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How to Find Out What Type of Wood Floor You Have

Updated February 21, 2017

Harwood floors are one of the most revered aspects of a home for many homeowners. Hardwood floors provide natural warmth, are easy to clean and, if properly maintained, will last much longer than carpeting. In order to properly maintain a wood floor, whether you are cleaning, repairing or refinishing, you need to know what kind of wood and what kind of finish the floor has.

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  1. Observe the colour and grain of the wood to determine what type of wood the floor has. You will need to know what type of wood if you ever have to replace part of the flooring or moulding. Most wood floors are made with oak. If the floor has a light, tan colour with pale, almost white, streaks here and there and a fine grain, it may be white oak. Extremely pale floors are likely to be maple, as it is one of the lightest woods. If the floor has a golden tone with a more pronounced grain, there is a good chance it is red oak. If the floor has a deep red tone, it is cherry.

  2. Other than oak, maple and cherry, wood floors may also be hickory, eucalyptus, ash, beech or birch. If you are unsure, ask a carpenter to come and determine the type of wood floor you have or, if you are able to, remove an inconspicuous piece of your floor and take the sample to a woodworking shop. If you are not able to take a sample, take a few good photographs that clearly show the grain. If the wood floor has been stained, it may be even more difficult for you to tell the type of wood without consulting a professional.

  3. Remove an inconspicuous sample also to find out if your wood floor is solid wood or engineered. A sample can be taken from the end of a plank using a sharp chisel and a hammer. Place the chisel going across the plank and hit it sharply with a hammer. Do the same to the seams of the plank. Pry up the piece and observe the side edges. If you observe two or more plies, your planks are engineered, or made with laminated strips. If there are no plies, your planks are solid wood.

  4. Rub your hand over the surface of the floor to find out what kind of finish the floor has. Wood floors either have a wax finish or a urethane finish. You will need to know the type of finish so you can use the proper cleaning product and if you even need to touch up or refinish. If the surface feels smooth, it is a urethane finish. If you can feel the bumps of the grain, it is a wax finish.

  5. Scrape the surface of the floor with a knife in an inconspicuous area to further establish the type of finish. Wax is penetrating and urethane sit on the surface. If you are unable to remove any material by scraping, it is a wax finish. If you are able to remove material, it is a urethane finish.

  6. Tip

    There is a wide variety of wood floor cleaner that are specially formulated for urethane floors and that are specially formulated for wax floors.

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Things You'll Need

  • Knife

About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.

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