oak vs maple and hickory flooring review

Pros & Cons of Oak Flooring vs Maple & Hickory Flooring

By Fortino Rosas / September 18, 2021 / 4 Comments

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    You are in the market for flooring. And after careful consideration, you’ve narrowed the field of options.

    Well, sort of. You know you want real hardwoods.

    And you like oak, maple, and hickory. So, which one is the best choice?

    That really depends on what you want out of your flooring.

    While these three types are similar in pricing, they also have many differences.

    Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.

    Oak, Maple & Hickory Flooring

    Of all the different types of wood flooring, these three are some of the most popular options. And you can find each of them in either solid or engineered hardwood planks.

    Each species comes in a variety of styles. And, like most other varieties of wood, they require occasional maintenance to keep them looking their best.

    They each have their own unique appeal, and each one is durable and moderately priced. These factors probably contribute to their popularity.

    As far as looks go, red oak is the most common choice of homeowners. Its grains are medium to heavy and it has a rosy undertone.

    White oak has a linear grain that takes to stain smoothly and evenly. And maple has a smooth, almost creamy look.

    Hickory is commonly used as wider planks because of its bold, complex graining.

    So, which is the best choice for your home?  It can depend on a few factors.

    Let’s match up the three types of flooring and see how they compare.

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    Pros and Cons of Oak Compared to Maple and Hickory Flooring

    • Oak is generally less expensive than maple or hickory.
    • Oak is beautiful, but more common in homes compared to maple and hickory.
    • Oak is the most stable of the three flooring options.
    • Maple does not stain as well as oak.
    • Maple and oak each offer several options to choose from.
    • Maple and hickory are both harder woods than oak.
    • Hickory has a bolder look than oak or maple and is often sold as wide planks.
    • Hickory is the best choice over oak or maple for high traffic areas.
    • Hickory is the most difficult to install.

    The benefit of all three of these types of flooring is that they are moderately priced hardwoods.

    Oak is generally the least expensive of the three. It typically costs around $2.50 to $6 per square foot.

    Maple is close in price to oak at around $3 to $6 per sq ft.

    And hickory runs about $3.50 to $7 a square foot.

    So, since they are all relatively close in price, what are some other factors to consider? How about aesthetics?

    Oak is beautiful, but is also common.

    This can be a bonus if you want flooring that will appeal to other home buyers down the road. Or, it can be a negative if you don’t like the idea of your floors looking like that of every other home in your neighborhood.

    Maple, while still popular, is not as common in homes. However, applying a stain to maple is more difficult than staining oak.

    In fact, if you use a clear-coat stain, it might even begin to yellow as it ages. But if you use a dark stain, it can appear uneven and blotchy due to the structural makeup of maple wood.

    Fortunately, there are ways around the staining issue. You can either condition the wood first or go with a prefinished variety.

    White oak and maple are more traditional looks for homes, hickory is not. And this can be good or bad.

    Hickory has a very unique and distinctive look. And it is often sold in wider planks to highlight its grains.

    Many people appreciate its attractive, one-of-a-kind appeal. However, not everyone does, so it could be a turn-off for potential home buyers.

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    Do you care about future resale value?

    If so, it might be best to choose an option like oak or maple that attracts a broader set of prospective buyers.

    Even though oak and maple are more common, each one does offer a few varieties to choose from.

    Red oak and white oak are two very popular choices in oak flooring. Red oak has rosy undertones whereas white oak appears more gray or brown.

    Maple flooring is available in both hard and soft varieties. The harder varieties, such as hard maple or sugar maple are the most durable.

    Hard maple and sugar maple are durable because they rate high in hardness on the Janka hardness test. However, hickory rates higher than both oak and maple.

    Oak is fairly hard, but it is more susceptible to dings and scratches than the other two.

    While hardness is a factor to consider, there are other things that also play a role in life and maintenance of your hardwood floor.

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    Other important things to consider:

    For example, if you plan to install hardwood floors in an area that is susceptible to moisture and humidity, then stability is important. The more stable the hardwood, the less it will expand and contract around moisture.

