Wood Guide: Know the characteristics

Knowing characteristics of wood can be tough, especially if you’re not often around it. We have featured profiles of the wood used in our flooring products in this wood guide. The characteristics of the wood are one of the main features of having a beautiful reclaimed floor. So, this wood guide has been developed to help select a floor that is perfect for your home or cottage.

To begin, we should know that there are softwoods and there are hardwoods. This wood guide will work down from the softest of the flooring we have, down to the hardest wood options. Don’t worry, softwoods shouldn’t be something to shy away from. Softwoods have beautiful characteristics and are very frequently used for flooring. Understanding the differences will help guide in the selection process of the flooring.

All of our floors included in this wood guide look great without stains and great with stains. Choosing a stain is typically based on personal preference. We have many examples of various stains used on all of the types of flooring to check out.

Doug Fir – Softwood – Reclaimed

Doug Fir is one of our few woods that is not an Ontario native species (see post on Doug Fir). It became available for farmers to use when they were building their barns in the 1800s. This enabled them to build longer barns at the time because of the length of the Doug Fir timbers.

Because of the long timbers, we’re able to have long floor pieces. The wood has a open grain which is very visually interesting. This is because of the fact that these were ‘old growth’ trees harvested over a century ago.

Douglas fir has a natural salmon undertone. If you’re looking for a natural pinky tone, this will be the perfect colouring. If you’re looking to stain it, whatever stain used will need to overcome a pinky tone. Darker stains have an easier time overcoming the pinky undertones.

Pine – Softwood – Reclaimed

Pine is what is traditionally seen in many cottages. It gives an amber-honey look that most know as the cozy cottage feel. Pine is the softest wood we have, which does mean it’s easier to bruise. This type of wood does develop more patina and character over time because of its softness. Actually, pine is a great option for older houses, country homes, or cottages that already have pine as well.

Pine is susceptible to denting from chairs and people, so this kind of flooring would be best in a space where furniture is less likely to be rearranged or moved frequently. Over time, the markings do become a part of the overall patina and character of the floor, which can give it a unique and cozy charm.

Hemlock – Hard Softwood – Reclaimed

Hemlock, also known as Eastern Larch, is one of the harder of the softwoods. If you were looking for the Doug Fir or Pine look, Hemlock might be the right alternative for you as it will hold up better to denting. Additionally, Hemlock shows its knots well. Part of the installation is to fill the holes left from the milling where they are lost. This makes the installation process more of a speciality, where craftmanship and experience play a huge part in the success and outcome of the installation. For this flooring, we do always recommend someone who is well versed in Reclaimed Wood Flooring, like Olde World Flooring.

Our Reclaimed Hemlock flooring typically comes from the Threshing floor in barns. You can see the original saw marks from the circular saws originally used to prepare the wood to be flooring. Reclaimed Hemlock flooring carries impressive character and patina, which can be emphasized even more based on the type of finish selected.

Hemlock Barn Board – Hard Softwood – Reclaimed

Our Hemlock Barn Board displays its original saw marks, nail holes; all the patina has been preserved as much as possible. This is done by milling from the back to keep the face intact. As a result, this line is very visual with tactile patina with visible bruises that are shown by the freshly milled back. Again, this is the kind of flooring that grows with you because of its soft nature.

Finishes: A water-based finish can enhance the tanned and grey overall look. An oil based finish can foster a cinnamon spice and amber colouring. The same floor can have two very different and distinct looks. Opting for a stain can darken, or add tones to the wood even more.

Reclaimed Elm – Soft Hardwood – Reclaimed

Elm was a very prevalent tree in Ontario until about the 1970’s when the Dutch Elm Disease devastated the Elm population. Rarely do we see newer wood products made from Elm; they are more likely to be made from Reclaimed Elm. Now, there are still Elm trees that do exist in Ontario, but they are not nearly as large as ones that once did exist. Elm was regularly used to build barns and agricultural buildings. You can find Elm being used as structural timbers and sleepers. This is what we take to make the 1″ planks into tongue and groove flooring.

Elm flooring is very versatile as it fits a traditional, contemporary, or modern look. Playing with the stain is an easy way to manipulate the look; no stain is very cottage-feeling, whereas a darker stain may be more modern or contemporary.

Some visible features of elm include: tighter grains, knots are quite spread apart and a little tighter, less insect and tract mark holes compared to maple and beech, markings are still present but not extreme like ash.

