When it comes to hardwood flooring species, I wanted to share my thoughts on which woods are the most practical (especially as it relates to holding up) and better value.
There are many species of hardwood - some are lighter, some darker and harder, some show scratches more, some have prettier graining. There are a lot of factors to consider.
So I have to say that in my opinion white oak flooring is the most practical wood out there.
First, in general oak flooring (both red oak and white oak) are practical in terms of holding up well and hiding scratches (due to their graining which camouflages the scratches and dents. And, both can easily be sanded and stained for a variety of colors. And, they are both reasonably priced (and on the lower side).
But I prefer white oak over red oak for the following reasons.
1. White oak is a bit prettier and more modern looking as it's less grainy and bit more striated (red oak looks busier and more traditional).
2. White oak is a more water resilient due to it's structure, so it holds up much better in kitchens and entryways.
3. White oak's color is more neutral as it doesn't have the pink undertones that red oak does. For that reason, there is a wider range of stain colors that work. If you want to do gray or whitewashed floors, you really want white oak (otherwise you will have pink undertones...unless you bleach the floors first). And, you can get a darker brown (or even black) more easily than with red oak as white oak is a bit darker. Also, if you're going for a light natural look (with a water borne poly), it just looks better on white oak.
Hardwoods that are less practical:
1. Bamboo - While it's cheaper, it does not hold up well to scratches or water. It isn't as hard and wears down much faster. It's rather challenging to refinish as well.
2. Maple - More challenging to refinish and turns out blotchy when you stain it (due to wood structure). It also tends to yellow over time. And, because it's less grainy (which some people love), it shows scratches more easily.
3. Brazilian Cherry - It's red (which is very polarizing and out of style now). It's graining is beautiful, but it shows scratches more (both due to the graining and darker color). It is dark so it's not a good option if you want to go lighter in the future. It's an oily wood, so it shows foot prints more (if you ever go barefoot or have a pet). It's very light sensitive, so it darkens and reddens over time. If you have an area rug or furniture that you move later, you will see that those areas are lighter vs the rest of the floor. And, it's more expensive.
4. Most exotic species (e.g. brazilian walnut, brazilian teak, tigerwood, etc). Similar issues to Brazilian Cherry, but they are different colors. And, these are usually more expensive than brazilian cherry.
Oak is by far the most popular choice for hardwoods, not only for the reasons listed above, but also because many homes already have oak flooring, and most people want to match what they already have as it looks much better.