Spotlight On: Oak

Welcome to a brand new series here on Engineered Flooring called Spotlight On:. This week we’re aiming our Spotlight On: Oak! Domestic Oak is a very versatile type of hardwood and has been used for years to add distinction and sophistication to homes across the US. Here are two of the most popular types of Oak, their features and how much you should expect to pay for them.

White Oak
The crisp, light tones featured in White Oak gives any room a bright, airy feel. The dark gray heartwood is nicely contrasted by hints of white and a tight grain pattern. White Oak is a very versatile wood, as well – it can be easily stained or treated to match pre-existing floors, fixtures or furniture. Here are the specs:

Hardness: 1,360 pounds
Strength: 15,200 psi
Stiffness: 1,780 1000 psi
Density: 900 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 7.2%
Radial Shrinkage: 4.2%
Price: Depending on variety, expect anywhere from $3.75/SF to $6.50/SF.

Finished Natural White Oak

Red Oak
Slightly more distinct-looking than its White counterpart, Red Oak has a red-tinged brown heartwood and a more open, fluid grain pattern. Like White Oak, Red Oak is versatile enough to work in almost any room with almost any décor, and has been an American favorite for years. The specs:

Hardness: 1,290 pounds
Strength: 14,300 psi
Stiffness: 1,850 1000 psi
Density: 780 KG/m3
Tangential Shrinkage: 8.6%
Radial Shrinkage: 4%
Price: Depending on variety, expect anywhere from $3.99/SF to $6.75/SF

Finished Natural Red Oak

Oak has been a hardwood flooring standard in America for years. Isn’t it time you joined the club?

The Best Protection for Your Hardwood Floors

You’re no fool – you know that in order to protect your newly installed engineered flooring you’re going to need some sort of sealant, stain or varnish. But which should you choose? What’s the best protection for your floors? Here are the main types of wood protection, what types of floors they work best on, and how to use each.

Sealants
Wood sealant is a great choice if you’re concerned about uneven grain or stain patterns. Most often used on soft woods, wood sealant will penetrate your floors and harden, helping slow stain absorbency and giving your floors a more even color distribution. Sealants help protect wood from the elements and are most often used in decking projects, but they can be used on floors in high-traffic or extremely open rooms. Softwoods such as spruce, white pine and Douglas fir (sometimes referred to as SPF lumber) take very well to sealants and are common flooring and decking choices in the US.

Shellac
Used for centuries as a wood finish, shellac is a natural resin produced by tree-dwelling insects. Shellac isn’t as commonly used as it once was, but it can still be found at hardwood supply stores and is a great choice for DIY-ers because it doesn’t produce a lot of fumes. Shellac is very compatible with most other finishes, and when used as a primer can help protect wood from stain blotching or resin bleeding. It also acts as a sealant. It isn’t the most durable wood protectant, so if you only use shellac plan on doing touch-ups as scratches happen.

Varnishes
Varnishes offer great protection to wood floors, but are a little trickier to apply than stains and sealants. Made up of a combination of resins and oils, varnishes must be applied in a completely dust- and dirt-free area as the wet varnish surface is very susceptible to damage. Polyurethane varnishes offer the best protection, making them perfect for indoor use.
The downside to varnishes is that they add a plastic appearance to the floors, which some people find unappealing. Varnishes also tend to yellow and crack with age, so they require a bit more maintenance in the long run. They can be applied to any type of wood, however, and many people find the versatility and protection worth the plastic appearance and down-the-road maintenance.

Stained Tigerwood floors

Stains
Very popular in hardwood flooring projects, stains accent and emphasize wood grain while offering moderate protection. Stains are the most versatile wood protectant, coming in a variety of transparencies and colors, and are generally either oil-, latex- or water-based. Stains are great on woods with striking or exotic wood grain patterns, such as Acacia, Cumaru, and Tigerwood. The downside? Stains don’t offer great protection, so be prepared to reapply more often than you would a varnish or shellac.

Design 101: Matching Your Floors to Your Furniture

Before you pick the type of wood you want to use in your engineered floors, take into consideration the type of furniture that will eventually go in the room. While matching furniture to wood floors is easier than matching it to carpet, there are still some guidelines you can follow to make sure everything ties together well. As an example, here are a few popular sofa styles and the types of hardwood that look best with them.