    When compared to maple and hickory, oak is the most stable of the three.

    However, if you prefer one of the other options, go with engineered hardwood instead of solid. Engineered hardwood is generally more stable than solid hardwood in any species.

    If you are planning to put hardwood floors in a high traffic area that gets a lot of wear and tear, then hickory would be the best choice. It scores 1820 on the Janka test.

    Maple is the next hardest scoring 1450. Of the two most popular oak floors, white oak has a score of 1360 and red oak scores 1290.

    Another factor to consider when choosing your flooring is installation. Do you want to hire someone or install it yourself?

    If you choose solid hardwood flooring, then it is best to hire a professional. If you prefer engineered hardwoods, then it is possible for you to complete the installation yourself, particularly with oak or maple.

    Hickory is more difficult to install. Why?

    Because of its different grain variations. You can end up with a floor that does not look very cohesive if you are not careful.

    So, if you go with hickory flooring, try to find someone experienced at installing this type of floor.

    Each hardwood flooring has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. So, which one should you choose?

    That really depends on you.

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    Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood

    Now, let’s say you’ve made up your mind on which type of wood flooring to install. The next question is whether you should go with solid or engineered hardwood.

    What’s the difference?

    The difference in construction is that solid hardwood flooring is simply solid wood cut into planks. Engineered hardwood is built out of multiple layers of wood and plywood.

    Both types of hardwood are susceptible to scratches and dings.

    One difference in durability is that solid hardwood floors can be sanded down and refinished multiple times.

    Engineered hardwood has a top layer of wood veneer. The thickness of this layer determines how many times you can refinish it.

    When it comes to stability, engineered hardwood does not expand and contract as much as solid hardwood. So, it is a better choice in rooms with humidity.

    Both types are available in oak, maple, and hickory.

    As far as resale value is concerned, solid hardwoods are generally favored by prospective homebuyers, however, high-quality engineered hardwood still rates higher than other kinds of flooring.

    The costs of these species of wood are very similar for both engineered and solid hardwood flooring.

    Installation is generally easier with engineered hardwoods. These floors can be installed as floating floors on top of existing flooring, and they can be installed as a DIY project.

    Solid hardwood floors are typically glued, stapled, or nailed down to a subfloor. So, it is better to have them installed professionally.

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    Where to Buy Oak, Maple, or Hickory Hardwood Flooring

    You can find these types of wood flooring at any major home improvement store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.

    Both these stores staff experienced associates who can help you find the right flooring for your home. And you can schedule installation directly through these stores.

    There are also many stores that specialize in hard surface flooring such as Lumber Liquidators or Floor & Décor. They each offer a variety of oak, maple, and hickory floors in their showrooms or through their websites.

    Empire Today sells their flooring products online, however you can schedule an in-home consultation with one of their associates who will bring free floor samples directly to you.

    These are just a few examples of the many places you can find quality oak, maple, and hickory flooring. Before you buy, just remember to do a little research and choose a flooring company that has a solid reputation.

    And many of these companies offer a best price guarantee. So, if you find the same product somewhere else, you can get them to match it.

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    Is maple or oak stronger?

    Maple is harder and stronger than oak, so If you’re looking for tougher floors, you should opt for maple. Although both of these flooring options will last for decades, maple has a hardness rating of 1450 on the Janka chart. Thanks to the dense nature of this wood, it’s ideal for homes and rooms with high traffic rooms.
    Oak, on the other hand, has a slightly lower hardness rating. According to the Janka scale, red oak has a rating of 1290, while white oak has a rating of 1360.

    Which oak is best for flooring?

    Red oak is the more common choice for homes, while white oak is a frequent choice for decks. Although both of these floors are high-quality and will increase the value of your home, red oak is the one people opt for more often. Many homeowners are obsessed with this flooring type’s unique and gorgeous red and rosy undertones and how rich and expensive it looks when installed.
    White oak has grey and brown undertones and is perfect for everyone that prefers that style for their hardwood floors.

    How much does oak flooring cost?

