pattern is the angle at which wood is cut from the tree and it’s what will determine the final grain.


Done with a plain, flat, and straight cut, the final product is a varied and wavy grain. The plain or flat-sawn pattern is the most popular type.


A quarter-sawn cut produces uniformed graining and a flecked appearance, which is less susceptible to warping.


A rift-sawn tree has straight grains that resemble quarter-sawn but they don’t have any flecks.


Live-sawn planks are perpendicular slices through a tree, and the hardwood flooring made with this pattern has the most visible natural variation.

Hardwood Flooring Finishes

Regardless of whether you choose prefinished or unfinished hardwood, you have a wide range of options for the finish. 

Water-Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane is one of the most popular finishes today, and for good reason. It comes in a variety of gloss levels, goes on clear, dries quickly, and has relatively little odour.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is thicker than its water-based counterpart. It requires fewer coats and imparts a beautiful amber finish to the wood. 

Aluminum Dioxide

Aluminum oxide is a naturally occurring chemical added to finishes for extra protection against scratches, dents, and UV fading. It’s commonly used in prefinished flooring and rarely requires refinishing. 

Natural Oils 

Natural oils like linseed and tung oil are always popular options. They soak into the wood and dry to a hard finish, creating a beautiful, rustic look with a surprising amount of protection. However, you will likely need to refinish them more often.


Hardwax, a mix of natural oils and waxes, is becoming increasingly popular. Like natural oil, it dries to a hard finish and provides a durable and attractive surface.

Flooring Patterns and Designs

The final choice for the flooring in your home will be to settle on a pattern or design. Luckily, you’ll have lots of flooring choices at your disposal, ensuring you find something to perfectly suit your home and décor.

Herringbone Parquet

This elegant pattern has been around since Roman times and is gorgeous, timeless, and classy, making it a popular choice for those seeking a sophisticated look.

Chevron Parquet

Chevron parquet, often mistaken for herringbone, offers a modern twist on the classic pattern. Unlike herringbone, which can be achieved with standard rectangular planks, chevron requires planks cut to shape. 


Mixed-width patterns are extremely popular right now. This trend combines various plank widths to create a dynamic, visually interesting floor that looks both classic and modern.

Horizontal / Diagonal Strip

Horizontal strip designs are the standard method for installing hardwood planks. Diagonal strip installation is similar but oriented towards the corner of a room. This technique creates the illusion of more open space, making it ideal for smaller rooms.

Final Thoughts

Trying to shop for hardwood flooring seems almost impossible given the virtually endless list of considerations. If you’re having trouble deciding what would look best in your home and suit your needs – call Underfoot Flooring.

Our team of experts has years of experience and can help you make the right choice. Not only that, but we do professional installations and provide aftercare. Call today to see what we can do for your home!

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