So you want to install hardwood floors in your home. Great choice! Of course you call Accurate Floor Care and you ask us what's the best wood to install? As with most design oriented things, it is largely subjective. That being said, we can offer some information to guide your choice.
Red oak and white oak are by far the most common floors in the US. One of the reasons for this is that they are fairly hard woods, stable (regarding movement with humidity shifts), versatile, and attractive. All these make oak a great choice. The trends as of late have been towards white oak as the pinkish undertones of red oak have fallen out of favor, and a wider width, 3 1/4"+. Anything above 3 1/2" does have to be nailed and glued to avoid stretching the nails holding capacity. In this case the normal felt paper moisture barrier will not allow a mechanical bond of the glue, so a liquid moisture barrier must be applied.
Hickory is another choice that offers exceptional hardness (harder than red and white oak) but lacks stability. Maple is also very hard, but not everyone loves the very light color and it is notoriously more difficult to change color also and can take color blotchy. Walnut and pines are softer woods. This is not to say these woods aren't good, but it may depend on your lifestyle. If you have some big dogs, it is very likely they will show in a pine floor.
Besides appearance, hardness, and stability, there are different grades of lumber. The most common names for them are clear, select, number 1, and number 2. Clear, as the name implies, will be the most clear of knots, wormholes, color variation, and grain. Number 2 is at the opposite side of the spectrum. Full of knotholes and color variations. Number 2 will be considerably cheaper, but does not mean it is a lesser material. I personally love number 2 lumber. You can fill the knot holes with black putty or epoxy and it looks great. With the right finish in the right home it is awesome.
Another variable is the cut of the lumber. There are four options: quarter sawn, rift sawn, plain sawn, and live sawn. Quarter sawn is a beautiful cut, with a lot of striping that they call flecks. It is also much more stable than plain sawn. Rift sawn is the most stable cut, and has a nice straight and tight grain. Quarter sawn and rift sawn are most commonly sold together as a mix, but can be bought on their own. You can also get a grade with these also, such as rift and quartered select or rift and quartered character (number 2). Plain sawn is the most common cut. Within plain sawn you will usually see a few pieces of rift and quartered that got into the mix. Live sawn is just cutting the tree all in one direction. In this case you get everything, some rift some quartered, some plain, and all the knots. It is very beautiful and definitely has a lot of character.
I hope this is informative and answers more question than it raises. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call.