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Character Oak Flooring

All solid hardwoods, including domestic and exotic species, are graded on their appearances. A hardwood with an overall even appearance will likely be given a "Clear" grade, while woods with noticeable color variation and knots may not meet a manufacturer's standards and, instead, will be given a "character" label. Oak flooring is no different. As one of the more popular domestic species, oak hardwood is sold as character grade flooring and is commonly part of Bruce Hardwood's Timberland™ Collection.

Oak flooring, regardless of grade, comes in two options: red oak, characterized by a pinkish color, and white oak, which may be white, cream-colored, or light brown. In general, these two domestic species are characterized by open and coarse grain, are easily installed and stained, handle wear and tear well, and are reasonably durable. More specifically, white oak has a Janka scale rating of 1360, and red oak's is 1290. Aside from these similarities, red and white oak have distinct differences. The latter has a plumed or flared appearance, and the latter longer rays but less variation when cut. White oak, as well, has a high concentration of tannic acid, which makes the hardwood resistant to insects and fungi.

Character grade oak flooring retains all of these qualities but has a patina of distinct knots, mineral streaks, and color variation. Although not commonly available in stores, character oak flooring is offered by several manufacturers through flooring distributors. Selections vary, however, as a distributor is given a list from a mill of all species sold each month.

Not all character grade flooring is the same, and oak hardwood given this grade may have more than just knots and color variation. Certain hardwoods are marked "character" because of poor milling, which can result in voids, tree bark edges, milling tongues, splits, or wind shake. As a result, such pieces may not fit together in installation or, if they do, can create an uneven surface.

Nevertheless, character oak flooring has several benefits. Aside from a rustic appearance, character grade oak is cheap to purchase, at only $0.89 to $1.19 per square foot. Before you go with value-grade oak flooring, inquire first about why the product was given a "character" label and, to compensate for any unusable boards, purchase 10 to 15 percent more with your order.