When it comes to hardwood flooring, the options go much beyond the traditional oak. The elegance of wood floors can be found in many different other materials, such as birch or hickory, to name a few.
Birch has many alternate forms to choose from, such as yellow birch, paper birch and sweet birch. Hickory has no subtypes but does come in various textures and colors.
A clear-cut characteristic of birch is found in the large contrast between the lightness of the creamy yellow sapwoods and the darkness of the reddish brown heartwoods. Hickory, by contrast, features pale white sapwoods and tan heartwoods, lending a rustic quality to a room.
In 2009, birch flooring ranged from $5 to $7 per square foot, while the price of hickory was a little higher, usually averaging $9 to $12 per square foot.
Birch comes out with a 1,260 rating on the Janka Table, a scale used to measure the relative hardness of woods. Hickory tops birch easily with a rating of 1,820. Only a few woods are harder. Brazilian walnut heads the list at 3,620.
While the hardness of hickory floors is great for durability, the densely packed material makes for a much more difficult installation than does birch and should only be installed by a professional.