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Hardwood adds richness to many things

White oak is a very common wood used in our area and has a beautiful golden hue with pronounced grains. John Zvirovski / The Sun

It always amazes me how much of the things around us we tend to take for granted. There are so many products around us that originated in nature if not in the garden. One of the largest products used in our home is a variety of hardwoods used for flooring and cabinetry. Many of the woods that we use in our homes can be grown in our region, which makes them even more appealing. Often we don’t link the connection of beautiful hardwoods and trees themselves. Many people know what they like in a nice wood type but often are unfamiliar with the tree in which it is derived. As gardeners, we tend to know more what the plant looks like over the raw wood once it is cut into a usable product for the home.

Woods used in the home for flooring or cabinet making and furniture are rated on a hardness scale which indicates durability. The softer the wood the more likely it is to become scratched, dented or gouged. Yellow pine and American cherry are some of the softest woods at ratings of 650 to 1010. Some of the hardest woods are from others countries and are considered exotic and hard to come by such as Brazilian walnut, Tiete chestnut and Brazilian teak which have a range of 3,200 to 3,700. For the purposes in our home, anything above 1,000 is good for flooring and can remain economical.

Wood flooring was big in the past and then came the era where everyone was covering it up with carpet. Over the past couple of decades, people started to remove this carpeting and began refinishing all the floors again for a beautiful and warm look. Since then, hardwood floors seem to be a common draw in most new homes.

Each wood seems to have its own characteristics that draw people’s attention. One of the most common woods used in our area is the White oak. This is a wood rich in tan hues with a pronounced grain that is very appealing to many people. It is similar to ash in color, but the grain is larger than the ash species. Ash can tend to have a variance in grains from straight to wavy. Both are considered a good hard wood.

Red oak is another nice species with a more dense grain and pink to red hues in the coloring. It is similar to the American cherry, which is a much softer wood but rich in color. Cherry makes good cabinets and furniture, but can tend to wear quickly as a flooring.

Maple has been used for years and is very light to a pale creamy white hue. Its wood grains are not as pronounced and seem to blend together fairly well. This wood takes many different types of stain well and seems to absorb it evenly as opposed so some other types of hardwoods.

Birch wood can have an irregular color pattern from yellow to dark tan and it has a very fine grain to it. Pine is similar in color, but much softer with some beautiful golden color patterns.

Hickory is a beautiful hardwood for cabinets and flooring. It has very detailed wood grains with color variations of light tan to dark mahogany shades. It is gorgeous with a wider plank being used to show all of its tone richness. Narrow planks can tend to look very busy when put together.  

Black walnut is another gorgeous hardwood with its chocolate brown shades for a rich look. Surprisingly enough, this wood is actually one of the softer of the selections.

Most of these woods above can be grown in our area whether in our yards or in the forests of Minnesota and some are even found throughout small areas of North Dakota. Maples, ash and oak abound in both states on various levels. Of course, many of us grow these selections in our landscapes for ornamental purposes, but in large tracks of forests, lumber yards will make selections from mature trees to cut and plank for all of our needs.

It is always interesting to me all of the stuff that surrounds us, yet we rarely take the time to discover where the product derives. When I look around my own home, I notice at least four types of wood in the cabinets, floors and trim work. When you look closely at many of these, the details in the wood are incredibly beautiful.

Take a look at the items that surround your environment and ask yourself where they come from or what kinds of species they might be. It is always fun to be inquisitive to make some discoveries on your own. Enjoy this month of February as winter seems to be moving right along at a quick pace.

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