One of the hardest hardwood species in the world, hickory is impressive with its 1820 rating on the Janka hardness scale that puts it well ahead of oak and maple. This sturdy structure makes hickory highly attractive to homeowners for whom great wood floor longevity is a priority. It also makes it the perfect material for baseball bats, drumsticks and ax handles, ensuring that you are not left without the right tool in the middle of a critical job.
Why You Want Hickory Wood Floors
Over 10 species of hickory are domestic to the United States, with names such as pignut hickory, shagbark hickory or shellbark (calico) hickory bound to hit your ears when weighing your options. The look of hickory differs from one type to another, with colors that range from light brown to darker brownish-red hues. Very popular, light hickory wood floors open up your space and allow more light to come in. However, the beauty of hickory comes from the undeniable fact that it has character.
Depending on the hickory type you choose, hickory flooring is not for the faint of heart. The dramatic grain with knots, blemishes and considerable color variation give your floors an instant “wow” factor, but may be too much for more tamed tastes. If you prefer a more subtle look suitable for a traditional space, choose a higher wood grade with a cleaner look. Lower grades and boards with dramatic color variation complement well rustic decors, where grain irregularities and wild looks are a plus.
Because of their busy appearance, wider floorboards are used when installing hickory flooring. This is because narrow planks may overpower your space by bringing different color tones and grain patterns too close together. The effect is subdued by the use of 3 ¼-inch, 4-inch or 5-inch boards.
Hickory is highly shock-resistant and more difficult (but not impossible) to scratch and dent. It takes regular wear and tear extremely well, so it is an excellent option for high-traffic areas such as kitchens, playrooms or hallways. Because of their hardness, hickory wood floors often last for generations, better withstanding the passing of time and the abuse by humans.
Hickory Wood Floor Challenges
The same hardness responsible for its durability makes hickory a very challenging material to work with. This dense wood is tough to cut and sand, which makes installation difficult. Installing hickory wood floors is not a good idea if you are looking for a DIY project: when the hard hickory structure can damage or blunt your tools, you know that the job is best left to hardwood flooring professionals.
The tight grain makes the wood planks difficult to stain, so water popping is necessary in order to make the wood more receptive to stain. In addition, the difference in porosity within the same plank may add to the final busy appearance. If the sanding is not done right, this makes the scratches highly visible because of the uneven penetration of the stain. To avoid these challenges, it is better to choose prefinished hickory boards for your hardwood floor installation.