Differences and how to spot them.

Differences matter. We have a lot of calls from customers looking to match into an existing floor, most commonly when they have removed a hearth or dividing wall. So not only do we need to find the right sized block (and believe me there are many sizes in the reclaimed parquet world when things were cut in Imperial sizes – unlike the uniform metric world we seem to inhabit today) but we also need to work out exactly what the wood type is.

How do we know which is which?

Often the block is a pale colour but very grubby, so the original grain is hard to see. However when you look at the side of the block you can sometimes scrape the debris off and see the grain. Or better still if you can sand a bit back to view the original surface. If it is pale it is often a European wood, such as Beech, Pine or Pitch Pine, Maple or occasionally, Oak. There are some tropical hardwoods however which are pale, Agba being one.

Pitch Pine or Columbian Pine (also known as Douglas Fir)

Firstly, for Pitch pine and Columbian Pine – see how noticeable the grain is? Pitch Pine has dark and resinous lines contrasting with the pale honey colour you would expect from pine, and the lines are normally significantly thicker than pine. It is a much harder-wearing block and ‘bruises’ or dents less easily than pine.

Secondly how heavy is it? Trouble is if you don’t know your Pines, that is hard to compare. Both pines have ‘open’ pores however but generally Pitch Pine has harder wood between the resinous lines. See the photos below for an illustration.

Columbian Pine differences

Columbian Pine grain close-up

Pitch pine grain close-up

Pitch pine grain close-up

Sometimes the only way to tell is to look at a larger area to get an overall feel for the amount of dark contrasting lines you can see as every block is different.

Maple or Beech differences?

The other confusion is Maple or Beech. When you start looking the differences between beech and the pines are marked. However on initial viewing between beech and maple there are similarities.

The colour of beech is pinkish pale honey and the grain is flecked, even though there are other grain lines to distract you, look for the background flecking. Maple is a pale almost warm ash blonde with a shimmer, and a more varied grain. But without expertise you can be none the wiser. The good news is that the timber hardness is the giveaway – if you press your fingernail into Beech wood you can hardly make a dent, whereas you will easily leave a nail mark in the much softer Maple.

Maple close-up shows grain differences

Maple close-up

 

Beech close-up grain differences

Beech close-up

Lastly, Oak. English Oak is unmistakeable. When you look closely and when you handle it the characteristics are very specific. A hardwood, with a lovely smell and  colour. Occasionally you see the medullary rays across the wood like little silvery streaks. That is an absolute confirmation that you have oak. You can see that illustrated in the panel below:

Oak close-up grain differences

Oak close-up grain

Working out the differences between European woods will help you get the right match for your flooring and give your floor a new lease of life. By all means get in touch if you think we can help.