Typically when people think of hardwood flooring, they picture plank or tongue and groove style flooring – wide or narrow boards laid out end to end across a room. There is another type of hardwood flooring, with a long history that most people would be surprised to hear about. It is called end grain wood block flooring. To get a sense of what it looks like, picture wood tiles made from cross cut squares of wood that show off the wood grain as a cross section and not sawn with the grain like plank flooring.
There are two main benefits to creating flooring in this style.
First, it looks great… End grain wood blocks show of the grain of the wood, which of course is exactly what makes wood interesting and beautiful in the first place. Wood cut across the grain as opposed to with it, displays the grain of wood in new ways. For example, White Oak displays an incredible ray pattern that emanates from the center of the tree rings. Douglas Fir offers distinct concentric circles of light and dark (growth and sap wood) wood providing a beautiful contrast of colors and pattern.
Second, it is very durable. Wood is very tough on its cross cut face. For the last century, end grain wood block floors have remained a common flooring choice for industrial factories – believe it or not. Some of the automobile plants in Detroit MI and many other manufacturing facilities across the country have end grain wood block as flooring because of its durability. Even more amazing, wood block flooring has been, and is still in use to pave roads in a few American cities. Pensacola FL and Pittsburgh PA are two cities with end grain wood block roads.
Installation is basically done similar to ceramic tile with a certain type of adhesive and finished as any hard wood floor would be. If you can install a hardwood floor (or know someone who can), you can install can end grain wood floor.
A great choice for hardwood flooring is to use reclaimed wood. Old growth woods (that only come from reclaimed sources) offer better graining and a harder surface. Better yet, it is a good eco-friendly flooring choice.