Is aspen a hardwood? Aspen Flooring Review, Pros, and Cons

Aspen flooring is a relatively rare, yet beautiful type of flooring. If you’re thinking about installing this type of hardwood flooring inside your home- go for it! But before doing so- you might want to know about its pros and cons, which is where we come in.

Read on for an all-around review of aspen flooring.

Is Aspen a Hardwood?

Also known by its scientific name- Populus tremoloides– aspen is a hardwood that’s often confused for a softwood. However, it’s more of a soft hardwood. Aspen trees feature white sapwood and light-brown heartwood. The one distinctive thing about aspen is that there’s no clear transition between the sapwood and the heartwood.

It also boasts a fine grain texture and apart from flooring, is often used for moldings and wooden toys. There are different types/subspecies of aspen hardwood- depending on where they typically grow. They include:

  1. Quaking aspen- North America
  2. Big-tooth aspen- the Rocky Mountains (USA)
  3. Chinese aspen- China
  4. Eurasian aspen- Europe.

Is Aspen Hardwood Flooring Good?

Aspen is a relatively soft hardwood and ranks lower than most common hardwoods in terms of hardness and durability. However, this doesn’t mean that aspen flooring isn’t good. For what aspen lacks in durability, it makes up for it with great stability, beautiful graining, and low flammability.

Aspen Wood Floors Review

Aspen Janka rating

Aspen has a relatively low Janka rating. The big-tooth aspen is the hardest of the aspen sub-species with a rating of 420-pounds. Meanwhile, the quaking aspen only comes in at 332-pounds, making it one of the softer aspens. Generally- though- aspen is softer than most common types of hardwood including: cherry (950), hickory (1820), and hard maple (1450).

Durability

Being as aspen is a soft hardwood, it’s- therefore-not as durable. Pet scratches and sharp/heavy objects will definitely distress an aspen hardwood floor. The average lifespan of aspen flooring is 3-4 years. You can- however- extend the lifespan of your aspen floor by a year or two if you coat it with wood preservatives.

Due to its poor durability, aspen has a very low tolerance for moisture. It’s not advisable to install this type of hardwood in wet areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. Doing so will result in significant wood rot within a year or so due to the moisture problems.

Cost

Aspen hardwood flooring planks are relatively affordable compared to other types of hardwood. You can buy them from $2.30-$9.50 depending on the size and thickness of the planks. Longer and wider aspen planks cost more because you’ll need fewer planks to cover a whole room. Thicker planks are also costlier since a thicker floor boasts better structural stability.

Pros of Aspen Hardwood Flooring

Superior Stability.

Aspen floors boast excellent stability, as they don’t shrink or swell as much as other hardwood floors as the temperatures fluctuate.

Beautiful Graining.

A nice looking floor will definitely elevate your home’s visual aesthetics- and aspen wood flooring does just that. Featuring visually-attractive grain patterns, hardwood flooring doesn’t get more attractive than aspen. Meanwhile, the off-white-light brown shade of aspen wood gives the floor a unique character.

Doesn’t Split due to Nailing.

You won’t have a hard time attaching your aspen planks to the subfloor during installation. It doesn’t split even when larger nails are used.

Holds Paint Well.

When it comes to paint-holding ability amongst hardwood, aspen sits at the top of the list. Even when standard house paint is used, you can expect to go for up to four years before needing to repaint your aspen hardwood floor. Meanwhile, superior-quality paints- like iron-oxide paints- will last even longer (6-7 years).  

Is Easy to Shape.

If you’re milling aspen flooring planks from aspen logs sourced from your own farm/ranch, you’ll find that they’re very easy to shape.

Has Low Flammability.

If you’re looking for aspen flooring with fire safety in mind, you might as well go for aspen. This type of hardwood isn’t very flammable, compared to other types of hardwood.

Easy to refinish.

Since aspen can be sanded easily, it’s easy to refinish, in case of dents, scratches, and gouges develop on the surface of the floor. What’s more, aspen has one of the best paint holding capabilities amongst all hardwoods.

Great Gluability.

It’s easy to glue aspen flooring planks to the subfloor, as it bonds well with different types of wood glues regardless of the bonding conditions. When gluing aspen with a water-based glue, you’ll want to mix the glue with more water. This is because aspen absorbs glue well and as such, the adhesive may dry prematurely.

Cons of Aspen Hardwood Flooring

Short Lifespan.

The biggest downside to aspen hardwood flooring is its lack of longevity. It’ll only hold up for about five years or so. It’s due to this reason that homes with aspen flooring have lower market value in the property markets.

Blotching Issues

Despite having good paint absorption properties, aspen accepts stains unevenly when the subfloor is not level. This can result in a smudgy appearance on the surface of your aspen floor after staining. To prevent this from happening, level the subfloor by sanding and apply a wash coat prior to staining.

Not Readily Available.

Aspen is one of those rare hardwoods that’s rare to find, as most milling factories generally shy away from it. For starters, aspen is not as durable as other common hardwoods. In addition, aspen trees have narrow trunks. Therefore, aspen planks are typically narrow, whereas wider planks are preferred for flooring.

And even if you’re lucky enough to find some aspen hardwood flooring planks, you’ll have a hard time gauging the quality, as aspen isn’t usually graded.

Poor Nail-Holding Capability.

Despite having the advantage of not splitting when nails are driven through it, aspen hardwood doesn’t hold nails too well, vis-à-vis other types of hardwood. Fortunately, you can work your way around this problem by using larger nails that hold better.

References.

  1. https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/LSFES_aspen_reports/1947_lakestates_aspen_9.pdf
  2. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=8619&context=aspen_bib

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