Even professionals occasionally get stumped when it comes to wood identification. The good news is that only a handful of wood species are commonly used for wood floors in the United States. Know this makes identification easier.
Tip – Determine whether boards are solid or engineered by examining their cross-section. Solid wood flooring has grain patterns, holes and pores. Engineered or faux wood flooring has a particle board, or layered appearance.
- This can be done by removing the floor vent and examine the end or side for the exposed wood.
- Also try a doorway after prying up the threshold or transition piece with a pry bar.
- If these are impractical, pry off a baseboard and slip a mirror between the boards and wall.
Hard or Soft
First, determine if the floor is a soft or hard wood.
If the floor is unfinished, start with pore identification. Softwoods, such as pine or fir, typically have closed pores, resulting in a smooth surface. Hardwoods, such as oak and mahogany, typically have open pores, resulting in a porous texture with small divots, indentations or holes in the wood. However, identifying by pores is not full proof. Maple has a smooth surface, similar to pine, absent of obvious pores, contradicting the rule.
Next, try a couple the indentation tests. Hardness is one factor to find out if the floor is hard or soft wood. Find an inconspicuous area and try marking it with your fingernail. If it can be marked your fingernail alone, it’s probably softwood. Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, beech and walnut resist marks by fingernails. Another test you can try is to step on the floor with a pointed heel or a medium tap with a ball peen hammer. If either of these makes a dent, then the floor is likely made from a soft wood, such as pine, fur or cedar. (Note, both of these test work best on unfinished wood, but if this is not available, sand a small spot in an inconspicuous area first.)