Ash – Hardwood – Reclaimed

Ash flooring, compared to some others, has the least visible difference between reclaimed and new. There is not much cracking or burrowing, and not as many nail holes because they were used in large structures. The key difference in ash is the difference in spacing of the grain. The ash reclaimed from Agricultural buildings, including barns, is old growth ash. This means that the growth rings are very tight as a result of slow growth. So, this becomes very noticeable when creating the floor as the grain is much tighter. Ash can give a similar feel to oak, as they do have a similar type of look to their grain.

Ash takes staining very well. Meaning that the stain will be closer to the true colour of the stain. Unstained ash is quite blonde, so it is a great starting point to get the perfect stain colour. Naturally, is it also a very appealing blonde when left unstained.

Maple – Hardwood – Reclaimed

Maple shows its character through its knots. There is a visible difference between the maple hardwood and the sap wood. Reclaimed maple shows off insect markings, including burrowing and worm holes. Maple absorbs stains much more readily. This lets tract marks stand out by popping in a bit darker of a tone. The tract marks usually absorb slightly less of the stain, which leaves them to pop darker than the rest of the wood. Maple also has tight knots, and the grain isn’t seen very much at all.

Beech – Hardwood – Reclaimed

This wood typically has the second most tract marks, followed by Elm and Ash. Beech has detail around the knots as well, like colours and swirls, hardwood and sap wood differential, and lighter sap wood. It also typically has some longitudinal cracking, which does not impact the quality of the floor, but rather offers more character and depth to the finishing. The sap wood and hard wood portions do absorb wood slightly differently, which can again give more depth and interest to the finished product.

Original Face Hardwood – Hardwood – Reclaimed

100 years ago, they cut elm and maple and other hard woods that were around and available, and used them for grainery walls and threshing floors. They used sawn planks and placed them as floors and walls. Now, we take those and mill them into flooring. Most of the milling is done on the back of the plank to preserve as much as we can of the original aged look. This is a mix of hardwoods, including Maple, Elm, Ash. The character within the floor highlights old marks, nails, fill in holes while finishing and retain the original patina and tactile texture.

Reclaimed Wood Guide Conclusion

As a result of the wood being in barns and other agricultural buildings for at least 100 years, they are often deeper in colour than woods harvested today. They are also denser and harder than woods harvested today because they were from old growth trees. This meant slower growing, creating a more durable floors than its new counter parts in a direct comparison.

Hopefully this wood guide provided some better clarity on the different reclaimed woods and their qualities. Reclaimed woods gives you the opportunity to have all of the benefits and enjoyment of the look and feel of old growth wood, without the need for harvesting anything from old growth forests. This helps to give the old growth trees that were harvested once upon a time a second life, and live on in its new appearance.

Phoenix Ash – Hardwood – Rescued

Phoenix Ash is a unique Nostalgic Wood Rescued Ash line. The flooring in this line is Ash that was either cut and left to rot or fire, or were victims of the EAB. We’re giving it a second life as Phoenix Ash. Phoenix Ash has a similar style of grain when compared to reclaimed ash, but these trees grew quicker, meaning that the grain is further apart and bolder. Phoenix Ash is very blonde when unstained, but does take stain very well and purely. This flooring will give the colour desired without much fight.

Rescued Hickory – Hardwood – Rescued

Hickory is one of the hardest woods we have in Ontario. While hickory is not as regular of a wood to be used in barns and agricultural buildings in Ontario, Nostalgic Wood has been able to procure some beautiful hickory and made it into flooring. The features of hickory include an open, distinctive grain with more of a grey hue. This hickory is not considered old growth, but is very durable. Using the right finishing products can help to maintain the natural colouration of the wood. Staining the hickory can give it more of an oaky look, in part due to the grain being open and distinct, much like oak wood. Unlike many of our other flooring lines that have a variety of sizing of boards, this floor is only available in 1 width of 5″1/4. There is limited quantity available of this rare find.

Wood Guide: What widths can I expect?

We are committed to sustainability and being able to make the most of the materials we have. That said, in order to maximize the amount of reclaimed wood, we mill the wood into random widths and random lengths. This helps us use as much good material as possible, rather than wasting excessive amount of material if the width is slightly too small. This makes the flooring random widths. You can expect to see widths between 3″-12″ wide. Generally, profiles that have the whole range, like a bell curve, will have widths that are predominantly 6″, 7″, 8″, 9″. Of course, there is a certain percentage that are bigger and smaller, but the middle width is where most of the planks are.

All flooring products come in solid 3/4″ tongue and groove, or 3/4″ engineered.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: