Botanical Name: Carya
Color: The color will vary from a light cream to a darker amber, and will darken slightly and amber over time. Exposure to UV light will speed the darkening/ambering process.
Grain: Hickory grain is closed with a somewhat rough texture.
Variations within Species and Grades: There will be high levels of color variations between grades within this species.
Hardness/Janka: : 1820. Hickory comes in at about 41% harder than the traditional Red Oak. It is the second hardest domestic species.
Dimensional Stability: Hickory is slightly less stable than traditional Red Oak, meaning it is more likely to move, swell, and contract than other species. To combat this issue, avoid leaving standing water on the floor. Prior to installation, allow the flooring to acclimate to the conditions in the room it is being installed a bit longer than recommended.
Sawing/Machining: Since this wood is so hard, it is difficult to saw with machinery or hand tools.
Sanding: The density of the wood also makes it hard to sand. The lighter color of the wood makes it harder to sand because the marks will show much easier than they would on a darker wood.
Nailing: Hickory is difficult to nail because it is easy to split the tongues of the wood. To combat this, adjust the angle which the nails are driven into the wood. Refer to installation instructions for more information.
Finishing: Finishing hickory wood may be difficult as it does not want to hold on to the stain, since the grain is closed. Using a treatment to open the grain a bit may help the wood in taking the stain.
Availability: Readily available.
A Brief History of Hickory
Hickory wood is used for: tool handles, wheel spokes, golf club spokes, drum sticks, the bottom of skis, and more. Baseball bats used to be made of hickory, but manufacturers have recently switched to ash. Hickory is used to cure meat and provide a smoky taste to many barbecue sauces. Some species of hickory produce nuts. Many of these nuts are used in animal feed because they are too bitter in taste for humans to eat.
Perhaps the most desirable aspect of hickory wood is the unique combination of strength, hardness, and toughness that cannot be found in any other species. It is considered an extremely durable wood, thought to be able to withstand nearly anything.
Hickory is extremely dense, so it is difficult to work with, even with the use of power tools. It is hard to sand, nail, and finish, as well. As such, when it is used for flooring and furniture, it is more expensive than alternatives that are easier to work with. Buying a prefinished hickory that has been dried completely will prevent any issues with finishing the floor and combat the shrinkage and movement experienced by conditions in the home.
Where to use
Hickory can be used in nearly any setting because of its strength and durability. It has a rustic feel to it, so where it is used relies mostly on the decor surrounding it. It dries out much more than most other woods, so this is also a thing to consider when installing it. Hickory is good in high traffic areas of a home, and where heavy items may be dropped, because the strength indicates that it is less likely to show visible damage as a result of the abuse.
Care and Maintenance
A hickory floor is stronger and more durable than most, but it doesn’t mean owners should be harder on it or treat it with any less care than any other species. The way a hardwood floor is cared floor is determined by the type of finish used on it rather than the type of wood itself. Before choosing a finish, look at how well it will work with the species and then determine which one to use based on how to care for it. Use standard precautions including rugs and mats in highly trafficked areas to keep dirt and debris from scratching the surface of the floor. Clean with a cloth mop or vacuum at least once a week, and mop spills up immediately. Don’t rub anything because it may force it down into the wood. Use cleaning solutions recommended for the finish only, to avoid potential damage.
Hickory is a domestic species, mainly found in the Eastern United States. It is not currently endangered.