Maple vs. White Oak vs. Ash

alisampamFebruary 11, 2014


I've decided to go against the grain (at least according to my contractor) and not get red oak floors. :)

Given that I want a light, natural floor, what type of wood would you recommend between maple, white oak, and ash? It'll probably be in a 3" pre-finished plank size.

I have three cats who are quite active running around and kicking things off of tables. I'm interested in how each of the three woods shows/hides dents and scratches (especially maple), and if they change color over time.

Does ash look too busy and patterned on a floor?
How light is natural white oak on average? Pictures show great variation from light to medium. I'll probably be buying from Lumber Liquidators.

Any photos and recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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I put down birdseye maple in a "natural" (eg not all white) grade. 2-1/4, 3, and 4" random width with a walnut and cherry pictureframe border, site finished with Bona Traffic (by me). If the picture loads you can see what it looked like when it first went down. Some would call it extremely busy; we like it, and it gets a "wow" from visitors--it's not so in your face with rugs and furniture breaking up the space. It hides all manner of evil and our 3-8 cats (residents and fosters) can't damage it. Almost all woods and most finishes darken with time, oak probably a little more than maple. I don't have much experience with ash.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:20PM
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Both my daughter and a friend of mine got maple for that very reason, that they wanted a light color floor, and both are sorry now. It just hasn't been as durable as they'd expect. It gets dented too easily. You really should do some Google research on line. I wish we had.
As for white oak - again, double check what I'm saying, but my understanding is that the color is counter-intuitive, that white oak is darker than red oak. I'm just saying, make sure you check.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 6:05PM
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Thanks -- durability (or at least hiding the dents) is important, and after your input + research, I will cross maple off the list of contenders.

Does anyone here have experience with Ash or White Oak? Do those types hide dents/scratches as well as Red Oak?

Appreciate your help!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:48AM
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We've had two houses with hard maple (Acer saccharum) and one with white oak. We treat our floors hard (rolling grand pianos around on them, for example) and the maple stood up much better. For reference here are the Janka hardness scores of the different woods (higher is harder, the test involves pressing a steel ball into the wood and measuring the depth vs pressure.)

long leaf yellow pine-- 870
red oak -- 1260-1290
Ash -- 1320
NA white oak -- 1360
hard maple -- 1450
ironwood -- 3680

Here is a link that might be useful: wood hardness chart

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 1:15PM
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White oak floors can vary in color (depending upon the finish method of choice) from blonde to light tan to medium brown with some golden tones as well. Although white oak has color variations, I would not call it a busy floor. Ash will also vary some in color tones with striking differences in the heartwood and sapwood.

When purchasing unfinished wood flooring, you can pretty much get what you want in terms of grade and sawing characteristics. Since I no longer sell the factory-finished products, I can't tell you how grading and such is typical with these manufactured products.

Do more research; if you do enough then you will get what you're looking for and maybe you can then hire yourself out as a flooring decorator and specifier.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 9:23AM
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If you like a little pattern on your light floor, look at hickory also.

harder than maple and oak.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 10:41AM
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