Lawson Sofa
Lawson sofas are probably the most common sofa in the country, and for good reason. They have a high back, low arms, and big, soft cushions. Great for families or individuals fond of napping, lawson sofas go with a more subtle wood type such as Brazilian Cherry, Maple, or Red Oak. Stay away from flashy colors or grain patterns as they will clash with the more traditional lawson style.

Slipper Sofa
Very sleek and modern, slipper sofas generally have no arms and are rather small. Dark, exotic woods are a great compliment to the slipper’s no-frills look. Try Ipe, Acacia or Birch, and finish with a deep brown or burgundy stain. Ooh-la-la!

Finished Brazilian Cherry with Lawson Sofa

Settee Sofa
Settees go well with classic, sophisticated design schemes. Settees often feature carved wood frames and upholstered cushions and look great with rich, elegant wood types. Try wood without a lot of grain pattern, such as Maple, Birch or Amendoim, as the detail on the sofa shouldn’t have to compete for attention.

Bridgewater Sofa
Known for their comfort and sheer laid-back-edness, bridgewater sofas are big, low to the ground, and great for entertainment rooms. Pair this sofa with a more rustic wood type, such as Hickory, Walnut, or White Oak for a rugged, family-friendly aesthetic.

Where are your floors from, exactly?

You love exotic wood because it’s, well, exotic. It’s more colorful and vibrant than traditional domestic wood, and it’s fun to brag about when entertaining guests. But how much do you really know about the places from which your hardwood floors came? If you answered, “Not much”, don’t fear. Here are four of the top exotic woods on the market today and a little information about their areas of origin.

Cumaru, or Dipteryx odorata
Also known as Brazilian Teak, Cumaru wood has a beautiful reddish-brown color and an impressive 3540 Janka rating, making it one of the hardest, densest woods available.
Cumaru is actually a species of flowering tree native to the Orinoco region of northern South America. A member of the pea family, Cumaru produces Tonka Beans, seeds similar in smell and flavor to vanilla, almonds, cloves and cinnamon. These seeds have been used in cooking, perfumes, and tobacco, but are banned in the US and other countries because they contain the anticoagulant coumarin, which is lethal in large doses.

Amendoim, or Pterogyne nitens
Sometimes called Brazillian Oak, Amendoim is a lustrous, reddish- to yellow-brown wood that takes well to sanding. The wood undergoes a mild color change over time but usually keeps its original shine.
Amendoim is most often found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay and is a part of the Fabaceae family. Yes, it’s a legume. While the species is threatened with habitat loss and is listed as “Near Threatened”, sustainable harvesting practices allow for commercial use with little risk of increasing the species’ fragility.

Tigerwood, or Astronium fraxinifolium
In Brazilian Portuguese, Tigerwood is called gonçalo-alves. This distinctive looking wood has vibrant reddish-brown tones, black striping and a wavy, irregular grain pattern. Tigerwood has a 1850 Janka hardness rating, meaning it is both eye-catching and long-lasting.
Tigerwood is native to the Amazon Rainforest and is especially abundant in eastern Brazil. Sustainable Tigerwood harvesting is a big industry and a large factor in local economies.

Brazillian Cherry, or Hymenaea courbaril
Sometimes referred to as Jatoba, Brazillian Cherry is the 800 lb. gorilla of hardwood flooring. It weighs a whopping 56 lbs. per cubic foot and has a Janka hardness rating of 2350. Its color ranges from salmon to deep red to orange, and the wood features attractive black accent stripes and a natural luster.
Brazillian Cherry is not, in fact, a cherry tree at all. Common to the Caribbean and Central/South America, the tree is often called Stinktoe due to the unpleasant odor of the pulp inside its seed pods. Amber fossils from million-year-old Hymenaea trees have also helped scientists piece together an understanding of prehistoric Earth, its vegetation and its insects. (Think Jurassic Park)

Now that you know a bit more about your brand new exotic wood floors, invite over some friends, pour a few cocktails and wow everybody with your extensive knowledge. You might want to leave out the Stinktoe part, though.

Finished Brazilian Cherry