    The cost of oak flooring depends on the type you’ll choose, quality, style, size of the room, etc. In general, you can expect to pay between $2.50 and $6 per square foot. This doesn’t include the installation and costs for materials.

    Installation costs usually vary between $3 and $5 per square foot, depending on the difficulty of the task and the people you hire. When it comes to materials (underlayment, nails, staples, glue), the average cost is between $3 and $7 per square foot.

    Is hickory good flooring?

    Hickory is an excellent flooring choice. It’s not a uniform flooring; instead, most of its planks feature a unique shade and a stunning pattern. This is a hard, strong floor that will last for decades and increase the resale value of your home.

    Hickory is the hardest domestic wood with a hardness rating of staggering 1820 according to the Janka scale. One downside of this flooring type is that you’ll probably have to invest in professional installation because of the unique appearance of hickory planks.

    Is oak better than hickory?

    Although both are hardwood flooring types, oak and hickory are two different materials. When it comes to durability, hickory is the winner with a hardness rating of 1820 according to the Janka scale. However, this feature makes it harder to work with and install.
    Another thing to consider is the resale value of these two kinds of wood. Hickory is rarer, which makes it more expensive. On the other hand, oak is gorgeous but common and won’t raise the value of your home as much. Hickory provides a unique appearance; however, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Is maple harder than oak?

    Although maple and oak are both durable and highly praised hardwood flooring alternatives, maple is still the harder one on the list. With a Janka hardness rating of 1540, maple is rated as a dense wood that’s ideal for all the high-frequency rooms in your home.
    White oak is slightly softer with a 1360 rating, while red oak has a rating of 1290. However, this doesn’t mean that oak is a bad flooring type that will scratch easily. On the contrary, it’s also durable, and with proper care it will last for decades.

    Is hickory harder than oak?

    Yes, hickory is harder than oak. As we mentioned, hickory has a hardness rating of 1820 according to the Janka scale. Red oak is significantly softer, with an average Janka rating of 1290. Its slightly harder brother, white oak, has a Janka hardness rating of 1360.
    Some might wonder, why do these numbers matter so much? The harder wood is, the more durable it will be in your home. Harder species can withstand more wear and tear and heavier traffic without showing signs of damage.

    Is maple a hardwood?

    Yes, the maple tree is a hardwood species and is available in many variations. Although there are both hard and soft maple trees, both fall under the hardwood category. This tree is widespread in North America and is often used to produce wooden floors and furniture.
    Maple is also a common hardwood flooring option for many households, unlike hickory. A smooth look characterizes it, there are several options to choose from, and it stains harder than other hardwood alternatives.

    Is oak a hardwood?

    Yes, oak is probably the most common hardwood flooring option, specifically red oak. As the name suggests, red oak has a slight reddish to pink undertone and a medium to heavy grain. White oak has a much smoother grain and a lighter undertone.
    If you’re looking for an affordable hardwood flooring choice, oak should be high up on your list. It’s a stable wood that stains easily and adds value to your home.

    In Conclusion

    The type of flooring you choose depends on many factors.

    Do you want your home to stand out? Choose hickory.

    Would you prefer a traditional look? Go with oak or maple.

    Are you installing the floors in your kitchen? Oak is more stable; however, you can choose any of the three if you opt for engineered over solid hardwood.

    Whichever type you decide on, you are making an improvement in your home. Hardwoods add warmth, beauty, and value to a home and improve its overall look for many years to come.

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    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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    4 thoughts on “Pros & Cons of Oak Flooring vs Maple & Hickory Flooring”

    1. Thanks Ms Jennifer,
      Very helpful information. I still have one question about Hickory understanding it comes in wider planks which is what I like. How do we solve the problem of cohesiveness to get the consistency that I would want?

    2. Just sold a home that had Jerusalem marble stone. Hated it.

      Home I bought has white oak. Can I spill stuff on it w/o it staining, etc?

    3. Good job Jennifer! I like your article. Its very detailed explanation helped me to understand three different types of floors. You answer on all questions I could think, but did not know would come to mind while searching flooring. Thanks so much for your time and knowledge.

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