herringbone cherry flooring in living room with fireplace

Color Variations in Wood

Sapwood is the part of the tree just under the bark. I think of it as the circulatory system of the tree. It delivers water and nutrients from the roots to the crown. The heartwood is the center of the tree underneath the sapwood.

Often sapwood is lighter in color than heartwood. Walnut is a dramatic example of this, as is Cherry and Western Red Cedar. Check out the beautiful, natural color variation.


walnut hardwood flooring color variation


cherry herringbone floor close up detail

Western Red Cedar

clear cedar color variation

Some species have less contrast in color from sapwood to heartwood. Overall, they are more consistent in color but still exhibit lovely variations, some examples are white oak, ash, and Eastern white pine.

White Oak

white oak flooring showing color variation


ash flooring in empty room with window

White Maple


color and knots in pine boards

Each species and tree is different. Many factors contribute to color variations like altitude, soil PH, climate, and injury to the tree.

Have a look at the variety in color that nature provides:


Red Balau/Batu

close up of a section of red balau/batu decking

Western Red Cedar

color variation of cedar boards

A few species can be selected and milled to help decrease color variations (like hard white maple and walnut) but most are not offered this way. Selecting the right species and coatings (stain, polyurethane, oil) is an important step in creating the appearance you desire when working with wood.

Excelsior is happy to help with this process. Please give us a jingle or send us a message anytime!